Prophecy: Israel Judged & Rewarded Pt1
by Jim Allen
Only Church-age believers are involved in the Rapture. Believers in this age of grace who have died, and believers living on earth at that moment of the Rapture, are caught up together to meet their Lord in the air. There follows their individual judgment before their Lord at the Judgment Seat of Christ, before they return to earth with the Sovereign to share His throne of glory. As the Church itself is not the subject of OT prophecy, it is not expected that either of these events will be found in the prophetic dateline. What should be found is a reference to the time when OT believers will be raised from the dead. Careful readers will observe that it is OT believers, and not just Israel, who will be judged. The reason for this change will become apparent as we examine Scripture.
Part 1: Scripture confirms that only the Church is involved in the Rapture and Judgment Seat of Christ (1Thes 4:13-18).
Most believers are clear that the expression “dead in Christ” in this passage confines resurrection here to the bodies of believers of the Church age. The expression “in Christ” is almost a technical expression to define believers of this dispensation who have responded and will yet respond positively, to the message of grace sounding forth after Pentecost. From the moment of conversion, the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer links us with Christ and every other believer, putting us into the Church of the dispensation from which no one can ever be put away. Such believers are “in Christ,” a term not used of any other company of believers. Other believers are described under the more comprehensive term and spoken of as “they that are Christ’s” (1Cor 15:23).
The details of the Rapture never fail to thrill the heart of the believer. “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout.” Heaven is alerted by the “voice of archangel;” saints on earth respond to “the trump of God.” Far from being at any disadvantage because they “have fallen asleep” (RV), as some Thessalonian believers seemed to think they would be, as with tear-stained faces they buried loved ones, these are the very persons who have been granted absolute priority in the resurrection. Scripture is plain “and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” Paul now brings himself into the picture as he writes “Then we …” The plural pronoun is emphatic, as Paul links himself with the living believers as the Lord steps into the air. These believers are identified by two present participles, “living” and “remaining,” and instantly they are “caught up together with them (the risen ones) to meet the Lord in the air.” The explanation is simple, sweet and satisfying!
The church at this moment is complete in the presence of her Lord with the completeness for which the Lord prayed before the cross. “That they be one, even as We are one: I in them and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one” (John 17:22-23). In that divine oneness, every believer of this age meets their Lord in the clouds. The Lord had prayed “Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am” (John 17:24). Now that prayer is answered! What a glorious moment for the Church!
The Church, as presented in Scripture, is neither a continuation of Israel nor a replacement for Israel. It is seen in Scripture as a unique company of saved sinners won by Christ during the years of His rejection by the nation of Israel. This uniqueness is highlighted by the fact that the metaphoric figure of “bride” is applied to the Church (Rev 21:2, 9; 22:17). As the Lord takes His bride into the Father’s House they enter upon what the NT identifies as the Day of Christ (Phil 1:10), the Day of Jesus Christ (Phil 1:6) or the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ (1Cor 1:9). In this day, which is always linked with heaven, two events follow each other. The first event is the Judgment Seat (bema) of Christ when the lives of believers of this age are revealed, reviewed and rewarded by Christ Himself (Rev 22:12). That the Judgment Seat takes place before the marriage ceremony is acknowledged in the “Hallelujah Chorus” in heaven. The voices in glory cry “For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth,”¹ let us be glad and rejoice and give honor to him; for the marriage of the lamb is come and his wife hath made herself ready” (Rev 19:6-7). The verb “made herself ready” includes the willing submission of the bride to the assessments of the Judgment Seat. As a consequence, the bride may now put on her wedding dress. The bride will be “arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints” (Rev 19:8). The righteous actions of believers standing out against the immorality of their times have been revealed by the blaze of holiness in the scrutiny of the Judgment Seat, and it further reveals: the fidelity of saints bearing names unknown on earth but well known in heaven; the reality of crowns won by saints (1Cor 9:24-27) soul-winners (Phil 2:19), servants (2Tim 4:8), sufferers (Jas 1:12) and shepherds (1Peter 5:4). All the trials, the troubles, and tears of earth are over. Now, rewarded by the smile of the Lord’s approval, she stands forth in all her beauty. Metaphorically speaking, the Church dons her wedding garment. Although woven in the gloom of earth amidst the tears, she now wears it in the glory of heaven to His triumph, as she moves to take her place at the side of her bridegroom.
¹ Time wise, this is anticipatory, as after the marriage ceremony in heaven, Christ comes back to earth with His bride to set up the Kingdom. It is then the marriage supper takes place (Rev 19:9).
