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THE TWO TRUE
THE ROBBER WHO GAVE FREELY,
AND THE ONE TRUE WITNESS
WHAT A DAY!
DO NOT LET VAIN DOUBTS STEAL YOUR TIME.
In Luke 23:39-43.Jesus makes a momentous announcement. It commences with two evocative components in an impactive prelude.
I THE CROAK OF CHAGRIN
"If you are the Christ, save yourself and us!" clamoured one of the criminals.
From Mark 15:31-32, it is clear that this did not by faith express that longing which would cease to languish and find in peace, Christ as Lord and Saviour. For one, however, a change would occur as the long hours slowly terminated the physical life on this earth, for a few days, of Jesus Christ. For him, a change would occur; for the other, it seems clear that it did not. Faith would enter as a lion into the field, for one of the pair, one only. For him, chagrin would become grace, desperation would become discernment and a dying croak would become a decisive destiny, its impetus and attestation for ONE of those being crucified with Christ.
II THE FEAR OF GOD
For this one, as the blood dripped, the fear of God began to enter his polluted personality. It had not reached him while it pulsed eagerly in his veins. The shrouds of many, deaths of soldiers, broken marriages, kids mauled by divorce, follies of theft and manipulation of man by man began, perhaps, to crowd into his mind; while the purity of God seen, sensed and then realised in this Christ beside Him, with His love and forgiving passion and compassion, contrasted magnificently with the scenarios of sin. We indeed justly suffer, he declared, rebuking his fellow criminal, but this man has done nothing wrong (Luke 23:41). The sure serenity of holiness and salvation shone out from Christ like a light piercing the gloom. The sin-bearer loomed into the very smouldering ruins of his consciousness. Here was the Lord. His sin now began its final movement to the Saviour-shredder.
The fear of God seized the criminal's consciousness, paraded in his conscience, with his recognition of His purity and love. "Do you not even fear God," he remonstrated with the abusive criminal, "since we are under the same condemnation!"
Is it not enough to sin, that one must sin against the very Saviour who came to bear, break and overcome it! Is the fear of God to be swallowed up in the sops of self-awards, self-centredness, and the hope for humanity, the only hope, to be dashed on a cross, without even recognition of His righteousness, whose saving mission had for so long and in so much to so many, been told over the millenia!
This same fear of God, now so abhorred by the flaccid nations in their securities and insecurities, their man-worship and their self-importance, is yet CLEAN (Psalm 19), both clean and cleansing, like the sea. It washes as with brine, and is never befouled. Yes, though brine may be invaded by oil, devastatingly, in Christ, though sin lash at Him and He bears it, it cannot befoul His mind, or belittle His Spirit. The Creator is cleaner than ever the cleanest of His creations. There are no accretions of sin in Him. The fear of God, however, brings consciousness of sin to the sinner, as pain brings awareness of a wound in the body. It is well to heed it and act.
Deep in the robber's heart, an animated thrust of conviction pierced him, while his evils came like hordes of stinging bees, ready to kill; but yet he was moved, with his eye beginning to look with faith, leading to an ineffable sweetness, where salvation itself displaced all things.
III THE IMMEDIACY OF HEAVEN
"Lord," he cries, "remember me when You come into Your kingdom!"
He does not cry, "When You come into Your kingdom, remember me!" He wants his memory to be locked in Christ and opened at that time, not to arise from the vague beyond. The point is not so much what he is told today, as the remembering him when that would be of any use to him! The certainty is of the kingdom coming, of its being that of Jesus Christ; the request is for his being remembered, and the open question is but one: WHEN will this be.
On this, he needs reassurance. To be sure, the request for being remembered has to be granted or not, but since it is made in manifest faith there is no question of that (John 6:47, 5:24). WHEN! That is left lingering on the air. It is the immediate prelude to the reply of Christ. That the criminal would be with Him, made the affirmation obvious, but when, when, when would that be ? Remember when! This is the crux of the words brought to the Lord.
TODAY you will be with Me not here, but in paradise. With Me there today! Time problem resolved.
