Summary: Written and Published September 2021. A Christian friend was reading my book, How to Better Understand the Bible, and asked why I taught that the O.T. saints would be included in the rapture. He knew I mentioned this in certain places in the book. He wanted to know scripture and verse that proved this teaching.

First a little information and thoughts about the book – the book is really good; it properly instructs the Christian as to the biblical doctrines, principles, and institutions needed to understand the entire bible. Every Christian who has a Spirit-inspired commitment to the word of God should read and study this book. You will benefit tremendously from it.

Having said this, allow me to comment on the above question. The book contains forty-one chapters, a preface, epilogue, and five charts, all of which are filled with teaching. Some teachings are repeated, even numerous times, simply because of their importance to the overall comprehension of God’s eternal counsels. In spite of the extensiveness of the instruction, additional explanations will be needed to answer certain questions which may arise from the reading of the book. It is true that in the book numerous times I state that the rapture will include the Old Testament saints. I just never took the time or space to explain why I believed this – I felt the book had to many chapters already. So, below I have written my explanation/answer.

 

On page 236 of the book, I make this statement:

“In the rapture event, by resurrection or change (glorification) all true Christians will be conformed into the image of God’s Son (Rom. 8:29; 1 Cor. 15:51–53), the entire church being caught up to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:13–18).221 Jesus will come for His bride, the church, and take her to His Father’s house (John 14:1–3). And so, will we ever be with the Lord, and this, physically in His presence as well as His Father’s.”

Although I am only specifically speaking of Christians/church here being raptured, I do insert a numbered note which reads:

221 [The rapture will include both Old and New Testament saints glorified together. Here I am only emphasizing the true church as the body of Christ during the Christian dispensation. But certainly, the rapture will include as part of the first resurrection all the saints of God from the Jewish dispensation, as well as those who preceded Israel as a nation. When we have the marriage of the Lamb in heaven, His wife, the true church, is arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright (Rev. 19:7–8). But there are also guests invited to this celebration (Rev. 19:9). I believe these to be all the Old Testament saints who are not part of the body of Christ, yet glorified and present in heaven. In the next scene, we see heaven opened up and Jesus Christ returning to the earth in judgment as King of kings, Lord of lords (Rev. 19:11–21). I take it that the armies of heaven in this passage are all the glorified saints]

This note contains one part of the scriptural evidence which serves to answer the question. When the marriage of the Lamb occurs in heaven, there are guests invited to the feast. These guests are not angels, nor are they disembodied spirits of men. They are glorified human beings – spirit, soul, and body.

Who could they be if the bride is the glorified New Testament saints forming the body of Christ? These would have to be the Old Testament saints in their glorified bodies. No one should deny that the Old Testament saints will eventually receive resurrected bodies to perfect and complete them – glorification isn’t the exclusive privilege/blessing of the church.

We will pause here and make sure everyone understands the biblical terms pertinent to our discussion. Every true saint, whether Old Testament or New, whether alive or dead, has been given eternal life from God (John 5:17-25). All saints are saints because they have been saved/redeemed. Their sins have been forgiven, and so they are justified from them. As for the inner man, it is born-again and made new. This means that for all saints their spirits and souls are perfect before God. However, at this time the saint’s body hasn’t been touched by the divine power of redemption. Again, this includes all saints, Old Testament or New. Saints who are alive today (Christians) have mortal bodies, subject to decay and death. All other saints from the past, including O.T. saints, have bodies corrupting in graves (or various other possible places).

The words salvation, redemption, conversion, and justification are terms used in reference to the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:1, 16). Although slightly different from each other in their definitions, still they are words which describe aspects of the same event. When anyone is saved by God, they also have been converted, redeemed, and justified. God saved people in the Old Testament – these are the Old Testament saints. God continues to save people in the New Testament – these we call Christians. God will save people in the future tribulation and millennium. We will call these tribulation saints or millennial saints. The tribulation saints will be divided into two distinct groups – those who survive the tribulation alive on earth and those who do not. God will also choose and save a Jewish remnant, preserving them through the tribulation so they can be the nucleus of a restored Israel during the millennium. Anyone who is saved is categorized as a saint and has been given eternal life. This was true for Abel at the beginning as it will be for the last person converted on the earth at the end of the millennium. Everyone who is saved was saved in the same way – by God, by the work of God, by His choice and sovereign grace (Eph. 2:8-9). God has been working and giving life from the beginning. He will continue to do so until the great white throne judgment after the millennium ends (John 5:17-21).

Eternal life is always the same – there are not different types, levels, or forms. Abel was given the same divine life that I have received from God as a Christian. However, this doesn’t mean that in His sovereignty God didn’t choose to form different groups of saints. In Scripture, these distinct groups have different relationships and associations with God, and end up having different places, benefits, and privileges. To deny this is to deny Scripture and impugn the sovereignty of God.

