- Rapture of the Church
- When will the rapture happen
- Judgment seat of Christ
- Are any saved during the tribulation?
What do we have to look forward to as Christians? There are two outcomes to be desired. In the first, we die before Christ returns and are taken to Heaven. We won't get into the details of what heaven is like at this point
The other possibility is being reunited with Christ in the air at the time of His return in the sky to rapture His church and take all who are ready to heaven. For all the times the word rapture is used by Christians today, the word itself does not appear in most Bible translations I have. Instead, Paul speaks of being caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord:
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:
4:13 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.
4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
4:15 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.
4:16 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:
4:17 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.
4:18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
There will be no signs to look for concerning the rapture. When it occurs, there will be a mighty shout, there will be a trumpet blast when the dead in Christ rise and another trumpet blast when those who are alive are caught up in the air, but it will be too fast for anyone to change their heart and get right with God. It will simply happen and be done.
1 Corinthians 15:51-58:
15:51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
15:52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
15:53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
15:54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
15:55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
15:56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
15:57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
Those who have died, will be joined to their resurrected bodies and those bodies, along with those of Christians who are alive and ready for His coming will be changed to an incorruptible state which will be ready to live forever with Christ in heaven.
2:11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
2:12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
I often wondered why the bodies had to be resurrected. Why not just fashion us some new perfect bodies and forget about the old decayed bones and dust. What was the point anyway? I happen to like science fiction. I'm sure that I have watched more than I should over the years. I grew up in the early days of television science fiction. "Beam me up Scotty! (There's no intelligent life here!)" is a phrase from my youth. Since then, the Star Trek transporter technology has advanced in true science (a quantum state can be moved from one spot to another exactly). At some point actual transporters might be possible. I'm not optimistic that science and engineering can advance that fast, but I don't rule anything absolutely out. On television, meanwhile, the Stargate Atlantis series has the Wraith beaming up humans as captives as they fly over in ships and SG-1 has other ring technology for beaming people up.
What's the point he's driving at? When the rapture occurs, a lot of people are going to be gone. I believe their clothes, glasses, hearing aids, along with anything else worldly will be left behind. We'll get instantaneously robed in our white robes and we'll be gone. As part of the antichrist's rise to power, there is likely to be a push to claim that aliens have attacked the Earth and we must unite against them. There will be a lot of fear. Much of what television is pushing today in the science fiction realm will play into this.
I think that God could see some of this coming and opened the graves as well for departed Christians to refute this claim. No science fiction show today would ever think to have the aliens grab dead decaying bodies from the ground, so this will fly in the face of the antichrist's propaganda ministry. In addition, there will be the evidence of just which graves were opened.
I'm sure there will be some surprises there, but I fully expect that the graves of the great Christians will be opened in a way that will be difficult for the forces of evil to cover up quickly. Maybe God will dispatch some Angels to guard particular spots and discomfit the enemy directly just as they did with the Roman soldiers at Christ's tomb. There will be evidence in every cemetery. People can look back and say - well look at those people's graves. I knew there was something different and good about them. They can look at those left behind in the ground and say that that wasn't much of a surprise either. It will hopefully be all the more striking as complete families back several generations in some cases all follow the same path.
A lot of false religions will be scratching their heads.
As I said, I'm sure there will be surprises as well. There will be many who people thought were Christians because they did good works and tried to be good family people who didn't actually have a relationship with the Lord Jesus. But the opening of the graves will still be evidence that will be hard to suppress. Hallelujah! The rapture of the church must indeed be the hope for every Christian in this and every future age if God tarries.
In a dream I had on 10-Jul-2003, God showed me a glimpse of what the Rapture would be like.
It started with angels and other Christians all round telling the sleeping Christians it is time to awake, it is time, it is time.
In the rapture, as we began to float up in the air, people struggled in their minds with the concept of going through ceilings and walls, I could see in the night sky a star that looked brighter than those around it. As time went by, it was getting larger and larger, and we began moving towards it faster and faster. When we got close enough we could see it was Christ coming back.