That is the crux of the answer from the Lord. We deal with the crux, and not with the surround. Both points are thus answered: WITH and WHEN. The WHEN is short-circuited into TODAY. The REMEMBER is enhanced into WITH ME in paradise. It is not an allotment as in a cemetery plot or plan. It is a conveyance into His presence where it is His natural abode, the eternity of personality, the place of the Beginning and the End, from whom came creation, and where the Creator, currently on the cross, returning would hold court for this one whom He now saved as for all who in their retirement from this world, were likewise His. Neither would He wander about eternity, nor would the thief wander about, uncertain in time. For HIM this is HIS PLACE; and to it He immediately repaired. You cannot be forgotten on the SAME DAY, the very same one.
For the thief, the place was with the Christ whom He recognised and in whom he believed: that place would continue to be, he now learned, that very day; for He would never leave nor forsake him (Hebrews 13:5). HENCE it would be that day in paradise with Him, that he would be present. It would indeed as with Paul, compared with anything that this earth could offer, FAR BETTER to depart and be with Christ (Philippians 1:22-23).
What then ? The remembering is the deliverance, the TIME is the question. DO this remembering which I crave, which is all my salvation, not now, when You are dying for sin and are without any visible power, clamped between the jaws of death, humbled, crushed by the load of sin vicariously. Do it not now, cries the robber, but WHEN you come into Your kingdom. Here is faith that He will come into it, but also realisation that this faith can only be rewarded WHEN this kingdom is His. It is as if a servant, says to a young charge, Bruce, remember me won't you! when you inherit, for I have need of superannuation. In this, the robber gives freely, attesting faith, poignantly, pointedly, heartily, from observation, contrition and assurance. The Lord replies in kind.
The reply in effect - Today you will be with Me in paradise - I'm telling you! Today! he hears, as he bleeds and suffocates to death. All sorts of things might be said today; but the question is this - WHEN will the memory operate, the relief occur, and when the glory follow!
The substance follows, not the introduction! It is as so often, 'this day' is the trumpet call for what matters; and what could conceivably matter more to the criminal than this, that no nugatory something may occur in some unknown future, about which he gets some intimation now, no mere association in place, but that THIS DAY YOU WILL BE in paradise with Me, whom you so attest. Memory is assured: cohesion now is companionship then, and the nearness continues.
How often this is the way, the day the focus in an annunciation, that contains the central point.
"And Jesus said to him, Verily tell you, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, you will deny me thrice," Mark 14:30.
"For to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, " Luke 2:11.
"And he was saying to them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears," Luke 4:21.
"And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom
Satan has bound, lo,
these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?" Luke 13:16.
"And Jesus said to him,
day is salvation come to
since he also is a son of Abraham," Luke 19:9.
"Saying, If you had known, even you, at least in this your day, the things which belong to your peace! but now they are hidden from your eyes," Luke 19:42.
This is not different.
Is Christ then to be construed, amid the torture of agony, the last moments of shriving the human soul which believes in Him, offering in weakness the strength of salvation, to be giving an emphasis on that day ? Is this to be the place of reassurance ? Is this passing out parade be be summoned as to the TIME in which the other end is to be announced, some time, somewhere, whenever it happens ? Is this the stress to suggest ? It is obvious enough that it is on this day, Christ's last on this earth before His fast approaching death, that any statement is being made there, amidst His suffocating weakness. Does this need stressing ? Is this the surround to be summoned as in a mix with the term 'assuredly' to which it is annexed ? Is it His telling on such a day as this, amid apparent corporal capitulation to the sting of imperial rulers among men, that He chooses to stress the date of His announcement ? Is He saying, Some time, past all this, you will be in the same general environment as I am, and it is a good one!
Or rather is He not starting by ASSURING the criminal, assuredly, with assuredly, - on the basis of WHO HE IS, reassuring Him, I am the very One telling you, you can take it from Me. Then, instead of assuring him that it is on this day, and not some other, that He is releasing this piece of news, a counter-productive choice of emphasis, one bleeding from hope and distant from glory, He rather evokes time as the reassurance. Though this day may seem weak and unhallowed, yet time be My witness, it is THIS VERY DAY in which you will be not only remembered by Me, but WITH ME, in paradise.
It is the contrast, not with this day as a focussed set time for the announcement, and paradise as a very different utterly vague concept into which to drift, but this day as a focussed time of the action, the lift-off with its drama and hallowed transition, to fulfil the hope of the criminal. Thus, his hope was in the unknown time, past all the tortures of expiring life, veils of destiny and the like, but this immediacy of time that Christ here announces for the change, is put into splendid contrast with such fluid concepts, as a thing in itself glorious, ending in glory when it began with such shame. Today that so began, will so end!
