THE BOOK OF 1 THESSALONIANS
Chapter 5, Addendum #5 - The Relation between Living and Resurrected Saints in the Millennium

 

J. Deering, AncientPath.net

 


The Relation between Living and

Resurrected Saints in the Millennium[1]

BY J. DWIGHT PENTECOST[2]

 

 

I. THE NATURE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT HOPE

The Old Testament Scriptures abound with descriptions of the glory and blessing that await the "heirs of promise." In order to understand the relation between the Old Testament and New Testament saint, it is necessary to distinguish certain aspects of the promises given in the Old Testament as the hope of the saint.

 

National promises

The Old Testament made certain promises to the nation Israel.

The vast majority of the promises of future blessings and glory were given to the nation Israel. These promises rest on the eternal and unconditional covenants which God made with the nation and which find their fulfillment by the nation itself.

 

The Abrahamic covenant, as originally stated in Genesis 12 :l-3, and reiterated in Genesis 13:14-17; 15:1-21 and 17:1-18, while it included certain individual promises to Abraham, concerned itself with a posterity in the line of Abraham and their possession of the land given to Abraham by promise. All subsequent covenant promises are reiterations, enlargements, and clarifications of parts of this original covenant made through Abraham with the nation and establishing certain national promises and hopes.

 

The Davidic covenant, stated in 2 Samuel 7:4-17, and reiterated in Psalm 89, takes the promises concerning the seed in the original Abrahamic covenant and makes that seed the subject of an enlarged promise, as a kingdom, a house, and a throne are promised to the seed.

 

The Palestinian covenant, first stated in Deuteronomy 30:1-10, takes the promises in the Abrahamic covenant which are concerned with the land and enlarges on that portion of the covenant.

 

The new covenant, stated in Jeremiah 31:31-34, takes the promises of blessing found in the original Abrahamic covenant and makes those promises the subject of enlargement. The New Testament makes it clear that this promise is to be fulfilled only by the conversion of the nation at the second advent of Christ, "And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins" (Rom. 11:26-27).


 

Thus it will be observed that all Israel's hopes were based on the four determinative covenants which God made with them, that these covenants confirmed certain national hopes and blessings and necessitate the preservation, continuity, and restoration of the nation if they are to be fulfilled literally.

 

Individual promises

It is true, however, that certain individual hopes were indicated in the old economy.

 

Israelites were given the hope of a resurrection. Isaiah 26:19-20; Daniel 12:2-3, 13; Hosea 13:14 and Job 19:25-27 indicate this.

 

Israelites were given the expectation of individual judgment and reward, as witnessed by such passages as Isaiah 40:10; Ezekiel 11:21; 30:33-44; 22:17-22; Daniel 12:3; Zechariah 3:7; 13:9, and Malachi 3:16-18; 4:1.

 

Israelites were promised blessings in the new heaven and new earth in Isaiah 65:17-18; 66:22.

 

There is no question in the mind of the literal interpreter of the Scriptures that Israel's national promises will be fulfilled by the nation itself in the millennial age, which follows the advent of Messiah.

 

Concerning the individual promises

 

There is no such clear statement as to the sphere in which they will be fulfilled. In the passages teaching individual resurrection and individual judgment and reward, these provisions are said to be fulfilled at the advent of the Messiah, but the Old Testament does not make clear the sphere of the individual's expectation.

 

It is not until the New Testament that a more specific delineation of the individual Israelite's hope is given to us. The writer to the Hebrews says: "For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11:10) ; "But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect" (Heb. 12:22-23).

 

It would thus seem that while the national promises were to be fulfilled both at the time of and in the millennium, the individual promises were to be fulfilled at the time of the millennium, but not necessarily in the millennial earth.

 

The passages teaching resurrection indicate that Israel's resurrection will be completed at the time of the second advent of Christ, but do not say that the individuals will be resurrected to the millennial earth.

 

The passages that teach individual judgment and reward indicate, likewise, that the judgment and reward will coincide with the Second Advent, but do not state that the rewards will be enjoyed in the millennium, but rather at the time of the millennium.

