Part 15. “Then comes the End.” (1 Cor.15:24)
“Every man in his own company, Christ the Firstfruit, afterwards those who are of Christ at His coming. Then the End, when He delivers the Kingdom to God the Father, when He abolishes all rule, authority and power. For He must reign until He puts all enemies under His feet.” (1 Cor.15:23-25)
I have tried to convey the original Greek of the above passage. It gives the impression of a lengthy period of time, after the Lord’s coming, when the Kingdom of God operates on earth, and by degrees the opposition to His rule weakens until He has reached the climax of God’s purpose, that no enemies shall be left. In fact the very next verse tells us that “the last enemy to be abolished is death.” And when death has been abolished, whether it be ordinary death or the “second death”, which is the “lake of fire”, then God’s purpose in restoring His world is fulfilled. Some have been led to believe that the second death shall last for ever, with wicked people confined in it with no hope of ever being delivered. But this is an insult both to the character, and to the ability of God to bring about reconciliation and restoration.
In the last number we saw that the festivals of Passover and Pentecost represented the first two stages of resurrection, and that they were inseparably connected by the 50 day time-line. Now we have to deal with what Paul called “the end.” And if this is pre-figured by the Feast of Tabernacles, then the first thing to observe is that there is no temporal connection between Pentecost and Tabernacles. The Calendar, by its very formation, shows that there isa variable number of days between the two events.
In Revelation 20, we read about those who are blessed to be a part of “the first resurrection.” Then we are told that the rest of the dead have to wait until the end of the Millennial Reign before being raised. This is the later revelation, given to John, concerning what Paul merely referred to as “the end.” In understanding what this resurrection is about, we shall have to be guided by the Old Testament, and what it has to say about Tabernacles.
Tabernacles is not a singular event. It is composed of three festivals, perhaps four. These may be listed as follows –
- The so-called “Feast of Trumpets.” The Hebrew words would be better translated “Feast of Shouting for Joy.” However, there is no doubt that trumpets were sounded on this occasion. It is a festival of remembrance of the foundation of the world, when the “stars sang, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” (Job 38)
- The Day of Atonement. This was a solemn occasion, when a sacrifice was made to cover all the sins of the House of Israel that had not been atoned for throughout the year. It was a time of fasting and mourning, a time when God wanted His people to stop and reflect on what sin really does in one’s life.
- The seven-day Feast of Tabernacles, or Booths, in which great rejoicing took place. It was the Harvest Festival, after all the fruits had been gathered in.
- The Eighth Day, a special addition to Tabernacles, a day of great joy and solemnity.
Very briefly, the season started by remembering creation, which includes every being God has created. Then a time of deep mourning for sin. Finally a time of great rejoicing as God achieves His final goal for all creation. These three aspects make up the symbolism of the Tabernacles season.
During the Millennium saints will reign with Christ in resurrection. Man cannot be trusted to rule apart from resurrection. Whilst we are still in our old bodies, with our fallen natures, no matter how mature we may be spiritually, we cannot be placed in positions of governmental authority. All the history of the last 6000 years is more than enough to prove that point. Any so-called “Dominion theology” fails to take this into account, and will not be countenanced by the Lord in the Millennium.
During the Millennium, and afterwards, the Lord will progressively put all under His feet. It is instructive to see how this expression is used in the N.T. First of all we read in the Corinthians passage quoted above, that it is God’s purpose, and will continue until completed. Then in Hebrew 2:8 we read “You have put all things in subjection under His feet.” This is what is called a de jure statement, showing that there is no doubt attached to God’s plans, what He has set His mind to do, that He will achieve. But then the verse closes with the statement “we do not yetsee all things put under Him.” This is as true now as it was when Paul wrote the words. But when we come to the Corinthians passage, we see that the end has been achieved. This is the de facto statement. As Isaiah was required to put it, He shall see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied.” (Isa.53:11)
And what shall these “Overcomers in resurrection” be doing in the Millennial reign of Christ? “They shall rule with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers.” (Rev.2:27) On the surface this sounds a rather tyrannical regime. Once again, our A.V. translators have failed to convey the sense of the original Greek, which reads, “They will shepherd them with an iron crook, and break them as potter’s vessels are broken.” Only those who have come under the influence of the “Good Shepherd’s crook” will qualify to act under His sovereignty in the Kingdom. And what is this about breaking the pots into shivers? Does it not express the sole purpose of Gospel preaching? Is it not the power of the Holy Spirit that suddenly convicts man, whether it be Paul on the Damascus Road, or John Newton in the slave ship, and many many others besides?
