Response to an unpublished question concerning the Rapture. Previously titled “Difficult Rapture Questions”
We certainly believe there is a rapture for the church. The question is when?
In addition to the resurrection of “the dead in Christ” (1Thes 4:16), all those who belong to Christ (1Cor 15:23) that survive the final tribulation must also be “changed” at the last trump (1Cor 15:52). The so-called rapture pertains to the “catching up” of these remaining living believers (1Thes 4:17). This happens in connection with the change mentioned in 1Cor 15:52. The requirement for this change is based on the principle that Paul establishes in 1Cor 15:50. “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption.” (15:50).
So, we fully affirm that a rapture will occur, but not as it is being taught. Those that teach that the rapture occurs BEFORE the tribulation (the “pre-tribulational” view) see it as escape and exemption from the last persecution, which they confuse with the wrath of God, insisting that believers are not ‘appointed to wrath’ (1Thes 5:9).
There is, of course, a clear distinction between tribulation and divine wrath, a distinction that is evident throughout the book of Revelation, between the saints’ endurance of the wrath of man and those that are called earth dwellers, who experience the wrath of God. Manifestly, there are many saints in the tribulation period that are not “appointed to wrath,” but this exemption does not require physical removal from the scene (Lk 21:18; Rev 7:3; 12:6).
We also believe in the rapture. The difference is that we believe the resurrection and rapture of the church take place AFTER the tribulation, at the “last day,” which we understand as the one and only second coming of Christ (see Mt 24:29; Jn 6:39, 44, 54; 11:24; 12:48; Heb 9:28). Therefore, we are called post-tribulationists (Post means after). Both positions recognize the rapture in some form, but differ significantly concerning its time and purpose.We are clear that all those that survive the great tribulation to the point of the Lord’s return MUST undergo this change and this catching up into the clouds of glory, in like manner to the Lord’s own taking up into the clouds, as described in Acts 1:11.
The question is: Having now been caught up into the air, where do we go from there? This is the question that pre-tribulationists will press. Where do the newly resurrected saints abide? What is their relationship to those that populate the millennial earth? I want to come back to that question, but first I want to further establish the time of the rapture.
Notice that Paul locates the resurrection and rapture “at the last trump” (1Cor 15:52). Jesus also mentions the sounding of “a great trumpet” in connection with the “gathering together of His elect” (compare Mt 24:31 with 2Thes 2:1). Now notice that this takes place “immediately AFTER the tribulation of those days” (Mt 24:29-31). It is evident from Paul’s use of similar language in 2Thes 2:1 that he has this same event in mind. Listen to the language he uses:
“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him,”
He continues by adding that “that day” cannot come until AFTER the Antichrist has been revealed. Listen again to the words of Paul: “Let no man deceive you by any means. For that day (the Day of the Lord) shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (2Thes 2:2-3).
Therefore, if Paul says that the day of the Lord cannot come until AFTER the Antichrist has been revealed, how can the rapture be considered an imminent event? Pre-tribulationists teach that Christ could come at any moment and that nothing by way of necessary fulfillment stands in the way. They say He might come today. Well, we may not know when any individual may be called into final judgment, but we can say with utmost certainty, “Christ CANNOT come today!” The reason is plain. Paul tells us that the Antichrist must come first.
Both Testaments treat the Day of the Lord as the conclusion to the time of unequaled trouble. This means the day of the Lord IS the post-tribulational return of Christ. As proof, compare Joel 2:30-31 with Mt 24:29. Notice that the Lord’s return comes AFTER the darkness that comes AFTER the tribulation. Now observe that Joel places the darkness immediately BEFORE the day of the Lord. Do you see that?
Examine those passages closely. This is an important distinction, because it prohibits spreading the day of the Lord out to include the entirety of the tribulation (as in pre-trib rapture teaching). Indeed, all the prophets show that Israel’s deliverance and regeneration takes place at this time. And the day of the Lord is consistently presented as the climax to the unequaled time of trouble, a time that Daniel and Revelation limit to 3 ½ years. Many may not be aware that this is also the time that the Old Testament faithful are raised (see Dan 12:1-2; Isa 25:8; 26:19; Job 19:25).
