Gospel of God, The (2 volume set), by Watchman Nee

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When exactly will the future chastisement be? It is clear that there will be chastisement in the future after the Lord comes back, but when after the Lord’s return will it be? Let us consider three ages in the Bible. The present age can be called the age of grace. It can also be called the age of the gospel or the age of the church. The coming age can be called the age of the kingdom or the millennial age, because that age will only last a thousand years (Rev. 20:6). After that age, there is yet another age, which is an eternal age. It is the age of the new heaven and new earth.

The Bible presents to us these three ages. The age of the church is the age of grace because God’s grace and love are manifested in it. In this age God saves the unrighteous ones and causes man to receive the grace of the Lord Jesus. Everything in this age is of grace. The coming age is the age of righteousness. The eternal age is also an age of grace. Today is an age of grace, and the new heaven and new earth is also an age of grace. But the kingdom is all righteousness. If you are not clear about these ages, your reading of the Bible, theology, and biblical understanding will be all wrong. Both the church age and the age of the new heaven and new earth are ages of grace. But the millennial age is a parenthetical age specially prepared by God for the reward of the faithful ones and the chastisement of the sinful ones. That is a special period.

Both the New Testament and the Old Testament tell us that in this period, God deals with man in righteousness (Psa. 72:2; 85:10-13; 96:13; 97:2; Isa. 11:5; 26:9; 33:5; 62:1; Jer. 33:15; Dan. 7:27). We can quote at least two hundred verses from the Old and New Testaments concerning the righteous judgment in the kingdom.

What is the difference between the kingdom and the new heaven and new earth? The Bible makes a clear distinction between the two. Let us consider Revelation 19:6-8. "And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunders, saying, Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns." Please notice that here is the beginning of the kingdom. "Let us rejoice and exult, and let us give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And it was given to her that she should be clothed in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteousnesses of the saints." Here we read that fine linen is given to the bride. But though it is given, it is nevertheless of righteousness. The fine linen is the righteousness in the actions of the believers. In the original language, the righteousnesses mentioned here refer to righteousness in actions. The word has the sense of actions. Hence, it refers to our own righteous acts.

Now let us read 20:4-6. "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and of those who had not worshipped the beast nor his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no authority, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years." These verses tell us who will be the kings who reign with Christ a thousand years. The kingdom is not for everybody. The kingdom is only for the martyrs. It is only for those who reject Satan and Antichrist. Only these ones can reign for a thousand years. Hence, only the martyrs can reign; only those who reject Satan and Antichrist will be kings. This proves to us that the millennial kingdom is not given as a free gift, but is obtained through good works before God. Although in other passages we see other kinds of people reigning, in Revelation we see that there must be specific righteousness before there can be participation in the marriage feast of the Lamb. Only those who are the martyrs can be the kings. Without having the particular righteousness and without being martyred, no one can have a part in the kingship. This is the millennium.

(Gospel of God, The (2 volume set), Chapter 22, by Watchman Nee)