 

It is concluded, then, from the consideration of the promises given in the Old Testament, that the national promises will be fulfilled on the earth in the millennial age, but that the individual promises of resurrection will be fulfilled at

the time of the millennium, but not necessarily by placing the individual in the millennium itself.

 

 

II. THE NATURE OF THE MILLENNIUM

In order to understand the relation of the resurrected saints of both the Old and New Testaments to the millennial age it is necessary to have a clear concept of the teaching of Scripture as to the nature and purpose of the millennium.

 

It should be evident that the millennium is the time of the fulfillment of Israel's national covenanted blessings, during which time God will make a divine display of the absolute authority of divine government through the rule of the Messiah, when living men are being subjected to and tested by the authority of the King.

 

The Millennial age - A age of Testing

The millennial age is designed by God to be the final test of fallen humanity under the most ideal circumstances, surrounded by every enablement to obey the rule of the King, from whom the outward sources of temptation have been removed, so that man may be proved to be a failure in even this last test of fallen humanity.

 

The Problem of the Resurrected and Translated Righteous

In such a period, when such a program is being executed, it is obvious that resurrected individuals, who need no testing because they are righteous already and who need not be brought into subjection to the authority of the King because they are completely subjected to Him, can have no rightful place on the earth at that time. Those who would place resurrected individuals on the earth to undergo the rigors of the King's reign miss the purpose of God in the millennial age.

 

The essential character of and purpose in the millennium leads to the conclusion that resurrected individuals, although having a part in the millennium, are not on the earth to be subjects of the King's reign.

 

 

III. THE OCCUPANTS OF THE HEAVENLY JERUSALEM

Of Abraham it was said that his hope centered in life in a city, "For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11:10). That this was the expectation, not only of Abraham, but also of other Old Testament saints is seen in Hebrews 11:16, where it is stated: "But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city." It is observed that the hope of these heroes of faith, according to this verse, was a heavenly city.

 

This same heavenly city is further described in Hebrews 12:22-24, where it is called the heavenly Jerusalem. In Galatians 4:26, it is called "Jerusalem which is above," in Revelation 3:12, it is called "The city of my [Christ's] God," and "new Jerusalem," in Revelation 21:2, it is called "the holy city, new Jerusalem," and in Revelation 21:10, it is called "that great city, the holy Jerusalem."

 

 

The Church and the Heavenly New Jerusalem

In these passages it is clearly seen to be the place where all the hopes of the church saints will be realized. Without doubt this is the "place" our Lord promised He would go to prepare and to which He would come and take us in John 14:2. It is no real problem, then, to identify the "church of the firstborn" who occupy this heavenly Jerusalem according to Hebrews 12:23. There can be no doubt that this heavenly city will be comprised, in part, of the church, the body of Christ, from this present age.

 

Other Inhabitants of the Heavenly New Jerusalem

Hebrews 12:22-24 gives us a word that leads us to expect other redeemed men and women to be in that heavenly city in addition to the saints of this age. The term general assembly [panŽquris] implies not merely a great, but the full number. And this circumstance, that all the members are collected, gives the assembly a character of solemn and joyous festivity.

 

The question is: "Who joins with the Unfallen angels and the church saints to make up the full complement of the inhabitants of that heavenly city?" The answer is in the phrase "the spirits of just men made perfect," who are evidently the Old Testament saints. It would seem, then, that the writer to the Hebrews is giving us a picture of the heavenly city, in which place there will be gathered together with Christ the Unfallen angels, the resurrected and translated saints of the church age, and all resurrected Old Testament saints.

 

This interpretation finds support in Revelation 21:12-14, where the walls of the "holy Jerusalem" are described. Here the same threefold occupancy is indicated, for in verse 12 there is a reference to the angels and the twelve tribes of the children of Israel and in verse 14 reference to the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Thus the angels, saints of Israel and the Old Testament, and the saints of the church are included within the wall.

