Events in Heaven with the Saints
E W Rogers, Oxford
2. EVENTS IN HEAVEN WITH THE SAINTS
In the previous paper we noticed that the rapture is the hope of the church. We are now to consider certain things that are to take place subsequent to this event.
1. The Judgment Seat
It is to be feared that the fact that every believer has to appear before the judgment seat of God does not weigh with us as it should. It is all too easily forgotten, although it forms a large part of the subject of New Testament teaching.
At the time of this event, every believer will have been raised and given his glorified body, so the question of his eternal security is not at all brought into doubt. He is saved on the ground of sovereign grace alone, righteously effected by the death and resurrection of his substitute, Christ Jesus. All his sins have been forgiven, Col. 2. 13; they will never be brought up against him any more, Heb. 10. 17. But his life, work and character will be brought under review, and rewards will be given commensurate therewith. All this will take place when the Lord comes, but not until then.
We are to be Reviewed
This is taught in the three parables that the Lord gave touching (i) the workers in the vineyard, Matt. 20. 1-16, (ii) the talents, Matt. 25. 14-30 and (iii) the pounds, Luke 19. 11-27. It should be noted that the principles of the parables of the virgins and the talents (forming part of the Olivet discourse) apply to us of the present calling as certainly they will apply to the godly after the church is taken out of the way. The Lord will have regard to the inequality of opportunities which His labourers have had, and none will suffer loss because of lack of opportunity and none will have advantage because of large opportunities; this is shown by the parable of the vineyard. Rewards will be strictly commensurate with the work done as the parable of the pounds shows. Ten pounds gained is rewarded by authority over ten cities, and five pounds gained by authority over five cities.
Of course, there are those who assume the place of being the servants of Christ, but in reality are not so. We are not, in this paper, concerned with them. But it must be stated that the security of any true believer is not in jeopardy and no interpretation of either the parable of the talents or the pounds should be such as to undermine this truth.
To be brief, we observe that the parable of the vineyard has regard to unequal opportunity, that of the talents to differing capacities, and that of the pounds emphasises a common responsibility. The latter two stress the fact that each believer is responsible to the Lord for the trust committed to him, and that he will be examined later, at the time of His return, as to what he has done with it.
Our True Character is to be Revealed
No wonder, then, that in each of the four passages relevant to this subject in the later part of the N.T. the word each is to be found. The judgment-seat is inescapable for any one of God’s people. None need be afraid of it: we shall heartily endorse the decisions made thereat and be glad to see the consumption of all that is worthless, since we can have the utmost confidence in the judgment and estimate of Him who is our Saviour.
In Romans 14. 10, we are told that “we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of God”, R.V.; moreover, “each one of us shall give account of himself to God”, v. 12 R.V. In matters of inconsequential things saints differ each from the other. One can eat anything with an undisturbed conscience, another, who is not altogether free from legalism, is not able to do so. Similarly, in regard to days, and by extension to many other things. Such differences should in no wise engender strife. The one should not “despise” or “set at nought” the other, nor should the other condemn the one. Neither is accountable to the other, but each of us shall give an account of himself to God. If God is satisfied with the “account” or “reason” that we give for allowing or disallowing anything in our lives, who can say anything otherwise?
“Wherefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the hearts; and then shall each man have his praise from God”, 1 Cor. 4. 5 R.V. Actions will be seen but not motives, and often if the motive were known the action would be differently construed.
“For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad”. This fact should be enough to ensure that “we make it our aim ... to be well-pleasing unto him”, 2 Cor. 5. 9-10 r.v. Everything will then come out in its true colours: all the veneer will be stripped off: any concealed cracks will then be exposed. Nothing can be hidden in His presence. We know that “whatsoever good thing each one doeth, the same shall he receive again from the Lord” no matter his status in life, Eph. 6. 8, and conversely, “he that doeth wrong shall receive again the wrong that he hath done”, Col. 3. 25 r.v. marg. In these passages the question does not appear to be one of reward but of the revelation of the character we have formed in life. Our actions are like boomerangs, they come back and leave their mark on us. They are as birds on the wing, they take their flight and do their work and then come home to roost. Or, to change the figure, the good things that we have done we may place on the credit side of the ledger of our life: the evil things on the debit side, and the nett result is the character that we have formed, its results to be manifest and taken into eternity. How solemn a thought is this! We shall bless God for the blood of Christ that atones for all the wrong: we shall give Him the glory for all the grace given to enable the good things to have been done.
