During all the period of the Kingdom, the Jews and the nations are under trial; for probation does not end till the Son gives up the Kingdom to the Father. We may affirm absolute indefectibility only of those who have entered into the state of immortality and incorruption. How far all will render to God perfect obedience, we know not; but disobedience, whether of the individual or of a people, we may believe to be the rare exception. (See Isa. lxv. 20; Zech. xiv. 17, 18.) We are not told of any transgression till near the end, when Satan is unloosed, and "goes out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth." This implies that till this unloosing there was at least general obedience to God's will under the rule of the Messiah. Through Satan's temptation a great multitude are deceived, and "they compass the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city." This last outbreak of human wickedness is speedily suppressed. "Fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them." (Rev. xx. 1-10.)
It has seemed incredible to many that after the establishment of the Kingdom, and the wonderful manifestation of God in it through Christ, and the peace and blessing of all nations under His rule, there should be another outbreak of rebellion. But there is nothing in this that is not in perfect consistency with all that has preceded it in the record of man's apostasy. There is no salvation but by abiding in the redemptive grace of God, whatever be the measure of that grace. The nations here mentioned — those standing in the outer court, and most remote from God — do not so abide, but are tempted and fall. It is possible that it is anger at the higher position given the Jews, that is the irritating cause. But, whatever the cause, the series of apostasies is now complete. Adam in Eden fell through temptation; the world before the Flood corrupted its way, and perished; the Jews crucified their Lord; the Church has its apostasy and its conflict with Antichrist before it reaches the goal; and at last all the light and happiness of the Kingdom do not keep many of its subjects from rebellion when the Devil is unloosed. And we may note the suddenness of their destruction at the end. As the light given them has been great, so is their punishment.
Following immediately upon their destruction is the casting of Satan into "the lake of fire," the symbol of eternal punishment. Now has the Lord put all enemies under Him but one: "the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." All that are holden of death must now come forth. The Lord seats Himself on the great white throne, and "the sea gives up the dead which are in it, and death and hell deliver up the dead which are in them: and they are judged every man according to their works." Only the dead are here mentioned as brought into judgment. As we have seen, the living had been judged at the beginning of the Kingdom, and the unfaithful then cut off from the earth; and "the beast and false prophet were cast alive into the lake of fire," and all with him slain by the sword of Him that sat upon the horse; and there had been also a partial resurrection of the dead, "the resurrection of the just." Now at the end of the Kingdom the Jews and the Gentiles — all that have remained faithful but have not received the body of incorruption, and all that remain under death — are to be judged. The former, doubtless, enter without tasting death into a higher condition of being, free from all effects of sin, and blessed forever; but whether they enter into the Most Holy, and all distinctions of degree among the saved are then removed, we may not say. The dead, also, are judged according to their works; and all not written in the Book of Life come under the power of the second death. This last act of judgment being accomplished, death and hell — the grave and the place of disembodied souls — are no more needed. All, both good and evil, enter in their bodies into their eternal rewards.
The redemptive work is thus finished: the Messiah has reigned till all things have been put under His feet, and the last enemy, death, has been brought to naught. All things having been subjected unto Ilim, the end has come when He must deliver up the Kingdom to God the Father. "When all things have been subjected unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subjected to Him that did subject all things unto Him, that God may be all in all." It is impossible for us to understand what may be the full meaning of these words; but it is plain that, evil being suppressed, and all being brought into obedience to God, there may now be such a revelation of His glory to Ilia holy creatures as was not possible before, even in the Kingdom. That the Son as incarnate — the God-man — is ever the image of God to all creatures, and the Ruler over all His works, is involved in the very nature of the Incarnation, and is abundantly said by the prophets and apostles; and what He now gives up, is the special rule administered by Him for his works of redemption and judgment. He ceases to be Redeemer because redemption is completed: His place as universal King belongs to Him as the Son of God and Son of man, a prerogative inseparably connected with His person.
As the Messianic Kingdom is a time of higher revelation of God than any preceding it, it is thus a preparation for the still higher revelation to be made when the redemptive gives place to the eternal age. Respecting this the Scriptures are silent. Whether all the redeemed, both Jews and the nations, will then be exalted into the same state of dignity and glory into which the Church has already been exalted, and all distinctions of relation and condition will then cease; or whether they will continue to stand in distinct relations to God through Christ, and will fulfill special functions in the actings of God, perhaps towards other creatures in other worlds, during the ages to come, has not been clearly revealed; but the past leads us to expect in the future differences of calling and positions and degrees of honor.