[As an aside, I’d like to point out the importance of Dan 12:1-2 for our view of the time of Jacob’s trouble. This is not the place to show all the reasons, but this passage is the ‘nemesis’ (threat or obstruction) to many false interpretations. For this cause, it is often spiritualized. However, if this is not a definite reference to the literal resurrection of the literal dead, then where is there a plainer reference to resurrection to be found that is not subject to the same dubious procedure? Through such a method, the plain meaning of language and the author’s original intent is effectively vaporized. The authority of scripture is not questioned, but the end is the same unbelief that asks “has God really said?”]
But all the evidence defies spiritualizing this passage. Notice the similarity of language between Jer 30:7, Dan 12:1, and Mt 24:21. There can be no doubt that the same event is in view. Now observe that the time of the unequaled tribulation ends with the deliverance of Israel in both Jeremiah’s and Daniel’s prophecy, while in Matthew the tribulation ends with Christ’s return (Mt 24:29-30). Do you see that?
Now notice that the tribulation that ends in Israel’s deliverance, Christ’s return, and the resurrection of the righteous happens in connection with the standing up of Michael. It is noteworthy that we see Michael again in Rev 12. Here again, the context is the threshold of the final tribulation. This marks the time that Satan is evicted from heaven and comes down with great rage because he knows his time is short (Rev 12:12). This short time of Satan’s unrestrained fury is obviously the time of unequaled tribulation, the time of the Antichrist’s final 3 ½ year persecution of the saints and of the woman (Dan 7:25; 9:27; 12:11; Rev 11:2-3; 12:6, 14; 13:5).
Here again in John’s apocalypse, the time of the first resurrection that begins the thousand years is set in relation to the destruction of the Beast (Rev 19:20; 20:4-6), and all of these events terminate in the “great day of God Almighty” (compare 16:14, 17 with Ezek 39:8). The same order is observed in Dan 7:11-13, 21-27). Paul likewise sees the ‘Man of Sin’ destroyed by the personal appearing of Christ (2Thes 2:8).
So whoever would spiritualize the resurrection in Daniel 12:2 must spiritualize a great deal besides. Typically, the resurrection in Dan 12:2 is spiritualized only because it stands in the way of placing the unparalleled tribulation in 70AD. If the resurrection is literal, then the tribulation is future, and this is fatal to ‘preterism’. If the tribulation is past, then the deliverance of Daniel’s people’ must also be past. This denies the evidence for Israel’s future salvation (Ro 11:25-29) in obvious connection with a yet-future tribulation. Such a reckless mission becomes more than exegetically reprehensible; it becomes morally suspect.
So it is clear that Paul shares the perspective of the prophets, which depicts the day of the Lord as the terminal point of the tribulation, ending with the deliverance of Israel (Isa 59:19-21; Ro 11:25-29), the resurrection of the dead (Dan 12:2; Isa 25:8; 26:19), and the destruction of the Antichrist ( 2Thes 2:8). So where does Paul place the resurrection of the church in relationship to the resurrection of the Old Testament faithful?
It must not be overlooked, as it was certainly NOT overlooked by Paul, that the events of the day of the Lord happen in connection with a great sound of a trumpet (see Ps 47:5; Isa 27:13; Joel 2:1; Zeph 1:16; Mt 24:31; 1 Cor 15:52-54; Rev 10:7; 11:15). Even pretribulationists must admit that the resurrection of the OT faithful happens in connection with the trumpet that sounds the day of the Lord (Isa 27:13; Joel 2:1).
In light of such evidence, it becomes quite impossible to say that Paul’s last trump sounds seven years BEFORE the trumpet that Jesus mentions in connection with His post-tribulational return (1Cor 15:52; Mt 24:29-31). Undeniably, both testaments witness to the fact that the day of the Lord comes with the “great sound of a trumpet.” How then can any trumpet sounding an alleged seven years earlier be intelligently called last? But this is precisely what is being taught among the larger part of those that believe the tribulation is future and that Israel (“the natural branches”) has a destiny beyond this present age (called the ‘futurist view’).
