THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST

by D. M. Panton



Chapter Ten

THE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM

So the scope of our inquiry now enlarges. It has become obvious that reward and glory—the coronation of the disciple—is conditional on character and service: to what extent—as the parable we have just examined seems to imply—does this principle affect a disciple’s entrance into, or exclusion from, the Millennial Age itself? That Age has long dropped out of the vision of the Church. But the return of our Lord in person to establish a Kingdom over the whole earth was the universal faith of the Church in its purest dawn. "The assurance [of that return and reign] was carefully inculcated by men who had conversed with the immediate disciples of the apostles, and appears to have been the reigning sentiment of orthodox believers" (Gibbon). "This prevailing opinion met with no opposition previous to the time of Origen" (Mosheim): until Origen no Christian writer can be found who denied it.

“No one can hesitate to consider this doctrine as universal in the Church of the first two centuries" (Giesler). "The doctrine was believed and taught by the most eminent fathers in the age next after the apostles, and by none of that age opposed or condemned: it was the catholic doctrine of those times" (Archbishop Chillingworth). "The idea that the perfected Kingdom of Christ is to be transferred to heaven is properly a modem notion. According to Paul and John the Kingdom of God is to be placed upon the earth, and in so far this itself has part in the universal transformation" (Dr. Tholuck). "FOR THE LORD HIMSELF SHALL DESCEND FROM HEAVEN, WITH A SHOUT, WITH THE VOICE OF THE ARCHANGEL, AND WITH THE TRUMP OP GOD" (1 Thess. 4:16): "AND HE THAT OVERCOMETH, AND HE THAT KEEPETH MY WORKS UNTO THE END, TO HIM WILL I GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS; AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON" (Rev. 2:26).[13]

Moreover, the world-wide revival of the Gospel of the Kingdom before the End is certain (Matt. 24:14): already considerable attention is being concentrated, even in skeptical quarters, on our Lord’s apocalyptic utterances. "In our Lord’s teaching the conception of the Kingdom is supreme. Yet it is safe to say that there is no subject upon which there, exists a greater amount of division among expositors. For some the Kingdom is definitely the historical Church; for others it is altogether in the future, a great Divine supramundane order of things which is suddenly to overwhelm the temporal order; for others again it is simply the ideal social order to be realized on earth; for a fourth class the Kingdom is the rule of God in the heart of the individual. Among recent critics the tendency is more and more to lay stress on the eschatological interpretation, and to hold that, in our Lord’s teaching, the Kingdom is essentially the great future and heavenly order of things which will be revealed at His coming. The Kingdom in its fullness is yet to come. It is always to be prayed for. It is the great end which is ever before us" (Archbishop D’Arcy, University Sermon at Oxford, 1910). FOR "FLESH AND BLOOD CANNOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD, NEITHER DOTH CORRUPTION INHERIT INCORRUPTION. BEHOLD, I TELL YOU A MYSTERY: WE SHALL NOT ALL SLEEP, BUT WE SHALL ALL BE CHANGED" (1 Cor. 15:50).