 

It would thus be concluded that it is the consistent teaching of Scripture that the Lord will gather unto Himself in the eternal city the Unfallen angels, the Old Testament saints, and the New Testament believers, where they, in resurrected glorified bodies, will share in the literal city and its glory, into which place they can only enter by resurrection.

 

It should be noted that this heavenly Jerusalem is not the sphere of the living saved who go into the millennium, for they will look to the rebuilt earthly Jerusalem as their capital city, but rather the dwelling place of the resurrected saints during the millennium. The living will realize the fulfillment of the national promises of the Old Testament in the millennium, while the resurrected will realize the fulfillment of the expectation of a "city which hath foundations" during the millennial age.

 

 

IV. A CONSIDERATION OF RELATED PASSAGES

Saved of Israel age, Saved of the Church age - One Great Shepherd

 

There are certain passages which seem to indicate that there will not be a great gulf between the saved of Israel and the saved of the church age, but that they will bear a direct relation the one to the other in their final state. "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd" (John 10:16). This passage would seem to indicate that there will be a relation of all saved to one another because they are related to the same shepherd. All the redeemed seem to be viewed as united into one flock under one shepherd. "Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matt. 19:27-28). "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world" (1 Cor. 6:2)?

 

These passages indicate that the saints who are included in the church are not to be entirely dissociated from the millennial age. This indicates that there will be a relation sustained between the living saints on the earth and the resurrected saints in the heavenly Jerusalem. The saints will exercise the ministry now committed to angels (Heb. 2:5-6).

 

"And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (Rev. 21:12, 14). It would seem to be clear that the occupants of this city are from the Old Testament age, the New Testament age, as well as Unfallen angels.

 

"Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years" (Rev. 20:6). The first resurrection is composed, not of church age saints alone, but of all individuals, of whatever age, who are raised to eternal life. While this resurrection takes place at different times in reference to different groups, the result is the same in each case ó the resurrection to eternal life. These resurrected ones are said to be priests and to reign with Him.

 

This first resurrection in Revelation 20:6 cannot be made to apply only to the church saints, for those here resurrected are those that have gone through the great tribulation and thus would not be included in the body of Christ, since the resurrection of the church has preceded this. And yet they are in the first resurrection and will reign with Christ. This must mean that all those who partake in the first resurrection have a common destiny, the New Jerusalem, from which they will be associated with Christ in His reign, whether they be Old or New Testament saints.

 

"His lord saith unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord" (Matt. 25:21). In this passage, which teaches the fact of Israel's judgment and reward, it is significant to notice that, while the rewards are said to be positions of privilege and responsibility in the millennium, the individual is not said to be placed in the millennium itself, but rather that he exercises his authority during the millennium.

 

"And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God" (Rev. 21:3). A comparison of the statement here with that in Ezekiel 37:27, where it was promised to Israel that God would tabernacle with men, and with such passages of Scripture as Isaiah 65:19 or Isaiah 25:8, where God promised release from sorrow, crying, and death, will show that what is promised here is the fulfillment of that which was the expectation of the Old Testament saint. While it may be argued that the church has similar promises, and Revelation 21:3 may refer to the fulfillment of these rather than those of Israel, yet the parallelism seems too significant to affirm that Israel is not included in this blessing. One would not say that there will not be the realization of these promises to Israel on the earth in the millennial age, yet it is suggested that resurrected Israel may experience those promises in the heavenly Jerusalem together with the church saints. It is to be noted that the word translated "people" is plural, "they shall be his peoples," indicating a plurality.

 

The Light of Christ - The Eternal City

"And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever" (Dan. 12:3). A comparison of this verse with Revelation 21:11, 18, in which context Israel is mentioned (v. 12), would show that the reflected glory of Christ, who is the source of all light, was the expectation of the Old Testament saint. This hope will be realized in the heavenly city in which the Old Testament saint will have a part and will experience the fulfillment of this promise.

 

"And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect" (Heb. 11:39-40). It seems to be indicated here that Israel cannot be made perfect until the body of Christ has been perfected. This would have added meaning if the place of Israel's saints' perfection and the place of the perfecting of the believers of this age should be one and the same.

