Satan Evicted: The First Resurrection

Resurrection of the dead. Stained glass, region of Paris, ca. 1200. From the Sainte-Chapelle.

First Resurrection: Physical vs. Spiritual

Independent Examination
Amillennialism: Rebuttal
The Sixth Seal Rapture: Analysis
The Pretribulation Rapture: Rebuttal
Where Are the Saints During the
    Great Tribulation?

Amillennialism contends there is only one physical resurrection of the dead and that resurrection will occur immediately before the White Throne judgment. They also assert that the fist resurrection mentioned in Revelation 20:5 refers to a spiritual awakening that occurs within a Christian’s life here on earth. If one holds an amillennial viewpoint, there are ample biblical scriptures to support this view.

A pretribulation view asserts the first resurrection refers to the Rapture that occurs prior to the great tribulation and subsequent resurrections of those left behind during the tribulation period; the first resurrection refers, therefore, not to just one incident but two, perhaps three, stages where Christians are physically transformed and taken to heaven. Pretribulation supporters also allude to a number of biblical scriptures to support their view.

There are also a number of other first resurrection viewpoints such as mid-tribulation, pre-wrath, and post-tribulation. Each contending that their position best illustrates biblical truth.

Additionally, if Christ reigns physically on Earth for a thousand years, those who die during that thousand years must also experience an accounting.

A review of the literature was a bit confusing as authors tend to emphasize those scriptures that support their position and “explain away” those that seem contradictory. In more than one occasion, I found allusions to scriptures that provided little support for the argument being discussed, and in some cases the authors twisted the meaning of passages to fit their particular need.

What I chose, under these circumstances, to scrap all viewpoints, pull relevant scriptural passages into a single document, examine each passage, and draw my own conclusions based upon my findings. Once this task was complete, I then compared my findings with the amillennialism and pretribulation viewpoints to “test” my findings. The primary questions I sought to answer consisted of the following:

  1. Is the first resurrection mentioned in the Book of Revelation spiritual or physical?
  2. Does the first resurrection take place when we accept Christ or at the end of this age?
  3. How many more times will Christ return?
  4. Will the final judgment occur immediately after Christ’s coming?

Independent Examination

ARE THERE SCRIPTURES THAT SEEM TO INDICATE A SINGLE RESURRECTION?

Yes. The first one is from the Old Testament and their vision of the resurrection was vaguer than after Christ’s resurrection. The second one seems to indicate only one; however, the inclusion of the word “but” may provide a little wiggle room for separate events.

Daniel 12:2: And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Acts 24: 14-15: But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.

ARE THERE TWO RESURRECTIONS?

Yes, if there is a first resurrection, then there must be a second. The elect will be resurrected, both living and dead, at the first resurrection; the remainder shall be resurrected at the end of time.

Revelation 20: 4-6: and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This [is] the first resurrection. Blessed and holy [is] he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

John 5:28: Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

IS THE RESURRECTION OF THE ELECT A SEPARATE EVENT THAT THE RESURRECTION OF THE WICKED?

Yes, the elect will be resurrected at his coming in the clouds, then they will return with him at the battle occurring at the end of Revelation, Chapter 19.

1 Corinthians 15:20-26: But now is Christ risen from the dead, [and] become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man [came] death, by man [came] also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then [cometh] the end…

I Thessalonians 3:13: So that he may establish your hearts blameless holiness before our God and Father, at the coming [parousia] of the Lord Jesus with all his saints.

IS THE FIRST RESURRECTION IS A PHYSICAL ONE?

Yes. (1) If the dead are resurrected then we must consider this resurrection to be more than a spiritual one. (2) If all the people of the earth see and hear Christ coming for the elect, it is more than a simple spiritual event.

1 Thessalonians Chapter 4: 16-17: For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Matthew 24:30-31: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

WILL THIS PHYSICAL RESURRECTION BE SILENT OR SECRET?

No. The model of the first resurrection was provided in Acts 1:9-11, and that model seems to be validated by 2 Timothy’s reference to Christ’s appearing:

Acts 1: 9-11: And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”

2Timothy 4:1, 8: I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; ... 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.

WILL THOSE WHO REMAIN ON EARTH AFTER THE RESURRECTION OF BELIEVERS KNOW WHAT HAS OCCURRED?

Yes. The Synoptic Gospels seem to be relatively clear that there will be great mourning when Christ appears in a cloud to gather his elect.

Matthew 24:30: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

2 Thessalonians 2:7-8: For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [will let], until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.

ARE THERE INDIVIDUALS WHO CONFUSE THE RESURRECTION OF THE ELECT AND THE RESURRECTION OF THE WICKED?

Yes. The resurrection of Lazarus can serve as an example that the elect will be resurrected separately than the unbeliever. In this example, Martha acknowledges that the dead will be resurrected just prior to the great judgment; however, Jesus’ response seems to rebuke her answer because she does not comprehend his ministry has resulted in a new revelation.

John 11:23-26: Jesus saith unto her, “Thy brother shall rise again.” Martha saith unto him, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said unto her, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”

IS THE RESURRECTION OF THE ELECT A SEPARATE EVENT THAN THAT OF THE WICKED?

Yes. The resurrection for the just is mentioned separately than the resurrection of the wicked.

Luke 14: 13-14: But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

John 5:28: Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

IS THERE ALSO A TYPE OF RESURRECTION THAT IS NOT PHYSICAL?

Yes. When we accept Christ, we are “born again” and walk in a new life… Christ’s resurrection is a “type” of this new life.

Romans 6:4: Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also [in the likeness] of [his] resurrection.

WILL THERE BE A GREAT JUDGMENT?

Yes, at the very end of the earth as we know it. The true believer is not judged according to their works but upon the Grace of God which is a free gift. Nonbelievers, however, will be judged according to their works.

Revelation 20:12: And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

Hebrews 6:1-2: Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

CONCLUSION

There are two resurrections along with two judgments. The first resurrection takes place at the Lord’s coming in the clouds; at that time, the dead and the living in Christ will be resurrected and judged according to Christ’s redemption. The second resurrection takes place at the end of the millennial age and those individuals will be judged according to their works (some good; some bad).

