What the Bible says about
Great White Throne Judgment
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Notice that God gives examples of things He does from behind the scenes that people are unaware He is doing. By this, He is revealing a principle. He is doing similar things all the time, and people are just as unaware today as the ancients. He is manipulating events to cause people to react. In these verses, God is speaking to Cyrus, who is totally unaware that God has made it possible for him to be in the position to carry out what God wants him to do. He also informs Cyrus that he will do this job for Jacob's benefit, in this case for the Jews living under the Persian Empire.
In addition, we discover in verse 6 that the Jews do not know this either. The time will come, however, when they will know that God worked these things for their benefit and His purpose, and they will give God glory as the one and only Almighty God. A small-scale fulfillment of this occurred under Ezra and Nehemiah, but the greater fulfillment will not take place until the Great White Throne Judgment. Isaiah 45 gives the impression He is actively working, but that we are aware of only a tiny portion of His activity even in our own lives. Yet, as His children, we should be intently looking for His hand in our affairs.
John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part One)
Ezekiel 44 takes place either during the Millennium or the Great White Throne Judgment. However, from certain details, it seems that God is referring to the actual ancient Israelites who failed Him under the Old Covenant.
It appears that, when the Israelites rise in the second resurrection, God will make them perform what they failed to do originally! He will give them a chance to repent of their unfaithfulness, to make up, as it were, for the sins of the past. They will know every time they lift a bullock onto the altar, every time they keep the gate, every time they make the showbread, every time they fulfill any of their responsibilities to God, that they failed in their first attempt to keep the terms of their covenant with God.
That is bearing iniquity! They will be reminded in every action that they have sinned and are a sinful people. It will be a hard lesson for Israel, but they will learn it well.
God says in Isaiah 43:21, "This people I have formed for Myself; they shall declare My praise." Finally! In the end, when God gives them the complete package of spiritual blessings, the Israelites will glorify God as He intended from the beginning, fulfilling their ultimate purpose.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Why Israel? (Part Two)
By some accounts, the scent of the olive tree is not so good, so the symbolism switches back to the cedar tree, as well as to the frankincense tree and the many other trees and plants that made the mountains of Lebanon smell so wonderful.
Revelation 5:8 describes the prayers of the saints as incense, and the church is called a garden of spices in Song of Songs 4:12, 14. Likewise, our spiritual sacrifices carry a sweet aroma to God (Genesis 8:21). When we live a life of obedience to God, as we strive to do now, and when Israel will do so in God's Kingdom, it pleases God as a beautiful perfume is pleasing.
The first part of Hosea 14:7 reads, "Those who dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall be revived like grain, and grow like the vine." "His shadow" might refer to God, but "his branches," "his beauty," and "his fragrance" (verse 6), refer to Israel, so "his shadow" must also. The whole phrase, "dwell under his shadow," denotes protection and reviving, restoration under shelter from adversity. Everyone has sought relief from the harsh rays of the sun in the shade of a tree, just as most have run under the spreading branches of a tree to escape a sudden shower. So will the nation of Israel be a refuge in that time, a fellowship of restoration under the blessings of God.
Those who live within that refuge "shall return"; they will grow again and again like a perennial plant. A lesson for us is that the shadow cast by the church, the spiritual "Israel of God," provides protection and growth. Over the centuries, God has called many into His church, but unfortunately, a great many did not stay. When the sun slipped behind a cloud or when the storm abated, many left the safety of the shadow. Some, however, choose to dwell there, never again leaving the spiritual safety of God's church.
It is these who "shall be revived like grain" and "grow like the vine." Grain, when it is sown, first dies and then revives (I Corinthians 15:35-44), a wonderful analogy of the resurrection of both the firstfruits and those of the White Throne Judgment. These revived ones will "grow like the vine," that is, produce fruit that is pleasing and glorifying to God (John 15:1-8).
It should be obvious that the setting of this parable is not "the marriage supper of the Lamb" when Christ returns and marries His bride (Revelation 19:9), but the preparations for it. God has been sending out the invitations throughout history.
Salvation is a process. Once acceptable for the wedding, God does not judge a person at the doors of the wedding supper. Peter says in I Peter 4:17 that judgment is now on the house of God, spiritual Israel, the church. Revelation 11:18 further shows that Christ will not judge His saints at His return, but is coming to reward the saints and begin the process of judging the nations who have not yet had opportunity at salvation—during the Millennium and the Great White Throne Judgment.
Once a true Christian dies, his judgment is complete. He will either be in the first resurrection and his sins never mentioned to him again, or he will await the third resurrection and death in the Lake of Fire. God does not resurrect him, make him find his way to the wedding supper, and then reject him because he does not have a wedding garment on! If he is qualified for the first resurrection, his salvation is accomplished, and he is automatically part of the bride.
The timing is not of the actual marriage supper, but of a time of calling, of inviting, of evangelism, and even of warning. This parable seems to indicate at least three distinct time frames:
1. When God called a few firstfruits in the Old Testament (see Hebrews 11).
2. Christ's invitation for those who would listen. Most rejected Him, including the leaders of Israel.
3. Those invited by the apostles, continuing to today.
The simple answer to who are the "guests" is that they are the bridal candidates whom the Father has invited wherever and whenever He has seen fit to issue invitations throughout history. Many have been called, informed, invited, offered opportunity, but few are chosen, only 144,000 to be exact. We are invited today to eat at the wedding table—every word of God—but few are responding enough to be chosen. Since "no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44), any opportunity for salvation is by special invitation of the Father, automatically putting anyone called in the "guest" category. He must then don wedding garments or be cast out!
