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Christ's coming, the resurrection, the judgment prepared, the
books opened, the sentence pronounced and execuled.
1. Christ Jesus will, in a most magnificent manner, descend from heaven with all the holy angels. The man Christ Jesus is now in the heaven of heavens, or, as the apostle expresses it, far above all heavens, Eph. iv. 10. And there he hath been ever since his ascension, being there enthroned in glory, in the midst of millions of angels and blessed spirits. But when the time, appointed for the day of judgment shall have come, notice of it will be given in those happy regions, and Christ will descend to the earth, attended with all those heavenly hosts, in a most solemn, awful, and glorious manner.
Christ will come with divine majesty, he will come in the glory of the Father, Matt. xvi. 27. For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father, with his angels.
We can now conceive but little of the holy and awful magnificence in which Christ will appear, as he shall come in the clouds of heaven, or of the glory of his retinue. How mean and despicable, in comparison with it, is the most splendid appearance that earthly princes can make! A glorious visible light will shine round about him, and the earth, with all nature, will tremble at his presence. How vast and innumerable will that host be which will appear with him! Heaven will be for the time deserted of its inhabitants.
We may argue the glory of Christ's appearance, from his appearance at other times. When he appeared in transfiguration, his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. The apostle Peter long after spake of this appearance in magnificent terms, 2 Pet. i. 16, 17. We were eye-witnesses of his majesty ; for he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory. And his appearances to St. Paul at his convere sion, and to St. John, as_related in Rev. i. 13, &c. were very grand and magnificent. But we may conclude, that his appear ance at the day of judgment will be vastly more so than either of these, as the occasion will be so much greater.
We have good reason to think, that our nature, in the present frail state, could not bear the appearance of the majesty in which he will then be seen.
We may argue the glory of his appearance, from the appearances of some of the angels to men; as of the angel that appeared at Christ's sepulchre, after his resurrection, Matt. xxviii. 3. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow.
The angels will doubtless all of them make as VOL. VI.
glorious an appearance at the day of judgment, as ever any of them have made on former occasions. How glorious then, will be the retinue of Christ, made up of so many thousands of such angels! and how much more glorious will Christ, the judge himself, appear, than those his attendants ! Doubtless their God will appear immensely more glorious than they.
Christ will thus descend into our air, to such a distance from the surface of the earth, that every one, when all shall be gathered together, shall see him, Rev. i. 7. Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him.
Christ will make this appearance suddenly, and to the great surprise of the inhabitants of the earth. It is therefore compared to a cry at midnight, by which men are wakened in a great surprise.
2. At the sound of the last trompet, the dead shall rise, and the living shall be changed. As soon as Christ is descended, the last trumpet shall sound, as a notification to all mankind to appear; at which mighty sound shall the dead be immediately raised, and the living changed: 1 Cor. xv. 52. “For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed;" Matt. xxiv. 31. “and he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet :” 1 Thess. iv. 16. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God." There will be some great and remarkable signal given for the rising of the dead, which it seems will be some mighty sound, caused by the angels of God who shall attend on Christ.
Upon this all the dead shall rise from their graves; all, both small and great, who shall have lived upon earth since the foundation of the world; those who died before the flood, and those who were drowned in the flood; all that bave died since that time, and that shall die, to the end of the world. There will be a great moving upon the face of the earth and in the waters, in bringing bone to his bone, in opening graves, and bringing together all the scattered particles of dead bodies. The earth shall give up the dead that are in it, and the sea shall give up the dead that are in it.
However the parts of the bodies of many are divided and scattered; however many have been burnt, and their bodies have been turned to ashes and smoke, and driven to the four winds; however many have been eaten of wild beasts, of the fowls of heaven, and the fishes of the sea ; however many have consumed away upon the face of the earth, and great part of their bodies have ascended in exhalations; yet the all-wise and all-powerful God can immediately bring every part to his part again.
of this vast multitude some shall rise to life, and others to condemnation, John v. 28, 29. “All that are in the graves shall
hear his voice, and shall come forth, they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life ; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation."
When the bodies are prepared, the departed souls shall again enter into their bodies, and be reunited to them, never more to be separated. The souls of the wicked shall be brought up out of hell, though not out of misery, and shall very unwillingly enter into their bodies, which will be but eternal prisous to them. Rev. xx. 13. “ and death and hell delivered up the dead that were in them.” They shall lift their eyes full of the utmost amazement and horror to see their awful Judge. And perhaps the bodies with which they shall be raised will be most filthy and loathsome, thus properly corresponding to the inward, moral turpitude of their souls.