My thoughts continually return to the inability of the Pharisees and Sadducees to visualize the Messiah’s first coming as a humble teacher instead of a conquering king. And, I wonder if today’s theologians may be suffering a similar tunnel vision… they have a strong desire for this age to be the climax of God’s plan for mankind. Since that is what they want to see, that is what they see within the scriptures. I, however, get a sneaky suspicion that there is something more… a separate age where God’s renews his original covenant – the one made with Adam.

Amillennialism: Rebuttal

Introduction

The purpose of this section is not to prove that the amillennial viewpoint concerning the resurrection of the living and dead is in error. After an examination of their arguments and related scriptures, proponents of a single physical resurrection have a strong case.

However, I personally believe that the amillennial viewpoint is flawed. Many scriptures can be interpreted in more than one way, and my goal, in this section, is to determine if there is sufficient latitude in amillennialism argumentation to permit an alternative view.

The Passage Doesn't Specifically Mention…

It is impractical to provide the entire narrative of God’s plan into each and every biblical passage; that is why there are over 31,000 individual verses in the Bible – each providing a individual, specific piece of the overall portrait. Many biblical scholars fall into the trap of expecting each scripture to discuss all aspects of a given topic, “The passage doesn’t specifically mention…” This expectation is unreasonable. The course of human instruction requires the teacher to focus on one topic at a time. Instruction that provides too many details confuses the listener and frequently produces more confusion than understanding.

As an example, let’s examine the amillennialism argument, “2 Pet 3:10 warns us that on the day of the Lord 'The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.' Hardly time for a millennium here.”1

2 Peter 3:10: But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. (NLT)

For a proper understanding of this scripture, we need to understand the purpose of the entire discussion. In this case, the author of 2 Peter is comparing and contrasting the life of the wicked with the life a believer ought to live:

2 Peter 3:5-7: They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of his command, and he brought the earth out from the water and surrounded it with water. Then he used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood. And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed. (NLT)

2 Peter 3:11: Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live... (NLT)

This passage is nothing more than good old-fashion hell, fire, and brimstone preaching: “You’d better get your life right or you’re going to suffer the fiery wrath of God… you’re going to burn in hell along with all of the other wickedness of this earth.” The author employs a hyperbole – an extreme exaggeration – to drive home the point that God is storing up his fiery, burning wrath.

Additionally, in the verses just prior to 2 Peter 3:10, we find the author discussing the Lord’s longsuffering so the reader will see a contrast between God’s patience and God’s wrath:

2 Peter 3:8-9: But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. (NLT)

Placing one extreme characteristic (longsuffering patience) next to another extreme characteristic (fiery wrath) in order to make a sharp comparison is a literary device called juxtaposition – “The arrangement of two or more ideas, characters, actions, settings, phrases, or words side-by-side or in similar narrative moments for the purpose of comparison, contrast, rhetorical effect, suspense, or character development.” 2

The purpose of this passage is not to provide instruction as to the details related to the second coming of Christ. The purpose of this passage is to encourage the listener (reader) to examine their individual lives and determine if those lives are “holy and godly.” The passage utilizes both hyperbole and juxtaposition to press the importance of that personal examination.

Since the passage does not intend to provide details on Christ’s second coming, it is only natural that some details related to that event be left out. At minimum, we understand that between the second coming (coming as a thief in the night) and the New Earth (the elements shall melt with fervent heat) that there is the White Throne judgment; however, this passage does not mention that judgment… We also understand that there will be a final battle; however, this passage does not mention that battle… Should we therefore conclude that these two events will not occur? I think not.

Not every passage that relates Christ’s second coming will include every specific detail describing what occurs prior to, during, or immediately after. The absence of an event within any given passage is not indicative that that event will not take place. We must piece together multiple passages in order to view the whole portrait.

The Second Coming Is the Termination of History

For the next several sections, I will examine amillennialism arguments obtained from “Amillennialist Interpretation,” by Ross A. Taylor.3 I selected these arguments because they were relatively concrete and seemed representative of the other amillennialism arguments.

The Second Coming is the termination of history, not the beginning of a whole new phase. This is clear from 1 Cor.15: 23-28.

1 Corinthians 15:23-28: But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back.

After that the end will come, when he will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having destroyed every ruler and authority and power. For Christ must reign until he humbles all his enemies beneath his feet. And the last enemy to be destroyed is death. For the Scriptures say, “God has put all things under his authority.” (Of course, when it says “all things are under his authority,” that does not include God himself, who gave Christ his authority.) Then, when all things are under his authority, the Son will put himself under God’s authority, so that God, who gave his Son authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere. (NLT)

First, considering the timetable presented, Taylor’s is flawed at first glance:

  1. Christ was raised as the first fruit – around 32-33 AD.
  2. Then the Christians when he returns – after 2011 AD.
  3. After that then comes the end –  after 3011 AD.

Naturally, it would be erroneous to calculate the timing of the New Heaven and New Earth using these figures just as it would be erroneous to conclude from that nothing occurs between Christ’s second coming and the end.

Second, the context of the passage indicates that the purpose of this passage is to correct the flawed belief that the dead will not be resurrected:

1 Corinthians 15:12: Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?

Since the author is addressing Christians, there would be little need to clarify this point by discussing the resurrection and judgment of the wicked – that topic is beyond the purpose of this passage. Additionally, we see several other events left out such as the final battle and the final judgment; the author of this passage is making no attempt to be all inclusive.

Third, the author of this passage refers to those events following the resurrection of the believers simply as “the end” with very little details about how Christ will destroy every ruler and humbled his enemies. The premillennialist would argue that the great tribulation and the earthly millennial reign are the methods Christ uses to accomplish those tasks.

Additionally, I find the first clause interesting, “But every man in his own order.” (KJV) That clause seems to indicate that not all men will be resurrected at the exact same time. It appears that Christ might resurrect the believer before he forces the wicked into submission.

The Second Coming, Resurrection, and Final Judgment In Close Order

Scripture is clear that the Second Coming, the resurrection of the dead, the rapture and the final judgement occur closely together. Mat 13:40-42, 16:27, 25:31-33, John 5:28,29, Acts 17:31, 1 Cor 15:23-26, 1 Th 4:16-17.

Matthew 13:40-42: As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

I have looked at this passage several times and wondered why the “wheat” is not mentioned in the gathering… the passage specifically mentions the gathering of the tares, not the wheat. Verse 43 simply asserts that the righteous shall shine forth. One might assume that the two are gathered at the same time, but that is not what this passage states.

