The Judgment Seat:
At Sinai or Jerusalem?
The question in our chapter heading is not an academic one; it has a personal bearing because the answer to the question affects the time when Jesus calls us to judgment.
There are three scriptures on which the traditional view of the judgment at Sinai rest: Deuteronomy Chapter 33; Psalm 68; Habakkuk Chapter 3. Each of these scriptures show a future coming of Yahweh and His Holy Ones from Sinai; and this requires the judgment seat to be at Sinai. We will examine these scriptures.
Deuteronomy Chapter 33:1-3: From Sinai to Save Israel.
This chapter in Deuteronomy gives Moses blessing before his death. It opens: Yahweh came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them. The question posed is, whether this is only an historical statement, or whether it is a prophecy of a second coming from Sinai still to be fulfilled. The use of the past tense does not prevent this being a prophecy; for we are aware of various other occasions where God speaks of future things as if they were already accomplished (Acts 15:8, Psa. 110:1, Isa. 53:4-9, etc.) We shall find on examination that this is part of a whole prophecy on Israels future blessings.
Before examining the chapter, let us note the context of the previous chapters. Already in chapter 28, Moses has declared blessings and curses that relate to their first occupation of the land under the Mosaic covenant. Also he sketches the history of the nation; their captivity under the Babylonian yoke and under the Roman yoke, and the long period when the land is desolate and Israel scattered among the nations. In chapter 30 he comes to the time when these blessings and curses have been fulfilled; the nation turns to God and they are regathered to their land; God circumcises their heart so that they love the Lord their God, 30:6. This latter-day happening is associated with their faith in Jesus Christ; for it is verses 11-14 of this chapter that Paul quotes in Romans 10:6-8, to establish the righteousness of faith by belief in Jesus. Then in chapter 32, God instructs Moses about the song to be put in the mouth of Israel, as a witness against them. This Song briefly describes their waywardness and punishment through the centuries, and then comes to the time when The Lord shall judge his people and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up or left. Then God arises to destroy the enemy, and the song concludes: Rejoice O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries and will be merciful to his land and to his people. When now we come to chapter 33 and the final blessing we surely should expect Moses to be looking to the end of Israels history and their final glory, we should expect it to be a prophecy. And as part of that prophecy we have the coming from Sinai and the rising up from Seir.
A Prophecy of the Future.
Let us first look at the chapter as a whole and see that it is a chapter of future blessings to Israel.
Looking first at the end of the chapter, we read: Israel then shall dwell alone: the fountain of Jacob shall be upon a land of corn and wine; also his heavens shall drop down dew. Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places, (vs. 28-29). Though in some measure true in their first occupation of the land, this dwelling alone, in happiness, blessing and supremacy belongs to the time of Messiah. Bro. Thomas has pointed out that the Hebrew word translated eternal in the previous verse (v. 27), is in most places translated east not eternal. This gives a translation: The Mighty Ones of the east thy refuge, and underneath the arms of the Olahm, referring to Christ and the saints as the champions of Israel at this time.
A study of the blessings of the tribes confirms that they belong to the future. Some of the blessings are difficult to follow but what is said about Levi, Benjamin, and Joseph are quite clear and make it certain that this chapter of blessings concerns Israel in the latter days.
The blessing of Levi occupies verses 8 to 11. Verse 8 reads: And of Levi he said, Let thy Thummim and thy Urim be with thy holy one, whom thou didst prove at Massah, and with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah. The reference to Massah and Meribah goes back to the smiting of the rock at Horeb in Exodus 17:6-7. We have the authority of Paul in 1 Cor. 10:4, that the Holy One at Massah and Meribah is Christ. The Urim and Thummim were associated with the breastplate of judgment carried by the Aaronic High Priest and it was through the Urim and Thummim that God spoke to Israel (see Exodus 28:10, Numbers 27:21, 1 Samuel 28:6). But at this time of blessing for Levi, the Urim and Thummim are not with the Aaronic High Priest, but with the Holy One, Christ. He will give the commands of God to the nation. So this blessing does not relate to things that have happened, but to the future. The rest of Levis blessing confirms this. Throughout the extensive blessing, there is no word of censure, but only good. This is not true of Levi in the past. Malachi chapter 2 is a strong indictment against the house of Levi for having departed from their original zeal and faithfulness. Similar charges are made by other prophets (see Isaiah chapter 28, Jeremiah chapter 23, Hosea chapters 3 and 4). So the words of the blessing that they have kept my covenant belong to the future. Malachi in his third chapter speaks specifically of this: when the Lord comes, He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. This belongs to the future and the new covenant.