Further, if we are to understand bible terms like glorification or perfection, we must first discuss man and his fall in the garden, especially how this affected the human body. When Adam sinned, this thing called “sin” entered the world (Rom. 5:12). What was this? It was an inherited nature bent on sinning. Scripture calls it “sin” or “the flesh.” It resides in our bodies, in our members (Rom. 7:5, 17). It is an evil nature and when it acts it never has a good consequence (Rom. 7:18). The entrance of sin into the world caused the universal mortality of all human bodies – all were subject to infirmity, aging, and death. Because Adam was guilty of causing the universal inheritance of sin and mortality to all mankind, I can categorize the fallen state of all humans as “in Adam.” Paul also categorizes all humans who have not been saved as “in the flesh” (Rom. 8:8, 7:5). There was a “second” or “last” Adam, the man Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:45-47). In Scripture, all true Christians are said to be “in Christ” (Rom. 8:1) or “in the Spirit” (Rom. 8:9), because the Spirit of God or Christ is now dwelling in them. I would categorize this state as “in the last Adam.”

All true Christians are saved and have eternal life. They are born again, their inner man made new (John 3:6-8) – this means their spirit and soul have been made perfect and blameless before God. For the time being their bodies remain mortal – “sin” still resides in their members. Their spirit and soul are the workmanship of God and associated with the last Adam. However, still on the earth and mortal, their physical bodies remain associated with the first Adam. Clearly, this is an in-between condition. Divine life has changed their spirits and souls but has yet to affect a change in their bodies (Rom. 8:23-25). This awaits the time of the rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18). At that event, life will swallow up the mortality of the flesh for the saints involved (2 Cor. 5:4, Rom. 8:11).

Christians who have passed away (scripture often uses the phrase “fallen asleep”- 1 Thess. 4:13) have bodies corrupting in the graves, while their blameless spirits and souls have gone on to be with Christ in heaven (Phil. 1:21-23). This is far better than our present lives in our physical bodies on the earth. However, Scripture describes a spirit and soul with Christ in heaven as a state of being unclothed and naked (2 Cor. 5:2-4). Going to heaven when we die is not the consummation of our redemption, nor is it entering into glory. It is another in-between state. Divine life has yet to bring incorruption to their corrupting bodies. This requires resurrection – the dead being raised incorruptible (1 Cor. 15:52). Christians who have died also await the rapture event (1 Thess. 4:13-18).

Glorification means a redeemed saint has been perfected by receiving a glorified heavenly body from God (2 Cor. 5:1-2, 1 Cor. 15:42-44, 48-49, Phil. 3:20-21, Rom. 8:29-30). No saint from the past or present has a glorified body yet. Jesus Christ is the only man who does. By His resurrection He is the first-born from the dead (Col. 1:18). By resurrection, He is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Cor. 15:20). Both verses here leave you with the impression that others, that is, other than Christ Himself, will be resurrected by God.

Christ’s work on the cross, His shed blood and death, was the price required for the redemption of all the saints, Old Testament or New (Rom. 3:23-25) – this passage in Romans makes this abundantly clear.  Verse twenty-five says, “because in His forbearance God passed over the sins that were previously committed” – these are the sins of the Old Testament saints. Verse twenty-six says, “to demonstrate at this present time…” – the “present time” refers to the New Testament and Christians as the ones who have faith in Jesus. These verses are preceded by verse twenty-four, “being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” His suffering and death purchased a redemption for Old and New Testament saints alike.

Christ’s shed blood has purchased even more. Separate from the redemption of all saints, it secured all the earthly promises for Israel’s future restoration (John 11:49-51, Rom. 15:8). If we were spiritually wise, we would understand that His work paved the way for all the eternal counsels of God, even the new heaven and earth in the future eternal state (Rev. 21:1). But more specific to our conversation, His sufferings were the means by which He brings many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10). It is a necessity that the saint’s body be glorified/perfected in order to enter the glory of God or for Jesus to share His glory with us (Rom. 3:23, 5:1-2, John 17:22). Glorification/perfection only comes one of two ways:

 

1 Corinthians 15:53

 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

 

The saints who have died have bodies corrupting in the graves. How corruption puts on incorruption is through resurrection. Excluding the Lord’s resurrection, the rapture event will be the first time human beings will be raised from the dead to die no more. It will not be the only time God raises the dead, but the first. In the above verse, mortality putting on immortality involves the living saints. At the time of the rapture the living saints who will be changed (bodies glorified without going through death) will all be Christians. The rapture will fulfill the Christian’s heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1) and essentially bring the present Christian dispensation on the earth to a close.

 

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

 

This is the passage from Scripture which best describes the rapture event. Like the Corinthian passage quoted above, it involves both resurrection of the dead and the living being changed. However, the Corinthian passage is broader and general (1Cor. 15:50-55) – it could be accurately applied to the rapture, but also to events at the end of the millennial dispensation. Another similar passage containing both resurrection and change is John 11:25-26: “though he may die, he shall live” is corruption putting on incorruption (resurrection); “he shall never die” is mortal putting on immortality (the living being changed). It would be hard to deny that these three passages aren’t connected in this way.

It remains to show whether the Old Testament saints are included in the saints resurrected in the rapture event. I mentioned above that I strongly believe the heavenly guests called to the marriage supper of the Lamb are the glorified Old Testament saints. The supper takes place in heaven before Christ returns to the earth (Rev. 19:7-9). That would mean not only is the wife (the body of Christ – Eph. 5:23-32) in heaven and glorified, but also these guests of the feast. In order for the wife to be present, the rapture must have taken place previous to this scene in heaven. It is only spiritually reasonable to conclude a similar thing concerning the guests attending the supper – the O.T. saints are here glorified and in heaven because they were part of the rapture event.

