There seems to be a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding regarding the status and condition of the Church, the world, and the coming Kingdom in these last minutes of the last hours of the last days. We need to get clear in our minds, according to the scriptures, just WHO and WHAT is in play during these last days, as well as what the order of events are that lie just over the horizon.
We need to clear up some fundamental misunderstandings of WHAT the Church is, WHO the Church is, and what her role is before the Rapture. We also need to distinguish again between the differing groups of “saints” who are addressed in the Bible; and finally, we need to have a much clearer grasp of WHAT the Millennial Kingdom is, who will be in it, and what the purpose of it is.
So, in order to clear up our understanding, always according to the scriptures, let’s begin to clear up the errors and misconceptions beginning with the Church – her identity and her purpose.
First of all, we must come to understand what the Church is and what she is not. The Church Age is unique in all of scripture. Up until the call of Abraham, God dealt with humanity as a whole. With the call of Abraham, God began to fashion a people special to Himself. When Jacob came along (Abraham’s grandson) God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, and thus all of Jacob’s physical descendants became the nation of Israel.
Thus, God then split humanity into two distinct people groups: Israel (the Jewish people who are the PHYSICAL descendants of Abraham), and ALL other people (non-Jews) who are called Gentiles. This dual separation lasted until AFTER Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection when a third and completely new entity was birthed at Pentecost.
This new entity was a “mystery hidden in God” and was completely UNKNOWN to ALL of the Old Testament prophets, as well as the disciples, who were in the dark about it until AFTER Jesus’ resurrection.
At Pentecost, the Lord then made a THIRD division to humanity by creating His “ekklesia” or His “called out ones” who were to become His body – of which He is the head, also called His “bride” of whom He is the Bridegroom.
This new “called out body” is made up of ALL believers in Christ Jesus, BOTH Jew and Gentile. Thus, there are now (present day since after Calvary):
(1) lost (unbelieving) Gentiles
(2) lost (unbelieving) Jews, and
(3) the Church of Jesus Christ made up of both believing Jews and Gentiles, who at salvation are made ONE “in Christ.”
The purpose of the Church is to do what Israel failed to do when she rejected Jesus as her Messiah, which was to be the instrument through whom God is revealed to the world. Israel failed, and thus the Lord (who already knew before He ever even created the world that she would fail) brought about the Church.
Now, the problem arises when people try to place the Church in the Old Testament (where it was completely unknown and not revealed) or when they try to REPLACE Israel with the Church, believing in error that God has finished dealing with national Israel and that He has no further use for her. NOTHING is farther from the truth! God is NOT FINISHED with Israel, and He has NOT REPLACED Israel with the Church! They are still TWO DISTINCT ENTITIES, BOTH with separate functions and destinies to fulfill in end-times events.
For now, national Israel is “on the back burner” so to speak, while the Church is center stage during this Age of Grace. But, when the Church is complete, she will be removed in the Resurrection/Rapture; and the focus of God ON EARTH will return once again to ISRAEL in order to finish up His plans and to fulfill all of His unbreakable covenants, which He made to ISRAEL through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (see Daniel chapter 9).
So, we see that Israel and the Church are NOT synonymous and that the Church has NOT replaced Israel in God’s plan for the ages, and never will.
There is great confusion regarding the event of the Rapture, with a great deal of confusion occurring over WHEN it will occur. As we shall see, the question is not just when will the Rapture occur, but it is also a matter of WHAT causes the Rapture to occur. Answering the latter helps us understand the former.
In trying to understand the WHEN of the Rapture, let’s first look at WHO goes in the Rapture, who doesn’t go in the Rapture, and WHAT triggers the Rapture.
First the WHO: In 1 Corinthians 15:50-56; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; & 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, Paul gives us the answer to the WHO. The Resurrection/Rapture is SPECIFIC to those who are “in Christ” – that is those who have been made ONE through their belief which brings salvation after Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.
This group of believers, known as the Church, is made up of ALL believers since Calvary, and includes BOTH the living believers and those who have died “in Christ” from the time of Pentecost up to the instant of the Resurrection/Rapture. This is the “body/bride of Christ. It is these believers – these CHURCH-AGE SAINTS who will be taken when the Rapture occurs.
As we shall see later on, the DESTINY of the Church-Age saints is DIFFERENT from ISRAEL and from the Gentiles after the Rapture occurs. Once the Church is removed from the earth via the Resurrection/Rapture, then God’s focus ON EARTH returns to ISRAEL and to the Gentile nations – BOTH of whom are LOST.
God will use the coming Tribulation (more correctly called “The Time of Jacob’s Trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7), the “70th week of Daniel” (Daniel 9), or the “Day of the Lord”) to reveal Himself again to lost Israel and to a lost Gentile population. The Church will have already been completed and removed via the Resurrection/Rapture PRIOR to this last 7-year Time period known as THE Tribulation (as opposed to general tribulations).
