The Church After Redemption. When the work of the Remnant church, the church of the most holy place, is completed, the Investigative Judgment, the Judgment of the house of God, closes. Then all whose names have not been blotted out of the Book of Life - those who have passed the Judgment test - will be removed from this earth to "the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem," and become "the general assembly and church of the Firstborn." Heb. 12:22,23.
When the Son of God left heaven and entered upon His mission in the court of earth, the prophecy of Micah 5:2 met its fulfillment. When at His ascension He left the court and entered the holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, the prophecy of Daniel 9:24 was fulfilled. When in 1844 He left the holy place, and passed within the second veil into the most holy place, the prophecy of the 2300 days of Daniel 8:14 was fulfilled. When His ministry in the most holy place closes, and His mediatorial work is finished, the prophecy of Revelation 8:3-5 will be fulfilled. These prophecies mark epochal events in the work of redemption. When all are fulfilled, the redeemed in the New Jerusalem "shall be priests of God and of Christ . . . . a thousand years," Rev. 20:6, during which time they are associated with Him in the judgment of the wicked. I Cor. 6:2,3.
Christ "The Firstborn." Christ, the only begotten Son of God, is also the Son of man. He is "the firstborn" of those who, though human, have become âpartakers of the divine nature,â - conformed to the image of His Son." II Peter 1:3,4; Rom. 6:29. He is "the firstborn of every creature." Col. 1:15. He is "the first begotten of the dead;" Rev. 1:5; that is, the first who rose from the dead by His own power, for concerning His life He said, "I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." John 10:17,18. He thus becomes "the first-fruits of them that slept." I Cor. 15:20. By virtue of this double relationship - being Son of God and Son of man - and by virtue of the fact that like the earthly high priest who was the firstborn who inherited his office because he was the firstborn, so Christ the Firstborn becomes, by inheritance, the heavenly High Priest, the divine-human Head of the church of the Firstborn.
The "Household of God." Christ is declared to be "the Firstborn of a great brotherhood," Rom. 8:29, Moffatt, "Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at His coming." I Cor. 15:23. He is the "Elder Brother," the redeemed are His brethren. In the household of God there will be no divided families. "Both He that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren." Heb. 2:11; Matt. 12:50. Having been "born again," born into the family of God, Christ's brethren, like Himself, are "the sons of God." I John 3:2. At His coming the "household of God," Eph. 2:19, so long separated from Him, will be united, and then Christ's prayer "that they also may be one in Us," John 17:21, will be fully answered.
The Membership of the Church of the Firstborn. "They that depart from Me shall be written in the earth," Jer. 17:13, but the names of "the general assembly and church of the Firstborn" are "written in heaven," Heb. 12:22,23, - written by the Father Himself in His book, Ex. 32:32, the Book of Life. These compose the membership of the church of the heavenly Jerusalem. They are "a great multitude, which no man could number." Rev. 7:9. They have been gathered from every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, from the days of Adam to the close of probation. All these have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. They are graven upon the palms of His hands, Isa. 49:16, and are pre-eminently His - His church, the church of the Firstborn.
The Final Addition To This Church. The last group added to the church of the Firstborn is spoken of in the Bible as the 144,000. Rev. 7:4. Because they havd stoutly refused to worship the
beast and his image, but have kept "the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus," Rev. 14:9,12, the wrath of Satan Is aroused, Rev. 12:17, and he is allowed to bring upon them every imaginable distress to test their faith and sway them, if possible, from their allegiance to God. As a result, it is written of them, "These are they which came out of great tribulation;" Rev. 7:14; that last fearful conflict with the beast and his image. The redeemed of all ages have had to battle with the beast, but in this last great struggle, the 144,000 meet him under the most adverse conditions, when he is more furious than ever before against those who obey God. Unlike any other group of the redeemed, they live through the time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation. Dan. 12:1. "They have endured the anguish of the time of Jacob's trouble; they have stood without an Intercessor through the final outpouring of God's judgments; . . . they have seen the earth wasted with famine and pestilence, the sun having power to scorch men with great heat, and they themselves have endured suffering, hunger, and thirst," GC 649. At times, it has almost seemed that God has forsaken them. This enables them better to understand that last agonizing prayer of Christ, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Matt. 27:46. These extreme circumstances require unprecedented endurance and patience, therefore of them it is written, "Here is the patience of the saints." Rev. 14:12.