As we went, we could look around the world, and as earthquakes were happening, we could see the darkness of Satan's lies and actions immediately beginning to be seen. TV stations were starting to show filth almost immediately.
Christians, don't let down your guard and miss the time of His appearing. For those of you who haven't yet made a decision to follow Christ, don't delay. It is truly going to be very hard to become a Christian once the church is gone. If you were playing around with Christianity before but hadn't made a decision, it is going to be very hard to go back.
When the dream was done, I felt the Holy Spirit's presence very strongly, and as I thanked God and the Holy Spirit for sharing with me, I felt His presence return and rest upon me again. Never doubt the presence, existence, and Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Just use discernment to ensure that what you are seeing and hearing around you is truly from Him.
When will these things come about? Every generation (including Paul's) expected that the time could be immediate. Paul certainly expected that it could be in his generation, and spread that word to all the churches he founded. Yet when he reached the end of his time on earth, he had just as much faith in Jesus and the gospel message as he had after Jesus first confronted him on the road to Damascus. He was trying to live each day as Christ wanted him to live, regardless of the surroundings and circumstances. He lived each day as if it was his last, doing God's will to the best of his ability. It would be great if all churches today and all in this body - myself included - were doing as good a job as Paul was, knowing that the rapture of the church could still occur at any time.
There are many interpretations of prophecy in Daniel and Revelation which try to pin down a better time as to when the rapture must occur. Many radical splinter groups have made horrible names for themselves and hurt the work of Christ in picking dates that later proved wrong.
About the only thing that can be done is to place the time in the context of other Biblical events which prophecy says must occur. In mainstream Christianity, there are three general schools of thought. Listing them in order of time, the first is that the rapture will come before the time of tribulation, the second that it will come at the midpoint in the tribulation, and the third and least popular view is that it will be at the end of the tribulation.
The exact view depends at least in part in the view of the rest of the prophecies and their order. I have tried in this series to limit myself to talking about what is going on in the spirit world as much as possible - tartarus, Paradise, sheol-hades, the bottomless pit, and the lake of fire, without getting into what is going on on earth except as it interacts with these items. I will try to continue this as we go through the part on the rapture, however this becomes slightly more difficult in some regards.
I don't believe there will be 3 1/2 years or 7 years of fulfilled scriptural prophecy which will lead up to the rapture. I happen to believe that scripture indicates the time of the rapture of the Church will be sometime before the tribulation begins. For those here who are of the mid-persuasion, I will give my scriptures, and perhaps at some later date we can hear a sermon on mid or post tribulation if anyone wants to present a different opinion.
I know that if you hold an opinion on the subject, that opinion is probably held firmly if you have studied it at all. It is one of those basic gut opinions which is hard to change once set. Little that people say seems able to change a mind. I count myself among that group. For those of you who don't agree I only ask that you write down the scriptures and study them yourselves. Try to listen with an open heart to the message and to what God says to you. Ask for God's illumination. I may not change any minds, but it is something I feel strongly about, and something that I feel can be a dangerous thing to believe incorrectly. This is especially true if the rapture actually occurs before you believe and teach that it will.
I am going to present some of my thoughts and interpretations along with those of others. Most of the scripture references and some of the commentary comes from abridged comments from Dake. Other occasional thoughts and scriptures comes from a book called Bible Doctrines by P.C. Nelson.
About the only thing that I will say with absolute certainty is that it will happen. In my pre-tribulation view, the people remaining on earth after the rapture will have the best sign of all to mark the beginning of the end of this age of those mentioned in Matthew 24 where Christ gives the great Olivet prophecy.
Let's start with
2 Thessalonians 2:1-10:
2:1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
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.
2:3 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;
2:4 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.
2:5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
2:6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
2:7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
2:8 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:
2:9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
2:10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
Dissecting this passage gives clear insight into the timing of the rapture of the church, the revelation of the anti-Christ, and the day of the Lord. I believe that this section of scripture is primarily written as a warning to those who miss the rapture as follows:
- In the first verse, Paul specifically refers to the time when we are to be gathered together with Christ. As with the other passages we read above, it is clear that this signifies the meeting when Christ comes in the air for the resurrection of the bodies of the dead believers and the rapture of the church. This event will be the most significant sign to anyone looking that the times... they are a changing. But not all will be ready.
