The Dais or “Judgment Seat”
of God and His Christ
THOSE WHO ENDURE shall reign with Christ for the eons (2 Tim.2: 12). It is a great pity to make this everlasting. Eonian life will, indeed, never end, because death itself shall be abolished at the consummation. Therefore it is unwise to over-stress that the word eon does not denote endlessness in relation to our life in Christ, for it does involve it. But reigning is a different matter. All will be made alive eventually, but by its very nature, all cannot reign. Some must be subject. Reigning implies submission to intermediaries, and insubordination to God. When the kingdom is handed over to the Father, God cannot be All in all so long as some of His creatures reign over others. All rule, even that of Christ, shall cease when all authority is transferred into the hands of the Father, and political power gives place to paternal authority.
Endurance now is the proper preparation for reigning with Christ in the future. How different would rule be today if every office holder had to undergo a thorough course of training in patient suffering! A prominent medical specialist in Europe tried to express a similar thought when he said that every physician ought to be thrown out of the window before he should be allowed to practice on a patient. He should know what suffering is, to deal with it sympathetically and successfully. So it is with governing. Only one who has felt the pains and penalties of mortality, and has endured the consequent suffering and shame, is fitted to rule. Only such a one will reign so successfully that ruling will eventually be ruled out.
The reason why all mortal government must be a comparative failure lies in the unnatural conditions under which it operates. It arose from the estrangement of man from the Creator, and is only a temporal brake on his activities until he is in harmony with God again. Nature demands the submission of the lower creation to the higher and of man to God, not of man to man. All the futile aspirations and bloody battles for freedom arise from this faulty relationship. No mortal, save the rejected Son of God, is sufficiently superior to his fellows, or so free from sin, or so fully in fellowship with God as to the purpose of man’s creation, as to provide a perfect rule. Man is given dominion by God to teach him his own incapacity by a vast and varied demonstration, from the deluge to the consummation.
The almost continuous clash between liberty and tyranny is much misunderstood because it is never absolutely one or the other, but always a mixture. Where there is government by man no one can be utterly free. The limits of liberty are not determined by the form of government alone, or even by its administrators, but by conditions and environment. One person, alone in the wilds, far from his fellows, is not under the same restraints as another who lives in the midst of a metropolis. He may shoot a gun in every direction without interference by the political authorities, whereas such a course would be criminal in a crowded place, and he might be executed for murder.
All forms of government are needed in God’s great demonstration of human incompetence. Little as we may like some of them, let us recognize God’s wisdom even in their faults, and be thankful for the lessons that they teach. The idea that authority resides in all the people who are mature, which the Greeks called the demos, has given rise to democracy. Theoretically, this is the rule of the populace, but it is really the rule of the majority, and the subjection of the minority. Because of its impracticability in the case of great masses of men or the largeness of lands, it is usually modified by the choice of representatives who act instead of their constituents, which is better named a republic. Usually, these forms allow the most individual liberty. Yet, like all the others, the administration and the administrators determine the measure of freedom, rather than the written form. Especially in emergencies this may be evaded or ignored.
The kind of control of human over humans which is sanctioned in the Scriptures is that of a father over his family. This is to teach us of God’s final place in the consummation. In both cases, it is based on natural ties, creation, and generation. Then there is that of the husband over the wife, which is based on the fact that he is her head. This is also used to illustrate Jehovah’s relationship to Israel. Elders were to have the rule in the communities in Israel and in the ecclesia, due to their maturity and experience. Kings are a temporary interlude, from the deluge to the consummation. Even Christ reigns only in the last two eons. The superior authorities of the present are God’s ministers, carrying out His intention, but they are artificial and unnatural, so have very limited basic qualifications for their positions.
Experience with evil, and character are the requisites for reigning. Neither great works nor success, neither great gifts nor the approval of others will prepare us for it. These will also bring a reward of some kind. Even prolonged patience is not enough. It is necessary for a ruler in that day to have stood his ground in faith, not only under the onslaughts of men, but under assault by the fiery arrows of the powers of darkness. The mailed warrior of the sixth of Ephesians, who stands against these wicked spirits while on earth may come to rule over them in the heavenly kingdom in that day.
