NO PROBATION AFTER CHRIST COMES.
THE third direct antithesis between the views of the Pre- and Post-millennialists to be brought to the testing of God’s Word is the following:
Post-millennialists hold that the propagation of the race ceases at the second coming of the Lord, and that the day of probation and salvation then closes. From that glorious and dread time men will no longer continue to be born and live and die, and it will be too late to seek and find salvation. From the instant that the radiance of His appearing flashes over land and sea, the history of the race in the flesh closes, and there will be no change of moral condition or destiny; but the eternal future of all will be fixed for weal or woe. The Church shall not thereafter receive enlargement, but complete with the fulness of the redeemed, shall enter into the everlasting joy of her Lord.
On the other hand, while a small section of Pre-millennialists believe that the wicked will be exterminated when our Lord comes, the great body of them hold that the race will continue in the flesh, and the period of probation and salvation keep right on after our Lord has come again. Nay, all but a very small section believe it is only after His coming that the Gospel is to have its great triumphs in leading the bulk of mankind to salvation. Until then the world is to grow worse and worse, until evil culminates in the antichrist, whom Christ is to destroy at His coming. Then, through the assertion of His might in personal presence, the world, which has been growing worse and worse to its terrible and evil culmination, will be brought to His feet, and He shall reign over the earth in millennial glory. For a thousand years—some hold for three hundred and sixty five thousand years—this glorious era is to continue, those who are born being converted in childhood. The number of the saved, instead of being complete at Christ’s coming, is to enlarge during all this stretch of time, in this heyday of the Gospel, by virtually the whole tide of life which keeps flooding across the earth.
Let us bring the constituent elements of these clearly defined and opposing beliefs to the testing of God’s Word.
1. Is the race to continue in the flesh after our Lord comes? Will children continue to be born and live and die, for at least a thousand years, after this grand event? Nay, as this is to be a period when peace is unbroken, and all that militates against the prosperity of men will be suppressed, it cannot but be supposed that the race will be more prolific than when under the blight and curse of sin. Is it the teaching of the Word of God that the earth will be crowded as never before with thronging myriads of men and women in the flesh, after the second coming of the Lord?
First of all, how can this view be reconciled with 2 Peter 3:3-13? Observe especially v. 7: “But the heavens that are now, and the earth by the same word, have been stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men;” v. 10: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief, in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up;” and v. 12, “Looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.”
Now, what is the natural interpretation of this passage? In its connection is it not this? To the “mockers” who shall come “in the last days” (v. 3), and who wilfully forget the destruction by the flood and scoffingly ask, “Where is the promise of his coming?” (vs. 4-6), the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men (v. 7), this “day of the Lord” with its destruction—now by fire instead of water—will come as a “thief in the night” (v. 10), in like surprising suddenness. There is no warning any more than there was to the antediluvians. Now, at what time is this conflagration to occur? Paul doubtless refers to the same dread day in 2 Thess. 1:7, 8, and declares it to be “at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power,” that he, “in flaming fire,” renders “vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel.” This, then, is to take place at the second coming of our Lord. Besides, it is hard to see how there could be scoffers who would say, “Where is the promise of his coming?” after our Lord had come and raised the righteous dead and translated those who were alive, and right in the face of our Lord’s personal reign over the earth.
This conflagration, then, is to take place at the coming of the Lord, and before the millennium, if His coming is pre-millennial. This has not only been admitted but assumed by the great body of Pre-millennialists in the past. It is also unhesitatingly held by all to-day who believe that the Lord will destroy all the wicked at His coming, and end the life in the flesh. It can be denied by none except at the expense of the very plain meaning of the passage. But all who believe the race is to continue in the flesh during the millennium have a great difficulty to face. It is to explain how the living could survive the flames of that day, “when the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” The attempts that have been made to meet it are as various as they are futile. Here are some of them. The conflagration is to be but partial, extending only to the limits of the Roman territory. The rest of the races survive and people the earth during the millennium. But surely “the earth and the works that are therein” means all the earth. The conflagration is not to be contemporaneous over all the earth, and thus a chance will be given for some to escape. There will be a less searching conflagration at the beginning of the millennium, through which some live, and the fierce dissolving one is at its close, etc., etc.” Blackstone places it after the judgment of the wicked, thus extending the day of the Lord beyond the last judgment. But the “mockers” Peter speaks of are to be surprised as by “a thief in the night” by the burning day. How, then, can they be surprised by this day, if it does not come until after they are judged and have passed to their final doom? Upon whom can this day come “as a thief” after the judgment?
May we not submit that all the attempts to evade this difficulty are makeshifts and pure assumptions, and have no weight against the natural interpretation of the passage? This conflagration is at the coming of the Lord, and it ends the life of the race in the flesh. If the Lord comes before the millennium, then there is no continuance of the race in the flesh during the millennium, as Scripture teaches. The idea that this grand period stretches onward from the coming of the Lord, rather than precedes it, is erroneous.
2. Does probation continue after the Lord’s second coming? The Pre-millennialist answers “Yes,” the Post-millennialist “No.” Which view is favored by the plain teaching of the Bible?
Let us weigh the bearing upon this question of some passages already referred to in another connection.