- Paul continues his message to those who are left behind. He warns that they not be shaken in mind or troubled by any spirit, word, or any letter that appears to come from those in spiritual authority saying that the day of Christ - the second advent is at hand. Some people feel this implies that there was false teaching or a false spirit or a forged letter that went to the church at Thessalonica, but I believe that it is strictly in the future. If Paul had heard of such a thing happening, he would have been specific and not general in what he said in this verse. I think this is a specific warning that one of the tools of the Antichrist will be to produce ancient looking documents that purport to be from Paul that appear to contradict the sound doctrine he has presented in the New Testament. With the way people feel today about some of his comments, that won't be too hard. Look at the success of the LDS denomination if you don't think that the great deceiver can warp the gospel message. The Antichrist will be able to do it even more easily since the true Christians will be gone. Paul warns to stick to what the New Testament says regardless of who or what is presented that is contrary. Don't be deceived by the enemy.
- Verse 3 continues with a warning about what will happen before the second advent. Specifically, this refers to the time period between the rapture and the second advent. Many will fall away. Without a Christian influence, most will fall away into the clutches of Satan. There will be supposed Christians who may see what has happened and truly get right with God. Remember that the Holy Spirit is not removed, and the Word of God certainly will not be removed at the time of the rapture. However, the destruction that pulling Christians from the world will cause, in and of itself, will create a dedicated hatred against Christianity like the world has never seen. At that point, verse 3 reveals that the son of perdition, the Antichrist, will be revealed.
- Verse 4 describes the Antichrist in more detail and tells of some of the things he will do.
- In verse 5, Paul reminds the church that when he was present with them, he explained all of this to them.
- In verse 6 he expresses confidence that now they understand what must occur before the Antichrist is revealed and the day of the Lord (the second advent) comes.
- In verse 7 he states that the spirit of the Antichrist - a mystery of iniquity - was even at work in Paul's day - and that God will continue to allow the spirit to work in a limited form until some point in time. At that point, when 'he' - the withholder of verse 6 - is taken out of the way, the Antichrist will be revealed.
There are only three things which hinder lawlessness today:
- The first is the working of the Holy Spirit in each person's heart... the conscience for those who don't believe in God.
- The second is government.
- The third is the work of Christians - those following the true religion.
The first two of these will remain after the rapture and during the tribulation, although the government in many parts of the world will be changed. The only one which can be removed is the church - the true body of Christ, and by scripture that is by the rapture. Since this scripture indicates that the Antichrist will rise after the hindrance is removed, and other scriptures point out that the Antichrist rises at the start of the tribulation (the rider of the white horse), this pushes the time of the rapture to before his rise to power or pre-tribulation.
- The remaining scriptures describe some more of the Antichrist, his power, and his destruction at the second advent - the day of the Lord.
For me, this is probably the hardest scripture to make fit any other time than before the tribulation. The second passage I want to refer to is found in 1 Thessalonians, right after the discussion we read above about the rapture itself:
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11:
5:1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.
5:2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
5:3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
5:4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
5:5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
5:6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
5:7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.
5:8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.
5:9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
5:10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.
5:11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
This whole passage is speaking of the day of the Lord, and the travails which precede it. Paul says clearly in verse 9 that God has not appointed Christians to wrath but to obtain salvation by Christ. In verse 11, he says this should be a comfort to us. After pointing out the travails which occur in the tribulation time before the day of the Lord at the end of this age and the start of the Millennium, this reference to Christ being our salvation and God not appointing Christians to this wrath also points to a rapture before the tribulation.
The last section of scripture is in the book of Revelation itself. First, I would like to describe a bit about its basic structure starting with what John is commanded by Jesus to write.
1:18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
1:19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;
1:20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.