While this has been a severe test of their faith, yet they have remained loyal to God and His Word. His truth has been their "shield and buckler." Ps. 91:4 : Finally they have been delivered, and to them is fulfilled the precious promise, "They shall hunger no more; neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." Rev. 7:16,17.
Victory under these unfavorable and distressing conditions, brings a special reward. As in the type the Levites in the earthly sanctuary were honored with the care of the sanctuary because they stood true in a crisis hour, so the 144,000, who have stood true in their crisis hour, are honored by serving God day and night in His temple, a "token of highest honor." Ed 148. The 144,000 have this special reward, not so much because they have reached a higher state of character perfection than others of the redeemed, for all who inherit the earth, will be meek, all who obtain mercy will be merciful, all who see God, will be peace-makers. Mat-.5:5-9. All the redeemed will be free from guile, all will be partakers of the divine nature. To all are addressed the words, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Matt. 5:48. All will be without fault before the throne of God. All will be like Him, for they shall see Him as He is. I John 3:2. Of all it is written, "They. . . have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." All the "spots" have been washed away, all the "wrinkles" ironed out, all the "blemishes" removed. Eph. 5:27.
Its Mission Governed by Changed Conditions. While the foundation of every generation of the church is the same, being laid by Him with whom there is "no variableness, neither shadow of turning,," James 1:17, yet to each generation has been committed a work specially needed in, and suited to, its time. As already noted, the special responsibility of the Hebrew church the church of the court was presenting to idol worshipers a knowledge of the true God, the Creator, as memorialized in the Sabbath of His law; the Christian church, the church of the holy place was to emphasize faith in a crucified, risen, and ascended Lord; the special assignment given to the Remnant church, the church of the most holy place may be summed up thus: proclaiming the judgment message as revealed in prophecies, giving to the world a correct understanding of the sanctuary and of the law of God, preaching the gospel of the kingdom in its original purity, and proclaiming the signs of Christ's second coming.
What will be the special mission of the church of the Firstborn, the church of the temple eternal? It will certainly be vastly different from that of any preceeding generation of the church, because its environment and conditions will be entirely different. Loyalty to God's unchangeable law needs no emphasis now, because His law is in the mind, and written in the heart of everyone who has been redeemed. Heb. 8:10. There will be no need to urge faith in Christ as the Sacrifice for
sin, for faith is now lost in sight - He bears in His own glorious body the marks of His sacrifice. No need now to warn men of a Judgment to come and to urge them to prepare for the second coming of Christ; all this is past.
In this church there will be no need for missionaries to leave their homes and face dangers and hardships that those in darkness may know of the love of God. 0, no! "They shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest." Heb. 8:11. There will be no need for doctors or nurses, for there "the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick." Isa. 33:24. No need there for carpenters, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, bakers, tailors, lawyers, and those of other occupations by which men now earn a livelihood, for "my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Phil. 4:19. "All things are yours; . . . and ye are Christ's and Christ is God's." I Cor. 3: 21,23.
The First One Thousand Years. During the first one thousand years following their arrival in heaven, the redeemed, those who had "part in the first resurrection. . . shall be priests of God and of Christ." Rev. 20:4,6; Dan. 7:22. "The saints shall judge the world," I Cor. 6:2 - the wicked who still await their judgment. They shall also "judge angels," I Cor. 6:3; Jude 6 - "the third part" of the angels who with Satan were "cast out into the earth." Rev. 12:4,9; GC 600, 601.
As nothing else could do, this experience will make clear to the redeemed that in the final and complete destruction of the wicked, root and branch, Mal. 4:1, God is just and righteous. Even in the case of relatives and friends who have refused or neglected salvation, Heb. 2:1-3, they will be satisfied that He has done everything that a God of love and justice could do and at the same time keep His promise that "affliction shall not rise up the second time." Nahum 1:9. To many of the redeemed this will be a time of mourning and weeping, but when it is past, when the new heaven and the new earth are created, God "shall wipe away all tears from their eyes," and "there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away." Rev. 21:4. This participation in the work of the Judgment will be a sort of post-graduate course in that science of all sciences - the science of redemption.