Our experience in seeking to bring God’s unadulterated revelation to the people offers a good illustration of the vast difference between patience and endurance. The drudgery of forming the vocabulary, revising the grammar, making and copying the text of the original, inserting the sublinear and the version, making the concordances, with repeated checking, has called for an unbelievable amount of patience, and will take much more. But the vicious attacks on the work—such, for instance, that only a lazy man would use this method, and that it is done in order to uphold certain heresies—which have been repeated again and again, and still persist, these call for much more than patience. They hurt, they harm, they rankle like burning arrows in the flesh. They require more than patient plodding, year in and year out. They require endurance, not only long patience but long suffering, a stand in spite of opposition and calumny, against the callousness and cruelty of the cohorts of Satan.
Far more trying than these are the calumnies of false friends, accusations the exact contrary of the truth, being excessively gracious, and then being denounced as being ungracious. I once thought that such a one as Paul, through whom the saints received the truth, and who was its chief champion, would be exempt from assaults by those who had been helped by him. But the contrary was the case. Some did him much evil, and he had to beware of them. So also, I once thought that if I devote my life to the recovery of the truth and works which would enable the saints to enjoy the pure Word of God, and do this without recompense, none of those benefitted by my labors would hinder or harm, for they would only be injuring themselves. But long experience has shown that even those who have tasted of God’s grace are prone to bite the hand that feeds them, and slander the one who has served them. The selfishness and deceit which characterize the last days make it almost impossible to recover and preserve the truth of grace, for the very word is used to camouflage opposition to it. Selfish, social, and soulish things appeal to the saints far more than the spiritual, so that, even after the truth is recovered, few, indeed, care if it is corrupted.
The same kind of a character and experience is needed by the rulers in the messianic kingdom on earth. Our Lord told His disciples: “You are those who have continued with Me in My trials. And I am covenanting a covenant with you according as My Father covenanted a kingdom to Me, that you may be eating and drinking at My table in My kingdom. And you will be seated on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:28-30). That part of their preparation which they least enjoyed was the most essential. Many others were with Him at first, but they did not continue in trial. This disqualified them for any official position in the coming kingdom. So it is with us today. Our failure to endure does not affect our salvation, for that is altogether and directly the result of His sacrifice. But rule in the eonian kingdom is only for those who have been tried and who have stood the test.
The fact that physical well-being sometimes seems more desirable than individual freedom of action has led to so-called “socialist” forms of government. In this form, society, or rather, the state, controls much that is usually left to the individual. In the case of overcrowded countries, whose resources need to be carefully conserved, this may be a vast advantage, but only in the hands of a capable and unselfish administration. The fatal defect in this is its antichristian attempt to bring blessing to men apart from Christ, and in independence of God. The goal set is far too low. As our Lord said, “Seek first His kingdom and righteousness, and these all shall be added to you” (Matt.6:33). The physical blessings of the earthly kingdom come from submission to and worship of God, not in planned economies or in the use of technology.
Even an ideal form of government, a heavenly utopia, would fail to function as it should in the hands of mortal men. The millennium will be headed by immortals, and the celestial realms by death-defying saints. No man lives long enough to accumulate the necessary wisdom. Even while he lives he is continually harassed by the operation of death in his body, so that he is prone to do evil and sin. The subjects of the best of states are by no means ideal. They form one long funeral procession of decaying flesh. And, not only the ruler’s body, but all of his accomplishments, are doomed to sink down into ruin and corruption.
In the divine chronicles of Israel’s kings, we are shown what is the vital factor in human government. When the people and the king submitted themselves to Jehovah God, then all went well. When they turned against Him, all went ill. The Jews are a living example of this during the succeeding centuries, until this very day. The highest point in the history of their kingdom was reached when Solomon and the people exhausted their energies and wealth in building the house of Jehovah. This did not impair their power or lower their standard of living, but quite the reverse. And so it was in Israel on other occasions. A return to Jehovah involved a revival of prosperity. This is not so evident among the nations today, for God is not judging now, and He demonstrates such matters by means of the people He has chosen to dominate the earth, when they are in fellowship with Him.
