THE ELECT, THE SHEEP, AND THE GOATS

THE ELECT, THE SHEEP, AND THE GOATS Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

So many Christians in America of our day are content to join a church, make a minimal commitment to Christ (enough to keep them out of Hell they trust), and proceed to partake of the American culture.

There are other believers who struggle upward in the night, as it were. There are tremendous advantages in striving to live the victorious life in Christ. Because of the current teaching of grace, the assumption is that all will receive the same reward. Nothing could be further from the truth!

THE ELECT, THE SHEEP, AND THE GOATS

Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. (Revelation 22:12)

So many Christians in America of our day are content to join a church, make a minimal commitment to Christ (enough to keep them out of Hell they trust), and proceed to partake of the American culture.

There are other believers who struggle upward in the night, as it were. There are tremendous advantages in striving to live the victorious life in Christ. Because of the current teaching of grace, the assumption is that all will receive the same reward. Nothing could be further from the truth!

We see in the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation that the rewards to the victorious saint are those we ordinarily associate with all people who have accepted Christ. The first reward, for example, is the authority to eat of the tree of life. To eat of the tree of life is to receive bodily immortality.

The Lord Jesus stated that authority to eat of the tree of life is given to the overcomer, the victorious Christian. Our current teaching in America is that all who profess belief in Jesus Christ will be given bodily immortality in the Day of the Lord.

You know, we can’t just ignore the written Word of God like this!

We read in the third chapter of the Book of Philippians that Paul toward the end of his life, while awaiting his fate in prison, was still endeavoring to know Christ, to attain perfection—participation in the resurrection from among the dead.

When we have served the Lord for any length of time we come to understand that the Bible means exactly what it says.

The parable of the talents reveals that God is a Businessman. He wants profit from His investments in us. He wants to reap where He hasn’t sown. In other words, He is stern and demanding.

We realize the Lord Jesus is a gentle Shepherd. We know also He is the Lord—strong and mighty in battle. He is a fierce Warrior, and also a stern Businessman.

In our day in America, because of the influence of the philosophy of Humanism, we accept only the gentle Shepherd. We have little knowledge of the fierce Warrior. The stern Businessman is not known to us.

What will take place in the future will not be changed by the fact that we do not believe such marvels or such terrors could take place. But they shall, and we American Christians are not prepared. We speak of being caught up to meet Christ in the air. We had better pray this does not happen, for we are not prepared to come close to the Consuming Fire.

Let me tell you what got me started on this present essay, which is my latest emphasis on the victorious Christian life and the penalties of not living the victorious life in Jesus Christ. At first what follows may seem unrelated to the idea of the consequences that follow how we pursue the Christian life. But I think the connection will soon be apparent.

Two issues have been bothering me over the years, and I have been praying for understanding. One issue is whether the sheep-and-goat judgment takes place at the next coming of the Lord, or is an aspect of the general judgment of mankind, which occurs place at the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age. If you have read many of my writings you know I go back and forth on this, one time presenting the sheep-and-goat judgment as taking place when the Lord returns, and at another time putting the sheep-and-goat judgment at the end of the Kingdom Age, at the time often referred to as the "White Throne Judgment."

It is possible you do not bother your head about such matters, but I do.

The second issue was even more perplexing to me. This has to do with what happens to those members of God’s elect who do not attain to the first resurrection.

The first problem in my thinking has to do with the time when the sheep-and-goat judgment, of the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, takes place.

The second area of perplexity has to do with when the bodies of the non-victorious saints, those who do not attain to the first resurrection, are brought to life.

Let me explain.

There are two major resurrections of the dead. The first will take place when Jesus returns. There has to be a resurrection of the bodies of the saints before they can be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. I know this is not always preached, because people do not read their Bibles. They are so anxious to escape Antichrist and the Great Tribulation that they do not realize we have to be raised from the dead before we can be caught up to meet Christ in the clouds.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. (I Thessalonians 4:16)

When Paul states "the dead in Christ will rise first," he means their bodies will come forth from where they have been interred.

This is the first resurrection.