Why would I come to such a conclusion? Other than Christ’s resurrection, the rapture is the only event previous to the marriage feast that involves resurrection. We must remember how the saints are glorified. It is either by resurrection or life (John 11:25-26, 2 Cor. 5:1-4). The former is what the O.T. saints require, all their bodies having been corrupted in graves.

Now we have come to a crossroads: Who are these guests? You cannot just dismiss them by saying they are of no consequence. And it would be silly to say they are angels. Where in Scripture are angels ever seen sitting down at banquets and feasts? (Matt. 22:1-13) Where in Scripture are angels ever the subject of God’s calling? (Matt. 22:14, Rom. 8:28-30, Rev. 19:9) We cannot deny these guests are human beings. Are they disembodied human spirits? No, these have glorified bodies. The only place we see disembodied souls in the Revelation is in the fifth seal (Rev. 6:9-11) — tribulation saints who lost their lives during its first 3 ½ years, who are asked to continue a little while longer awaiting resurrection). But these guests of the wedding feast have been previously brought to heaven. They were raised from the dead as the means of bringing them there in a perfected state. They are the glorified O.T. saints.

Shouldn’t we have seen this group in heaven earlier in the book? Well, first we’ll ask a different question which may help us understand their identity. One of the keys in comprehending the book of Revelation is being able to distinguish the identity of all the different groups spoken of in the book. In Revelation nineteen, the guests of the wedding feast are distinguished from the wife of the Lamb. Yet they have some type of connection with her because they are attendees of her wedding feast. Knowing her identity, where do we see the wife and this other group in the book before chapter nineteen?

In Revelation two and three the vision John sees is of Jesus on the earth, walking among the seven golden lampstands. Without getting into a lengthy discussion about prophecy and symbols, the short version of what this vision represents is God’s judgment of the history of Christendom as it passes through the present Christian dispensation – each church represents a different epoch of time and the various conditions of her state associated with that period. Jesus judges Christendom’s works and witness (light – candlesticks). We can see that this vision ends at the end of chapter three and a new vision begins in chapter four with John being called up from the earth to heaven (Rev. 4:1). He looks up and sees an open door and the commanding voice of Jesus beckons him to come up and see “the things that must take place after these.”

Leaving chapter three and moving on to chapter four is a critical juncture/transition in the book. “The things which are” have ended, and “the things which will take place after these” are about to begin (Rev. 1:19). God is finished dealing with candlesticks and churches on the earth, for we never again see these symbols in the remainder of the book. Essentially, Laodicea being spued out represents the ending of the Christian dispensation (Rev. 3:16). John is called up by the Lord to heaven to see things about to take place there. Most Christians realize the rapture fulfills their heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1) and ends the time of the true church on earth. The impression we are left with is that the rapture of the saints has taken place between the end of chapter three and the beginning of chapter four.

John sees many interesting things in the vision that begins in chapter four, one of which is twenty-four elders on twenty-four thrones seated around the throne of God (Rev. 4:4). If this is a symbol, what and who does it represent? Well, it is a symbol, so we must properly interpret its meaning. Remembering the rapture has taken place shortly before this scene, it is reasonable to conclude the elders represent the raptured saints now in heaven. When we trace every reference to these elders in the book it supports this conclusion. They are consistently found in the narrative of the prophecy (Rev. 4:4, 10-11, 5:5, 8-12, 7:11-17, 11:16-18, 14:3, 19:4). This distinguishes them from any other group that can be identified in the book. They sit on thrones with endowed authority as part of God’s governmental throne in heaven. They first appear after chapter three, when God is finished dealing with the body of Christendom on earth. Their last reference in the narrative is found in chapter nineteen, right before the marriage supper with the Lamb’s wife and the guests. And they are not angels – angels never sit on thrones or are given crowns. Besides, Revelation 5:11 is enough proof that the elders are a group separate from the angels. They are the saints in heaven after the rapture takes place.

Why twenty-four elders? We know that twelve is a biblical number referring to the completeness/perfection of human authority associated with God’s government. Examples: 12 tribes of Israel (Rev. 12:1), 12 disciples (Matt. 19:28), twelve foundations and gates in the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:12,14). Twenty-four is two times twelve, which suggests two groups mixed into one. I believe if the elders just represented the raptured church, it would have been twelve elders on twelve thrones. But twenty-four suggests that Old Testament and New Testament saints are together as one group in heaven, at least until the marriage supper of the Lamb. From chapter four to the beginning of chapter nineteen we have the heavenly saints as the twenty-four elders, then we have the distinction of the Lamb’s wife from the guests at the feast. I can’t see any other reasonable explanation accounting for what we see in these scenes in heaven – the Old Testament saints are included in the rapture.

Previously I said that the rapture fulfills the heavenly calling of the Christian/church (Heb. 3:1). However, you might say this calling is exclusively Christian and doesn’t include the Old Testament saints. It is true that Israel has an earthly calling – God will give them the Promised land to inherit and possess. But please notice I said “God will…” As of today, this calling has never been fulfilled for anyone. Israel in the Old Testament never possessed the land forever. Their calling remains wholly unfulfilled. It will be fulfilled by God in a future Jewish remnant He will choose and preserve through a future tribulation. What is my point? We must answer this question: Did the Old Testament saints have an earthly calling or a heavenly calling? If it is a heavenly one, then they will be resurrected and go up with the New Testament Christians in the rapture.