Benjamin and Joseph
Turning to Benjamin, the blessing briefly says: The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by him; and the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders (v. 12). This describes the situation with the future apportioning of the land between the tribes. Judah will be on the north, and Benjamin on the south, of the Holy Oblation. The beloved of Yahweh will be dwelling in the Holy Oblation, and Benjamin will be dwelling in safety by him.
The blessing of Joseph, Ephraim, and Manasseh, is extensive, and concludes his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh. This appears to describe the prowess of Ephraim and the ten tribes when the Kingdom is being set up, and they are returning to the land of Israel as described in Zechariah chapter 9:7-8; And they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, and their heart shall rejoice as through wine: yea, their children shall see it, and be glad; their heart shall rejoice in the Lord. I will hiss for them, and gather them; for I have redeemed them: and they shall increase as they have increased.
So from the details of these blessings, we believe that Moses is looking to the future when the nations shall be established under the rule of the promised king Jeshurun, the righteous one.
The Coming from Sinai
What then of the opening words of this chapter of blessings, Yahweh came (more correctly came in) from Sinai and rose up from Seir unto them? Being a preface to future blessings, these words one would expect, speak of events that will lead to, or produce, these future blessings. When one examines the detail of the first three verses of the chapter, this is the only possible construction to place on the words. We shall see that the words do not fit the original coming from Sinai, but must describe the future coming of Yahwehs Holy Ones from Sinai for the deliverance of Israel. The following eight points show that the description is prophetic and not historical.
One. The opening words are: This is the blessing, wherewith Moses blessed the children of Israel before his death. Then follows the three verses we are interested in, about Yahweh coming from Sinai. So these three verses are within the blessing, showing that the coming from Sinai is part of the blessing. Christ and the saints coming from Sinai to save Israel will be the first step in Gods blessing of Israel.
Two. It is worthy of note that there is no reference in these verses to the first stage of the historical occasion, the miraculous coming out of Egypt to Sinai. This surely would not have been omitted, if this is describing the original salvation of Israel. The deliverance of Israel in the past began with the redemption of the first-born at the Passover, and in the escape over the dried up Red Sea. In many places through the Psalms and the Prophets, whenever Israels salvation is recollected, these events are always mentioned.
Three. The opening verse says that Yahweh came from Sinai and rose up from Seir unto them; that is, unto Israel, as is clear from the phrase that follows, Yea, he loved the people. These words do not make sense as regards the past, because at that time Israel were themselves coming from Sinai; whereas this passage infers Israel are somewhere else, for Yahweh to come to them from Sinai. The historical interpretation cannot explain this rising up from Sinai, Seir and Paran to Israel.
As will be seen from our map on the next page, Paran is the territory just north of Mount Sinai, and Mount Seir is the region between the Gulf of Elath and the southern end of the Dead Sea.
Four. Consider the next words: He came with ten thousands of Holy Ones: from his right hand went a fiery law for them. Yea, he loved the people. This must describe the deliverance of Israel by Christ and the saints. A fiery law from his right hand means judgments in righteousness against Israels enemies. The right hand is a symbol for power and action; a law of fire means war and destruction. As it says that he loves the people, the fiery law in his right hand is not judgment against them, but on their behalf; for them. It is executed by the saints for Israel. This situation did not occur in the past; at that time Israel fought for themselves, not others fighting to deliver them.
Five. Then the next words: All his saints are in thy hand: and they sat down at thy feet; everyone shall receive of thy words. To sit at the feet is to listen obediently; it emphasises the words everyone shall receive thy words. This will be true of all who are accepted at the judgment at Sinai. But it is not true of Israel in the past at Sinai. They rebelled at Sinai, and many times on the wilderness journey.
Six. Next, note the unusual change from the third person to the second person. Yahweh came from Sinai...Yea, he loved the people; all his saints are in thy hand: and they sat down at thy feet. Who is this second person but Jesus Christ, Yahwehs manifested king? How could one explain all his saints are in thy hand if one treats this account as fulfilled in the past?