TRULY, I am TELLING you, THIS day you will BE WITH ME, in paradise.
This day of dark foreboding, incredible agony, enduring anguish, whether for Christ vicariously bearing the impact of sin for all who believe in Him as God and Saviour, and not in some concocted or non-existent substitute, or the criminal justly bearing punishment for his own crimes, this day, Christ affirms, is the very one. Assuredly it is so, He declares, evoking wonder and telling the truth in lively style, today is the time WHEN this coming into the Kingdom of which you speak, will have its outcome!
To put it into an Irish form of brogue, to capture the feeling, it is as if He were saying,
Aye to be sure, I am telling you, you need not trouble yourself about this 'when' you are speaking of. That is a vague and distant thing. Let it be put clearly between those ears of yours, and lodged in your tortured mind, that there is no vague wait, but an immediate assertion of the immediate power of the constantly watching God in heaven, in whom I work, from whom I came, to whom I return. HE does not allow glory to be dissipated.
WHEN I fully break sin by its bearing for those who receive Me as you do, then HE takes Me where I belong. I do not hang around vaguely until something happens. Leave that to your founders of republics. As to Myself, THIS day of woe is the self-same day in which I pass to glory, back to My Father from whom I have come, and THEREFORE it is THIS DAY in which you will be WITH ME, as One for whom I shall by then in an hour or two, have fully paid. Back to where I came from, where I belong I go, that is the manner of it, and that is precisely where I have paid for your place.
WHEN indeed! Is it a romancing that these theologians have taught you! Let's put it simply, it is not in some WHEN that you will find remembrance by Me, it is THIS VERY DAY, truly!
WHEN is the operative word, the stress, the word of urgency to the point. THAT it is to happen, is understood; that both have made clear is to be. On this, there is for the time no further need of information. The One affirmed it constantly, the other believed it would sometime be. It is WHEN it happens that is the question; this the topic, this the need which hangs on the torrid air, by the cross of Christ. WHEN will it be ?
It WILL surely be, since faith has just realised the imperative of action, the imperial beauty of the Lord, the humility past all thought, spiritual in sublimity. It took it that THIS PRINCE had shed blood as a sacrifice, as the countless animal sacrifices had for thousands of years made clear! Remember me WHEN it DOES happen! is the force of his cry. TODAY it does happen is the most memorable answer, and in view of that it is prefaced by two assurances, ASSUREDLY, and I TELL YOU. He is not assuring him that it really is today that he is assuring him, but that it is today that the desired will become reality, and with Him now, this day he will be with Him, indissoluble the tie, inextinguishable the presence of Him who from now, is with him always.
That He is Lord is not a question. It is an answer. When this blessed time is, when utter transformation both for Jesus and for the thief comes into view, this is the cry of the heart, the thrust of the thought, the need of the hour, the searing imperative for the breath of doom apparently already reeking about the sweating, gasping thief..
Christ replies, "Surely I tell you, Today you will be with Me in paradise!"
The point, then, is not when He tells the criminal: that is understood. They are already talking and the point is not whether He wants to say it now or later. It is the question that is answered, the thing unsure, WHEN He comes, when this horrible situation is to be healed, holiness is to replace wanton evil and the clamours of the crowd are to be stilled! WHEN is that ? It will be, but WHEN ? It throbs on the air like the churning thrust of mighty engines in the night, on board some ocean liner. WHEN will we dock, that is the question. It throbs now. When will it throb no more ? I tell you, says the Captain, IT IS TODAY. No more the ocean perils come to distance and threaten. This is the ultimate horror for you, and it is no less the day of ultimate glory: I tell you so, assuredly I do. We dock today, our maritime journey replaced by a sure refuge.
Into My kingdom ? Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me ... (Hebrews 13:5, 12:28) TODAY.
IV THE CULMINATION
OF CHRIST'S CURRENTLY CRUCIAL OUTCOME
Already he was with Christ, but by no means in paradise! The scene to the mind changes: movement from now to then, that blessed time comes into view. Is His inheritance to be soon, or far away ? What information is to be given to the point at issue. And what is that ? It is the day of Christ's restoration from a weakness that does not stop at death, into power and glory, where He may control the destinies of mankind by His say so. It is for this plain outcome, the culmination of His currently crucial mission, in plain sight, as now on the Cross, that He suffers gladly such shameful humiliation from the shameless.