Thus it is natural that the question should now be pressed —is the Millennial Age itself in the nature of a reward? Is the possession of some one of the crowns a title to entrance into the Kingdom?[14] Can a disciple be excluded, and yet his name be found at last written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? (Rev. 20:15). It is obvious that the Scriptures alone can supply an answer; nor is there anything alarming in the suggestion. All are agreed that rank in the Kingdom is regulated by service and suffering: if entry itself, or exclusion, also turns on service and suffering, it is plainly only an extension of a momentous principle already accepted and taught. But before turning to the Word of God it may be well to observe that many godly servants of Christ have understood the Scriptures to teach the possibility of a believer’s exclusion. Polycarp, an actual disciple of the Apostle John, says:— "If we please Him in this present Age, we shall also receive the Age to Come; and if we walk worthy of Him, we shall also reign together with Him." The opinion that the Millennial Reign was even confined to the martyrs "prevailed, as is known, to a great extent in the early Church, and not only proved a support under martyrdom, but rendered many ambitious of that distinction. For the First Resurrection is limited to a portion of the redeemed Church; and while eternal life and the inheritance are of faith and free grace, and common to all believers merely as such, the millennial crown and the first resurrection are a Reward—the reward of suffering for and with Christ; a special glory and a special hope, designed to comfort and support believers under persecution: a need and use which I have little doubt the Church will before long be called on to experience collectively, as even now, and at all times, it has been experienced by some of its members" (Burgh). "Has any child of God any warrant of Scripture to expect that he will reign with the Lord during the period of Rev. 20? But, on the contrary, has not every child of God a promise of reigning with Christ in the perfect and final state?" (Robert Chapman). "Into that glorious company of the First Resurrection it is probable that only those who have been partakers of Christ’s humiliation and suffering (either personally or throughout the present aeon) shall be received—a select portion of the redeemed, including the martyrs" (Dr. E. R. Craven, editor of Lange’s Apocalypse). "To those who believe on Him, but go no further, the Lord does, indeed, give eternal life; but the fruition of it will not begin until the Last Day, until the thousand years of the Millennial reign are ended. Such persons will not, therefore, be permitted to enter the Kingdom of the Heavens" (G. H. Pember). "The greatest of all the revelations about the future condition of the saints is, that they are to be identified with Jesus Christ in His reign—that is, those who ‘overcome.’ Not all saints are to be elevated to this position; this is for victorious saints" (Dr. A. T. Pierson). "The gift of Eternal Life contains potentially the Prize; but that potentiality may never be developed in the present period of the believer’s probation; and if such be the case he will miss the Kingdom and its glory in the coming Age" (S. S. Craig). "According to the views of some, the most disobedient child of God will have the privilege of reigning with Christ, having lost the incorruptible crown, and with ‘a terrible, irretrievable loss at the Bema.’ Can such a believer be morally fitted for reigning with Christ? ‘Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection ‘" (J. Sladen). "It is a matter of sad observation that every species and degree of crime is committed, and has been committed, by believers after their conversion: so that there may be positive and entire forfeiture of the Kingdom, and only the lowest position in Eternal Life after it. The native magnitude of this truth must speedily redeem it from all obscurity. Those who have the single eye will perceive its amplitude of evidence, and embrace it, in spite of the solemn awe of God which it produces, and the depth of our own responsibility which it discloses" (R. Govett). For "in this exclusion from the Kingdom, which is the dominion of the good made visible at the return of our Lord, we are not to see the loss of eternal salvation: an entrance into the Kingdom is rendered impossible [in certain cases], but not by any means does it follow that salvation can be thereby prevented" (Olshausen). "Oh, for a noble ambition to obtain one of the first seats in glory! Oh, for a constant, evangelical striving to have the most ‘abundant’ entrance ministered unto you into the Kingdom of God! It is not Christ’s to give those exalted thrones out of mere distinguishing grace. No, they may be forfeited, for they shall be given to those for whom they are prepared; and they are prepared for those who, evangelically speaking, are ‘worthy’" (Fletcher, of Madeley). So remarkable a consensus of opinion provides at least a prima facie case for investigation.



Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ


[13] The “Kingdom of God,” or “of the heavens,” a phrase drawn directly from Daniel, is a Kingdom which “fills the whole EARTH” (Dan. 2:35, 44), replaces all worldly empires, and is obviously the Messianic Kingdom: when “the Kingdom of the world is become the Kingdom of our Lord, and His Christ” (Rev. 11:15). It is foreshadowed now by the Kingdom in Mystery (Matt. 13), or the Church, and for both regeneration is essential (Luke 17:21, John 3:3); but its manifestation at the Second Advent, to which all Scripture prophecies refer it, proves it to be Millennial. It is the “Kingdom” with which our Lord returns (Luke 19:12, 15). In one aspect, however the kingdom is now present: for in parables the kingdom is the Church: in literal passages, it is the literal kingdom; in figurative, it is the mystical. The reason seems clear. Our Lord, when personally present, spoke of the kingdom as present also, for it was present in the person of the King: “if I by the Spirit of God cast out demons, then is the kingdom of God come upon you” (Matt. 12:28). When the King withdrew from the world, so did the kingdom. But the Lord is mystically present with His Church: there is, therefore, a mystical kingdom: “who translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13). Concerning the Everlasting Kingdom, prophecy reveals but little, and that little perhaps solely in the last two chapters of the Apocalypse. IN THE ONLY PASSAGE IN WHICH THE HOLY GHOST USES THE PHRASE “THE KINGDOM” (1 Cor. 15:24), HE MEANS THE MILLENNIAL.

[14] “Receive the crown of glory, honour, and joy,” says the Archbishop at the British Coronation: but the crown is not the glory or the kingdom, but its proof and symbol. When Tsar Nicholas II, returning to the Winter Palace as a captive, was received by the guard with the republican salute, “We greet you, Colonel Romanoff,” the loss of the actual gem-studded circlet probably never even crossed the Tsar’s mind, but only the tragedy of a lost empire: so when our Lord says, “He that overcometh, and he that keepeth My works unto the end, to him will I give authority over the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron” (Rev. 2:26), it is not the symbol (the scepter is merely of iron) that is priceless, but the enormous rank and power for which the symbol stands, and which the Lord confers on the tested and approved servant of God. Now no resurrected saint can be a subject in the Millennial Kingdom, for “they lived and reigned with Christ” (Rev. 20:4): all are actually enthroned (Rev. 20:4); and neither Scripture nor the world knows anything of a crownless king. (The Sheep of Matt. 25:34 – saved Gentiles – are the subjects in both the Millennial and Eternal Kingdoms.) The crown is an invariable accompaniment – the proof and symbol – of a kingdom: so our Lord treats the conditional offer of a crown (Rev. 3:11) as a synonymous incentive with the conditional offer of a throne (Rev. 3:21); and Paul illustrates the loss of the incorruptible crown (1 Cor. 9:27) by Israel’s loss of an earthly kingdom (1 Cor. 10:5). The two are indivisible.

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)