The souls of the righteous shall descend froin heaven together with Christ and his angels: 1 Thess. iv. 14. “ Them also which sleep in Jesus, shall God bring with him. They also shall be re-united to their bodies, that they may be glorified with them. They shall receive their bodies prepared by God to be mansions of pleasure to all eternity. They shall be every way fitted for the uses, the exercises, and delights of perfectly holy and glorified souls. They shall be clothed with a super
a lative beauty, similar to that of Christ's glorious body: Phil. iii. 21. “Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body.” Their bodies shall rise incorruptible, no more liable to pain or disease, and with an extraordinary vigour and vivacity, like that of those spirits that are as a flame of fire. 1 Cor. xv. 43, 44. “ It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory : it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body." With what joy will the souls and bodies of the saints meet, and with what joy will they lift up their heads out of their graves to behold the glorious sight of the appearing of Christ! And it will be a glorious sight to see those saints arising out of their graves, putting off their corruption, and putting on incorruption and glory.
At the same time, those that shall then be alive upon the earth shall be changed. Their bodies shall pass through a great change, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye; 1 Cor. xv. 51, 52. Behold, I show you a great mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,
* at the last trump: The bodies of the wicked then living will be changed into such hideous things, as shall be answerable to the Joathsome souls that dwell in them, and such as shall be prepared to receive and ad ninister eternal torments without dissojution. But the bodies of the righteous shall be changed into the same glorious and immortal form in which those that shall be raised will appear.
3. They shall all be brought to appear before Christ, the godly being placed on the right hand, the wicked on the left; Matt. xxv. 31, 32, 33. The wicked, however unwilling, how
. ever full of fear and horror, shall be brought or driven before the judgment-seat. However they may try to hide themselves, and for this purpose creep into deps and caves of the mountains, and cry to the mountains to fall on them, and hide them from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; yet there shall not one escape; to the judge they must come, and stand on the left hand with devils. On the contrary, the righteous will be joyfully conducted to Jesus Christ, probably by the angels. Their joy will, as it were, give them wings to carry them thither. They will with ecstacies and raptures of delight meet their friend and saviour, come into his presence, and stand at his right hand.
Besides the one standing on the right hand and the other on the left, there seems to be this difference between them, that when the dead in Christ shall be raised, they will all be caught up into the air, where Christ shall be, and shall be there at his right hand during the judgment, never more to set their feet on this earth. Whereas the wicked shall be left standing on the earth, there to abide the judgment. 1 Thess. iv. 16, 17. The dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
And what a vast congregation will there be of all the men, women and children that shall have lived upon earth from the beginning to the end of the world! Rer. xx. 12. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God.
4. The next thing will be, that the books shall be opened : Rev. xx. 12. I saw the dead, great and small stand before God; and the books were opened. Which books seem to be these two, the book of God's remembrance, and the book of scripture ; the former as the evidence of their deeds which are to be judged, the latter as the rule of judgment. The works both of the righteous and of the wicked will be brought forth, that they may be judged according to them, and those works will be tried according to the appointed and written rule.
(1.) The works of both righteous and wicked will be rehearsed. The book of God's remembrance will be first opened. The various works of the children of men are, as it were, written by God in a book of remembrance, Mal. ii. 16. A book of remembrance was written before him. However ready ungodly men may be to make light of their own sins, and to forget them; yet God never forgetteth any of them : neither doth God forget any of the good works of the saints. If they give but a cup of cold water with a spirit of charity, God remembers it.
The evil works of the wicked shall then be brought forth to light. They must then hear of all their profaneness, their impenitence, their obstinate unbelief, their abuse of ordinances, and various other sins. The various aggravations of their sins will also be brought to view, as how this man sinned after such and such warnings, that after the receipt of such and such mercies; one after being so and so favoured with outward light, another after having been the subject of inward conviction, excited by the immediate agency of God. Concerning these sins, they shall be called to account to see what answer they can make for themselves : Matt. xii. 36. But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. Rom. xiv. 12. So then
every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
The good works of the saints will also be brought forth as evidences of their sincerity, and of their interest in the righteousness of Christ. As to their evil works, they will not be brought forth against them on that day : for the guilt of them will not lie upon them, they being clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The Judge himself will have taken the guilt of their sins upon him; therefore their sins will not stand against them in the book of God's remembrance. The account of them will appear to have been cancelled before that time. The account that will be found in God's book will not be of debt, but of credit. God cancels their debts, and sets down their good works, and is pleased, as it were, to make himself a debtor for them, by his own gracious act.
Both good and bad will be judged according to their works ; Rev. xx. 12. “And the dead were judged out of those things that were found written in the books, according to their works ;' and verse 13. “And they were judged every man according to their works." Though the righteous are justified by faith, and not by their works, yet they shall be judged according to their works: then works shall be brought forth as the evidence of their faith. Their faith, on that great day, shall be tried by its fruits. If the works of any man shall have been bad; if his life shall appear to have been unchristian, that will condemn him, without any further inquiry. But if his works, when they
, shall be examined, prove good, and of the right sort, he shall surely be justified. They will be declared as a sure evidence of his having believed in Jesus Christ, and of his being clothed with his righteousness.
But by works, we are to understand all voluntary exercises of the faculties of the soul; as, for instance, the words and conversation of men, as well as whạt is done with their hands : Matt. xii. “ By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." Nor are we to understand only outward acts, or the thoughts outwardly expressed, but,