Seven. After this reference to the presence of Christ in the words they sat down at thy feet, the original situation under Moses, as a type of the future is referred to: Moses commanded us a law even the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob. This is rather like Paul in Hebrews chapter 3: Moses was faithful in all his house, but Christ as a son over his own house. Moses will no doubt occupy a prominent and honourable position in this future coming from Sinai, and he may be in charge of the proclaiming of the fiery law.
We submit that the detail of these words in Deuteronomy 33 can only make sense by a future application. And this means that the judgment seat must be at Sinai for Yahwehs Holy Ones to come in from Sinai, and rise up from Seir.
Eight. Finally, and unanswerably, Israel did not rise up from Seir and Shine forth from Paran, in their past coming from Sinai to the promised land. The situation was the reverse of this. Under direct instruction of God they left Edom alone, and skirted the territory of Mount Seir, see Deuteronomy 2:5-8 and map opposite. They appeared to be weak, and displayed no power. Hebrew for rise up has the sense of the sun rising to shine, conveying the idea of revealing power and glory. But while not applicable to Israel in the past, it is very appropriate for Christ and the saints in the future. It is in Mount Seir that the power of Christ will be revealed in the destruction of the enemy, see Isaiah chapter 34 and chapter 63. Christ and his saints will certainly rise up as the sun from Seir and Paran.
From Sinai into the Holy: Psalm 68:17
The verse that particularly concerns us in this Psalm is verse 17. The right sense of the verse will be grasped by reading the verse and omitting those words in italics, thus: The chariots of God twenty thousand thousands of angels, the Lord among them, Sinai into the holy. The starting point is Sinai, and the place arrived at is his sanctuary at Zion. Not understanding the purpose of God, such passages are difficult for the translators; but the R.S.V. does give the right sense: it reads, With mighty chariotry, twice ten thousand, thousands upon thousands, the Lord came from Sinai into the holy place. The companion Bible reads: from Sinai into his sanctuary. We should also note that the word angels in the A.V. is quite incorrect. There is no word for angel in the Hebrew. The lexicon shows that the word in the Hebrew may be translated changed ones, or understood to mean a repetition for emphasis, as is adopted in the R.S.V. The word is certainly not a word used anywhere for angels. Changed ones would be quite an appropriate translation to describe the immortal saints. But the main point in this verse is that the Psalmist is contemplating the chariots of God, the cherubic manifestation, coming from Sinai to the Sanctuary. Israel did not come to Zion when they took the land under Joshua. But the saints will come to Zion, and ascend into the hill of the Lord, and stand in his holy place (Psalm 24). So the words are a prophecy of a future happening, not a record of the past; this coming from Sinai to the Sanctuary is future.
The Anti-Typical Ark Coming to Zion.
A wider examination of the Psalm will confirm what we have said about the particular verse. The first verse, referring back to Numbers 10:35, indicates it was a Psalm to commemorate David bringing the ark to Zion. The occasion is described in 1 Chronicles chapter 15. The ark would, of course, include the mercy seat and the cherubim. Now we all agree that the ark and its mercy seat typify Jesus. The cherubim were one piece with the mercy seat and typify the saints. What more appropriate, then, that David, when writing a Psalm on the occasion of bringing the Mosaic ark to Zion, should speak of the antitypical ark and its cherubim coming to Zion in the future. And so verse 17 speaks of the chariots of Yahweh, the cherubim, coming from Sinai to the sanctuary, in the hill of God. Verse 17 should be read in conjunction with the two previous verses. They are a prophecy about Zion. Why leap ye, ye high hills? this is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea Yahweh will dwell in it for ever. The hill of God is as the hill of Bashan; an high hill as the hill of Bashan. The Psalmist is speaking here of the promise God had made to him, to establish the millennial throne in Zion. As he says in Psalm 132, For Yahweh hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it. Having spoken of Yahwehs intention of dwelling in the hill of God for ever, verse 17 follows on with the chariots of God coming into the sanctuary in the hill of God, from Sinai. Not now typical cherubim placed over a typical ark, but the children of God as the chariots or cherubim of God.