It is in atmosphere as if Christ is saying this. Shambles today, glory not at some unknown residue of time, for shame at once becomes glory, and the outcome of this penalty-bearing sacrifice being totally reliant on My execution, which does not linger in ITS outcome, yes, TODAY you will receive the glory this purchases: today relief will come, My remembering of you will come. I will not forget you: how could I on tis same day.
So the point is answered, the remembering of the robber BY the Lord personally.
It is not today as the emblem of assurance, but as if He were saying: Assuredly I tell you, despite today, that it is in this VERY DAY in which the thing you seek will come, and you will not only be remembered, but with Me, not only acknowledged but in MY COMPANY! Thus and only thus, all is resolved.
SURELY, it is certain. I tell you - it is not diffused gobbledegook, but straight and direct, personal talk. It is not diffused on the air; it is not a talk-feist, for the issue is power, and not words. If the word is of power, as always, then it is fact, as here.
TODAY - it is not the obvious, oblivious of need that He tells, but the necessary, meeting need. He does not allow interminable seeming times to allow a wafting about, when in some way or other, there will be a joint occupation of some territory. Not at all! for He declares this: TODAY you will be with Me in paradise!
What then ? He is not telling him that he is telling him today, but when what is mentioned today will come out of the fray, be done, in contrast to the horror of the moment, in the attestation of the ultimate. No, He is not telling him that at some unknown, unspecified time, the converted thief will be with Him, for that is no guarantee of or warranty for remembrance. You could with a king in a crowd. The answer then is not evasive, equivocal, politically ergonomic; far from it. He CANNOT forget it, the thief being with Him, in paradise that very day. Since HE is to be there Himself, therefore there is the answer to the remember proposition, request. Right now, within hours, remembered ? You will be WITH ME there THIS DAY, the thing remembered to the uttermost, vividly, pointedly, personally as is our dying together: for living in one new paradise is the assured outcome.
It is not far off - should not Christ suffer and enter into His glory (as in Luke 24 from His own lips)! Of course. Then as to that latter, it is for TODAY, there His spirit which He was to commit at the death of His body, into His Father's hands, would be and there would His ransomed robber be with Him. Would he be left ? Far from it.
It is this that He tells. Not only is this so, but you, the criminal, will be WITH ME. known in heart and soul, mind and life. Rejoice therefore in heart while your body sags, and exult in spirit while your blood emits. The thing is shortly to happen, it does not hang in the air, disport itself in lofty conundrums. WE will once again be together, not this time in bodily space, but in heavenly harmony. Here is consolation, agreeable and even delightful, a light penetrating the mortal gloom as death awaits its prey, and the criminal becomes ready for worse than human punishment, as hell seeks to enclose him. It cannot succeed, that very day being a time of disjunction from hell, and conjunction with Christ's provision in paradise.
It is not the time of His telling, the worst possible for reassurance - in view and vogue with the 'assuredly', but the time of the remembering which hangs on the amazed air, stills the wondering mind and effaces the delirium of uncertainty with the delight of informed faith!
Now comes the piercing of the gloom with a vast light: Today you will be with me ... Yes, but where ? in what condition ? under what auspices ? HOW is it arranged and what is the thing coming, tell me, tell me ?
Christ does just this. Today you will be with Me in paradise. Thus through the Cross did the Highest meet the lowliest, immediately face to face, in, through and as that very Person. It is God who, as man, is looking at man; and it is by Him his life is re-attached to its heavenly origin even in earthly time, the ultimate made intimate, the profound seen as a Person, the Word who made man, beholding man, while bearing his agony for him, and assuring him that no more is there delay. Just as He had come to be on earth, so He was leaving to take with Him, those for whom He had the place prepared, and in particular, this criminal who in his own spectrum of sin, saw the bright, effectual light of Christ come like a star that entered into his very soul.
As in Revelation 7, those sealed amid the horrors of the last days before this Age end, are envisaged with the Shepherd, the seals (7:3) for the placing of which all had to wait, having held during the storms. So as with them, as with those enquiring of the Lord in Revelation 6:9ff., as with Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration, in conversation with Him, so the thief through his storms, this time deserved, is taken to the same result; for has he not washed his raiment in the blood of the Lamb, useless by proximity, but invaluable by faith's adoption! (Revelation 7:13-14). As those came out of their historically intensified time on earth, so also the least come out of their time, and the thief would come out of his time of physically intensified suffering, but one yielding through God's government and grace, the same faith and the same acceptation!