 

Hebrews 11:8-16

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

11 By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

 

I have no doubt Abraham had at first an earthly calling from God to leave his country and go to a place we know as the Promised Land (Gen. 12:1-3). God would give this land to him as an inheritance. It is also clear from Scripture that God gave Israel, Abraham’s own progeny after the flesh, this same calling (Ex. 6:2-8). It remains to be fulfilled by God in the future. He will restore and rebuild the nation of Israel from a future Jewish remnant He will choose and preserve through the coming tribulation.

However, the above New Testament passage from Hebrews reveals something very different concerning the Old Testament saints – without doubt, they were a heavenly people with a heavenly calling. It is said concerning them, “But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country.” And like every true Christian whose legitimate hope is to be blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places (Eph. 1:3), Old Testament saints had similar hopes – a heavenly city whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10). Like us, they also were strangers and pilgrims on the earth (Heb. 11:13, John 17:14, 16, 1 Pet. 2:11). Like us, their faith was the substance of heavenly things hoped for, yet unseen (Heb. 11:1). And if the rapture is God’s way of fulfilling His heavenly calling, it isn’t inconceivable that like us, the Old Testament saints will be raised up and perfected/ glorified in this same event.

 

Hebrews 11:39-40

39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

 

“They” in the above passage refers to the Old Testament saints, while “us” refers to the New Testament saints (the true church). Certainly, in the sovereign grace of God, better things are reserved for the church (privileges, position, relationship) — Scripture teaches this, and I would never doubt it. However, being the only group living in heaven for all eternity isn’t one of these special privileges exclusive to the body of Christ. The book of Hebrews implies the Old Testament saints were heavenly saints, with heaven as their calling and destiny. And for me, Heb. 11:40 clearly implies “they” will be perfected with “us.”  We, the New Testament saints, are perfected in the rapture event. I dare say the Old Testament saints will join us.

Who are the guests invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb in Revelation nineteen? They are the Old Testament saints who also were raised and glorified along with the New Testament saints (the true church, the body of Christ) in the rapture event.

 

[The above teaching is filled with bible quotes and references. You should review every one of them for your own instruction, using a good translation like the NKJV. Before you begin, ask the Holy Spirit to teach you divine truth, the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:7-16). So much bible teaching today is simply human thoughts from the minds of men. Below are listed some of the sources I used in support of this article. These are from men in Christendom’s past I’m convinced always sought to be led by the Holy Spirit in what they taught.]

 

J. N. Darby: Notes on Lectures on the Epistle to the Hebrews

Besides, they were to bear in mind (v. 40) that God has provided some better thing for us. They are to be perfected, as well as we, in resurrection glory; but there are special privileges for the saints who are now being called— “for us.” (Heb. 11:40)

(Heb. 11:8-22); in the next example we have that kind of faith that reckons on promise. It takes the promise of God, is satisfied with it, gives up everything, and gets nothing. All that flesh clings to is to be given up. These Jews had to do that. If I have nothing to do with the earth I am a heavenly man. If I have nothing on earth, I am not an earthly man. God is not ashamed to be called the God of one whose heart and portion are in heaven; but He would be of one whose heart is on earth. This is the faith that gives character, heavenly character, v. 8-22.

(Heb. 11:16); Because these men of faith formed a heavenly people, God was not ashamed to connect their name with His. The same thing occurs for the saints of this dispensation; therefore this is said to the Hebrews.

 

Darby: Synopsis of the Books of the Bible: Heb. 11:8-22

In that which follows, we have first the patience of faith when it does not possess, but trusts God and waits, assured of fulfilment. This is from verse 8 to 22. We may subdivide it thus:—first, the faith which takes the place of strangership on earth, and maintains it, because something better is desiredand which, in spite of weakness, finds the strength that is requisite in order to the fulfilment of the promises. This is from verses 8 to 16. Its effect is entrance into the joy of a heavenly hope. Strangers in the land of promise, and not enjoying the fulfilment of promises here below, they wait for more excellent things—things which God prepares on high for those who love Him. For such He has prepared a city. In unison with God in His own thoughts, their desires (through grace) answering to the things in which He takes delight, they are the objects of His peculiar regard. He is not ashamed to be called their God. Abraham not only followed God into a land that He shewed him, but, a stranger there, and not possessing the land of promise, he is, by the mighty grace of God, exalted to the sphere of His thoughts; and, enjoying communion with God and the communications of His grace, he rests upon God for the time present, accepts his position of strangership on earth, and, as the portion of his faith, waits for the heavenly city of which God is the builder and the founder. There was not, so to speak, an open revelation of what was the subject of this hope, as was the case with that by which Abraham was called of God; but walking closely enough with God to know that which was enjoyed in His presence, and being conscious that he had not received the fulfilment of the promise, he lays hold of the better things, and waits for them, although only seeing them afar off, and remains a stranger upon earth, unmindful of the country whence he came out.