Keeping in mind the theme of the Psalm, the bringing of the ark to Zion, how appropriate the next verse, when we read it in the light of what Paul says in Ephesians, chapter 4. Verse 18 reads: Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men (the Holy Spirit gifts, Paul says); yea for the rebellious (all men have sinned) also, that the Lord God might dwell among them. Here is a reference to the redemptive work of Christ. As if it had been asked, How will it be possible for the chariots of God, with the Lord among them, to come to the sanctuary? And the answer, Only through the redemptive work of Jesus. Through him there will be not only the original gifts of the spirit; but the full possession of the spirit in divine nature, that, as this verse 18 says, Yahweh may dwell with men. Verses 19 and 20 continue the theme: He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto GOD the Lord belong the issues of death (R.S.V. the escape from death). So in connection with the coming from Sinai to the sanctuary, we have reference to the coming forth from death and the receiving of life everlasting.
The remainder of the Psalm strongly confirms that the Psalm is a prophecy and not a record of past happenings. Verse 22 speaks of Israel being brought again from Bashan and from the depths of the sea; in verse 24 there is praise in the temple before the great King: They have seen thy goings, O God; even the goings of my God, my King, in the sanctuary; and in verse 31 kings and princes from Egypt and Ethiopia stretch out their hands to God. So it is clear that this Psalm is a prophecy of the future things of Zion.
In view of all that we find in this Psalm, it is certain the the Psalmist is not considering in verse 17 Israels original coming from Sinai, but the future coming in from Sinai of the chariots of God, the cherubim, the redeemed of Yahweh. Only on this basis can one follow in detail the sense of the verses.
Habakkuk Chapter 3:3-6: The Holy One Comes from the South
A threefold cord is not quickly broken says the wise man. In this chapter Habakkuk states as clearly as in the two previous chapters we have considered, that the Holy One in glory comes in from Teman, from the south, and from the wilderness of Paran in the Sinai Peninsula. The whole chapter is a prophecy, described as a prayer, requesting Yahweh to revive thy work in the midst of the years. So it is concerned, not with something already happened, but with a reviving of the great work of the past.
This prayer is a sequence to chapters one and two. In chapter one the Chaldean oppressor is described; chapter two is a vision that shall speak at the end (verse 3), and describes a similar latter-day Man of power and pride who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people (v. 5); he coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high in Zion. This covetous one is the spoiler of Ezekiel chapter 38; and the Babylonian King of Isaiah chapter 14 who as the Daystar ascends above the height of the cloud, setting his nest on high. His prevailing is brief, and the chapter speaks of the earth being filled with the knowledge of the glory of Yahweh (verse 14) and concludes Yahweh is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.
How does this great change come about? Chapter three tells us. It starts with the Holy One coming up from the south to deliver his land. The tense here, and throughout the prayer, is not that of something already done, but a present future: God cometh from Teman, as the Revised Version recognises in the margin. What is described did not happen in the past. In the original coming from Teman, the south, it could not be said His glory covereth the heavens, and the earth is full of his praise; but it will be so in the future, as the prophets show.
The Holy One has horns or beams coming out of his hands (verse 4, or perhaps as the margin, out of his side), and burning coals at his feet. So from this language we perceive that it is a symbolic figure that Habakkuk sees. A similar symbolic figure with fiery judgment is described in Revelation chapter 1:13. Compare: Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet, with : feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; eyes as a flame of fire; out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword. This is the Christ community in a time of judgment: and Habakkuk is seeing a similar figure. It is this glorious Man of power, with his brightness as the light, and the power in his hand (v. 4), that deals with the oppressor of the previous chapter. In passing, note that in chapter 2:9, this oppressor tries to escape from the power of his hand (see margin). Chapter three shows that this new Power of Teman is invincible. His conquest is wide-sweeping: He stood, and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove asunder the nations: and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow. The Babylonian Empire was a great mountain and passed away (Jer. 51:25); the Roman world has continued for many many centuries, and merits the words everlasting mountain, but it will be destroyed by Christ. Also the smaller powers who have stood so long, the perpetual hills, like Britain, did bow. In the verses that follow, verses 7-15, the vision described the detailed progress of this Man, the new power from Teman. Cush and Midian are dismayed; he marches through the land in indignation. Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed. The anointed are Christ and his saints; they have all been anointed with Spirit and are invincible. In view of all these words of Habakkuk, how can we fail to see that the going forth of Christ and his saints is from Teman and Paran?