“All the nations” shall be gathered before our Lord, when He “shall come in his glory” (Matt. 25:31 sq.). What right has anyone to assume that “all the nations” here means but a part of them and less than all men, any more than to assume that “make disciples of all the nations” (Matt. 28:19) means make disciples of a part only of mankind? But “all the nations”—all men—are here declared to enter upon their final and eternal reward or punishment at our Lord’s “coming in glory.” Probation then ends forever.
“Them that know not God” and “them that obey not the gospel” (2 Thess. 1:8) are evidently comprehensive expressions including all the unsaved. But these are all to “suffer punishment, even eternal destruction, when he shall come,” etc. (vs. 9, 10). Probation then ends for all the unsaved.
In the parable of the tares (Matt 13:24-33, 38-43) at “the harvest” at “the end of the world” or age, which our pre-millennial brethren admit to be at our Lord’s coming, “the tares are to be gathered in bundles to burn them,” and the “wheat into the barn” (v. 30). Neither the tares nor the wheat continue to grow in the field—the race in the flesh continues no longer. Our Lord explains the tares to mean “all things that cause stumbling and them that do iniquity,” and they are to be “cast into the furnace of fire” (vs. 41, 42), The time of probation for “them that do iniquity” ends with their final destruction at our Lord’s coming. In 2 Thess. 2:3-12 there is a description of the development of an evil power apparently embodied in a person, whom the Lord Jesus shall “slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of his coming.” No one can read this whole passage and not be impressed with the conviction that Paul regarded the coming of the Lord as the dividing point between the reign of grace for sinners and their final doom.
The teaching of several other parables is to the same effect. Take that of the ten virgins (Matt. 25: 1-13). Let this refer to whom it may, it was too late, after the bridegroom came, for preparation to enter into the marriage feast. Only those who were ready when he came had this blessed privilege. The door was shut to all others. Also the parables of the talents and the pounds (Matt. 25: 14-30 sq., Luke 19:12-27).
When the lord of the servants cometh, it is to reckon with them, not to allow longer time so that the past neglect and unfaithfulness may be retrieved. The faithful receive their reward and the unfaithful their punishment. The plain teaching seems to be, in all of these, that the coming of the Lord ends probation—that after He comes, no change from a lost to a saved condition takes place.
Several other lines of Scripture teaching corroborate the view that probation ends at the coming of the Lord. The work of discipling the nations, with the ordinances of the Gospel, continues only until our Lord comes.
This is taught in the great commission (Matt. 28:18-20): “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them. . . . Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
Why does our Lord say “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world”? Is He not to be with them forever? Do not our pre-millennial brethren believe He is to be with His people on earth, after “the end of the world” (which they say means of this present age), in the millennium in the more intimate and helpful bodily presence? Does this not mean that He will be with His people in the work of making disciples “alway” as long as this work is to continue, and that it is to continue “until the end of the world” or age, which Pre-millennialists declare to be the time of His second coming? He is said to be with them no longer in this capacity as their almighty helper, simply because this work is then to be completed and end? If our Lord is to continue with His people as their helper in this very work, after the end of the world or age, if then He is to manifest His power to aid His people to make disciples of the nations, as never before, could He possibly have used these words?
In 1 Cor. 11:26 it is also said that believers are to show forth the Lord’s death in the Supper “till he come,” meaning that after His coming its celebration is to cease.
The same is taught in Heb. 9:24-28. Christ has entered “into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us” (v. 24), after having “once at the end of the ages . . . been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh judgment: so Christ also, having been once offered to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time apart from sin, to them that wait for him, unto salvation” (vs. 26-28).
Having accomplished His redemption “before the face of God,” then He is to come forth from His place of mediation and appear a second time to men on earth. The first time it was “to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” This time it is “apart from sin” “unto salvation.” Does not both the leaving of the place of mediation, as well as the expression “apart from sin . . . unto salvation” in contrast with His first coming “to put away sin,” mean that the provision and purpose of the redemptive work of His first coming shall have been completely realized in reference to salvation, when He comes again?
It is also taught that the number of the saved will be complete at our Lord’s coming.
1 Cor. 15:22, 23 ought to be conclusive. “For as in Adam all die so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then they that are Christ’s at his coming.”
Paul is speaking of believers in this chapter. All who have Christ as their spiritual head shall be made alive at His coming, just as through having Adam as their natural head, they all die. Just as surely as Christ is the spiritual head of all who are ever to be His through appropriating His work, so surely the “all” of v. 22 and the “all that are his” of v. 23 include all that are ever to be saved by Him. These are all to be raised “at his coming” in the grand scene Paul proceeds to describe, and compared to which the resurrection of our Lord is as the firstfruits to the completed harvest. There is no room here for the idea that only part of those who belong to Christ as head are raised at His coming, or that untold multitudes are added to their number after that decisive event. Other Scriptures might be added to establish this position; but we forbear.
Thus we find that all related lines of Scripture testimony unite in teaching that probation ends with our Lord’s second coming. We make bold to say that a plain passage cannot be produced in favor of a continuance of probation after His coming. Reliance is had by our pre-millennial friends upon obscure prophetic teaching which is capable of a far different interpretation, and upon inferences from their whole system of teaching. But if there is no probation after our Lord comes, then, unless none are to be saved from the beginning of the millennium, our Lord’s coming must be after and not before that period.
 Brown, “The Second Advent,” p. 273 sq.
 Blackstone, “Jesus is Coming,” p. 137.