 

Darby: Synopsis of the Books of the Bible: Heb. 11:32-40

Verse 32. Details are now no longer entered into. Israel (although individuals had still to act by faith), being established in the land of promise, furnished less occasion to develop examples of the principles on which faith acted. The Spirit speaks in a general way of these examples in which faith reappeared under various characters and energy of patience, and sustained souls under all kinds of suffering. Their glory was with God, the world was not worthy of them. Nevertheless they had received nothing of the fulfilment of the promises; they had to live by faith, as well as the Hebrews, to whom the epistle was addressed. The latter, however, had privileges which were in no wise possessed by believers of former days. Neither the one nor the other was brought to perfection, that is, to the heavenly glory, unto which God has called us, and in which they are to participate. Abraham and others waited for this glory; they never possessed it: God would not give it them without us. But He has not called us by the same revelations only as those which He made to them. For the days of the rejected Messiah He had reserved some better thing. Heavenly things have become things of the present time, things fully revealed and actually possessed in spirit, by the union of the saints with Christ, and present access into the holiest through the blood of Christ.

We have not to do with a promise and a distinct view of a place approached from without, entrance to which was not yet granted, so that relationship with God would not be founded on entrance within the veil—entrance into His own presence. We now go in with boldness. We belong to heaven; our citizenship is therewe are at home there. Heavenly glory is our present portion, Christ having gone in as our Forerunner. We have in heaven a Christ who is man glorified. This Abraham had not. He walked on earth with a heavenly mind, waiting for a city, feeling that nothing else would satisfy the desires which God had awakened in his heart; but he could not be connected with heaven by means of a Christ actually sitting there in glory. This is our present portion. We can even say that we are united to Him there. The Christian’s position is quite different from that of Abraham. God had reserved some better thing for us.

The Spirit does not here develop the whole extent of this “better thing,” because the assembly is not His subject. He presents the general thought to the Hebrews to encourage them, that believers of the present day have special privileges, which they enjoy by faith, but which did not belong even to the faith of believers in former days.

We shall be perfected, that is to say, glorified together in resurrection; but there is a special portion which belongs to the saints now, and which did not belong to the patriarchs. The fact that Christ, as man, is in heaven after having accomplished redemption, and that the Holy Ghost, by whom we are united to Christ, is on earth, made this superiority granted to Christians easily understood. Accordingly even the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than the greatest of those who preceded it. {Heb 12}

 

William Kelly: The Epistle to the Hebrews: Chapter 11

Verses 39, 40 are all the more striking because they are the conclusion of a chapter remarkable for the honor which the Spirit of God puts on the faith of God’s witnesses from the beginning of the O.T. But there is the preliminary correction of the Jewish tendency to begin with Abraham and confine their regard to the father and the sons of the chosen people. Abel, Enoch, and Noah occupy each a bright place in the goodly roll. Again, at the close still more care is taken to impress on the Hebrew believers the special privileges peculiar to the Christian. This the Spirit itself throughout shows that they had not as yet duly estimated; and even those who had once known it are apt, under stress of trial and little faith, to forget if not slight it,. Where these new blessings have never been understood by divine teaching, how common it is to hear objectors ask, Do you mean to say that such as you are more blessed than faithful Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Is your portion richer than that of Moses or Joshua? Of Samuel or David? Of Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Daniel? Such thoughts quite overlook the incalculable change brought in by the world’s rejection of the Christ the Son of God; by the redemption He accomplished for those who believe; by His glorification at God’s right hand is the pledge of ours; by the Holy Spirit sent down meanwhile to abide in us as unction, seal, and earnest.

The apostle does not here enter into the details by the way, but he does allude to the incomparable riches of grace now made ours through Christ’s cross, and displayed in Him risen and seated in heaven. These the objectors ignore in the unbelief which would reduce all to a dead level, and leave no room for the working of sovereign grace to the praise of the crucified Lord of glory, and of the Spirit’s personal indwelling presence to reveal divine counsels previously hidden. That “God foresaw some better thing for us,” as compared with all that of old obtained witness through faith, is thus briefly summed up. There are other Epistles which develop our heavenly standing in Christ yet more than this to the Hebrews.

But what could any saint of the O.T. have made of such language as we find given here throughout? He “having made the purification of sins sat down on the right hand of the Majesty, on high”(Heb. 1:3).”Both he that sanctifies and the sanctified [are] all of one” (Heb. 2:11). “Christ as Son over his house, whose house are we, if indeed we hold fast the boldness and the boast of hope firm to the end” (Heb. 3:6). “Having therefore a great high priest, passed as he is through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast the confession” (Heb. 4:14). “Though he were Son, he learned obedience from the things which he suffered, and having been perfected, became author of everlasting salvation to all that obey him” (Heb. 5:89). “Anchor of the soul both secure and firm, and entering within the veil where Jesus entered, forerunner for us, became high priest for ever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 6:1920). “Such a high priest became us, holy, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners, made higher than the heavens” (Heb. 7:26). “Now he hath obtained a more excellent ministry, by so much as he is mediator of a better covenant, such as hath been established on better promises” (Heb. 8:6). He “by his own blood entered once for all into the holies, having found an everlasting redemption” (Heb. 9:12).