The similarity of language in Habakkuk 3:3-5 and Deuteronomy 33:2 is worth noting. Deuteronomy says: He rose up (as the sun) from Seir unto them; he shined forth from Paran: Habakkuk says he comes from Mount Paran, his glory covers the heavens, his brightness is as the light. Deuteronomy says he has a fiery law in his right hand; Habakkuk says there were beams out of his hand, and there was the hiding of his power: both are expressions of power for judgment. These things have not yet been fulfilled, they are a future coming from Sinai. Habakkuk knew it was future, and that he himself would be personally involved, for after seeing the vision he says when I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, that I might rest (find safety or refuge) in the day of trouble. He concludes the chapter Yahweh is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds feet, and he will make me walk on my high places. This is in the futureit is just not possible to refer this prayer of Habakkuk to past happenings in the land, and the chapter amply confirms what Deuteronomy 33 and Psalm 68 also show, that the Christ body will come in from the South, starting from Sinai.
Jerusalem in Relation to Sinai
The three passages considered in detail all show the movement of Jesus and the saints from Sinai to Jerusalem. This means that the well-known events that happen at Jerusalem take place after the coming of Jesus to Sinai. Those who propose that Jesus first arrives at Jerusalem, or rather the Mount of Olives, are mistaken. In a later chapter we shall examine the movements of the Christ community in coming from Sinai to Jerusalem. For the moment we look at those scriptures that have been advanced for the judgment taking place at Jerusalem.
Eternal Life at Jerusalem
We shall find that the several passages quoted are concerned with eternal life, and on reflection they will not be found out of harmony with the idea of judgment and immortalisation at Sinai. There are three scriptures to the point.
Behold how good a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.... As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore. (Psalm 133)
And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things...He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces. (Isaiah 25:6-8)
And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living (margin: written to life) in Jerusalem. (Isaiah 4:3)
These scriptures, it is contended, teach that judgment and immortality belong to Jerusalem, and therefore they cannot take place at Sinai. Here is an apparent conflict that must be resolved. The scriptures do not really contradict one another, even if with our imperfect knowledge they appear to do. We shall find that the idea of eternal life at Jerusalem, and judgment and immortalisation at Sinai, are not incompatible.
This Psalm should be read in conjunction with the previous Psalm. Together they describe the eternal lifethe life of the Olahm or coming age. Yahweh dwells in Zion; there is abundant provision; the saints are joyful in praise; Davids greater son is a lamp, shedding the rays of truth, wisdom and judgment into the dark places of the earth; the enemies of God are silent; the tribes of Israel dwell together as brethren in unity. This is the life of the coming age, when all nations shall be blessed in Abraham and his seed. All peoplesaints, Israelites and the nations of the world will share in this life. Jerusalem is the centre of this life. The law goes forth from Jerusalem, the people come to Jerusalem to worship before the King; the world administration is centred on Jerusalem. The life of the Olahm is the quality of life that belongs to the millennium. For some it includes immortality, for all it means blessing, peace and a life of joyful praise. The life of the Olahm is something wider than the granting of incorruptibility and immortality. The immortalisation of the saints is the beginning of the great work that develops the life of the millennial age; a life so much better than man has known in the past that it will appear like light after darkness of the night. So while judgment of the saints and immortalisation takes place at Sinai, the life of the age will be revealed at Jerusalem.
Isaiah Chapter 25
The theme in Isaiah chapter 25 is similar to that in Psalms 132 and 133. It is speaking of the millennial blessedness enjoyed by all nations, and centred on Jerusalem: a feast of fat things unto all people; the vail of darkness, superstition, and its consequent evils, taken away.
But a problem is apparent here, because the scripture reads on: He will swallow up death in victory, and this Paul links with putting on immortality in 1 Corinthians chapter 15:54: So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. Are we to conclude that death is swallowed up in victory takes place at Jerusalem, in this mountain? Verse 8 of Isaiah chapter 25 does not say so, and to assume so would teach that the immortalisation of the saints takes place after the nations are enjoying blessing in this mountain, and the vail has been done away; because the swallowing up of death belongs to verse 8, and the blessings of the nations to the previous verses 6 and 7. The right sense appears to be that verse 8 onwards and through chapter 26 describes how the blessing to all people in the holy mountain will come about. The starting point is the swallowing up of death for the saints; then the treading down of Moab; then the development of Israel as the righteous nation, as set out in Isaiah chapter 26. An alternative understanding is to think of the swallowing up of death in victory in its larger sense: that as a result of the blessing of all nations with material and spiritual fat things in the holy mountain, and the taking away of the vail of spiritual darkness, the nations will arrive at the final state of death abolished from the earth: and that Paul is applying the words to the first fruits at Christs coming as a partial fulfilment of the words in Isaiah.