(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:5,6)

Do you see where it says "The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended"? This means if you, as a Christian, do not participate in the first resurrection you will rise from the dead in the general resurrection of mankind, which will take place when the thousand-year Kingdom Age has ended.

Now, the common teaching in America is that the first resurrection is for the Christians while the second resurrection is for the unsaved. I do not believe a careful study of the Scriptures will bear this out.

If you will notice the language carefully you will see that those who attain to the first resurrection are not people who merely are saved; they are a firstfruits of the saved, a firstfruits of God’s elect—God’s elect being those destined to be part of the new Jerusalem.

"Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years."

Do you see that these people are not merely saved? They are unusually blessed and holy. The fact that the second death has no power over them means they have been delivered from those behaviors over which the Lake of Fire always retains authority.

Do you see also that no books of judgment are opened?

This is because these people have been judged in advance.

Two thousand years ago the Apostle Peter wrote that judgment had already begun in the house of God. This signifies the Judgment Seat of Christ has been operating for two thousand years and still is operating in our day.

Once you obey God and reckon yourself dead, ceasing to live in your sinful, adamic nature, the Holy Spirit begins to bring you through judgment.

This judgment cannot commence until you count yourself as dead, as crucified with Christ and risen with Him. After death comes the judgment.

Those Christians who insist on living in their sinful nature actually are still under the Law of Moses. They are under condemnation without realizing it. We can be released from the Law of Moses only by counting ourselves dead with Christ.

Has the Holy Spirit been dealing with you lately about some aspect of sin in your personality, such as worldliness, lust, or self-will? If He has, what have you done about it? You are being revealed at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

If you ignore the prompting of the Spirit you may suffer fiery torment until you are willing to confess and forsake your sin. God is interested in delivering you from sin so you may be fully in His image.

If instead of ignoring the prompting of the Spirit you confess that you have sinned or are sinning, denounce the behavior as wicked, renounce it, saying you refuse to have any more to do with it, and then draw near to God in prayer, you will find that God forgives your sin and cleanses you from all unrighteousness associated with that particular sin.

Pronounce; denounce; renounce; draw near to God.

This is an eternal judgment.

Before we are eligible to participate in the first resurrection we must be revealed before the Judgment Seat of Christ. Since numerous Christians do not have the opportunity to be revealed before the Judgment Seat of Christ in this world, their judgment will continue after they die. This is why Peter says God is ready to judge the dead as well as the living.

When I say numerous Christians do not have the opportunity to be revealed before the Judgment Seat of Christ in this world, I mean they have not lived long enough; or perhaps the Lord feels they are not spiritually strong enough to stand up under the intense dealings of the Spirit of God.

However, if our sin is brought to our attention clearly, and we do not confess it and turn away from it, we will be judged as a lazy, wicked servant. We will not be able after we die to follow the Lord through judgment. If we are careless now we will be careless after we die. Death does not change a lazy Christian into a diligent one.

This is why no books of judgment are opened at the time of the first resurrection and why the second death, the Lake of Fire, has no authority over the participants. They already have confessed their sins and have turned away from them, as the Holy Spirit has enabled them.

You, dear reader, are invited to follow the Spirit as He leads you to put to death the actions of your sinful nature. The opportunity is available to every believer in Christ who cares enough to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Jesus.

I have just described how a believer becomes eligible to be raised from the dead when the Lord appears. The idea today is that all who are saved will participate in this early resurrection. The Scripture does not support this. There is no evidence that this first resurrection is a resurrection of salvation. It is the resurrection of the blessed and holy members of the royal priesthood.

It seems evident to me that there is no way by which the careless, lukewarm believers of our day can be considered blessed and holy or members of the governing priesthood. Many of them have made a minimal commitment to Christ and are living in their sinful nature.

Our attitude toward the role of grace, and imputed righteousness, really needs to be changed if we ever are to understand the Bible. God is not building a kingdom of people who are blessed and holy by grace or imputed righteousness. The Lord’s Kingdom is not composed of the lukewarm church members of our day who suddenly become giants of faith. God’s Kingdom consists of victorious saints who have overcome all that Satan has brought against them.