I assume that since the passage is speaking of the kingdom of Heaven – a spiritual kingdom – that the believers need not be gathered because they are already present within the kingdom of God.

This passage seems to parallel Revelation 14:14-20 and may simply reflect the removal of the "wicked" at the end of this age with the "good" being permitted to transition into the Millenial Age.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

This passage specifically identifies the “dead in Christ.”It also “we which are alive” which I assume to refer to believers since this epistle was sent to an active, believing congregation. The passage does not mention the resurrection of the unbeliever nor does it mention judgment.

Acts 17:31: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by [that] man whom he hath ordained; [whereof] he hath given assurance unto all [men], in that he hath raised him from the dead.

Unlike the previous passage, Paul is preaching to unbelievers in Athens and he specifically mentions their shrines and idols in previous passages. This passage discusses the judgment of the wicked and does not target those that already believe. Notice that the passage says that he will judge in righteousness; it does not say that he will judge the righteous. Also please notice that it mentions Christ’s resurrection mentioning not the resurrection of the believing nor unbelieving.

John 5:28-29: Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

This is an interesting verse because it can easily be interpreted three ways:

  1. The verse may indicate that there is one resurrection for the good and the evil, but the one resurrection will have two different results – life for one, damnation for the other.
  2. The verse may indicate that there are two separate resurrections – a first resurrection for the good resulting in eternal life and then a second resurrection for the evil resulting in eternal damnation.
  3. The verse may include the resurrection of the "good" people who died during the Millenial Age and the "evil" from all ages not bothering to mention the first resurrection.

The purpose of this passage is not to provide a detailed explanation of the resurrections and judgments but rather to illustrate that an individual has a choice between good and evil and that choice will have an effect on where they serve eternity. It is impossible from this passage to determine if the two resurrections take place at the same time or if there is a gap between them.

Matthew 16:27: For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

The context of the passage illustrates that Jesus Christ is informing his disciples about the suffering and death he will soon experience. This is the renowned passage where Jesus rebukes Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” Peter does not yet understand the redemptive portion of Christ’s ministry. Thus, the focus on the passage in on Christ’s suffering and accepting God’s will. The purpose, in my view, is to illustrate that despite trials and suffering, Christ will ultimately be victorious. This passage does not appear to be focused on teaching the specifics of the resurrection(s) or judgment(s).

Additionally, since the passage does not specifically mention the judgment, a premillennialist might argue that the believer will be rewarded by being Raptured and the unbeliever will be rewarded by being forced to endure God’s wrath during the tribulation. This passage ultimately does not seem to support a single resurrection and single judgment.

Matthew 25:31-33: When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth [his] sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

A nice verse that seems to support an amillennial viewpoint. Since it follows Matthew, Chapter 24, it seems to parallel the parables of the fig tree, wise slave, ten virgins, and the talents that instruct mankind to be on the alert and be wise and faithful servants. The focus, then, is receiving our just rewards.

There is, however, a potential problem. The potential problem is that this judgment is based upon the works… the person who performs good works is rewarded with eternal life; the person who did not perform good works is rewarded with eternal punishment. The message of salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the cross is missing in this passage… so we must be careful what meaning we draw from this parable:

  1. This sounds like a parable of the kingdom of God which, as we have previously explored, is distinct from the millennial reign of Christ or the New Heaven and New Earth. Thus, once again we are reminded that looking inwardly at our own needs and desires will leave us outside the kingdom of heaven.
  2. Some scholars note that this is Christ’s judgment seat and parallels the thrones and judgments in Revelation 20:4. They assert that this judgment relates to the geo-political nations that will be judged based on their support of the nation of Israel and humanity as a whole. The evil nations will be dissolved and the good nations will continue during the millennial reign.
  3. Still others argue that this is the great White Throne Judgment; however, they contend that those being judged are not Christians as believers will be judged at the first resurrection when Christ first comes for them. They assert that this judgment involves those mortal who lived on earth during the millennial reign of Christ.
  4. I tend to believe that this passage may reflect the judgment in Revelation 20:4. Those unredeemed individuals who survive the Great Tribulation and the Wrath of God will be judged and the "good" people will enter the millenial kingdom while the "wicked" ones will cast into the fire along with the Anti-christ and his hoards.

I’m hesitant to draw any formal conclusion regarding this passage. I tend to think that this is a kingdom of God parable and focuses on one’s state of mind rather which will eventually led to either eternal life or eternal damnation. Because God’s redemptive Grace seems to missing, I’m very hesitant to label this as the White Throne judgment.

The Ungodly Are To Be Judged At the Second Coming

The ungodly are to be judged at the Second Coming 2 Thess.1:7-9, 2 Pet.3:9-10, Jude 14-15, Rev.1:7.

2 Thessalonians 1:7-10: And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.

Interesting, I’ve never noticed this verse before in my studies of the Apocalypse… First, the elect is not included among the focus group; in fact, this passage focuses on encouraging Christians who face tribulation. Second, this passage speaks of a “revealing” that seems consistent with a visible Rapture that is followed by the seven trumpets and seven bowls of wrath – God taking vengeance on those who are left behind. Third, the punishment seems to be related to be separation from God’s presence and glory… again, possibly a very descriptive vision of the last half of the great tribulation. Fourth, the glorified saints may match those seen after the breaking of the fifth seal in John’s visions. At his point, I’m not prepared to claim that this passage parallels the great tribulation but it does seem to have a relationship.

2 Peter 3:7-10: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day [is] with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

First, I’ve included verses 7-8 because they are often used, and possibly abused, by Dispensationalists in their attempt to map out God’s seven day – seven millennial – plan. Personally, I feel that these verses simply help illustrate that God’s proportion of time does not match our. It can be applied virtually anywhere to help us understand that what we might think of as instantaneous, God might view as a very long time. What we might of as a very long time, God might view as instantaneous.

Second, verses 9-10 seems to be instructing us to be patient… that his plan will be fulfilled… that those who reject his grace will be swept away along with the imperfect earth. This passage does not seem to support or reject either a premillennial or millennial view.

Jude 13-16: Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard [speeches] which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling [words], having men's persons in admiration because of advantage.

This passage is definitely talking about the ungodly. I find it interesting that Enoch claims that describes Christ’s return with “ten thousands of his saints.” Premillennialists could easily envision this as a depiction of Christ returning as the conquering king at the end of the great tribulation with his Church in tow. This passage does not necessarily refer to the White Throne judgment.