All my Christian life I have found great value in using the Companion Bible as my study Bible. Dr. E.W.Bullinger, the Editor and compiler of the marginal notes, was a man of singular devotion to the Lord and His Word. His marginal note on Isaiah 53:11 (quoted above) is worth giving here in all its strength.
“We have not an impotent Father, or a disappointed Christ, or a defeated Holy Ghost, as is so commonly preached; but an omnipotent Father, an all-victorious Christ, and an almighty Holy Spirit, able to break the hardest heart and subdue the stoutest will.”
Yes, the Millennial Reign of Christ will be a time of Evangelism with a difference. There will be a heavenly dominion over the earth, but it will not be manifested all at once, but increase gradually as our Lord indicated in the parable of the Mustard Seed – very small beginnings, but supernatural growth. It will be a time of teaching, of learning righteousness, of wrongdoers receiving just sentencing, in short a time of great restraint. In contrast to today, righteousness will be rewarded, and wickedness punished. Those who administer justice will be the Whiteknights of Resurrection.
I believe it was the Apostle John who was given a Gospel so different to the other three, that it might become the Gospel of the coming Kingdom of God. It contains hidden qualities that have only limited application and usefulness today, but will present a new force in the coming day of resurrection. This may be seen in his statements relating to the gathering in of God’s final harvest. Let his words speak for themselves.
12:32. And I, if I am lifted up, will draw all men to myself. But in these days, He is still drawing only the remnant to Himself.
1:29. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Not just the sin of His elect.
3:17 God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. Here is the vast expansion of God’s grace directed to everyone throughout the world in the days of the Kingdom.
8:12 I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. True in the present age of all those who are drawn to the Lord, as He gathers His elect, but will be world-wide in a greatly expanded sense in the Kingdom.
6:39,40,44, and 11:24 I will raise him up at the last day. The “last day” is the beginning of the 8th Millennium, the time of the general resurrection, which as Martha proclaimed, and all Israel knew, was the time of resurrection. They knew nothing of a prior resurrection, which was only preached in the Acts period.
7:37-39 On the last day, the great day of the feast [of tabernacles] Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, rivers of living water shall flow out of his inmost parts.’ But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom believers were about to receive, for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, for Jesus was not yet glorified. This is a very significant statement, seeing that it came on the last day of Tabernacles. And it reminds us of Rev.22:17 Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely. No restrictions.
20:31 These things have been written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might have life in His name. This broad and welcoming invitation will have a great surge of application in the lives of people in the Millennial Kingdom, as God opens the door to the rest of the world.
No doubt there are other passages in John that might take on a similar broadening to what is apparent now. The important thing to remember is that God is determined to save all, not just the elect. The elect are not a chosen group destined to spend eternity enjoying themselves in a heavenly environment, but rather that they may serve the Lord as His resurrected messengers in the Kingdom, to be servants of mankind and bring the water of life to everyone.
Although it will be a time of great opportunity, and millions will listen, learn, and believe, it will also be a time of restraint for the wicked, many of whom will need the rigours of harsh discipline to bring them to their senses. God has spoken about a lake of fire, and the symbolism creates a feeling of great pain because burns to our flesh are amongst the most painful to endure. But the infliction is symbolic, and refers to the pain that wicked men will have to endure to bring them to a better mind. This “lake of fire”, this “second death”, will therefore endure until it has accomplished its purpose, and will then be abolished, as stated by Paul, when “death” will be destroyed.
A great deal more may be learned from a study of the Tabernacle season, which would overburden these brief chapters. But if the joys of the feast, representing the final resurrection, are to be achieved, it can only come about as people pass through their Day of Atonement first, recognise the sacrifice of the Son of God at Calvary, believe, and partake of the water of life freely. God will not allow life any other way. “There is power, power, wonder-working power, in the precious blood of the Lamb.”
The next part will be the final chapter in this series.