Before we go any further, we need to understand that there are 3 (three) groups of people addressed in the Bible as “saints.” We need to clear up which group is which so that we are no longer confused as to who is who.
First there are the Old Testament saints. These OT saints are ALL those who placed their faith and trust in God’s COMING REDEEMER BEFORE CALVARY.
Next are the Church-Age saints who are all those who have believed and placed their trust in Jesus Christ, who IS that Redeemer from the time of Pentecost up to the Resurrection/Rapture.
And lastly, there will be a group of saints called Tribulation saints or Tribulation believers. These are ALL who WILL COME to salvation AFTER the Rapture; they are all those who WILL BE SAVED DURING THE Tribulation. THESE Tribulation saints ARE believers but they are NOT part of the Church, which by then will have already been in Heaven.
Now, having sorted those groups of saints out, let’s look at what triggers the Rapture. As we will see, it’s not strictly a matter of timing; it’s a matter of timing AND a matter of COMPLETION.
The Bible speaks of “the fullness” of the Gentiles “coming in.” What is meant by that?
As we now know, when God revealed to the Apostle Paul (in Ephesians) the “mystery” of the Church (that both believing Jews and Gentiles would be made ONE in Christ and that this new body of believers would have the Holy Spirit of God ETERNALLY SEALED WITHIN THEM), we learned that there is a certain NUMBER of Gentiles – the number of which God alone knows – who are to be grafted into the “olive tree” of Israel. Just what that number is and when the “full number” will be complete is known only to God.
Once the “full” (or complete) number of Gentile believers who are allotted to make up the complete Church has “come in,” or in other words, has been added to the body/bride, then the body/bride will be COMPLETE. Once it (the Church) is complete, then the Church Age (the Dispensation of Grace) will end, and God will then remove His Church to Heaven BEFORE the seven-year Tribulation begins. God will then turn His full attention back to Israel to finish and fulfill ALL of His covenant promises to her, and to prepare ISRAEL to accept her true Messiah, Jesus Christ, whom Israel earlier rejected.
Therefore, once the Church has been COMPLETED with her “full number” having “come in,” then the ones left on earth AFTER the Rapture will be the LOST Jews and LOST Gentiles. Those who come to salvation DURING the Tribulation will become the Tribulation believers, or Tribulation saints.
The “souls under the altar” in Revelation chapter 7 are those Tribulation saints who will have become believers AFTER the Rapture has occurred; those who will have died for their faith in Christ during the seven years of The Tribulation.
We know from scripture that 1/3 of Israel will become believers (Zechariah 13:8-9). God will preserve and protect these new believing Jews and will bring them through the Tribulation so that, by the end of the seven-year “Time of Jacob’s Trouble,” ALL of Israel (that 1/3 who become believers and whose lives are spared) will be saved. All other unbelieving Jews will be killed; so the only portion of Israel left will ALL be believers in their true Messiah.
EVERY Jew who enters the Millennial Kingdom (at the end of the Tribulation) will be saved, as will every Gentile who comes to Christ DURING that time (those few from every nation that get saved – those that actually live to see the end of the Tribulation).
These believing Gentiles will be relatively few in number because the overall death toll during the Tribulation will be beyond enormous.
We also know that there will be some Gentiles who come to salvation during the Tribulation because, at the end of the Tribulation, Jesus Himself separates the “sheep” (believers) from the “goats” (unbelievers).
We further know that there will be some Gentiles at that judgment, because the criteria Christ will use to determine what Gentiles go into the Millennial Kingdom will be twofold:
(1) Only those who did NOT receive the mark of the beast will be saved.
(2) those who took care of – who sheltered, fed, clothed, visited the “least of these MY (Jesus’) brethren” and who did so because they loved Jesus.
Because Israel is NEVER counted among the nations (Numbers 23:9), this is evidence that there will be some saved from among ALL the Gentile nations who risked their lives to protect the 144,000 and any other Jews whom Jesus in Matthew 25 called “these my brethren.”
It will be ALL of (then saved) Israel and what Gentile believers (sheep) who make it through alive to the end of the Time of Jacob’s Trouble who will enter to populate the Kingdom. We know this is true because Revelation tells us that, during the Millennium, the nations come to Jerusalem to be taught by the Lord. And since Israel is NEVER counted among the nations, there MUST be Gentiles from all the nations in the Kingdom who will come out of the Tribulation.
Each of these people will still be in their MORTAL bodies. They will be the ones who will procreate and populate the Millennial Kingdom.