Revelation 1: 7: Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they [also] which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

This verse seems to reflect the perfect image of the Rapture – which is neither silent nor secret. Unlike many pretribulationists, I believe that the entire world will see Christ’s return in a cloud to gather the elect from the four corners of the earth, that the entire world will know that they have missed the boat, and, unfortunately, those that remain will suffer the trumpets and bowls of wrath before Christ returns as a conquering king. Therefore, this passage tends to directly support my framework.

The Judgment Is At the End of the Age

The judgment is at the end of the age Mat 13:40-41, 49.

Matthew 13:40-42: See previous note within this section.

Matthew 13:49-50: So shall it be at the end of the world (age): the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

This passage may parallel Revelation 14:14-20 and may simply reflect the removal of the "wicked" at the end of this age with the "good" being permitted to transition into the Millenial Age.

Believers Resurrected and Reign with Christ Now

The amillennialist interpretation takes note of the NT theology in which we have been raised with Christ now and reign with Him now. Note in the Eph 2:1-6 passage.

Ephesians 2:1-6: And you [hath he quickened], who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus:

Personally, I would agree with the amillennialist on this point and believe that a person must be spiritually “born again” before realizing eternal life. However, to equate this quickening to the first resurrection seems to be a stretch.

Conclusion

Once again I want to emphasize that my purpose was not to prove amillennialism viewpoint wrong but rather to “test” my framework for potential flaws. At this point, I find the arguments of amillennialism less than convincing and not cuase for rejecting my original framework.

The Sixth Seal Rapture: Analysis

According to my framework, the first resurrection (Rapture) occurs at the breaking of the sixth seal somewhere near the mid-point of the great tribulation. I contend that the Rapture is neither silent nor secret and that those left behind will immediately recognize their error.

Framework Scriptural Support

The Rapture Will Not Be Silent:

Matthew 24:31: And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

1 Corinthians 15:52: in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

1 Thessalonians 4:16: For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

The Rapture Will Not Be Hidden:

Matthew 24:30: Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man arriving on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

Mark 13:26: Then everyone will see the Son of Man arriving in the clouds with great power and glory.

Luke 21:27: Then they will see the Son of Man arriving in a cloud with power and great glory.

The Rapture Will Not Be Imminent:

Mark 21:20: But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.

Matthew 24:15: So when you see the abomination of desolation – spoken about by Daniel the prophet– standing in the holy place

Mark 13:14: But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains.

The Rapture Will Occur With Forewarning:

Mark 13:32, 35: But as for that day or hour no one knows it – neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son – except the Father… Stay alert, then, because you do not know when the owner of the house will return – whether during evening, at midnight, when the rooster crows, or at dawn.

Mark 13:8 & 28-29: These are but the beginning of birth pains. “Learn this parable from the fig tree: Whenever its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also you, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, right at the door. (see also Matthew 24:8 & 32-33)

1 Thessalonians 5:1, 4: Now on the topic of times and seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need for anything to be written to you… But you, brothers and sisters, are not in the darkness for the day to overtake you like a thief would.

The Rapture Will Not Prevent Christians From Suffering Tribulation:

Mark 13:9: “You must watch out for yourselves. You will be handed over to councils and beaten in the synagogues. You will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a witness to them.

Matthew 24:9: “Then they will hand you over to be persecuted and will kill you. You will be hated by all the nations because of my name.

Luke 21:16-17: You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will have some of you put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of my name.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12: Analysis

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12: Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Does this passage refer to the gathering of the elect? Yes, the first verse specifically states the coming of Jesus Christ and “our gathering together unto him.”

What does the phrase “falling away first” indicate? The term “falling away” is an English translation for the word “apostasia” which means defection, apostasy, revolt. HELPS™ Word-studies elaborates on the term:

apostasía (from 868 /aphístēmi, "leave, depart," which is derived from 575 /apó, "away from" and2476 /histémi, "stand") – properly, departure (implying desertion); apostasy – literally, "a leaving, from a previous standing."4

From this elaboration, some scholars substitute the term “departure” for the phrase “falling away” in an attempt to claim that the Rapture (departure) occurs before the revealing of the man of sin (the Antichrist). However, had the authors desired to use the term “departure” they could have easily inserted the word “aphístēmi” instead of the word “apostasia.” Since they did not, then we should assume that a proper interpretation leaves us with a defection, apostasy, or revolt.

The term apostasy indicates prior to the coming of Jesus Christ for his elect that some Christians will revolt, defect, or desert their faith in Jesus Christ. While the phrase is vague and we want to be careful not to attach too much meaning to it, it does tend to support other scripture that indicates that some Christians will succumb to the lure of the Antichrist:

Revelation 13:7: And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.

Daniel 7:25: And he shall speak [great] words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.

There is a great deal of controversy concerning the Antichrist’s ability to overcome a redeemed Christian, but we will leave that controversy for the time being.

What does the phrase “man of sin” mean? The epistle’s authors spend considerable time describing the man of sin – the Antichrist:

2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, 9-12: …[He] is the one who brings destruction. He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God… This man will come to do the work of Satan with counterfeit power and signs and miracles. He will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them. So God will cause them to be greatly deceived, and they will believe these lies. Then they will be condemned for enjoying evil rather than believing the truth. (NLT)

The term “revealed” is an English translation of the Greek term “apokaluptó” which means to uncover, bring to light, reveal.5 So while the general population will be deceived as to the identity of the Antichrist, those who have listened to God’s Word will see through the deception. And, yes, this revealing is also mentioned within Jesus Christ’s Gospel prophecies:

Matthew 24:15: When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place…

Luke 21: 20: And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.

Mark 13:14: But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not…

Why does the passage spend so much time on the Antichrist? This passage addresses a concern of the Thessalonians, probably related to their suffering and persecutions, that perhaps they had already missed the Rapture:

2 Thessalonians 2:2: That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

The authors want to make it clear that they have not missed the Rapture, that the Rapture will not occur until the “man of sin” is revealed, and that the nature and character of the “man of sin” will be unmistakable. The time spent describing the Antichrist further validates the belief that the Church will be present during the first four seals – they will need to be able to identify the Antichrist.