A good definition of endure, would be suffer evil with patience or fortitude. In the original it literally means UNDER-REMAIN, or remain behind, as when our Lord stayed in Jerusalem after His parents had left it to return to Nazareth (Luke 2:43). The meaning endure is a faded figure. It is a great pity that the A.V. alters it to suffer in the passage before us, and there only. This spoils the very striking contrast between the evangel of the kingdom and that of Paul. Our Lord told His disciples, “he who endures to the consummation, he shall be saved” (Matt.10:22). But now salvation does not depend on endurance, so Paul writes to Timothy, “if we are enduring we shall be reigning” (2 Tim.2:12). In one case salvation depends on holding out to the end. In the other salvation is not in question, but reward. Endurance is requited with a place of rule.
For the sake of those whose minds are filled with the A.V. renderings we will quote some passages which they have rendered patient, or patience, which should be endure or endurance, in order that we may see, from the contexts, what is expected of those who wish to reign: Rom.12:12, enduring affliction, for “patient in tribulation;” 5:3, affliction is producing endurance, yet endurance testedness, for “tribulation worketh patience and patience experience;” 8:25, “we with patience wait for [it],” for we are awaiting it with endurance; 15:4, “through patience and comfort of the scriptures,” for through the endurance and consolation of the scriptures; 2 Cor.6:4, “in much patience” for, in much endurance; 2 Cor.12:12, (signs of an apostle) “in all patience,” for in all endurance; Col.1: 12, (being endured) “unto all patience,” for all endurance; 1 Thess.1:3, “patience of hope,” for endurance of expectation; 2 Thess.1:4, “your patience and faith,” for your endurance and faith; 3:5, “patient waiting for Christ,” for endurance of Christ; 1 Tim.6:11, 2 Tim.3:10, Tit.2:2, “patience,” for endurance.
The word patience is used very loosely by some in English, in place of the more precise terms as endurance, fortitude, resignation, etc. It should be confined to the thought of quiet waiting for what is expected, or persistence in action, and leave the idea of patience under stress or in suffering to these more explicit expressions. The A.V. uses patience for another Greek word, which it suits much better. When the ten-thousand talent debtor begged the king to “have patience” with him (Matt.18:26), we may be sure that he did not ask him to endure any affliction, but merely to give him time. This shows clearly that this word does not include suffering. Yet the A.V. does render the noun “longsuffering” in every one of its fourteen occurrences.
Government is essentially the restraint of evil by evil. Without it, evil was rampant before the deluge. After the eonian times, when evil vanishes, government also disappears. Our rule among the celestials will be concerned with evil. The best preparation is an acquaintance with it and patiently coping with it while on earth. That is why endurance is the requisite for rule. We may be patient in our waiting for His coming. That also will have its reward. Those who keep the faith will be paid with the wreath of righteousness. Indeed, it will be the portion of all who love His advent (2 Tim.4:4). But endurance finds its field in affliction (Rom.12:12). Those who have gone through this school are ready to cope with the evil that still prevails among the celestials and bring it to a conclusion.
Government uses evil to restrain evil. An individual who kills his fellow is a murderer and must himself die. But the executioner who kills him is an official, and does not commit murder when he kills. But the authority to do evil may be much abused, as when one nation wars against another without just cause. This will nearly cease in the millennium, but even then Gog and Magog will attempt to despoil Israel. Even the reign of Christ will use evil, for He will control natural forces, and compel attendance to the worship of God by withholding the downpour, or, where this is not essential, as in Egypt, with a stroke (Zech.14:17). Let us not imagine that His rule is all sweetness and light. It also is enforced by evil. He sends evil that good may come of it.