So we believe that the church is gathered to the Lord by rapture, but only after the final persecution. This is the Lord’s personal return to destroy the Antichrist, reveal Himself to Israel, and raise the righteous of both testaments. It should have been that simple.
There is one more point that I would like to make in this connection. I’ve not seen it addressed anywhere else. Remember that we said the prophets make frequent mention of a trumpet in connection with the day of the Lord. Now with that in mind, notice a particularly important phrase in Paul’s exposition of the mystery of the rapture (1Cor 15:50-54). It appears in verse 54.
“So WHEN this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, THEN shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
The phrase is “then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written.” This is decisive in showing the background of Paul’s understanding of the time of the resurrection. The saying that Paul has in mind is found in Isa 25:8.
Now notice that Isa 25:8 is set in a very distinct context. It belongs to a section made up of four chapters that scholars mark off as a unit. It is called “the little apocalypse of Isaiah.” From the beginning of ch 24 to the end of ch.27, the topic throughout is the day of the Lord, and concerns itself with those transitional events that cluster around that day as the terminal point of Israel’s tribulation.
So when is the THEN? It is WHEN this corruptible shall put on incorruption.” It is THEN that the saying (Isa 25:8) is fulfilled, and Paul says this happens “at the last trump”. Now go back and look over the larger context reaching back to ch 24 and forward to the end of ch 27. In the passages immediately preceding 25:8 (Isa 25:7), you will notice that “the veil is destroyed that covers the face of all nations.” Before this, there is a poetic description of a wedding feast on Mount Zion. The entirety of Isaiah’s little apocalypse (24-27) concerns the time of Israel’s salvation and the final world judgment. The entire context is undeniably post-tribulational. In the following chapter (26), Isaiah announces his own expected resurrection together with the faithful of Israel (Isa 26:19). Note especially that in ch 27, the surviving remnant of Israel are “gathered” in connection with the sounding of “the great trumpet” (Isa 27:13).
Paul’s application of Isa 25:8 to the time of the church’s resurrection is undeniable evidence that he identified the time of the church’s resurrection with that of the Old Testament faithful. This is fatal to the pre trib view, because both Daniel and Isaiah are very clear that the righteous dead are raised in connection with Israel ‘s deliverance at the end of the tribulation (Dan 12:1-2, 13; Isa 26:16-21). It was also well known that Israel’s final deliverance at the day of the Lord would be accompanied by the ‘great sound of a trumpet’ (Joel 2:1; Isa 27:13). So if the adverb “then” means anything, it becomes impossible to place the resurrection of the church seven years earlier than the event described in Isa 25:8.
Contrary to pretribulational presuppositions concerning the nature of a New Testament mystery, we see that Paul’s mystery has a definite relation to OT prophecy. Not only does it further address the question of the order of the resurrection, it also solves the problem of the relationship of the resurrected and glorified redeemed in contrast to those that come to faith on the other side of Christ’s return.
In order to understand the point of Paul’s mystery, it is important to distinguish between what was and was not a mystery. The time of the resurrection is not the object of Paul’s mystery; this was understood. As in 1Thes 4:13-17, the mystery of the rapture particularly explains the relationship of living believers to those that sleep. In 1Cor 15:50-52 the stress falls on the change that fits the living to participate in resurrection glory. But this is not all that the mystery of the rapture answers. Paul’s mystery makes evident that no regenerate survivor of the tribulation will go unchanged into the millennium. This becomes a significant point of contrast with the penitent remnant of Israel, who are not transformed UNTIL the appearing of Christ (compare Isa 59:21; 66:8; Ezek 39:22; Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1; Zech 12:10; 3:9; with Mt 23:39; Acts 3:21; Ro 11:25-29; Rev 1:7). These go into the millennium in natural bodies, as do many survivors from among the nations. From this new beginning, the millennial earth is repopulated.