What are the withholding and the letting? Some scholars point to this text to illustrate their belief that the Holy Spirit and the Church will be taken out of the way – Raptured – before the Antichrist is revealed. I believe that this interpretation is in error. While the Holy Spirit, God’s agent on earth, is likely the force restraining the evil legions of this world, it is God the Father who is holding back on releasing those legions – he holds the sealed scroll (Rev. 5:1), he knows the day and hour (Mat. 24:36), and it is he who fixes the times and the seasons (Acts 1:7).

When the harvest of saints is full (2 Pet. 3:9), it is the Father who will ask the Holy Spirit to step aside and allow Satan forces loose upon this world. Neither the Holy Spirit nor the Church need be removed from the earth for this to occur; they need only step to the side. In Revelation 7:9-12, we see the martyred Christians who come out of the Great tribulation; if the Holy Spirit was taken out of the earth, salvation would be impossible:

John 16:7-8: Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment…

1 Corinthians 12:3: Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-17: Analysis

1 Thessalonians 4:13-17: But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Does this passage refer to the gathering of the elect? Yes, the sixteenth and seventeenth verses specifically deal with the gathering of the elect at Christ’s coming.

What is the focus of this passage? The thirteenth verse indicates that the Thessalonians were concerned about the Christians who died prior to Jesus Christ’s coming… perhaps they would not be included in the gathering of the elect. The authors, in the fourteenth and fifteenth verse, provides reassurance that since Jesus Christ rose from the grave, then those who have died in Christ will also rise from the grave at Christ’s coming.

Why doesn’t this passage mention the tribulation or the Antichrist? The purpose of this passage is to correct a misunderstanding concerning the ultimate disposition of those Christians who died before Christ’s coming; apparently some of the congregation believed the dead would remain in the grave. This passage is not intended to provide instruction on the events just prior to Christ’s coming but specifically on the status of those who have already died. Extraneous information would not be helpful in correcting any misunderstanding.

Does this passage parallel Jesus Christ’s Gospel prophecies? Yes, the passage specifically states that those resurrected will meet him in the air; all three Gospel accounts include seeing Christ in the clouds. Additionally, Matthew and Mark’s account includes the elect being gathered by angels which seems to parallel the voice of the archangel.

Does this passage provide any information not found within the Gospel accounts? Yes, it specifically mentions that the dead shall rise before those who are still alive and the sound of a trumpet of God; neither new detail seems inconsistent with the Gospel accounts.

1 Corinthians 15:12, 20-24: Analysis

1 Corinthians 15:12, 20-24: Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.

Does this passage refer to the gathering of the elect? Yes, the entire passage discusses the resurrection of the dead and the twenty-third verses deals directly with the elect.

What is the focus of this passage? Apparently, some among the Corinthian congregation claimed that the dead in Christ would not be resurrected. Paul focuses most of the fifteenth chapter on paralleling Christ’s death and resurrection with that of the elect.

Why doesn’t this passage mention the tribulation or the Antichrist? As discussed in the previous section, extraneous information related to the Antichrist and the events leading up to Christ’s coming would not add clarity to the misunderstanding and would probably just add to the confusion.

Doesn’t “Then cometh the end” refer to the Great Tribulation? No, the passage does not mention the “end times” but the “the end.” Paul specific defines “the end” as that point when Christ has quelled all rebellion; that will not happen until after the final battle of Gog and Magog which occurs after the Millennial Reign of Christ (Rev. 20:8). There is a huge amount of information missing, e.g. the seven trumpets, the seven bowls of wrath, Christ’s return as a conqueror, the binding of Satan for a thousand years, and the thousand year earthly reign of Christ.

Does this passage parallel Jesus Christ’s Gospel prophecies? Yes, but the focus is on the resurrection of the dead in Christ and there is little for comparison.

Does this passage provide any information not found within the Gospel accounts? Yes, the mention of Christ as the first fruits is new. However, it is used as a teaching analogy and we find the term elsewhere in the New Testament used to refer to Christians and to the remnant of Israel (James 1:18, Revelation 14:4).

John 14:2-3: Analysis

John 14:2-3: In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

Does this passage refer to the gathering of the elect? Yes, the third verse specifically talks about Jesus Christ returning and gathering the elect.

What does he mean by preparing a place and then returning? This passage is an analogy to Jewish marriage customs at the time of Christ. Between the betrothal and the wedding, the bridegroom would go to his father’s house and prepare a place for the couple to live. Once that task was accomplished, he would return to claim the bride and then return home for the wedding. This passage is a simple promise that despite the necessity to leave, Jesus Christ will return and gather his elect.

See the “COME UP HITHER” section below for a detailed analysis on the pretribulation wedding custom construct.

Matthew 26:29: Analysis

Matthew 26:29: But I say unto you, I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.

Does this passage refer to the gathering of the elect? No, the kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom (Romans 14:17, John 3:5-8, Luke 17:20-21); the Rapture is a physical event where the dead are resurrected and the living transformed. I’ve included the passage here because some believe it is related to the Rapture.

The Pretribulation Rapture: Rebuttal

Introduction

Pretribulation advocates claim that the first resurrection occurs in stages:

  1. The Rapture occurs before the breaking of the first seal in Revelation and is the secret gathering of believers in the air with the Jesus Christ. This gathering in the air does not constitute Christ’s second coming.
  2. The second stage of the first resurrection occurs at some point during the great tribulation for those individuals who were left behind during the rapture but come to accept him as the Christ before his second coming.
  3. Some advocates support a third stage where the 144,000 Jews are converted to Christianity and resurrected towards the end of the great tribulation.

Most pretribulation advocates are also premillennialist believing that the great tribulation occurs just before the second coming of Christ who is accompanied by his raptured believers. They also contend that Christ, along with the saints, will reign on earth for a thousand years.

Once again, I want to emphasize that it is not my intent to prove pretribulation arguments wrong but to examine if there is room for an alternative view.

The Seven Churches: Philadelphia Is Promised an Escape through the "Open Door" From the Great Tribulation

This, in my opinion, is the strongest argument for a pretribulation rapture. However, it does not specifically state that congregational members will Raptured out of the great tribulation:

Revelation 3:8,10: I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name… Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

Supporters of this argument link the “open door” to the “open door” that John goes through in Revelation 4:1. Logically the comparison seems to be a stretch. The phrase “open door” elsewhere in the New Testament frequently indicates an opportunity:

Colossians 4:3: Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds.