The statement has all the normal certainty and glory of Jesus Christ.
The relevant time
for remembering me, implies the criminal, is WHEN you come into Your kingdom.
The relevant time,
replies Christ, is TODAY. Truly I tell you so.
Once the transaction of the cross is over, the first culmination of a ministry of mighty healings of thousands, some like Lazarus even raised from the dead (not at some vague future time, but AT HIS CALL there and then coming back into His immediate presence, then, on earth), what results ? It is this: all is certain, assured, and salvation waits for none. The past with Moses and Elijah in discourse with Christ at the transfiguration (Luke 9:29ff.), this is contiguous with the present, all the saints invested with His presence, none excepted, all involved. Conversing continues and in that case, it is witnessed.
The imperative announcement is of a declaration of vital importance, the time of utterance being obvious, but the thing concerned being released in announcement, is annunciation indeed. Whether it is denial or birth, or healing, or salvation, or demonstration of folly: the pith figures, not the periphery. It is the answer which comes from the Truth, not some stage props, pompous portent, vague contrivance. THREE days interred is the body of Christ, but AT ONCE He is granted His restoration to paradise, whatever visits He may make. It is then as PRINCE OF PEACE glorified that He acts, and with Him is the beauty of excellent enterprise, price paid, purity resumed past all that can touch or harm or pollute.
It is as if to say: IN PARADISE with Me, THIS DAY you will be. You speak in the teeth of death, but this same day you will be glorying in the rest not of wormy soil, but lively reality, with Me in My home where I have prepared a place for you. Just as your need is now, so is your provision on the day of your passing. Remember you! as to that you will see for yourself, assuredly you will, I am telling you, and it is occurring without interruption, as the gloom and apparent doom embraces you. It is going to happen today, dependent on Me, whose death is ENTIRELY VICARIOUS and whose future is not at all various!
It is another spiritual embrace which will at once dispel this one. I have paid. YOU, it is you who receive the immediate result of the absolutely total coverage. In dying I cover; when you die, you are covered, not only BY Me, but to be WITH Me, and not in some preliminary, but in paradise itself.
Thus did Stephen even before he died, see Christ at the right hand of glory, even as the last stones were falling; thus did Christ THEN commit His Spirit into the Lord's hands, His who always answered His every prayer (John 11:42), thus did Elijah have rapid transport to heaven in a chariot, nothing delaying, thus did Christ prepare for His servants that where He is, there they may be also, and thus did Paul want to depart and BE WITH CHRIST, which is FAR BETTER, not as a waiting room, but as a glory beyond the glorious presence he knew even when on earth! (Philippians 1:20-23). To be sure resurrection comes at length, but paradise does not wait, just as one sees in Revelation 7:14ff. and 6:10.
Were it not so, were Christ, that is, merely asserting that at some time or other, the criminal would receive a grand site in heaven with Christ, then his gloom might be penetrated by a lavish doom of quite unknown proportions, stretching to who knew what interminable seeming preliminaries, and weakness would be speaking with emphasis on the day of its murder of the time of some future glory. This staggering malapropos, moreover, would be preceded by verily! Memory would OCCUR, some time, some day, in some way. It WOULD come! Or at least there would be some joint occupation of some realm, in place of certain remembering. That ? Not some subdued and uncertain warbling, avoiding the pith of the point. Not this! He is rather affirming strenuously, as if to say: I'm telling you. Let Me make an announcement about the unknown future, as for you it now seems. Let us at once get this bit right, listen! Today, this unforgettable day, I will be remembering you. Site: paradise.
It is not as if He were saying that, a ludicrous thing; but with emphasis misplaced and certainty effaced, Christ spoke heartily, the truth. Not at all was He stridulating about the very inopportune seeming day of its utterance. It is because it is impossible that one may say this. It is a fake idea for a true declamation. He is frankly affirming by annunciation, the resolution of the entire matter, with an ebullience of favour and a grandeur of grace, linked to His being personal, the pardon being already sure and the place that follow with the membership in His spiritual body, being indissoluble. He sleepeth not who calls!