Our Actions and Service will be Examined
and rewarded appropriately. Of this, 1 Corinthians 3. 1-17 speaks. The passage has to do with work in the local assembly, but its principles apply to all service rendered for the Lord. There were then in the east, as there are today, the magnificent houses of the rich and the hovels of the poor. The one would easily resist fire but the other would readily go up in smoke, its roof being made of grass, straw or the like. Gold, silver and costly stones (not tiny jewels) will prove incombustible; wood, grass and straw, though bulky, is easily consumable. If our work is such as will resist the fire we shall receive a reward, though such reward will certainly be a token of mercy, 2 Tim. 1.16, since we are at best “unprofitable servants”, Luke 17. 10. If, however, it is consumed we shall suffer the loss, not of any gift given in sovereign grace, but of a reward which we might otherwise have obtained had we been more diligent. “He himself shall be saved” is indubitably clear, but how grievous it would be were we to have nothing to show for our redeemed life, nothing that has brought our Redeemer glory and has furthered the work whose foundation He laid by His death. We should be like the servant from whom was taken the one pound that had been given him in trust. He did not share the doom of the enemies, but he had no reward nor further entrusted responsibility in the kingdom, Luke 19. 20ff.
All Faithfulness and Devotion to be Rewarded
How sad it would be if any of us were to be “ashamed before him at his coming”, 1 John 2.28. John appears, in this passage, to be thinking of his apostolic labours and the shame that would be brought on him and on the believers were they, at the judgment seat, not to be such as they ought. Both teacher and taught would be ashamed at such poor results. It was to avoid this that Paul exhorted the Philippians to hold forth “the word of life; that I may have whereof to glory in the day of Christ, that I did not run in vain” and thus fail to receive the reward, “neither labour in vain”, and thus fail to receive his wages, Phil. 2. 16 R.V.
Paul was deeply aware that, though in his life he had been wrongly judged not only by the Roman power but also by the saints, yet “the righteous judge” would, at the bema, give to him a victor’s crown: he could review his life with humble satisfaction, being conscious of his unswerving loyalty to his Master, 2 Tim. 4. 7-8. Yet he had no exclusive monopoly in this; it was open to all believers as it is open to us today.
The crowned ones are seen in heaven in Revelation 4. 4, and it is pleasing to think that not one believer will then be missing or be without a crown for then shall “each man have his praise from God”, 1 Cor. 4. 5 r.v. He will be able to discern what merits such praise, though our eyes fail to detect it.
Not only will the quality of our work come under examination “of what sort it is”, 3. 13, but also the quantity will be taken into consideration, “how much every man has gained by trading”, Luke 19. 15. Nothing will be overlooked, “whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee”, 10. 35. “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward (or wages) is with me, to render to each man according as his work is”, Rev. 22. 12 R.V. and marg. Paul looked forward to that day, and said “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 (parousia)?”, 1 Thess. 2. 19.
2. The Marriage Supper of the Lamb
There is yet another event to take place before the Lord returns to earth with His people, and that is the marriage supper of the Lamb, Rev. 19. 7 ff. In the writer’s view there can be no room for doubt that “the church which is his body” is identical with the bride. We are well aware that this point has been disputed, but it is not uncommon to have one thing viewed in various ways and by sundry metaphors. Ephesians 5. 25 ff. confirms the bridal aspect of the church. Besides, in Revelation 19. 9 we read of those who are “called unto the marriage supper”, and we suggest that these guests are the O.T. saints as well as those gathered in after the rapture, and prior to the coming to earth of the Lord. The bride must not be mistaken for the guests. As the single lady used to be called a “spinster” because she spun her wedding garments, so too the bride is here seen “arrayed in fine linen, bright and pure”, and we are informed that the “fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints”, Rev. 19. 8 R.V. This agrees with what we have already noted touching the manifestation of character. What we do has formed our character, and our clothing signifies that, just as the “riding habit” is spoken of to denote the equestrian’s dress. This clearly is a scene in heaven, as verse 1 states.
There is little wonder that there is so much praise in heaven at this time. The desires of our blessed Lord will then have been fulfilled; His prayer will have been answered, John 17. 24. His heart will be satisfied, for His loved one is with Him.
He and I in that bright glory,
One deep joy shall share,
Mine to be for ever with Him,
His that I am there.
To be followed by “Events on Earth”.