These wondrous facts of His atoning work and priestly office involve commensurate blessings for those to whom they are now made known. Take this example from Heb. 10:2: “the worshippers once purged should have no more conscience of sins.” How could any saint before redemption have conceived such a boon? The difficulty is to find one since apostolic days who really appropriates truth so opposed to natural thought. Another from verse 19 of the same chapter may suffice: “Having therefore, brethren, boldness for the entrance of the holies by (or, in) the blood of Jesus, a recent and living way which he dedicated for us through the veil, that is, his flesh, and a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, as our hearts have been sprinkled from a wicked conscience, and our body washed with pure water,” etc. Truly if these known blessings had been all, God provided “some better thing for us,” which the most intelligent saint before Christ’s work was done and the Holy Spirit given, could not even have apprehended.

But God was pleased for His own glory, and to the honor of His crucified and exalted Son, thus to bless believers now, as those of old were not nor could be. Meanwhile His heirs and Christ’s joint-heirs are being called according to purpose, before the Lord comes, when we and all the O.T. saints shall be perfected in the likeness of His body of glory, and go to meet Him on high.

 

William Kelly: Revelation: Chapter 19

“After these things I heard as a great voice of a great crowd in the heaven, saying, Hallelujah, the salvation, and the glory, and the power of our God: for true and righteous [are] his judgments; because he judged the great harlot, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And a second time they said, Hallelujah; and her smoke goeth up unto the ages of the ages.” The Spirit of God contrasts with the fall of Babylon the marriage of the bride, the Lamb’s wife.17 Babylon was the spurious church as long as the church was in question, and the final corrupter, when churches were no longer, and there came forth the closing testimony of God’s judgments on the world. There was an unclean form of open heathenism, in connection with the Jews in times past. Then it was the literal Babylon, of course; here it is symbolical. A mysterious lawlessness inherits the well-known name of Babylon when Rome is brought forward; nor does it merely embrace Christian times but the end of the age after the saints are gone, when the course of divine judgment sets in. Bear this in mind: to leave the last part out is fatal to any accurate understanding of the Revelation.

“And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and did homage to God that sits on the throne, saying, Amen, Hallelujah.” The heavenly saints are viewed still as the heads of the glorified priesthood, and also have the administration of God’s government. But it is the last time. “And a voice out of the throne came forth, saying, Praise our God, all ye his bondmen, [and] ye that fear him, the small and the great. And I heard as a voice of a great crowd, and as a voice of many waters, and as a voice of strong thunders, saying, Hallelujah, for the Lord God the Almighty reigneth.18 Let us rejoice and exult, and give the glory to him: because the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife made herself ready” The elders as usual understand the mind of God. The judgment of great Babylon, the harlot, connects itself with the marriage of the Lamb in heaven, and the bride’s getting ready to share His appearing in glory also, and the reign of the Lord God the Almighty about to begin over the earth. Now that we have the symbol of the bride before us, that of the elders and the living creatures disappears. The bride is in view, and the guests.

Are we then to understand that the elders and the living creatures are together taken absolutely as the bride now? that those who were meant under the figures of the elders and of the living creatures assume the name and figure of the bride? It hardly means this exactly. The elders answer to the heads of the heavenly priesthood (embracing in the glorified state the Old Testament saints and those of the New); they are by no means limited to the church, Christ’s body. When the Lamb and His purchase by blood were celebrated in heaven, the four living creatures joined the elders, though hitherto quite distinct. The glorified saints are not royal priests only but administer power in the world to come far beyond angels now. The living creatures were from Revelation 5 coupled with the elders, as we find them in the beginning of Revelation 19.

But now, when those symbols disappear because of a new action of God (namely, the consummation of the church’s joy), we have not the bride alone but another class of saints, who at once come forward. Only one thing, as far as scripture speaks and we know, was requisite. The saints must all be manifested before the tribunal of Christ, that each may receive the things [done] in [or through] the body. In full grace they had been changed and translated to heaven. But righteousness has its place also, before the marriage as well as in the manifestation with Christ, each in due place. Thus, it would seem, the bride made herself ready; and her dress confirms it. “And to her was given that she should be clothed in fine linen, bright and pure: for the fine linen is the righteousnesses of saints.” This is sometimes misunderstood. It is not what Christ puts on them, but a recognition even at this time of whatever has been morally of God, the working undeniably of the Spirit of Christ. But this each saint has, though the blessed thought here is that the church has it not merely in the way of each possessing his own; the bride has it as a whole, the church in glory. The individual does not love his own fruit. This remains true also in its own place, as we shall find; and when it is a question of reward, it is the grand point. But when the bride is seen above, such is the way in which it is presented here, as shown by verse 8. The Spirit of God implies that here it is not the righteousness Christ is made to us, whereby we are accounted righteous, but righteousnesses personal and actual. What Christ is remains as the foundation truth. Before God we need and have that which is found only by and in Christ, which has another and a higher character compared with the righteousnesses of the saints.

But this is not all. “He saith to me, Write, Blessed [are] they that are called unto the marriage-supper of the Lamb.” Here ample ground appears for saying that the four-and-twenty elders and the four living creatures are not the church only, because when the bride comes forward, we have others too. The guests, or those that were called to the marriage-supper of the Lamb, refer clearly to the Old Testament saints. They are there in the quality not of the bride but of those invited to the marriage of the Lamb. They can hardly be the Apocalyptic saints, for the simple reason that, as shown in the next chapter, those sufferer unto death are not yet raised from the dead. These remain as yet in the condition of separate spirits. But not such is the way in which the guests are spoken of.