So, the evidence of the general order of events and the time of the rapture and resurrection of the church just keeps piling up. For just one more example, consider Rev 11:15. Here again is the trumpet that sounds the end of the tribulation and the finishing of the mystery of God (see Rev 10:7), and the final passing of this world’s dominions over to the Lord and His Christ. Now observe that this is also the time that the righteous dead are raised and rewarded (Rev 11:18). The evidence for a post-tribulational rapture of the church is simply massive and irrefutable. The plain, simple, and straightforward reading of scripture would never make one a pre tribulationalist. This is evident, since the view was unheard of till modern times.
Brother, pray for me. We have work to do. It is by no means equal to the essential gospel in importance, but there is a need to present our pre-tribulational brothers with the alternative to what they’ve been taught. Many have never seen the case for our view, and when any of us are entrusted with anything from the Lord, it makes us a steward and a debtor. The pre trib rapture is the Trojan horse of the end time that has been smuggled into the evangelical camp (for such a time as this). It needs to be exposed while it is yet day.
I, therefore, urge my brothers and sisters to count these matters worthy of their study (Prov 15:28; 2Tim 2:15, 25; 1Pet 3:15). The righteous studies to give answer. We want to help ourselves be prepared to help others. Many are unaware of an alternative to such a disarming and potentially costly error. As Francis Schaffer once said, “apologetics (giving an answer) is an enterprise of Christian compassion.” Unless the body of Christ can escape this error in time, much physical life stands to be lost. This is not to even mention the spiritual shock and the general effect that such a distortion takes on how we see God, His workings and ways.
The same is true of the view that says the great tribulation passed already into history with the 70 AD destruction of Jerusalem (a view called preterism). This view, no less than the pre trib view, also robs the church of critical readiness and understanding (Dan 11:33) It is even much more widespread than pretribulationism, because Roman Catholicism and most of world wide Christendom subscribes to this view in some form. This is what is called “replacement’ theology”. In either view, the church is disarmed and thus unprepared for what’s coming. Not only this, but such systems obscure and eclipse the true glory of God that is best seen in its divinely chosen context (Ro 11:33). This is the greatest loss of all.
While I too can rest in the sovereignty of God, I also know that a lie is always costly and can exact a heavy toll. That is part of the judgment that is built right into believing a lie. This happens anytime a believer fails to properly depend on the Spirit to be their teacher (1Jn 2:27). When we defer these matters to the so-called experts, we sacrifice a sacred trust, namely, the “priesthood of every believer”. We defraud ourselves of God’s desire to confide His secrets to His friends (Gen 18:17; Isa 41:8; Amos 3:7 with Jn 15:15) and to lead even ‘the least of these’ into all truth.
I said I would return now to the question: Where do believers go after meeting the Lord in the air? And what is the purpose of being “caught up”? The most popular view as taught by pre-tribulationism is that the church goes back to heaven with Christ to celebrate the “marriage supper of the Lamb”. In their view, the church is in heaven while the Old Testament saints remain in their graves for seven more years (Dan 12:1-2). (Academic pre-trib scholars actually teach this). But there is no evidence that Jesus stops in mid-air and returns back to heaven with the church for a seven-year interim.
When we come to the famous rapture passage (1Thes 4:17), many have pointed out that the term parousia (coming, presence, or arrival) is used in significant combination with the Greek noun for a meeting. This was a technical term in the Hellenistic culture of the day for the custom of sending an official delegation out of the city to greet an approaching dignitary, and to escort the royal figure back into the city with great ceremony. For such a momentous event, advent (epiphany) coins were struck, monuments built, and sacrifice offered. Sometimes a new era would be dated from the event of the “Parousia” of the royal personage (Adolph Deismann, “Light from the Ancient East”, pg. 68-73). So, there is no evidence that the saints return with Christ to heaven, but rather accompany Him in His triumphant return to earth.