Isaiah Chapter 4
In the third quotation Isaiah 4:3, a glance at the whole chapter will show that it has all to do with the future blessedness. Coming to the particular verse, we note that our quotation was not the completion of the sentence. The full wording is: He that remaineth in Jerusalem shall be called holy, everyone written unto life in Jerusalem, when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning. So this life in Jerusalem is something that comes with the cleansing of the nation of Israel and in some way belongs to the nation of Israel. This is in line with our interpretation of Psalms 132 and 133. Both the mortal people and the immortal princes are those who are left in Zion and remain in Jerusalem; and they all enjoy the life of the millennial age that exists in Jerusalem, and flows from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. These ideas are not out of harmony with the judgment taking place at Sinai, as other scriptures clearly require.
The Appropriateness of Judgment at Sinai
Jerusalem and the holy mountain are to be developed to make them the centre of the life of the Olahm. Tremendous physical changes will lift up the centre of the land, cleave the mount of Olives, cause rivers to flow, develop waterways, so that Jerusalem will be accessible by sea and land for all the world to come and pay homage to the great King. The whole world will, as it were, rotate round Jerusalem. Because of its history, too, Jerusalem is appropriate as the place for the revelation of the life that centres on God; it has already been the centre of the Kingdom of God, and the place of His presence.
Sinai is the appropriate place for the Judgment; physically, geographically and historically. With its stern scenery, its seclusion from the world, one can easily contemplate the gathering of the resurrected millions to this place. But one cannot easily imagine this happening in the present busy Jerusalem; nor in the Jerusalem of the future. The essential appropriateness of Sinai lies in its historical background. Sinai is the place of the Law, the place of right and wrong based on the voice of Yahweh declaring the Ten Commandments and the statutes and judgments. It is therefore the place for declaring judgment. It is useful to remember that for many, probably the majority, who stand at the judgment seat, the law through Moses will be the sole basis of judgment. And for us who belong to the time after Jesus first coming, his law is complementary to that of Moses. That through the constraining power of his death, it is possible for the righteousness of the law to be fulfilled in us (Romans chapter 8:4).
We see Sinai in the past as the place of national reconciliation through the first covenant; but the picture is shot through with many gleams of light regarding Christ and the second covenant. At every turn there are shadows of Christ: the smitten rock, the tabernacle, the ark, the altar, the white curtains, the slain lamb, the high priest, the day of atonement and the entering of the Most Holy. To the discerning eye Mount Sinai speaks so much about his sufferings and atoning work, and reveals the way of holiness in him. There is no place so appropriate as Sinai for the examination of the children of God with regard to their obedience to the revealed will of God.
Again, Sinai was the place of the birth of the nation of God under the first covenant; and it is therefore fitting as the place for the beginning of the reconstruction of the nation under the second covenant. This beginning is the granting of life to the princes of Israel, that they may go forth and redeem their nation from the hand of the enemy.
Galatians Chapter 4
It has been said that the allegory in Galatians chapter 4 is against the idea of judgment at Sinai. On examination it will be found that such a proposal is a confusing of matters that are quite different. Pauls allegory is contrasting two Jerusalems: the Jerusalem which now is, based on the first covenant made at Sinai; and the Jerusalem which is exalted (the Jerusalem of the Coming Age), based on the second covenant. These two Jerusalems are personified as two women, one in bondage, the other free. Pauls theme is not about the two places of Sinai and Jerusalem. His mention of Sinai is only incidental to his argument. Nor is the idea of a judgment seat, or the place of judgment, present anywhere, not even inferentially. A study of the section, and of the whole letter, will show that Paul is arguing against the idea of justification by the attempted keeping of law, in contrast with the correct doctrine of justification by faith and works of faith. But justification by faith does not do away with the requirement that we shall be examined with regard to our obedience to divine lawthe divine law of the old and the new testaments. If ye believe not his (Moses) writings, how shall ye believe my words (John 6:47). If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments, said Jesus to the young man (Matt. 19:17). Divine law, and our examination in regard to it, belong to Sinai.