1 Corinthians 16:9: For a great and effective door is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.

2 Corinthians 2:12: Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord.

Acts 14:27: And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.

Revelation 3:10 seems to refer to the time of testing during great tribulation. Unfortunately, the passage may simply refer to divine protection here on earth during this period. There are several examples in the Bible where God supernaturally intervened: the remnant of the nation of Israel during the great tribulation (Revelation 12); Noah, his family, and the animals on the Ark (Genesis 6); the Hebrews in the blazing furnace (Daniel 3); Elijah fed by ravens (Kings 17); and Israel fed in the wilderness (Exodus 16).

In isolation, this argument is insufficient to reject the principles established by Jesus Christ in his Gospel prophecies; a second, preferably third, witness is required.

Imminence: The Belief That the Church Must Be Ready Because Christ Could Return At Any Moment

There is little doubt that the New Testament instructs the believer to always be prepared for the Rapture, and even early Christians believed that Jesus Christ could return within their lifetime:

Acts 1:6: When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying , Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12: Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

Revelation 22:12: And, behold , I come quickly; and my reward [is] with me, to give every man according as his work shall be .

There is also little doubt that it was not intended for us to know the day or hour of Jesus Christ’s coming:

Mark 24:36: But of that day and hour knoweth no [man], no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

Matthew 25:13: Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh .

Luke 12:46: The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for [him], and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.

However, we are given specific instructions to watch for the signs so that we will be aware of the season of his coming:

Matthew 24:32: Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.

Mark 13:28-29: Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors.

Luke 21:29-31: And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.

Jesus Christ will come as a thief in the night for the unbeliever; but to the believer will not be surprised on that day:

1 Thessalonians 5:1-5: But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night… But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

Supporters of the imminence theory point to several parables attempting to support their belief:

  1. Noah and the Flood: (Matthew 24, Luke 17) This parable does teach that the unbeliever will be caught off guard and swept away by the flood of God’s wrath. However, Noah, the believer, was given seven days warning before it started to rain (Genesis 7:4). If a Christian has an understanding of the Bible, the revealing of the Antichrist will also provide an advanced warning.
     
  2. Lot and Sodom & Gomorrah: (Luke 17) This parable also teaches that the unbeliever will be caught off guard and swept away by the wrath of God. However, just like Noah, Lot was warned the night before by two angels that the city was to be destroyed. It was the unbelievers who were caught unaware.
     
  3. The Parable of the Wise Servant: (Matthew 24) The good servant, the believer, always performs his duties with due diligence and has no concern about when his master returns. However, the wicked servant, the unbeliever, attempts to take advantage of his master’s absence; it is the wicked servant who is surprised by his master’s sudden return. The focus of this parable is due diligence, not imminence. The day and hour specifically targets the wicked servant:

Luke 12:45-46: But and if that servant say in his heart, “My lord delayeth his coming;” and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware…

  1. The Parable of the Talents: (Matthew 25, Luke 19) This parable does discuss the master being absent for an extended period, and the servants do not know when he will return. However, if we examine the moral of the parable (25:28-30), we can see that the parable is focused on diligence, not imminence. The parable instructs us to make good use of our time while we wait for Christ’s coming.
     
  2. The Parable of the Ten Virgins: (Matthew 25) In this parable, the ten virgins understood that the time was near for the grooms return; they prepared their lamps and went out to meet him. Unfortunately, five were ill prepared for a delay and ran out of oil. This parable seems to reinforce the idea that we may not know the exact day or hour but we will know the season.

Some imminence supporters believe that the phrase “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” indicates the suddenness of Christ’s appearance; however, this belief is out of context with the passage:

1 Corinthians 15:50-53: I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

This passage focuses on the change that will occur at Christ’s coming… our earthly bodies will be changed into heavenly bodies within “a flash, in a twinkling of an eye.”

Satan Will Be Given Dominion for 42 Months on Earth and the Church Will Not Be Put Under Satan's Dominion

First, this claim is at least partially truth. The Philadelphia church was promised that it would be kept from the hour of testing; however, this “escape” does not necessarily mean that the congregation will be Raptured to heaven. They may be divinely protected here on earth, either as a group or individually.

Second, Satan is referred to as the “god of this world” during the current age (2 Corinthians 4:4). One need only look at the multiple atrocities commented throughout the centuries to realize that Christians do not live in paradise. Fortunately, the Christian is well armored to deal with such evil (Ephesians 6:10-18). There are no indications that the Holy Spirit will abandon true believers; however, there will be some who run out of oil and may not endure to Christ’s coming (Matthew 25:10).

Third, the scriptures are clear that the Antichrist will make war against the saints and will overcome some:

Daniel 7:21: I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them.

Revelation 2:10: Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

Revelation 12:17: And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 13:7: And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.

Fourth, persecution and tribulation is a common among those with faith in God; we should expect nothing less:

Hebrews 11:35-38: But others were tortured, not accepting release, to obtain resurrection to a better life. And others experienced mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, sawed apart, murdered with the sword; they went about in sheepskins and goatskins; they were destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (the world was not worthy of them); they wandered in deserts and mountains and caves and openings in the earth.

2 Thessalonians 1:4-5: So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer…

2 Corinthians 4:7-11: But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

Come Up Hither: The Church Is Not Mentioned After Revelation 3:22 and Thus Has No Role in the Tribulation

Adherents to this view claim that the Church, the bride of Christ (John 14:2-3), is raptured in Revelation 4:1 and will be hidden away in the bridal chamber (Cuppah) for seven years. The unveiled bride then emerges in Revelation 19:6 for the wedding banquet. Only those individuals who were left-behind but accept Christ after the Rapture are seen in revelation 4:1-19:6.

First, there a number of articles that provide a detailed description of how ancient Jewish wedding customs support a pretribulation Rapture. While these portray a beautiful narrative of the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church, most extend the analogy much too far:

  • This narrative relies on a non-biblical, non-verifiable description of ancient Jewish wedding customs. We should use extreme care in developing doctrine based on non-biblical sources. The most conspicuous example is the medieval Roman Catholic Church that spawned the need for the Reformation.
     
  • We must be cautious in extending any analogy too far. In two instances within the New Testament, believers are referred to as someone other than the bride:

Luke 12:35-36: Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.