What then do we find ? It is this. Long before the resurrection, in Revelation 7 you see the balm of His shepherding presence with His saints, at rest in the wonder of His company while the world rages on towards its doom, while in Revelation 6:9ff., you see the enquiries of the saints in glory, as to how long it would be before the horrors on this earth would be finished, and judgment supervene! They had to wait; but they waited with Him. Indeed, it is after the sixth seal on history is opened that they call to the Lord, concerning the brethren still on this earth, How long ? At that time, on earth, "the great day of wrath has come" as in Revelation 6:17, so that there is need to SEAL the foreheads of the servants of God still on earth, against harm, which is certainly not in heaven, but on earth. It is in Revelation 8:1 that this seventh seal is now opened.
It is then that the finality has occurred, the resurrection complete. Time by then has moved through the tempests to the terminus, sought of the saints in heaven for relief of those still on this earth.
V THE CONTRAST OF
THE IMMEDIATE DOOM OF HUMAN JUDGMENT
WITH THE GLORY OF RANSOMED OUTCOME:
AND NOT FOR ONE ALONE!
What then of this seventh seal being opened, this last of the 7, this harbinger of fulfilment ?
So amazing in grief and judgment is this, in contrast to the glory at length coming, that there is silence in heaven for half an hour (8:1). The incense of the prayers of the saints arises before the Judge of all at this terminal thrust (8:4). Trumpets of increasing strength of desolation are then sounded. It proceeds till the two witnesses appear as in Revelation 11, then are raised and released into glory before the eyes of their tormentors. What a rebuke this Chapter 11 provides to those who worm their way into forbidden scenes, outright apostate communions, groups, syntheses, fellowships and churches, in order to meet 'impossible' conditions outside them.
See the power of these witnesses, for His service, disdained, dismissed by man on this earth and slain; remember Elijah in his exclusion and David, and repent if you are diminishing by sheer lack of faith the power of God, through you, to accomplish what is pure and holy and good and right, WITHOUT compromise. These so lived then, and so rise now. COME UP HERE! is the call, and there they go! (Revelation 10:12). Their tormentors are amazed.
Just as they faithfully witnessed in word and deed, of His commandments, not near in mouth while far in heart, but faithfully, not sharing with the snaring as explicitly forbidden in Romans 16:17, and excluded whether in I Timothy 6, II Timothy 3-4, or I Corinthians 5-6, so being in the light of the Lord on earth, they continue in it, and out of travail, travel direct to heaven, leaving the earth in shock at this recall!
What then ? Here is reason for rejoicing.
It is in the very teeth of these things that the martyrs, those suffering for Christ (and none of His will escape this trial of suffering, itself) are seen in heaven, their blessed release while the number of the saints is made up, soon shown completed as in Revelation 11, consummated, concluded, finished. There those gone before are steeped in His glorious presence; now all His people are resurrected en masse, leaving at that very moment, the frauds and spiritual flatulence of the false prophets, amidst their own fraudulent speech, to their own doom.
From The Kingdoms of this World and the Kingdom of Christ (adapted for this purpose), Ch. 6, we have this...
What, however, you may ask, in the Book of Revelation and its particular presentation, has the resurrection to do with it ? We learn of the end of the mystery of God in Revelation 10:7, that at the sounding of the seventh trumpet signalling, this will have happened, even the finishing of the mystery of God through His servants, the prophets. What does this mystery contain ? It incorporates the birth of man, the new birth of man, the dying of the Saviour, His resurrection, the resurrection of the saints and the removal of the veil (I Corinthians 13). Thus, since all these things have to occur BEFORE the sounding of the trumpet (11:15), THEREFORE the two witnesses being removed just before it (11:12), amid furore and culminating events clearly then still in process, their raising from the dead and call to glory finishes the mystery, the accomplishment of all these things as required so that at the sounding of the seventh, it is all done.
It is not merely that this completion is announced after the call to COME UP HERE, but that all that preceded their coming up, was manifestly BEFORE the completion, like a soccer match still raging. They go, and then the whistle blows, it is over. That is manifest in itself. After they come, it has happened. Hence that happening and the terminus of trouble that it achieved, supply the missing necessity for any coverage of the future, consummation of the mystery as told through the prophets: the resurrection from the dead. Again, it is in terms of resurrection on the one hand, and going straight in glory to heaven, on the other, so achieving consummation in kind, overall, corporately for the Kingdom.