It seems therefore to be incontrovertible fact that the elders and the living creatures comprehend both the Old Testament saints and the church or the bride of Christ. Consequently, when the bride appears, those others, the Old Testament saints who had been included in the elders and the living creatures, are now seen as a separate company. This may seem to some a little difficult, but it is of no use to evade difficulties. We have to face what seems hard, bowing to the word and seeking to learn through all. We do not mend matters by foregone or hasty conclusions, which only complicate the truth, as we are bound to account for the presence of the other saints at the marriage-supper of the lamb, who appear as guests, not in the quality of the bride. In general this has been either passed over altogether, or some unsatisfactory inference has been drawn which cannot satisfy but embroils the prophecy.

 

William Kelly: Revelation 4:4

Another notable object meets his eye: round the throne are twenty-four thrones, and upon the thrones twenty-four elders7 sitting, arrayed in white garments, and upon their heads crowns of gold. Isaiah saw no such company in Isa. 6; nor did Ezekiel in his opening chapter: Ezek. 1 or at any other time; nor does Stephen hint it in Acts 7; nor Paul in 2 Corinthians 12. Daniel indeed saw thrones set up (not “cast down”); but they were empty. John here and now saw them filled with four-and-twenty elders, the chiefs of the twenty-four courses of priesthood. They exercised priestly functions in Rev. 5:8. But they are a royal priesthood also; they wear crowns of gold and sit on thrones; and their garb is in accord. Can there be a doubt that they are the glorified saints?

Scripture, be it observed, never speaks thus of disembodied souls any more than of angels. The symbolic heads of the heavenly and royal priesthood are complete. From Revelation 4 to 19, when the kingdom comes in power and the enemies are made Christ’s footstool, the number stands unchanged. From first to last are twenty-four elders: there is no addition; whereas, if the souls of saints separate from the body were meant, how many must have, from the day John saw them, been adding continually? The elders therefore represent not the unclothed who depart to be with Christ, but the full complement of those whose mortal was swallowed up by life, the saints of both Old and New Testaments changed at Christ’s coming and caught up to be with Him in the Father’s house. His coming between Revelation 3 and 4 falls in precisely with the existing facts and the vision of what follows. What else accounts for the disappearance of churches? What else explains the sight of the symbolic representatives in full of the saints destined to heavenly glory, who shall accompany Christ when He comes with His holy myriads to execute judgment against all the ungodly? (See Rev. 19:14.)

Some no doubt wonder that there is no vision of the translation of the saints to heaven, save perhaps mystically in Revelation 12, as we shall see. John 14 had clearly spoken of it; 1 Thessalonians 4 and 5 had revealed the different characters of the Lord’s coming and of His day; and 2 Thessalonians 2 had shown their true correlation, in correction of false teachers who sought to alarm by the rumor that the day was come, and in recall of the saints to the hope of His coming and gathering to Him above before that day of terror and judgment for the earth. Hence the sight of the twenty-four elders enthroned and crowned above must convey the clearest proof that Christ had come and taken His own to heaven ere this vision could be given.

Another consideration of no small force in confirming this remark is, that the judicial character of the Revelation excludes that wondrous act, which is one of sovereign grace, and entirely apart from vision of judgments, with parenthetic disclosures here and there of mercy in the midst of judgment. Here we find it not described but presupposed in the plainest way, and so strongly confirmed that any other hypothesis is fairly untenable.

 

William Kelly: Lectures on the Book of Revelation: Chapter 19

 This is the second part. Not only is the harlot’s day over, but the consummation of the bride’s blessing is come. it is important to observe that this is not the moment when the Lord comes to receive the heavenly church. It is a scene in heaven, not the Lord Jesus meeting His saints in the air. A few verses lower down we do get heaven opened, and Christ comes out of it, and the saints follow Him. Nothing, therefore, can be more simple or certain than the inference that the saints were already there. They must have been in heaven before, in order to follow Christ thence when He comes to judge. Now, I ask, how did they get there? They are not said to be now taken up to the Father’s house. We have the old familiar parties in heaven. But we have a new fact: the bride is married in heaven — the one for whom Christ reserves the brightest grace and glory — she gets ready; and now is announced, not merely the song of triumph, because of the judgment of evil, but the marriage of the Lamb. “Let us be glad and rejoice.” It is grace that flows out to others. “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen clean and white.” As for the other woman, she had somehow fine linen too, with her pearls and her other adornments. (Rev. 18:12,) But it was never said of Babylon that it was granted her. We do not hear how she got it. But to the Lamb’s wife, to her it was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen. The fine linen is the righteousnesses of saints (verse 8). God does not forget the work of faith or labor of love.