Varied Occupations of the Redeemed. When the one thousand years are past, what shall the redeemed do? Surely, merely to sit idly by the river of life and eat of the tree of live, or to play a harp of gold and sing a lively song throughout eternity, - this would not be heaven for those who have the immortal vigor of eternal youth. There will be earnest, but joyful work for all, but not all will necessarily have the same occupation. Some will "build houses," but not as we build here; some will "plant vineyards," Isa. 65:21, though under vastly different conditions of soil and climate; they shall not labor in vain, v. 23, and they "shall long enjoy the work of their hands." v.22. Others will serve God "day and night in His temple;" Rev. 7:15; and "follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth" Rev. 14:4.
Students in the School of the Hereafter. The entire church of the Firstborn will be students in "The school of the hereafter," and Christ Himself will be the Master Teacher. Besides this school, which meets for instruction during the week, outside the New Jerusalem, we are told that in the City "from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before. . . the Lord." Isa. 66:23. This will be the weekly Sabbath-school and divine service for the church of the Firstborn. Here also, all the angels will be present, thus making up God's "whole family;" Eph. 3:15; no one will be absent, no one tardy.
In the earthly sanctuary the Shekinah, representing the glory of God, was hidden by the veil. But in the New Jerusalem the redeemed may look upon His glory "without a dimming veil between." GC 677. "The people of God are privileged to hold open communion with the Father and the Son." "And they shall see His face." Rev. 22:4. They "shall stand in His presence, and behold the glory of His countenance." GC 676. "Thine eyes shall see the King.in His beauty." Isa. 33:17. As if this were not enough to satisfy every soul desire, we are told that the redeemed, unfettered by morality will have the wonderful privilege of visiting the unfallen worlds, and sharing with them the
joys of redeeming love. What a glad occasion this will be both for the redeemed and for the "worlds afar!" GC 677.
Will it not be abundantly worth while to be a member of the church of the Firstborn.? We may, if at the close of our probation we can say with Paul, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing." II Tim. 4:7,8.
The Four Generations of the Church
Sinai Calvary End of the Close of Probation 2300 days
Hebrew Church of the Court
Christian Church of the Holy Place
Remnant Church of the Most Holy Place
Firstborn Church of the Temple Eternal
Christ Rejected and Crucified
Faith in a Risen Saviour
Judgment of the House of God
Christ as Priest King Forever
Every Generation of the Church Sealed with the Sabbath. The Sabbath is God's seal with which He seals His disciples, His church, Isa. 8:16. It is "a sign between Me and you (God and His church) throughout your generations." Ex. 31:13-17. This sign, His signature, is His name which He writes In the foreheads of those who are sealed. Rev. 7:3; 22:4. As a seal validates a document, so God's seal, the Sabbath, validates His church. At the very beginning of each generation of His church, God put on it His seal, the Sabbath, "the foundation of many generations." Isa. 58:12:
1. The Hebrew generation of the church was founded on God's law, the seal of which is the Sabbath. About 1500 B.C. when the Father through the Son spoke His law from Sinai with power and great glory. This was the birthday of the Hebrew church.
2. The Christian generation of the church was established when Christ's representative, the Holy Spirit, was sent to the church of believers. Acts 2:1-4. This was on the last divinely recognized Pentecost which in A.D. 31 fell on the Sabbath. It was the birthday of the Christian church.
3. At the very beginning of the Remnant generation of the church, October 22, 1844, the Sabbath, God's seal, which "the little horn" had buried beneath the rubbish of error, was divinely revealed and restored to the people of God. Rev. 11:19. This was the birthday of the Remnant Church.
4. The church of the Firstborn which will begin at the second coming of Christ, will continue to observe the divine command, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy," as throughout eternity it will meet for worship "from one Sabbath'to another." Isa. 66:23. Thus on every generation of the church God has placed His sign or signature. His name. His seal the Sabbath. And those who obey, cooperate with Him who came to this earth to "magnify the law and make it honorable." Isa. 42:21.