We are not kings and priests by imputation! We do not govern the nations by imputation! The purpose of imputed righteousness is to get us started on the way of Christ, the way of righteousness, the way that leads to our becoming a new, righteous creation.

The Apostle Paul toward the end of his life was still seeking to attain to the resurrection that is out from among the dead.

You might think, "It can’t be that strict and demanding."

I hasten to tell you it indeed is that strict and demanding. The Lord told us that the gate and way to eternal life are filled with pressure, and few find them. Do we imagine today’s weak evangelistic message has supplanted the Words of God?

I think we in America are heading toward a blood bath. (I am writing this in September of 2002, so you can judge if I have predicted the future correctly.) We are heading toward a blood bath because our nation is permitting too much unrighteousness to take place. We are permitting too much unrighteousness because the Christian churches are not giving a righteous testimony but are foolishly talking about how the believers are going to be caught up to Heaven at any moment.

All of the above has been clear to me for some time. What has not been as clear to me is when the members of God’s elect, who for whatever reason did not participate in the early resurrection, regain their bodies. When will their bodies be raised from the dead? It is my conviction that the victorious saints who will return with the Lord compose only a minority of God’s elect, a minority of those who finally will descend through the new sky as the new Jerusalem.

It is a Gideon’s army that will descend with the Lord and establish the Kingdom of God on the earth.

As I see it, God has many weak members of His household. The role of the victorious saints, the overcomers, is to nourish the weaker until they are strong enough to be functioning members of the Kingdom of God.

So we have a problem here. When do these weaker members regain their bodies, for the Scripture states that all shall come forth from their graves at the voice of Christ?

Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice And come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.

"All who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out."

I have puzzled over this for some time. I know that no individual who did not participate in the first resurrection will receive his or her body until the completion of the thousand-year Kingdom Age. So when do the weaker members of the elect receive back their bodies?

I asked the Lord about this several times. He said to me that before or after is not the issue, because a thousand years is as a day. This is a theological issue, and Christ is not as interested in theological accuracy as we may suppose.

But it is extremely important to the member of the elect whether or not he attains to the first resurrection, the resurrection of the royal priesthood! These are the people who receive all the rewards we normally associate with being a Christian, including being raised and caught up to meet the Lord when He appears.

Before I explain what I believe to be the answer to the issue of when the weaker believers are raised, let me proceed to my next question; for the two issues are related.

After going back and forth concerning the chronological placing of the sheep-and-goat judgment, I have come to the conclusion that this judgment is part of the White Throne Judgment.

The White Throne Judgment is the final stage of the Judgment Seat of Christ, which began, as I stated previously, when Jesus rose from the dead, at the time of the Apostle Peter.

Seated on the White Throne are Jesus and His victorious saints. Remember, God no longer judges. He has committed all judgment to the Son. The Son has made us members of His team, so to speak.

Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, (John 5:22)

To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:21)

Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? (I Corinthians 6:2)

The nations of the earth will stand before Christ and His saints, at that time, and, if I understand the Scriptures, so will the members of God’s household who did not attain to the first resurrection. The weaker of the elect, the sheep, and the goats will all stand before the White Throne.

I formerly pictured the sheep-and-goat judgment taking place on the earth when the Lord appears, although I realized there were problems with this interpretation. It just sounded to me as though the nations were standing on the earth.

But if you will notice, both the sheep and the goats go instantly to their destiny. Remember, the sheep and the goats are not members of God’s elect but of the nations of the earth.

Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world." (Matthew 25:34)

Then he will say to those on his left, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matthew 25:41)

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (Matthew 25:46)

If the sheep-and-goat judgment were to take place when the Lord next appears, at the time the firstfruits of the Church are raised and caught up, then we would have the members of the nations, the sheep and the goats, placed either in the Kingdom of God, into eternal life, or else cast into the Lake of Fire. This then would constitute a judgment of the nations prior to the White Throne Judgment, which takes place at the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age; and this just does not sound reasonable to me.