Matthew 22:2-3, 11-13: The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come… And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

  • This narrative requires that the bride, the Church, remain hidden in the bridal chamber for seven days (years). However, Sampson’s wife was not hidden from the guests during the entire seven day period (Judges 14); and, according to the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25), the five wise virgins went in directly to the wedding feast upon the groom’s arrival.
     
  • This narrative describes Jesus Christ leaving earth to prepare “living accommodations” in heaven for his bride. However, the pretribulation tradition generally places Christ and his bride’s dwelling on earth in Jerusalem during the millennial reign of Christ – this earthly abode is within the realm of God’s house (creation) and may account for the use “many mansions” (dwelling places) found within John 14:2.
     
  • This narrative generally claims that the father of the groom must approve of the couple’s living accommodations prior to the retrieval of the bride; thus, the phrase “No one knows the day or hour except the father.” However, Christ’s living accommodations will not be complete until he takes possession of his earthly kingdom (Rev. 19:19-21), and it would be doubtful that the Father would give his approval until that task was complete.
     
  • Considering Jesus Christ’s will not claim his earthly abode until the end of Revelation 19, the wedding analogy seems to be more supportive of a post- rather than a pre- tribulation resurrection. Although the portrayal is beautiful, we must be cautious in drawing any major conclusions from such an overextended analogy.

Second, the apparent absence of the Church from Revelation 4:1 to 19:6 is not a unique difficulty. In Revelation 20:4 there are two groups of “saints” described:

  • The first set described is those that sit upon thrones to judge. While some claim this represents all Church age saints, that claim is problematic. While 1 Corinthians 6:2-3 says that the saints will judge the world and angels, the passage is rather vague and does not mention thrones. Matthew 19:28 and Luke 22:30 do mention thrones and judging together, but Matthew limits the number to twelve. In Revelation 4:4, John describes elders and thrones, but there are only twenty-four. It would take a mental leap to believe that there are millions and millions of thrones, one for each pretribulation saint.
     
  • The second set described is the martyrs coming out of the great tribulation. It would also take a mental leap to claim that these individuals represented millions and millions of pretribulation saints. The description is unmistakable:

Revelation 20:4: … and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands…

Some might claim that the bride of Christ, the Church, composes a single entity and that it would be incorrect to use the plural form; however, Revelation 20:4 does use the masculine plural form of the word throne. Thus, regardless of our pre-, mid-, post-tribulation rapture view, we are still left with the question, “Where are the all the saints from the first resurrection?”

Where Are the Saints During the Great Tribulation?

The tribulation saints found in Revelation 7:9-17 and Revelation 20:4 reflect all redeemed Christians that were caught away to heaven during the Rapture – the first resurrection.

The label “Great Tribulation” has given to the events depicted in Revelation 4:1-19:21; however, a more appropriate label might be “The Time of Jacob’s Trouble.”

  1. The events depicted in Revelation 4:1-19:21 reflect a transition between the Church Age and the Millennial Age. During the Church Age, the primary focus of God’s covenant is on redemption through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. During the Millennial Age, the primary focus of God’s covenant will be on the earthly reign of Israel’s Messiah – Jesus Christ.
     
  2. Transition periods are typical as the focus of God’s covenant changes. There were several years (estimates range from 80 to 100 years) from the time Noah was given the command to build the ark and the time the flood came. Israel wondered in the wilderness for forty years before they were permitted to cross into the Promised Land. A period of some thirty-eight years transpired between Jesus Christ’s resurrection and the Jews were scattered throughout the nations, e.g. the conquest of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Scriptural evidence suggests that this transition will last about seven years.
  3. One difficulty with this transition is distinguishing between those scriptures directed at the Church and those directed as Israel. Amillennialism asserts that Israel was merged into the Church in 70 AD and that there is no scriptural differentiation. However, an examination of Revelation reveals that there is a distinction, for example:
  4. Revelation 5:5: And one of the elders saith unto me, “Weep not: behold , the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.”

    Revelation 5:6: Then I saw standing in the middle of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the middle of the elders, a Lamb that appeared to have been killed.

    Revelation 5:5 is a reference to the Jewish Messiah, and Revelation 5:6 is a reference to the Christian Messiah. The Old Testament prophets made no distinction as they did not anticipate a Church Age. Basically, we have two parallel transactions occurring: the Christians are experiencing a final purging in anticipation of the coming of their Messiah in the clouds and Israel is being cleansed in preparation for the earthly reign of their Messiah.

  5. The term “Time of Jacob’s Trouble” originates in the book of Jeremiah:
  6. Jeremiah 30:4-7: And these are the words that the LORD spake concerning Israel and concerning Judah. For thus saith the LORD; We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail [labor pains], and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.

    We can find similar passages in the New Testament:

    Matthew 24:4-8: And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrow [labor pains].

    Mark 13:8: Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains [labor pains].

    1 Thessalonians 4:1-2: But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail [labor pains] upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.

    Thus, the time of Jacob’s Trouble and our traditional “Great Tribulation” is analogous with the labor pains experienced by a woman during child birth – something new is being brought into this world and it causes great distress.

  7. How do we know that Jeremiah 30:4-7 refers to the same time period as John’s Revelation? Two key linking elements can be found in the next two verses: Israel will no longer be enslaved by foreigners and they will be rules by David – a reference to the millennial reign of Christ.

    Jeremiah 30:8-9: “‘In that day,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘I will break the yoke off their necks and will tear off their bonds; no longer will foreigners enslave them. Instead, they will serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.

    Some claim that the prophecy was fulfilled when Kingdom of Judah returned from their Babylonian captivity; however, Kingdom of Israel (the ten lost tribes) disappeared from the biblical and historical record prior to the Babylonian captivity.

  8. Why would the label, “The Time of Jacob’s Trouble” be more appropriate than the “Great Tribulation”? In isolation, the book of Revelation is virtually indecipherable – cannot be understood; it must be referenced to Jesus Christ’s prophecies within the Gospel, and those referenced us back to Old Testament:

    Matthew 24:15: When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)

    Mark 13:14: "But when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.

    Luke 21:20: And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.