“And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee” (Zech 14:4-5, see also Isa 13:3; Joel 3:11; 1Thes 3:13; 4:14; Rev 19:14).
Significantly, Christ’s day of the Lord descent is to the very place of His post-resurrection ascent (Acts 1:11-12), but the effects of His return are radically different from His quiet departure.
Before leaving this subject, I’d like to ask a question that is more than it first appears: Why is the part of the body of Christ, which survives the final tribulation, changed at this point in time? The simple and easy answer is that the dead are raised at Christ’s return. That is true; but there remains the problem of the resurrection of millennial believers, those saved after the rapture. Of course, this is no problem at all for those that believe that the millennium is not literal, that it is only symbolic of the present reign of Christ and the martyrs from heaven. This view is called a-millennialism. But for those that believe that the millennium begins with Christ’s return (pre-millennialism), there is the problem of the relationship of the resurrected church to those that do not come to faith until after Christ has returned. The problem presents itself on the basis of two facts:
Fact one: The scripture is clear that not only the “dead in Christ”, but all (not only some) that truly belong to Christ will be changed at the point of the Lord’s post-tribulational return. This is clear from many texts (see especially 1Cor 15:23, 52; 1Thes 4:16).
Fact two: The millennium will be populated by many that do not come to faith until the day of the Lord, which, as we have seen, ends the great tribulation (Isa 59:19-21; 66:8; Jer 30:7, Dan 12:1-2; Ezek 39:22-25, 26-29; Zech 3:9; 12:10; Ro 11:25-29 with Mt 23:39; Acts 3:21). Many scriptures show that Israel and the multitudes that populate the millennial earth are still in their natural bodies until the end of the millennium (Rev 20:7-9). Where then are the glorified redeemed that were changed at the rapture? How do we understand the difference between the saints that are changed at the rapture, and those that populate the millennial earth in their natural bodies? Do they dwell together on the millennial earth? When will those that come to faith during the millennium be changed? How are we to understand the nature and purpose of this distinction?
Notice the contrast. Those that put on immortality and final perfection at the Lord’s return pass instantly (“in a moment”) into a transcendent state of existence that beggars description, evoking comparison with angels and stars (Dan 12:3; Mt 22:30; 1 Cor 15:41). It is a wonderful kind of existence that will enable the perfected saint to “know even as he is known” (1Cor 13:10-12).
In marked contrast, at the day of the Lord, the surviving remnant of Israel does not put off the mortal body and put on immortality, but instead receives the transforming revelation of Christ (Isa 66:8; Ezek 39:22; Zech 12:10; Mt 23:39; Rev 1:7).
Many lines of evidence show that at the same moment that the church is changed and ‘caught up’, the penitent remnant of Israel receives the revelation of their Messiah (“in one day”). This happens in a way that is best compared to Paul’s revelation on the Damascus Road. However, rather than rapture, the penitent remnant of Israel are seen going apart to individually mourn on account of the great repentance that has broken upon them at that time.
Furthermore, many scriptures show that the surviving gentiles in the nations volunteer every mode of transport to assist the Jews in a massive aliyah back to the Land (Isa 49:22; 60:9; 66:20). This second exodus (Isa 11:11-13, 14-16; 27:13) is to be distinguished from the earlier return in unbelief largely occurring since the Holocaust, in preparation for the crucible of the final tribulation (Jer 30:3-7; Ezek 22:19-22; 38:8; Zeph 2:1-2). This final return begins only after the Antichrist has been destroyed at the day of the Lord. All of the scriptures depicting this ultimate return (Ezek 39:29) assume the presence of the new heart and Spirit. Then will be brought to pass the saying that is written:
“Thus saith the Lord of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you” (Zech 8:23).
So where is the church? Well, by definition, those that are in union with God by new birth are the body of Christ. “Now the Lord is that Spirit, and he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” Wherever the Spirit indwells, Christ indwells. This means that the Jews and those that turn to Christ during the millennium will be no less the body of Christ on earth at that time, (albeit with some distinctions of function, role, and stewardship suited to that unique dispensation).