Thus in the raising of the two witnesses, just before that 7th trumpet, there is the resurrection of the saints, who have acted as that adequate pair of witnesses, a duplex by which a testimony was to be established at law (John 8:17). Not only is this the only assured account*1 of the general resurrection (starting with the saints as in I Thessalonians 4) in Revelation, but it is emphatic, dramatic and definitive, confirmed and surrounded with certainties abounding.
Let us review. What then does Revelation in that context, say of resurrection ?
Firstly, the mystery of God will not be finished before that time, since until then we do NOT know as we are known; it is only when what is perfect has come that this is the case, and what is perfect is not death of the body, rampant disease and multiplied, multi-formatted suffering. By the seventh trumpet, that is all over: the perfect knowledge is IN, when that trumpet sounds. Not only, moreover, does this "Come up here!" command issue from heaven (Revelation 11:10), by which they leave a tortured earth to resume its self-torments and due judgments. Not merely does the seventh trumpet, by which all this must be fulfilled, come just after they go, but in addition we find the specific CONFIRMATION that this is the case immediately after THAT!
"There were loud voices in heaven saying,
'The kingdoms of this world have become
the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ,
and He shall reign forever and ever!
Hence this must be the resurrection. It is here that it is introduced beyond all question, first introduced, definitively so, and the saints with their Shepherd in heaven precede this emphatic provision, long before, in the midst of sealing saints ON EARTH against harm, and providing the necessary protection, and the waiting till their number is complete, as in Revelation 6:9-11 and 7:1-2).
The two witnesses, then, as before shown (Acme, Alpha and Omega: Jesus Christ Ch. 5), are the Church. As in Revelation 7, it embraces both Jewish and Gentile components, one in glory, one in standing, one in the Gospel of the slain Lamb, one in Christ.
Is this company, in spirit, yours now ? THIS DAY it can and should be; for Christ in you, the hope of glory is for now (Colossians 1:27), and to delay and dally with this NOW, this day, in store, is as woeful as it was for the other criminal, who did not secure ON THAT VERY DAY the path of advent to glory that is richer yet, but has here its prelude and its preliminary.
But are you a Christian now ? is this blessing now yours already ? Then have no fear of death, for on that day when He calls you, that day you will with the Shepherd with His sheep, and even the resurrection, it is now drawing very near. Praise God for His wonderful kindness to the children of man, and live it, rejoice in Him, and be imbued with His Spirit. He searches for His sheep. The headwind may be strong, but He is stronger. You have but to call, to call on the name of the Lord; but if you do not want this, do not blame Him. If there be any seed, any longing, any desire for salvation of the soul, restoration of a peace with your Creator, any desire to have sin covered, the cross your transaction centre in Christ, then come. Afterwards, then, it is COME UP! Never forget, concerning false alliance with what leaves the faith, disjoins from its requirements, COME OUT OF HER! (Revelation 18:4). Come out, and when He calls, Com Up!
Though Revelation 11 is the first mention of bodily resurrection, and its occurrence terminates the mystery, the kingdom then the Lord's, it is of interest to consider if Revelation 14 supplies any other attestation of it, in a later vignette.
However, since it is referring to those who die in the Lord FROM NOW ON (Revelation 14:13), and it is only then that you see the reaping (14:14), there is a problem with interpreting that as the general bodily resurrection of the Lord's people, which terminates their presence on this earth. Is this future looking perspective at once made irrelevant, since for those who die in the Lord on this earth, it stops and they are no more there! Do you outline a procedure and then terminate its reference point at once ? Thus it may be that this reaping is simply the taking of the good grain from the chaff in a thrust of contest, death, collision on this earth, so that those taken, like Stephen, are now received in a sudden thrust of faith meeting death on earth, while those not believing in parallel, meet the just results of their belligerence (14:17ff.).
Indeed, the fact that AFTER the second reaping, gathering those in the wrath of God, there is an immediate sequence in Revelation 15 to more action in contest on this earth, means that the general resurrection of both just and unjust has not occurred. Yet if in Revelation 14:14-20, the first sickling were a resurrection of the just, then in clear parallel the second one would be of the unjust.
Revelation 15 shows that this is not so. There is still much to be done on this earth, in this sequence, before that resurrection of one and of all.