After the choosing, sifting, and sorting, God selects a final number of 144,000, and rejects the rest. He will resurrect and change the chosen ones to spirit when Christ returns. At that point, the surviving "guests" or "invited ones" are the bride!
Jesus could not have used the actual bride in the story, for He would have had to include as part of the bride those who had opportunity at salvation and rejected it, and therefore He would cast away "parts" of the bride. What a grisly analogy that would have been! This way, many are invited by analogy as guests, some of whom He can reject and still not reject pieces and parts of the bride.
Christ uses the analogy or figure of guests, but He refers to those who have the potential to comprise the bride. The invitation is no less than to salvation, yet we have seen from other scriptures that only the bride will be part of the first resurrection, so this parable must fit those scriptures as well as make sense as a plausible story.
Remember, this parable is about the Kingdom of God, not an actual wedding feast. Christ is marrying one bride, but she consists of many individuals. So to illustrate His point, He does not refer to the bride as a bride, but as guests. This allows the Father to "throw some out" before the actual wedding.
Herbert Lockyer, in All the Parables of the Bible, says this parable may tie in with I Kings 1:5, 9 and I Chronicles 29:24. These passages describe a pre-wedding feast, common in those days. In ancient Israel such a feast was given at the beginning of a king's reign, who "married" himself to his people. Today, some people do the same kind of thing. They give a pre-wedding dinner for the bridal party followed by a wedding rehearsal.
Who Are the 'Guests at the Wedding'?
Sometimes these concepts are tough mental nuts for us to crack and swallow because we emotionally recoil at thinking of God as doing the things Paul mentions. Nevertheless, the Bible's record is true. Clearly, the sovereign God, in working out His plan, purposely makes people for destruction, while at the same time giving abundant grace in His calling to others who are just as worthy of destruction as those destroyed! Were Pharaoh and the Egyptians any worse sinners than the Israelites? Hardly, but in God's purpose they died while the Israelites received grace.
As Paul says, there is no unrighteousness in God. He is free to exercise His powers as He wills. His actions are always done in love, and in the end, they will produce righteousness, love, and honor for Him. The Egyptians will be saved. When God gives them grace in the Great White Throne Judgment, they will come to know Him and glorify Him as their God too.
John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part Two)
1 Corinthians 15:23
I Corinthians 15:23 describes an order of resurrections. Revelation 20:5-6 picks up the thread:
This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.
As Christians, we focus on this first resurrection; it is our hope and prayer to be raised from the dead or changed at the return of Christ (I Corinthians 15:50-52; I Thessalonians 4:17). If we are converted now and our judgment is now, other resurrections have no personal impact on us.
The next resurrection in God's order is the second resurrection. Though not specifically named as such in the Bible, it is described in numerous places. John alludes to it in Revelation 20:5: "But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished." Thus, it occurs at the end of the Millennium. Ezekiel describes it as a physical resurrection for all those who have lived through the ages and not had a full opportunity at salvation (Ezekiel 37:1-14). Revelation 20:11 calls it the Great White Throne Judgment, when the dead are raised to be "judged according to their works" (verse 12).
Verses 13-15 describe the final or third resurrection in this order of resurrections:
The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
Jude shows that some in his day had rejected God and, after dying, would be awaiting the Lake of Fire at the final judgment (verses 7-13). This final judgment, also called "the second death," is on those of all time periods who have rejected God and will not repent.
The Third Resurrection: What Is Its Value?
1 Peter 3:18-20
Does this passage explains the fate of the lost of humanity? It actually does, just not in the way most understand it. Jesus, while dead Himself, did not bring the souls of the dead to salvation through preaching to them personally in some kind of nether world. Such a scenario is theologically ridiculous.
However, His resurrection did make salvation possible for the "lost" dead. By living again, He has broken the grip of death over mankind (see I Corinthians 15:20-22, 55-57; Hebrews 2:14-17). As Paul says in I Corinthians 15, each category of individual will be resurrected in a specific order: first Christ, then His saints at His coming (verse 23), then "the rest of the dead" (Revelation 20:5, 11-13), and lastly, the incorrigible wicked to the second death (Revelation 20:14-15). The "lost" of humanity will rise as "the rest of the dead" in the Great White Throne Judgment, and have the opportunity to hear and to accept or reject the good news of salvation. This will be their first opportunity to receive God's calling, an opportunity that God will extend to every member of humanity.
God is not callous by any means. Perhaps the best known of all Bible verses asserts this clearly: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). He will make sure that every human being has an opportunity to hear the gospel and have the choice to enter His Kingdom. God's victory over death and over Satan, won through His resurrection of the sinless Jesus Christ, will eventually be proclaimed to all people from all ages. That is a victory worth shouting about!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jesus and 'the Spirits in Prison'
The resurrection of the righteous takes place at Christ's return (I Thessalonians 4:13-18), but that of the uncalled - the second resurrection - will occur in the Great White Throne Judgment after the Millennium. God is merciful, loving, and kind, not willing that any should perish. He desires all to come to the knowledge of the truth and to true repentance at the proper time. He has determined that most will receive this opportunity when He has set up His Kingdom on the earth, an environment most conducive to salvation.
These people will be raised up to physical existence. The "books" that are opened at this time are the books of the Bible in which are revealed true knowledge and understanding. The "Book of Life" will also be opened so their names can be written in it when they repent of their sins, accept Christ as personal Savior, and receive the Holy Spirit. During this time, they will be judged according to their works. Thus, we see most of humanity standing before God to be judged. God in His wisdom has determined that this is the best way to bring the most sons to glory and eternal life in His Kingdom.
Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: The Second Resurrection
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