Now, since it is clear, on the basis of 1Cor 15:50, that no saint can enter final perfection without this change, we know that any saint that comes to faith after the rapture must at some point undergo this change as well. That much is certain. The question becomes, when will millennial saints be changed? For more reasons than I can enter into here, I would submit that the best inference is at the end of the millennium.
Now my question does not concern the time that the faithful of both testaments are raised. As I pointed out, it was no mystery that the Old Testament faithful would be raised after the tribulation. Nor was it a mystery that the day of the Lord comes in connection with the sounding of a trumpet. As I said, the primary focus of the rapture concerned the relationship of departed saints to the living at Christ’s return. In 1Cor 15:50-54, Paul is interested to show the change that is necessary for the final perfection of glorified immortality. If Paul had not told us that “we shall ALL be changed” at the last trump, we might have supposed that those in Christ that survived the tribulation would simply proceed into the millennium in their natural bodies along with the redeemed of Israel and all “that are left” from among the nations. (Isa 24:6; Ezek 36:36; Zech 14:16).
We know that there is a surviving remnant of Jews that do not come to faith until Christ’s return and these do in fact go into the millennium in their natural bodies. The saved of Israel receive the new heart and the fullness of the Spirit at the appearing of Christ, but they remain unchanged in the sense of the final perfection of resurrected glorification. This means that no surviving believer will go into the millennium unchanged. This is in marked contrast to the newly saved remnant of Israel that go into the millennium in natural bodies and they have children born to them.
The question is not why believers MUST be changed. That is clear. But why are they changed at this time? Why don’t believers that survive the last persecution to the Lord’s coming NOT simply proceed into the millennium together with the saved remnant of Israel and those that believe afterward?
Try to get the picture: Christ has returned, the Antichrist is dead, the tribulation is over, the Jews are returning from all the lands of their captivity (Isa 11:11-12), and the gentiles are voluntarily assisting in their return. The penitent remnant of Israel has now received the Holy Spirit by reason of the revelation that has broken upon their collective understanding (see Isa 44:3; 59:21; Zech 12:10; Ezek 36:26; 37:14; 39:29; Joel 2:29) the face of God is no longer hidden (Isa 8:14-17; Ezek 39:29), and the Jewish people and their children after them are ‘all’ holy from that time and forward (Isa 4:2; Isa 59:21; Isa 60:21; Jer 31:34; 32:40; Ezek 39:22-29).
But here’s the problem. We know that Israel and those that come to faith after the rapture are not yet changed. In all the prophets, they are always depicted as living in natural bodies, and activities and functions are ascribed to them that are incompatible with resurrected saints (contrast Ezek 39:11-16 with Mt 22:30; 1 Cor 13:12).
So what is the relationship of those in glorified bodies to those not yet resurrected? See what I mean? Surely we are not to suppose that these dramatically different kinds of existence will co-habit the millennial earth and intermix in a physical way. But if not, where are the glorified saints?
I believe the reason the godly of this age do not go into the millennium with those that believe after the rapture is partly because theirs is a different role and purpose. Remember that those living on this side of the day of the Lord are under different conditions than those that live on the other side of Christ’s return. On this side of the Lord’s return, the mystery of God is not yet finished (Rev 10:7). Satan is not yet bound.
Notice that both ends of the millennium are marked by a resurrection, and in each instance, this high point of apocalyptic (revelatory) transformation is immediately preceded by an ultimate manifestation of evil. There is something here of awesome significance. My regeneration came after an unveiling of my sin, and such revelation is always devastating; and where there is death of this kind, there is also resurrection.
There must be a death before there is resurrection. All sinners are dead, but they are insensible of their death until they are made to feel it by the awakening grace of the Spirit. ‘Confidence in the flesh’ is the strength of the veil, and the veil is only shattered by revelation. But the revelation that finally pierces the veil does not come apart from crisis, travail, and suffering, as in the crucible of Jacob’s trouble (Dan 12:7). Even the moment of spiritual regeneration is preceded by a crisis when our need and helplessness comes home to us by the convicting power of the Spirit.