    Much imagery within Revelation and some within the Gospels are more closely tied to the Old Testament than the New, e.g. the first four seals. For example, the verses that follow Matthew 24:15 refer to those living in Israel at the time the Antichrist sets himself up in the temple:

    Matthew 24:16-20: Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day…

    These verses, and others like them, are confusing to Christians who fail to recognize the transition between the Church Age and the Millennial Age – the Golden Age of Israel. Edward Hine, 1876, asserts that seven-eighths of the Bible is misunderstood because we do not distinguish between Judah (the southern kingdom) and Israel (the northern kingdom).

  9. By relabeling the “Great Tribulation” to “The Time of Jacob’s Trouble,” the imagery becomes mentally more manageable as the focus shifts from the Church Age to the Millennial Age.

The term “great tribulation” is an appropriately a label for the time period between the casting down of Satan to the earth (following the resurrection of Christ) and the rapture of the Church (the breaking of the sixth seal).

  1. The original, primary purpose of the book of Revelation was to reassure the early Church community that their tribulation is not in vain. William Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors, phrases the purpose eloquently:6
  2. In the main, the purpose of the book of Revelation is to comfort the militant Church in its struggle against the forces of evil. It is full of help and comfort for persecuted and suffering Christians. To them is given the assurance that God sees their tears (7: 17; 21: 4); their prayers are influential in world affairs (8: 3, 4) and their death is precious in His sight…

    • Within the introduction, there is a clear implication those who inflict tribulation upon the elect will be avenged:
    • Revelation 1:7: Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

    • Within the salutation, John clearly indicates that he shares in the congregations’ sufferings:

      Revelation 1:9: I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.

    • Messages to four of the churches reflect tribulation within the congregations.

      Revelation 2:3-4: I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.

      Revelation 2:9-10: I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

      Revelation 2:13: I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.

      Revelation 3:9: Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

    • The need to remain steadfast against tribulation is repeated in all seven messages:

      Revelation 2:7: …To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

      Revelation 2:11: …He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

      Revelation 2:17: …To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

      Revelation 2:25-26: …he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations

      Revelation 3:5: He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.

      Revelation 3:12: Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.

      Revelation 3:21: To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

    • It would be difficult to imagine that these early Christians not seeing themselves among crowds of tribulation saints within Revelation 7:9-17 and Revelation 20:4.
  3. When Satan was cast out of heaven, he set his revenge on persecuting Christians.
    • The narrative in Revelation 12 reveals the nature of the Christian walk during this age:
    • Revelation 12:1-6: Then I witnessed in heaven an event of great significance. I saw a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head… I saw a large red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, with seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept away one-third of the stars in the sky, and he threw them to the earth. He stood in front of the woman as she was about to give birth, ready to devour her baby as soon as it was born. She gave birth to a son who was to rule all nations with an iron rod. And her child was snatched away from the dragon and was caught up to God and to his throne…

      In Genesis, Jacob clearly understood that he was the sun, his wife was the moon, and his twelve children were the stars. This is the root of the nation of Israel. In Revelation, these symbols are used for two reasons. One is to signify the root of the woman portrayed there, that she is Israelitish: sun, moon, stars—Jacob, Rachel, and the twelve sons.7

    • The woman represents the nation of Israel. The red dragon is Satan who in ancient days rebelled along with one-third of the angels against God. Through Herod the Great, King of Judea, attempted to kill baby Jesus during the massacre of the innocents; however, the infant and family escaped into Egypt and eventually ascended to heaven.

      Revelation 12:7-9: Then there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels. And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven. This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels.

    • Prior to Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry, Satan went before the throne of God to accuse man (Zechariah 3:1, Job 1:6). However, Christ’s triumph over temptation, spotless life, sacrificial death, and exultant resurrection redeemed mankind – Satan had no legitimate accusation before the throne of God, and he was cast out of heaven to earth.

      Revelation 12:10-12: Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last— salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth—the one who accuses them before our God day and night. And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens! And you who live in the heavens, rejoice! But terror will come on the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you in great anger, knowing that he has little time.”

    • Although victorious, Christ did not take immediate possession of the earth desiring a full harvest of redeemed saints. Thus Satan remained the god of this world and was determined to snatch as many souls as possible:

      2 Corinthians 4:4: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

      2 Corinthians 11:13-14: These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.

      Ephesians 2:2: Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience…

      Ephesians 6:12: For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

    • Tribulation is a normal component of a Christian life:

      Acts 14:22: Confirming the souls of the disciples, [and] exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.

      John 16:33: These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

      Hebrews 10:32-33: But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; Partly, whilst ye were made a gazing stock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.

    • God promises punishment for those who inflict tribulation:

      2 Thessalonians 1:5-6: [Which is] a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: Seeing [it is] a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you.

      2 Thessalonians 1:8: In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

      Romans 12:19: Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but [rather] give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance [is] mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

If the souls out of the tribulation do not represent all Christians, then non-tribulation saints will not be resurrected until the end of the millennium.

Revelation 20:4-5: And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and [I saw] the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received [his] mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This [is] the first resurrection.

  1. There are two resurrections, one for the redeemed Christian and one for the wicked:
  2. John 5:28-29: Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming , in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth ; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

    Acts 24:15: And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.

  3. There is one resurrection of redeemed Christians:
  4. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.


1 Ross A. Taylor, “Amillennialist Interpretation,” Revelation: Apocalipsis.org. NDA. <http://www.apocalipsis.org/t20-amillennialist.htm> Oct. 2, 2011.

2 Dr. L. Kip Wheeler, “Juxtaposition,” Literary Terms and Definitions, Carson-Newman College, Sep. 26, 2011.  <http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/lit_terms_J.html> Oct. 2, 2011.

3 Ross A. Taylor, “Amillennialist Interpretation,” Revelation: Apocalipsis.org. NDA. < http://www.apocalipsis.org/t20-amillennialist.htm> Oct. 2, 2011.

4 “646 apostasía,” HELPS™ Word-studies: Helps Ministries, Inc., 2011. <http://concordances.org/greek/646.htm> Oct. 26, 2011.

5 “apokaluptó,” Strong’s Concordance: Biblos.com, 2011. <http://concordances.org/greek/601.htm> Oct. 26.2011.

6 William Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation, Mobi edition: Baker Books:, July 2007, np.

7 John W. Ritenbaugh, "Revelation 12:1," Bibletools: Church of the Great God, 2011 <http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/bible.show/sVerseID/30893/eVerseID/30893> Oct. 28, 2011


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