“And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.” There is evidently a peculiar solemnity in winding up this account. We are called upon to pause and listen and weigh. “These are the true sayings of God.” To the suffering one, the one that had shared the Lamb’s path of sorrow upon earth, to her was now given the fullest joy above. But the marriage scene of the Lamb is only intimated, and not described here. The purpose of the Revelation is not to show us the Father’s house, nor its inner scenes. God is never even called our Father in this book, because it opens out, not the intimacy of His love to us, but rather the righteous ways of God — the establishment of the kingdom and the end, when He is all in all. True, there must be the stern unsparing judgment of all this evil, and this we have had. But when God’s part comes, and the full blessedness of the church, there is but an announcement of it — the bride has made herself ready. It is left there comparatively hidden. We are told of the invitations to it, as it is said in verse 9: “Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

And now I would just ask you to pause before going farther. Is it too much to suppose that the bride, the Lamb’s wife, is a different symbol, that is, represents a class of saints different from these blessed ones who are invited to her marriage? Who is it that God means by these two distinct symbols? As to the bride, the Lamb’s wife, few would have the least difficulty. Almost every one sees in her the church — the one that is constantly presented in the New Testament scripture as the heavenly bride of the Lord Jesus Christ. One turns to Eph. 5, where this relationship is brought out, and the development in her behalf of the fulness of Christ’s affections. Observe, by the way, that there it is not merely a question of a future epoch, because the Holy Ghost shows that this is a relationship established now. “Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it” It is true, from the very first moment when God began to form the church on earth by the presence of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.

The church is always regarded as a real and subsisting body, because wherever the Holy Ghost is, there is the church. The Holy Ghost was sent down, and it is His personal presence that forms the church. That is the reason why those saints who depart to be with Christ are not directly spoken of as the church. Of course, individually they are members of the church, but the scriptures which speak of the church contemplate its existence as the body of Christ on earth. Ordinarily men talk of the church visible and invisible, militant and triumphant, and think that if Christians depart to be with Christ, there more particularly, and in the truest season, is the church. Yet the word of God never so speaks, but predicates the church of such as are called even here below, and are baptized by one Spirit into one body. No doubt, when all are gathered together as a fact in heaven, it will be the church, and is so spoken of in Eph. 5:27, and perhaps a few more texts. But in general in scripture, where the church is spoken of, it means the actual assembly of God on the earth at any given time. The Holy Ghost was there; and wherever the Holy Ghost dwells, He knits and joins the body into one. This is a weighty truth, and involves the most important consequences.

For I repeat, we are put into this relationship with Christ at the present moment. It is not that we have the hope merely of being made the bride of Christ by and by: we are espoused to Christ now. We shall have the marriage or the actual consummation by and by, when all the members are brought in. But the great and blessed and practical thing for our souls is, that we are brought into this position of union now. It is not only that the affection on which the marriage is grounded is true now; but more than this, the Holy Ghost is on earth uniting the saints to Christ in heaven, and making them as truly one with Him now as they ever will be. When Christ comes, there will be the removal of all hindrances — the putting aside of what Satan employs to make us forget our relationship to Christ, and the change of our vile body according to the body of His glory. But it is important to remember that our oneness with Christ as His body depends on the presence of the Holy Ghost, who has knit us up with Christ in heaven. We are one with Him now.

Here, then, the Holy Ghost seems to show that there are others to be there, not as the bride, but as guests, so to speak. These are the called to the marriage supper of the Lamb. You may remember John the Baptist speaking of himself as the friend of the Bridegroom. I presume that those who are here said to be invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb answer somewhat to the friends of the Bridegroom. They are not angels, for the word “called unto the marriage” would not be said of angels. These last are never characterized as “called” because the elect angels have always abode in their first estate. The calling of God comes to those who are in a low place to deliver them out of it. We have all, I suppose, been in the habit of assuming that if a man is a saint of God he necessarily belongs to the church, and that there is only one common blessing for all saints of all times. Here you find the contrary laid down plainly, and upon the face of scripture. You have here a marriage supper, and one singled out for especial joy, called the bride, the Lamb’s wife (composed, it may be, of myriads of people, but here recognized in unity of blessing, being united under one term, that of “the bride,” to show that they have the same portion of love and blessedness). But this is not true of all saints, for there are others who are not in this position; they are present as guests at the marriage supper of the Lamb, not as His bride.

 

F. W. Grant: The Revelation of Christ: The Living Ones (Rev. 4:5-11)

As I have said, the character of the throne as a throne of judgment is not seen until the saints are seen upon their thrones around it. In fact, we may say, it does not assume this character until they are there. For the “lightnings and voices and thunders” which now proceed from it are plainly not the announcement of any special judgment, but of the throne as a judgment throne. This entirely accords with the fact that the dispensation of grace is at an end, the Christian church complete, and the saints of past ages glorified.

 

F. W. Grant: The Numerical Bible: Rev. 4:4

It is less certain as to what their number indicates, which, one would say, should be certainly symbolic. As 24 it would most naturally seem to yield two twelves, the number of manifest rule, which we see in the 12 apostles, and in the 12 tribes of earth’s royal people. The two twelves, therefore , may speak to us as a double company, of the saints of the Old Testament times and of the New, reigning together now in a common kingdom, while at the same time they are distinct as companies, “the Church of the first-born ones, whose names are written in heaven,” as the apostle gives them (Heb. 12:23), and the “spirits of just men made perfect:” not merely spirits now, for they could not be perfected apart from resurrection, but such as had as a company passed through death, as with the Church, as a whole. Here are certainly two companies who reign here together, although the distinction between them is not noticed here. It is not in the line of truth with which we are to be occupied.