See the pattern? This pattern was realized in Isaiah’s vision of the Lord; it was realized in Paul’s divine arrest on the Damascus Road; and it will be realized in Israel’s transforming vision of Christ at the end of ‘Jacob’s trouble’ (Jer 30:7 with Zech 12:10). So it is no accident that two resurrection events that bound both ends of the millennium are preceded by an ultimate demonstration of evil. Resurrection follows revelation of what is in man.
So I suggest that Christ’s appearing accomplishes an Enoch/Elijah-like translation in those that have been previously prepared by the work of the Spirit. There is a confluence (coming together) of conditions and redemptive influences that reach an intensity and a peak in the tribulation, which the prophets compare to the time of travail and transition in child birth. This suggests to me that the transfiguration of the church at Christ’s appearing is not incidental, but is the capstone of a process that has reached its goal.
Finally, I want to point out that there is such a thing as a necessary inference. Even though scripture is not explicit that the millennial saints must at some point be changed, the rule that is established in 1Cor 15:50 makes this an invincible necessity, hence, a necessary inference. It is awkward to conceive of the resurrected and un-resurrected redeemed of all ages dwelling together at once in the Promised Land, even with its expanded millennial borders. The thought seems ridiculous. But there is a good and reasonable explanation that harmonizes the scripture without spiritualizing the plain meaning.
Of course, unlike replacement theologians, I believe that Paul looked for a future expression of Christ’s kingdom on this earth beyond this present age (1Cor 15:28). Though John’s revelation of the thousand years would come later into the canon of revealed truth, Paul shared with many a view of the future that required an interim of earthly fulfillment beyond the day of the Lord return of Christ.
He would have therefore been keenly aware of our question concerning the distinction between the resurrected and glorified saints and those dwelling in mortal bodies. Though not its primary purpose, Paul’s revelation of the rapture answers the problem. But Jesus had already pointed us in this direction. In response to demands concerning the nature of the resurrection, Jesus likens the resurrected redeemed to the angels. This could only mean that the future life of the resurrection is a new kind of existence, free from the constraints of the former (Lk 20:35).
Furthermore, Jesus describes the rewards of the resurrected redeemed in terms of ruling over cities (Lk 19:17). How do glorified saints rule over earthly cities? I suggest it is because we are not visible to those living on the millennial earth, but have been assigned places of rule from heavenly places, invisible to mortal eyes. At that time, we shall judge angels, and if angels, why not entire cities? Regardless of our view of the millennium, it is limited. It is not the final resting place. It has a unique purpose that ends in a final demonstration of human depravity. The ultimate inheritance of every saint is the “heavenly city that has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb 11:10; Rev 21).
In summary, here are some lines from an earlier response on this topic.
The translated saints of this dispensation, together with the resurrected saints of the OT (Is 26:19; Dan 12:2; Jn 11:24), do not so much inherit the Land of Israel in a physical way, as the enduring city (Heb 11:10) of glorified immortality, the final perfection (1Cor 13:10, 12). At the rapture, the redeemed of this dispensation enter the fullness of the kingdom according to 1Cor 15:50. Those that come to faith after the rapture must wait for their change.
Throughout the millennial dispensation, the glorified redeemed will have positions of rule (“five or ten cities”) over the millennial earth. It is our belief that the translated and glorified saints of all past ages will exercise an invisible rule (they shall be “like the angels”). This rule will evidently be exercised from out of the heavenly places that have been cleared of the influence of the now-evicted principalities and powers.
We believe that all that come to salvation after Christ’s return must also be changed according to the rule established in 1Cor 15:50. It is best to infer that this change will come for millennial saints at the “second resurrection”. Though the righteous are not explicitly mentioned in connection with the second resurrection, this is the most reasonable time to expect the final perfection for millennial saints, since this is the next great climactic apocalyptic transformation.
Faithfully yours, Reggie