Now, in addition to those mortal believers (both Jews and Gentiles), neither group of which belong to the CHURCH, the MK will also have IMMORTALS dwelling there as well. The Church will already be in our immortal and glorified bodies, having gotten them at the instant of our Rapture. The Old Testament saints, along with ALL of the Tribulation saints who will have died or who will have been martyred DURING the Tribulation, will receive their immortal bodies at the END of the Tribulation just BEFORE Jesus sets up His Millennial Kingdom. These will also be among the immortals living and functioning among the mortals during the Kingdom Age.
So, in Revelation 7, the “SOULS under the altar” are all those who came to salvation DURING the Tribulation, who are believers, but who are NOT part of the Church; these are they who died or were killed by the Antichrist or his globalist minions.
Remember, there are Old Testament Saints, Church Age Saints, and Tribulation Saints. Don’t neglect to distinguish one from the other!
The Church-Age saints – both the dead and the living (all who have come to salvation from after Calvary to the Rapture), will be in Heaven in our new and immortal glorified bodies at the time of the Resurrection/Rapture, where we will stay until we return WITH King Jesus at the END of the Tribulation.
The souls of all Old Testament saints and of the martyred Tribulation saints will be with us (the Church) in Heaven, but they will still be in spirit form until the END of the Tribulation period.
ALL of these groups of saints come back WITH Jesus at His Second Coming, both the Church in glorified bodies, and the OT and Tribulation saints (who will come back with Christ in SPIRIT form). These will then receive their glorified bodies BEFORE they enter the Kingdom; so the MK will consist of both mortal and immortal beings (see Daniel 9 and Revelation chapters 19 – 22).
The purpose of the Time of Jacob’s Trouble is fourfold:
1) to cleanse the world of sin and rebellion
2) to prepare ISRAEL to receive her Messiah
3) to fulfill ALL of the covenants that God made with Israel
4) to restore Earth to its Edenic condition
So, will there be people saved AFTER the Tribulation? Yes, however they will NOT be counted as being part of the Church, which is the body/Bride of Christ, and who will be gone from the earth BEFORE the Tribulation begins.
The question remains, will there be a great “revival” or awakening BEFORE the Rapture? The answer is both yes and no.
NO in the sense that there are vast numbers of people (especially in America and the West) where the gospel has been preached and ignored for decades. Sadly, the vast majority will choose not to respond and come to Christ.
YES in that there are already, at this moment, millions of people who are coming to Christ in countries where the gospel has been curtailed, restrained, or even banished – such as in China, North Korea, and all across the Middle East. In that sense, there is already a great ingathering going on.
The Bible tells us that “when the fullness (full number of) the Gentiles has come in” – that full complement who will make up the body/bride is completed – then the Church will be complete and she (the Church) will be taken out of here in the Rapture.
This means that getting the gospel out must be our primary focus, because once that “last Gentile” who makes up the full complement” that completes the body comes to salvation, then the completed Church will be taken Home.
Amillennialists don’t believe in a literal Millennial Kingdom; and the “Kingdom Now” crowd believes that Jesus is unable to return until the Church brings the entire world to salvation, thus bringing in the Kingdom of God because Jesus is unable to do it. The problem with these false beliefs is a failure to recognize and distinguish between God’s distinct differences between the Church and Israel.
ISRAEL is the focal point of ALL scripture, and she is the focal point of the Time of Jacob’s Trouble – aka The Tribulation.
God IS NOT BOUND by fallen, sinful man so that He cannot return until the Church grows strong enough for Him to return. That is HERESY! Neither has God REPLACED Israel with the Church! That too is utter HERESY!
The books of 2 Timothy, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 2 Corinthians, Revelation chapters 2-3, et al, ALL point to a world in which wickedness, lawlessness, debauchery, evil and Godlessness are running rampant on a global scale. In Matthew 24 & Luke 17, Jesus Himself tells us that the conditions just before His return to earth will be “as it was in the days of both Noah and Lot.” Hardly a time of a world growing more and more “Christian.” In fact, it will be just the opposite of perfection.
Don’t be misled and lied to by wolves such as Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Joyce Meyer, Beth Moore, or any others who are preaching and teaching the heresy that the Church must REMAIN HERE during the Tribulation in order to “bring in the Kingdom.” All who teach such false gospels obviously do not have a clue what scripture actually teaches. Do not be deceived by them! They are false teachers whose messages are diametrically opposed to what God states in His inerrant, infallible Word. Those who teach and preach such heresies are all LIARS.
Our job as the Remnant Church, until Jesus comes, is to share the gospel far and wide; we are to warn a lost world that certain judgment lies just over the horizon, and that the vanishing of the Remnant Church must and will occur before the time of Tribulation begins. That mandate has never changed.
Let us tell as many as we can how and why they need a Savior. At some point, that “last Gentile” WILL be saved. And when that happens, then the body/bride will be complete, and the Bridegroom will come for His Bride. Keep looking up. MARANATHA!!