In this passage, Christ commands that John write the things which he has seen - the vision in verses 12 through 20, the things which are, chapter 2:1 through 3:22, and the things which shall be hereafter, comprising the rest of Revelation. The revelation of the character of Christ in chapter 1 is part of the things which John has seen:
1:8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation describe the church and form the body of the things which are. They give direct challenges of God to the church to get in line with what God desires, clean up their faults, and do Christ's work. How many times does Jesus say?
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee.
Then, Christ or His agents begin describing the things which are to come. This occurs in the first verse of chapter 4. The word hereafter in 4:1 is from the Greek meta tauta - meaning after these things. What can it be after except the church age?
4:1 After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.
4:2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
4:3 And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
4:4 And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.
Dake comments that these elders are the leaders of those who have been raptured. There are 24, signifying either the order of the old priesthood which had 24 elders or the 12 tribes and 12 apostles. He comments that the clothing in white in heaven is reserved for Christ and the saints. Likewise, the crowns of gold and thrones are promised to believers and those who overcome. These are present in heaven directly after the closing of the church age, and before any of the main prophetical events of the rest of Revelation have occurred. Clearly, there are Old Testament and New Testament saints who have already died and who are in heaven now which he could have seen.
However, it is significant to me that the church is mentioned 19 times in chapters 1 through 3 of Revelation as the seven churches' works are examined. The word church is very popular. Once chapter 3 closes, the church is not mentioned again until the conclusion in Revelation 22:6-21. For me, this is just as significant as that of 2 Thessalonians 2. If the church isn't raptured between the end of chapter 3 and the start of chapter 4, then when?
There is the rapture of the 144,000 sealed man child, the resurrection of the tribulation saints, and the resurrection of the two witnesses, but no mention of the rapture of the church. The man child and witnesses have particular specific identities and functions. The tribulation saints are all martyred. Yet the earlier scriptures on the rapture of the church indicate a transformation of those who are living. None of these seem to fit with any of the resurrected or rapture groups here.
Although not a direct scriptural argument, the entire tone of the writing of the apostles seems to also point to a pre-tribulation rapture. I noted before that they expected the rapture to occur at any time. Some of these can be found in the following scriptures taken from the introductions to two of the Epistles.
1 Corinthians 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10:
1:7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
1:9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;
1:10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
Paul doesn't state that Jesus delivers the saints from a current wrath but from a future wrath. There is indeed a different level of tribulation which begins in the last 3 1/2 years of the total tribulation period. However, to imply that there is no wrath of God being poured out in the first 3 1/2 years is wrong. The wrath of God begins at the Sixth Seal, and there is a permissive aspect to God causing the first 5 seals to be opened which certainly are detrimental to the well-being of the inhabitants of the Earth with the rise of the Antichrist, wars, famine, and death and hell rampant because of them. As the remainder of the seals and the first six trumpet judgments occur before the midpoint of the tribulation marked by the 7th trumpet, there is certainly a lot of God's wrath being poured out. Yet 1 Thessalonians 1:10 says Christ comes to deliver the church from that wrath.
Further, if the rapture was to occur mid-tribulation or even post-tribulation, then the apostles would have been giving advice concerning definite tribulation signs to look for. Instead, they point to looking toward the sky for the coming of Christ in the air.
There will be no mistaking the tribulation on the earth for anyone who has studied Revelation. In my personal opinion, a teaching which says that the rapture is mid-tribulation or post-tribulation is dangerous for the following reason. It will be hard to mistake the first five seals, but certainly by the sixth seal with the sun being made black and the moon as blood, with the accompanying great earthquake, it will be clear that Revelation is being fulfilled. A pre-tribulation teaching means you must be ready at all times for the rapture to occur. A mid or post-tribulation teaching gives you many signs to look for to get ready. If my, and others, pre-tribulation teaching is an incorrect interpretation of scripture, no great loss. Those who believe as I do will see the signs in the first 3 1/2 years, conclude that we were wrong, and wait for the mid or post tribulation rapture.