The secret of Christ reveals His celestial glory, up over every sovereignty and authority and power and lordship and every name that is named (Eph.1:21). These are various forms of restraint or rule among the celestials. The sovereignties are the highest of all, who delegate some of their rights to authorities. Except for one reference in Jude 6 to the messengers “who kept not their first estate” (sovereignty) we never read of these heavenly realms in the Circumcision writings. They come before us only in Paul’s epistles. These sovereignties, probably the most mighty of all God’s creatures, cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom.8:38). All sovereignty, as well as all authority and power will be abrogated at the consummation (1 Cor.15:24). We will not reign for eternity. Our rule is limited to the eons. It is eonian. Even at the present time we are serving as an object lesson to the sovereignties and authorities, making known to them the multifarious wisdom of God (Eph.3:10). And even now we come into contact with these sovereignties and authorities, the spiritual forces of wickedness among the celestials, who are our real adversaries, although they work through blood and flesh in order to harm us (Eph.6:12).
In Israel, celestial messengers were almost always beneficent, and bore tidings of good. Not so with us. The denizens of the spirit world are our chief adversaries. They doubtless know that some of us are destined to take their place of rule, and this may account, in part, for their antagonism to the saints of the celestial calling.
These mighty spiritual governments seem to occupy the heavenly realms which are promised to us. They are like the Canaanites in the land of promise, who opposed Israel until Joshua led the nation into their allotment. We cannot count on peace with them so long as we are on earth, and have not displaced them among the celestials. Meanwhile, however, we do not merely withstand them and shield ourselves from their fiery arrows, but we are a blessing to them by manifesting God’s wisdom now, and by taking over their rule in the future, under the headship of Christ. Just as He will assume the headship of earth’s sovereignties and authorities in the day of Jehovah, and install His apostles and faithful followers in the places of rule on earth, so will He do in the heavens also.
In that glorious day, we will not need our armor or our shield. We will be invulnerable, with far more power to do evil than the celestial hosts. There can be no doubt that there, as on earth, evil will be used to compel obedience. Even a father uses force to discipline his child for good. How much more a king! These sovereignties and authorities, judging from their present conflict with the saints, will need severe measures to correct their present course, and change it from enmity to peace. Part of this will probably be done, even before our advent, when Michael and his messengers battle with the dragon and its messengers, and they are cast into the earth, and their place was no longer found in heaven (Rev.12:7).
We can hardly imagine the magnificence of the millennial reign. Prophet after prophet has extolled its varied glories. But it is confined to a minute part of God’s creation. Compared with the orbs of space its size is insignificant. Our celestial realm is unutterably greater and its glories grander. It is amazing how much a man will hear and what risks he will take to seize the reigns of even the smallest of earth’s governments. No wonder Paul reckons that the sufferings of the current era do not deserve the glories about to be revealed for us (Rom.8:18). We should not look upon these trials as a penalty for past sins, or as a punishment of any kind, but rather as a privilege, which may benefit ourselves as well as celestial creatures, and play a small part in God’s great plan of blessing to the whole creation. Let us glory in afflictions which produce endurance (Rom.5:3) and put a crown upon our humbled heads.
THE FATE OF THOSE WHO DISOWN HIM
We have already pointed out that endurance is essential for salvation in the case of the Circumcision, when the kingdom comes. But it is essential for reigning for the Uncircumcision in their celestial realm. But what becomes of us if we do not endure, but disown Him? He also will disown us. Until I considered this matter carefully in its context, this statement was filled with terror, and I trembled for my salvation. But later, when I came to be established in the great truth that our acts have nothing to do with our deliverance, which depends entirely on His faithfulness to His Word, it dawned upon me that, if we disown Him we forfeit our right to reign, not our other blessings.
The very next sentence should keep us from questioning our safety and security: He is remaining faithful—He cannot disown Himself. It is His work and His word that saves, not ours. We do not need to endure or do anything else to be saved. Not even the quantity or quality of our belief or unbelief is vital. If we lack sufficient faith to endure, that does not affect our salvation, but our reward. The least spark of confidence in Him is all that is needed to share in the infinite value of His sacrifice. But more is needed to have a part in this glorious universal reign for the eons of the eons. Only the apostles and faithful will reign on earth. Only those who endure suffering for His sake now will rule in the heavens among the celestials.
A. E. Knoch
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