 

If it be argued that such a view would rob the church of her heavenly heritage by uniting her with resurrected Israel and bringing her into a relation to the earth during the millennial age and the new earth to follow, let us follow the observation of Ottman: "The Church must be located somewhere in eternity, and if God has decreed to make the scene of her conflict the place of her eternal glory, who shall make His purpose void? Such a concrete conception as that of the Church being eternally connected with a literal city descending from heaven may be stigmatized as materialistic and sensuous, but it is better than the vague and misty fog that constitutes the idea of eternity entertained by so many. This city cannot be heaven, for it is said to descend from it. Heaven loses nothing by the loss of the city, nor does the Church lose her heavenly inheritance in her association with Him who has now come to fill the earth with His glory."[3]

 

If it be argued that such a view would empty heaven and take God from His dwelling place, one would conclude with Newell that "several considerations lead us toward the conclusion that the New Jerusalem is God's one eternal resting place.

 

1.     Immediately we see the new heaven and new earth and the New Jerusalem descending to the new earth (21:1, 2), we are told 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men'. . . . The object of the new heaven and earth is to bring about thisóthat God shall eternally have His home in this capital city of the new creation![4]
2.     No other eternal habitation of God is seen than this of the New Creation's capital. . . .
3.     This heavenly city has the glory of God (21:11, 23; 22:5). . . .
4.     It also has the throne of God, and the 'service' of 22:3, properly called priestly service, or spiritual worship. . .
5.     They shall see his face. . . . This, therefore, must be the place of God's rest forever.
6.     We need only to remember that the dwellers in the New Jerusalem 'shall reign unto the ages of the ages' (22:5). This could not be written of others than the inhabitants of the capital of the new creation.

 

The conclusion to this question would be that the Old Testament held forth a national hope, which will be realized fully in the millennial age. The individual Old Testament saint's hope of an eternal city will be realized through resurrection in the heavenly Jerusalem, where, without losing distinction or identity, Israel will join with the resurrected and translated of the church age to share in the glory of His reign forever. The nature of the millennium, as the period of the test of fallen humanity under the righteous reign of the King, precludes the participation by resurrected individuals in that testing. Thus the millennial age will be concerned only with men who have been saved but are living in their natural bodies. This heavenly city will be brought into a relation to the earth at the beginning of the millennium, and perhaps will be made visible above the earth. It is from this heavenly city that David's greater Son exerts His Messianic rule, in which the bride reigns, and from which the rewarded Old Testament saints exercise their authority in government.

 

If such an interpretation be correct, there would be a solution to the perplexing problem that arises from placing resurrected saints on the earth to mingle freely with the unresurrected during the millennium. The fulfillment of Israel's national promises would be realized, not in resurrected individuals, but rather in natural saved Israel who are living at the Second Advent. The unity of God's redemptive purposes in Christ would be preserved by bringing the first resurrection group together into one place, where the bride will share in His reign and His servants serve Him forever (Rev. 22:3). Such a view is in harmony with the Scriptures and solves some of the problems inherent in the premillennial system.


 

[1] Pentecost, Dwight, "Resurrected Saint VS Translated Saints," Bibliotheca Sacra, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Tx., October, 1960, Pages 331-334, Used by Permission, usage granted to AncientPath.net for selected articles for Limited printing and local Bible Study groups.

 

[2] J. Dwight Pentecost (born April 24, 1915). He currently is Distinguished Professor of Bible Exposition, Emeritus, at Dallas Theological Seminary, one of only two so honored. He holds a B.A. from Hampden-Sydney College, Th.M. and Th.D. degrees from Dallas Theological Seminary. During his academic career he has taught biblical subjects for nearly half a century (Philadelphia College of Bible, 1948-55; Dallas Theological Seminary, 1955-present). He is 97 years old. and lives in Dallas, Tx.

 

[3] Ford C. Ottman, The Unfolding of the Ages, p. 447.

[4] William R. Newell, The Book of the Revelation, pp. 353-54.

 

 


2013-01-22