If people previously have entered the Kingdom, or been thrown into the fire, then they would not appear at the White Throne. There is no evidence in the passage that describes the White Throne Judgment that any of those who stand before God at that time have already been assigned to eternal life or to the Lake of Fire.

Let’s assume for now that the White Throne judgment and the sheep-and-goat judgment are one and the same.

I am including also the members of God’s household who did not attain to the first resurrection, for there is no third resurrection mentioned that would be in addition to the resurrection of the royal priesthood and the general resurrection at the time of the White Throne.

One might object: "This would mean those of the elect who are raised at this time will be judged according to their works." This is true, and this point bothered me for a long while.

But when you stop and think about it, this what Paul warned us about.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (II Corinthians 5:10)

When we think about it, the above verse is speaking of Christians being judged according to their works. That this applies to Christians is clear from the words of Paul: "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ."

To say the above verse does not apply to Christians but to the unsaved simply does not agree with the sense of the verse and its context. There is no doubt Paul is talking to Christians when he says "we must all appear."

So there is no reason why the less victorious members of the elect should not appear along with the righteous and unrighteous of the nations.

Let me say again, when I say less victorious I am not referring to Christians who have had every opportunity to serve Christ diligently but have neglected their salvation. The words of the Lord Jesus in the Gospels speak of the outer darkness when referring to negligent Christians.

By the less victorious members of God’s elect I mean those who have been called to the household of God as one of His elect but for one reason or another did not have the opportunity to pursue the life of victory. They are the "least of you" whom the Lord will bring forth to victory.

The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am the LORD; in its time I will do this swiftly. (Isaiah 60:22)

Christ and His victorious saints will minister to the weaker until they are "oaks of righteousness."

It is obvious that the first resurrection is a Gideon’s army, a firstfruits of God’s people who will appear with Christ and install the Kingdom of God on the earth.

Let’s take a closer look at the second resurrection, which I maintain will include the weaker of the elect, the righteous of the nations, and the unrighteous of the nations.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)

Notice, first of all, that this judgment takes place in the spirit realm. The earth and sky have fled from the Presence of Jesus Christ. The people being judged are standing before the Throne of God, which is in Heaven.

The books of the record of peoples’ lives are opened.

The Book of Life is opened.

The people at the White Throne Judgment have been raised from their place of interment, because the physical realm has vanished. They all are present in their bodies. They then are judged from the written records.

That not all were thrown into the Lake of Fire, as currently is taught, is made plain by the expression: "If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."

By no stretch of the imagination can the language used here be interpreted to mean everyone was thrown into the Lake of Fire. Yet, this is what is taught commonly in the churches in America.

The language implies the exception was sent to that most terrible of fates: "If anyone’s name was not written...."

The vision of the resurrection of the dead ends abruptly. What we see next is the new sky and the new earth, and the holy Jerusalem descending from God out of Heaven, coming down through the new sky to be located forever on the new earth.

To this point in our essay we have been dealing with four classes of people:

The victorious saints.

The members of the elect who did not attain to the first resurrection.

The righteous of the nations—those who had ministered to Christ’s brothers.

The wicked of mankind.

The Scripture has informed us that those of the elect and of mankind who were not found written in the Book of Life are now in the Lake of Fire.

Some may object to my statement that some of the elect will not be found written in the Book of Life. However, according to the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation, there are members of the churches who are in danger of the Lake of Fire.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death. (Revelation 2:11)

He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. (Revelation 3:5)

We have soft-pedaled the warnings to the Christians until the American believers are quite certain they could never be in danger of the second death. However, their feelings are not supported by the eternal Word.

We have been quick to believe that the people of the world shall all be assigned to the Lake of Fire because they haven’t accepted Christ." We also are certain that no one in our group would ever be in danger of the second death.

The truth is, multitudes of people who never heard of Christ while living on the earth will be brought forward to life in the new world of righteous, because God approves of them.

Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism But accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. (Acts 10:34,35)

The wicked of the elect and of mankind will be thrown into the Lake of Fire. But what about the other three groups?

The victorious saints.

The elect whose names have remained in the Book of Life.