On the other hand, those who believe in a mid or post tribulation rapture and who aren't living a life that is quite right with God may well be very surprised if we pre-tribulation people are correct instead. They would have little concern that they would miss the rapture, human nature being what it is, regardless of the type of life they are leading, It would always be clear that there was a definite time coming in which you had to get your life in order, and then you would be set. You would only have to live completely right for a short time. I say this fully aware of the many who will die during the 3 1/2 years of the lesser tribulation. But realistically, even in trying times, the vast majority of non-suicidal and non-terminal humans don't wake up saying that today is the day I am going to die. A person lives out the day under the absolute certainty that they will be alive to go to sleep tonight. I suspect it will be no different during the tribulation.
For Christians, the rapture begins a period of judgment of our works. This continues during the time of tribulation on the Earth. There are many scriptures dealing with Christian conduct, and we won't attempt to touch on all of them tonight. In the broadest sense, the entire Bible deals with this subject.
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.
14:10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
14:11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
14:12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
2 Corinthians 5:9-11:
5:9 Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.
5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
5:11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.
The scriptures from Matthew about motive are particularly revealing about rewards for certain things we do. In those scriptures, Jesus is noting the hypocrites in the temple, giving alms, praying, and fasting, only to be seen of men doing these things. Christ's comment is that they have their reward. They should expect nothing more for all the works of this sort they are doing supposedly in God's service when their motives are only to look good in the sight of man. Many church programs today can also fall into that category. How many things do we do simply because it is expected of us to do them?
1 Corinthians 3:8-15:
3:8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.
3:10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
3:11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
3:12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
3:13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.
3:14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
3:15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
Dake makes these further comments about how Christians will be judged.
Works are compared to these materials - some become more pure in the fire and others are completely burned up by fire. Fire will try every man's works. If his are gold, silver, and precious stones they will abide the fire and he will receive a reward for his works. If they are wood, hay, and stubble his works will be burned up, yet he himself will be saved from loss of his soul (1 Cor. 3:12-15).
- Subjects:Believers (Gal. 6:8; Eph. 6:8; Col. 3:24; Rom. 14; 2 Cor. 5:10)
- Time:Between the rapture and the second advent (Lk. 14:14)
- Place:In heaven (1 Cor. 9:24-27; Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10)
- Basis:Works, both good and bad (1 Cor. 3:11-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14; Col. 3; Mt. 16:27; Rom. 2:6; 2 Tim. 4:14)
- Result:Reward or loss of reward, but never the loss of one's soul for any wrong-doings properly confessed and forgiven (1 Cor. 3:11-15). This judgment deals with the believer as a servant (Rom. 14; 2 Cor. 5:10, 11)
- Doctrines (Rom. 2:14-16; Rom. 14)
- Conduct to others (Mt. 18; Rom. 14)
- Carnal traits (Col. 3; Rom. 1-2, 8:1-13, 14:1-23)
- Words (Mt. 12:32-37; Rom. 14)
- Things that affect others:slander, quarrels, idle words, foolishness (folly), dishonesty, broken promises, wrong dealings, etc. (Rom. 1:29-32; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21; Col. 3; Eph. 4:1-32, 5:1-33; Rom. 12:1-21, 14:1-23)
- Things that affect themselves:neglected opportunities, talents wasted, loose living, lack of spirituality, etc. (Rom. 2:14-16; Heb. 2:1-4; Gal. 5:1-26, 6:1-10; Col. 3)
- Things that affect God:refusal to walk in the light, disobedience, rejection, failure to co-operate and yield to the Spirit, etc. (1 Cor. 12; Rom. 12; Eph. 4:1-32, 5:1-33)
There are some examples from scripture which I would like to include for us to think about in regard to judgment of works and our lives. These generally seem to always be taken from the New Testament, but I would like to pick a couple of examples from the Old Testament instead.
David Moves the Ark
The first is from 2 Sam. 6. Here, David is moving the ark from Baale of Judah to Jerusalem. As a background to this portion of scripture, I would like to briefly give an overview of the design of the ark and the mercy seat, and some brief commands about its movement.
25:10 And they shall make an ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof.
25:11 And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, within and without shalt thou overlay it, and shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about.
