The Person of Christ - 37 - The Heavenly People

 

Chapter 37 - The Millennial Reign of Christ

The Heavenly People

Norman Crawford

 

It is clear to every careful reader of the New Testament that the church has a heavenly calling and is sustained by the prospect of heavenly things (Heb. 3:1; Phil. 3:20,21: Eph. :18-23 etc.). While all our promises and hopes are heavenly, the kingdom hopes of Israel (nationally) are earthly and material (Isa. 11:3-9). Those who attempt to spiritualize the many promises of material blessing in the millennium run into serious difficulties. The description of these blessings are too numerous and too detailed to be used only as figures of heavenly blessing. Only by distinguishing the earthly and the heavenly people can these promises be understood. There is a suggestion in the early promise to Abraham, ?I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore? (Gen. 22:17) that God would bless both a heavenly and an earthly seed.

 

Seeing our calling and hopes are heavenly and even our citizenship is not of earth, we need to constantly guard against becoming earthbound. Any material gain, place or possession that displaces in our hearts the heavenly hope is a denial of our true calling. ?Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth? (Col. 3:2). The words from the lips of the Saviour are a warning as well as a promise, ?For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also? (Luke 12:34). The distinction between the earthly and the heavenly can be clearly traced throughout the New Testament. This will help us to outline the subject.

 

THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE MARRIAGE AND THE MARRIAGE SUPPER OF THE LAMB.

 

Revelation 19 describes the marriage supper. Several things are very obvious to us as we look at this lovely scene. The judgment seat of Christ is past, for the Lamb?s wife is granted the honour of wearing the ?fine linen, white and clean? which is ?the righteousness (righteous acts) of saints? (Rev. 19:7,8). It should be clear as well that the marriage has already taken place for she is the Lamb?s wife, emphasizing her relationship to the heavenly Bridegroom. Where her constant freshness and beauty is emphasized she is called the bride (Rev. 21:9, 22:17). Revelation 19:7 says, ?For the marriage of the Lamb is come?, but the word translated ?is come? refers to an event that has taken place in the past, and at a particular point in the past. This completed event is the marriage which at the coming of the Lord Jesus to earth in glorious power, has already taken place (vs.l 1-16). It must then be obvious that the marriage has taken place in Heaven. The great announcement of this chapter (vs.7-9) regarding the marriage supper is the announcement of the coming of the Lord to earth. The supper is an earthly celebration of a heavenly event. Many believe this celebration continues throughout the millennium.

 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE EARTHLY JERUSALEM AND THE HEAVENLY CITY

 

We have already seen from Revelation 19 that when the Lord Jesus returns to earth, the church is with Him as the Lamb?s wife. In fact, wherever He moves, we will move with Him, for once we have met the Lord in the air we ?shall ever be with the Lord? (I Thess. 4:17). This is the great prospect for the heart of the believer. When we go into the Father?s house it will be ?with Him? and when we come out it will be to reign ?with Christ? (II Tim. 2:12; Rev. 20:4).

 

At this point in the prophetic programme there are different views among those who basically are in agreement. We do not believe that the earth will be the home of the Lord Jesus or of His bride in the millennium. He will surely return to earth (Zech. 14:4); and He will claim the throne of David (Luke 1:32) as His by right, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever (Luke 1:33), but it will be a heavenly administration over the millennial earth. It is to prove this statement that we turn to the subject of the ?heavenly Jerusalem.?

 

There will be a Jerusalem on earth and many scriptures can be called upon for evidence. Ezekiel gives many details of the city (Ezek. 48:30-35) and fully describes the temple that will be there (chapters 40-43). There are several passages that suggest an earthly regent will reside there while the Lord and His church will reign over the earth (Rev. 5:10). We are not suggesting that the Lord Jesus will not visit the earth but we believe His residence will be in the city where ?no temple? is found, in contrast to the earthly Jerusalem and its millennial temple (Rev. 2 1:22-23).

 

Linked with the ?city above? are three companies around the Lamb. Two passages of the New Testament describe them as being angels, Old Testament saints and New Testament saints (Heb. 12:22-24, Rev. 21:9-27). In the Hebrews passage we are first told of an ?innumerable company of angels in festal assembly? and then of the ?church of the firstborn, which are written in Heaven? and finally of the ?spirits of just men made perfect,? which we believe is a description of Old Testament saints. In the Revelation passage it is the twelve gates that are emphasized for twelve is the number of divine administration and this city rules over (above) the earth. Linked with the gates are twelve angels (v.12); ?the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel? (v.12) and the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (v.14). This city is the home of Christ and His bride during the millennium and there with them are the Old Testament saints in resurrection bodies (Heb. 12:23)

and the angels.

 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RESURRECTED SAINTS AND THOSE WHO WILL HAVE NATURAL BODIES.

 

The heavenly Jerusalem was the hope of the patriarchs. Though they were the fathers of Israel and were promised for their seed earthly blessings, they did not look for earthly blessing for themselves but ?died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims in the earth? (Heb. 11:13). They themselves ?looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God? (v.10). It will be clear from verse 16 of this chapter that the country and the city they looked for was heavenly - the heavenly Jerusalem. This made them strangers and pilgrims on the earth and they plainly declared their heavenly hope. We might well ask our hearts if we have lost our pilgrim character today.

 

Israel?s national hopes were earthly, the saints of the Old Testament, who died in faith, had heavenly hopes. It should be clear then that in the heavenly Jerusalem will be all those who had a part in the first resurrection (Rev. 20:4-6). The living, raptured saints of the church, all the dead in Christ including the saints of the Old Testament and the martyred saints of the tribulation will be there: all who have new bodies will be in the heavenly company.

 

On the earth will be the true Israel of God, those who have lived through the tribulation, preserved to its close (MatI. 24:13) to go into the millennium; and the saved from the nations (Malt. 25:31-46), who believed the message of the Gospel of the kingdom and received the messengers. They will have natural bodies and will people the earth.

Without question there will be open communication between the earthly and the heavenly spheres (John 1:51) with angels acting as the emissaries of the heavenly administration.

 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE MILLENNIUM AND THE ETERNAL STATE.

 

To many students of the Bible a real difficulty arises in the descriptions of the heavenly Jerusalem found in Revelation 21. The chapter opens with the dawning of the eternal day and yet in verses 9-27 there seems to be a return to millennial conditions. The same thing will be seen in Isaiah 65:17-25. The Lord speaks through Isaiah, ?Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind? (v.17). Then immediately there is a description given of the millennium. The answer to the problem seems to be that whereas the New Jerusalem and its inhabitants are already in a state of perfect glory, so that no further change is needed, the earth is still under God?s dispensational dealings and the millennium is the final testing ground that proves man to be incurably sinful. The difference in the heavenly Jerusalem, between the millennium and the eternal state, seems to be related to its position. It is above the earth in the millennium giving light down upon the earth, where the ?nations of them which are saved -walk in the light of it? (Rev. 21:23,24), whereas in the eternal state it comes down to the earth itself and the distinction between earth and Heaven is no longer marked, for sin and all its traces have been obliterated from the earth (Rev. 21:2).

 

Peter?s words have a very practical meaning to us as we view these glorious truths, ?Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot and blameless? (II Peter 3:14).