The members of the nations whose names have been found written in the Book of Life.

It is my opinion that the victorious saints have ministered to the elect successfully throughout the thousand-year period. The victorious saints will have access to the earth and Heaven. They will be able to govern the nations on the earth with a rod of iron, and also be able to minister to the weaker of the elect who still are in the spirit realm.

Now those to whom they ministered successfully have finally overcome the world, their sinful nature, and their self-will, and are given to eat of the tree of life. This means they have been clothed with immortality.

The victorious saints and those to whom they have ministered successfully will now be gathered together in the heavenly Zion, the new Jerusalem.

At a Word from Christ a new sky and a new earth will appear.

Down through the new sky will descend Mount Zion, the holy city, consisting of the glorified bodies of the entire Church of Christ. This is the Bride of the Lamb, the Kingdom of God.

The sheep, those of the nations of whom God has approved, will be brought to the new earth. There they will be governed for eternity by the saints of the new Jerusalem.

The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:24-27)

Speaking of the members of the royal priesthood:

And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:5)

It really is a simple, practical, understandable picture.

There are God’s elect, and then there are the people of the world.

The elect have more demands placed on them because they are called to be kings and priests.

The people of the world who have behaved righteously, and there are multitudes of them, are the inheritance of the elect.

The wicked, whether of the elect or the world, and there are some of both groups, will be thrown into the Lake of Fire with the devil and his angels.

It is glory to the righteous, but terror to those who persist in wickedness.

Our God is willing that all come to repentance. His love is unfathomable.

But make no mistake: the day will come when God proclaims, "Let the righteous remain righteous and the wicked remain wicked. Make straight the way of the Lord."

There shall come an end of all wickedness. God has done everything in His power to save every person. If we chose to rebel against God’s love and His plan of redemption, then we will be removed from the light and glory and placed in the darkness along with all others who despise God.

I think this is the answer to my two perplexities: the placing of the sheep-and-goat judgment, and the time of the resurrection of the weaker members of the elect.

I am still open to the Lord, still learning. This is as clearly as I can see at present.

We spoke at the beginning of the tremendous advantages of pursuing the life of victory in Christ. Our text thus far has portrayed the most obvious advantage, that of being raised from the dead when Christ appears and of being caught up to be with Him forever. These are the ones spoken of who stand with the Lord on Mount Zion.

Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. (Revelation 14:1)

Instead of having the mark of Antichrist, of the world, in their head and hand they have the name of the Lamb and the Lamb’s Father written on their foreheads. This mean they do God’s will instead of the world’s will.

They stand on Mount Zion, on the place of warfare, for they are the Lord’s "mighty men." They sing a new song, and follow the Lamb wherever He goes.

The entire Christian Church is a firstfruits of mankind, and these who stand on Mount Zion are a firstfruits of the firstfruits. The fundamental lie that is born in mankind is completely gone from the members of the firstfruits.

They were "purchased from among men" with the blood of the Lamb and then chosen, and proven faithful as they were brought through numerous tribulations and temptations.

All the rewards to the overcomers are theirs, from that of being given immortality as soon as the Lord appears to sitting on the throne of judgment with the Lord.

They are the "only one of her mother," of the Song of Solomon.

Yes, there is a marvelous benefit of taking up our cross and leaving the world behind. Other believers may keep one foot in the world, so to speak, and not offer their body as a living sacrifice.

But those who have the Divine Fire burning in their personality have one goal in life, and that is to grasp that for which Christ has grasped them. They forget what is behind and press forward; press forward; press forward. When they stumble they get up again and fight onward.

Dear reader, you can be one of these. If my words thunder in you heart, if you cannot rest until you are certain you are living in the Center of the Holy Fire of Israel, doing His will in every aspect of your being, then be encouraged. Christ has made every provision for you. All you have to do is keep on looking to Jesus and not be distracted by anything in this world. This is not easy in America, with its multitude of opportunities, but it is possible if you are determined enough.

If you wait until tomorrow to make your decision, you probably never will commence the race that leads to the Throne.

The crown of righteousness and life is yours, if you care enough to fight for it.