Prophecy: Israel Judged & Rewarded Pt2
by Jim Allen
At this point it needs to be asked, “What does the OT say about resurrection?” Abraham anticipated resurrection (Gen 22:5; Heb 11:19), Job saw the truth of it (Job 19:25-26), Isaiah heralded the reality of it (Isa 26:19) but Daniel is the prophet who puts it in the time frame of the kingdom. In fact, Daniel places the resurrection at the very end of the Tribulation and before the setting up of the Kingdom. If the sequence of events is followed in Daniel’s fourth and final vision (Dan 10:1-12:4) we come to the midpoint of the seventieth week of the Seventy Weeks Prophecy, when Michael stands up in defense of Israel (Dan 12:1), at which point immediately commences the Great Tribulation, the last three-and-a-half year period of intense trouble for earth. Daniel describes it thus: “There shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was nation.” It is following this that resurrection is introduced to show how the kingdom will reward the faithfulness in that terrible period of tribulation.
Daniel writes “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” (Dan 12:2). S. P. Tregelles speaks for reliable Hebrew grammarians when he writes, “The word which in our AV is twice rendered ‘some’ is never repeated in any other passage in our Hebrew Bible, in the sense of taking up distributively any general class which had been previously mentioned.” He translates as follows: “and many from the dust of the earth shall awake; these (the ones who awake) shall be to everlasting life, but those (the rest of the sleepers, who do not awake at this time) shall be unto shame and everlasting contempt.” The same time gap is referred to by the Lord as He defined two resurrections with over a 1000 years between them (John 5:28). There is no such thing, in either the NT or OT, as a general resurrection, with saved and unsaved resurrected together. Daniel is given to see that the resurrection of OT believers takes place just before the kingdom is established on earth.
Some able expositors insist that these words do not refer to literal resurrection but that resurrection is used as a spiritual figure for the national restoration of Israel to the land. This interpretation will not do. It is built on a serious grammatical blunder and, in addition, throws the whole context into total disarray. It is doing here what amillennial teachers are accused of doing – when the literal does not fit their proposed scheme, they spiritualize it away. There is not the slightest doubt that Daniel is speaking of the literal resurrection of OT believers.
The revelation given to the apostle John agrees fully with this timing: “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever” (Rev 11:15). A further view is given to the establishment of the kingdom in the statement, “‘And I saw thrones and they sat upon them and judgment was given unto them.” These are then linked with the martyrs of the Tribulation period who will rise with the OT saints. Of the whole company it is said, “And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Rev 20:4). So OT believers and martyrs of the Tribulation period will be raised at the end of the Tribulation and before the establishment of the kingdom.
Part 2: When and where will the OT believers be judged?
Scripture answers this question quite plainly. It shows that the judgment of these saints follows immediately after their resurrection and before they take their place in the administration of the kingdom. Thus, as the seventh angel sounded, John is taken to the close of the tribulation and the setting up of the kingdom: “And the seventh angel sounded and there were great voices in heaven saying ‘the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever'” (Rev 11:15-18).
In response, a number of things take place in sequence. There is:
(a) Worship in heaven (v16)
(b) War on earth (v18a) – other Scriptures show this is Armageddon (16:16) at the end of the Tribulation
(c) Wrath from God (v18b) – the last seven plagues (Rev 15:1-8); This is the close of the Tribulation.
The next statement reads: “And the time (Kairos) of the dead that:
(a) They should be judged and
(b) Thou shouldest give rewards to Thy servants the prophets, and to Thy saints, and to them that fear Thy name, small and great.”
The people to be judged can be no other group but OT believers. The language is wide enough to include Israel and all other believers in addition to that nation. Hence, the suggested modification of the question. There were believers before Abraham the progenitor of the nation of Israel. There were all the antediluvian believers from Seth, Enoch, and down to Noah, and then all the postdiluvian believers down to the time of Job. There would be believers from the nations of the world who received the testimony that Israel bore to Jehovah. Names like Rahab and Naaman stand out.
The place of the judgment would seem to be somewhere on the earth, close to Jerusalem, and the period of the judgment is just before the setting up of the kingdom. The language calls for a review of the service of a believer, its recognition by the Lord, and the reward from the Lord that will be enjoyed by each believer in the kingdom.
Both believers from the OT and the NT will stand before their Lord at the different times set forth in Scripture. Reviewed and rewarded by Him, they will reign in their different spheres until time is finished and the Eternal Day dawns. May the Lord write the truth of His parting words on each believer’s heart: “Behold I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Rev 22:12).