25:12 And thou shalt cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in the four corners thereof; and two rings shall be in the one side of it, and two rings in the other side of it.
25:13 And thou shalt make staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold.
25:14 And thou shalt put the staves into the rings by the sides of the ark, that the ark may be borne with them.
25:15 The staves shall be in the rings of the ark: they shall not be taken from it.
25:16 And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee.
25:17 And thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof.
25:18 And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat.
25:19 And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof.
25:20 And the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubims be.
25:21 And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee.
25:22 And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.
I'm not sure just how heavy the ark was. The wooden box, a little over 5 by 3 by 3 feet would be heavy enough, without the gold overlay inside and out, the tablets of stone, manna, and Aaron's rod. Then there was the mercy seat which was on top of the ark and acted as its covering. A solid gold lid along with the large cherubims of pure gold would be very heavy indeed. Here are the commands for its movement.
Num. 4:15, 7:9:
4:15 And when Aaron and his sons have made an end of covering the sanctuary, and all the vessels of the sanctuary, as the camp is to set forward; after that, the sons of Kohath shall come to bear it: but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die. These things are the burden of the sons of Kohath in the tabernacle of the congregation.
Num. 7:9 But unto the sons of Kohath he gave none: because the service of the sanctuary belonging unto them was that they should bear upon their shoulders.
This ark moving procedure was carried out without mishap for many years. An example is seen in the book of Joshua.
3:8 And thou shalt command the priests that bear the ark of the covenant, saying, When ye are come to the brink of the water of Jordan, ye shall stand still in Jordan.
3:9 And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither, and hear the words of the LORD your God.
3:10 And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites.
3:11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan.
3:12 Now therefore take you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, out of every tribe a man.
3:13 And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap.
3:14 And it came to pass, when the people removed from their tents, to pass over Jordan, and the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people;
Now, I'm not sure what went on in David's mind when he wanted to move the ark back to Jerusalem. I'll speculate a bit. Perhaps he wanted things done faster. Perhaps the priests were complaining about having to move the ark that far and he gave in to their whining. Perhaps David felt this was simply a better way. After all, the old rules were laid down when the ark was being moved through the desert. Nevertheless, he had a new cart made and away they went.
6:1 Again, David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand.
6:2 And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the LORD of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubims.
6:3 And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart.
6:4 And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was at Gibeah, accompanying the ark of God: and Ahio went before the ark.
6:5 And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals.
6:6 And when they came to Nachon's threshing floor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it.
6:7 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.
There is nothing recorded about God's feelings concerning the method David commanded the Kohathites to move the ark. God did smite Uzzah because he touched the ark which was holy. The Kohathites were forbidden from touching the holy things, and Uzzah erred in what he did. But of the new religious forms that David introduced, nothing is mentioned in this passage of scripture.
Too often, we are just like David and don't count the total cost or the risk in the new things we seek to do. If we think that something will be an improvement (whether in the natural or spiritual world), we plunge ahead and don't take time to assess either possible problems with our plans or where we are currently at. If David had simply had the ark moved in the standard method to Jerusalem, Uzzah would probably have lived. The Kohathites would have lifted the ark up on its staves and moved it slowly forward, without risk of it toppling or being jostled by the oxen. Expediency (if that is what it was), on the part of David, cost Uzzah his life. What are the costs of the things we do? How many things have we started without counting the cost?
What happened after Uzzah was killed? Reading from scripture we see a typical reaction when our new plans are foiled or simply go amiss.
2 Sam. 6:8-10:
2 Sam. 6:8 And David was displeased, because the LORD had made a breach upon Uzzah: and he called the name of the place Perezuzzah to this day.
6:9 And David was afraid of the LORD that day, and said, How shall the ark of the LORD come to me?
6:10 So David would not remove the ark of the LORD unto him into the city of David: but David carried it aside into the house of Obededom the Gittite.
- Why did you hurt him? It was my fault.
- Did I displease God to have this happen? I guess it just wasn't meant to be.
- If I can't do it my way, I won't do it at all.
- Why wasn't my way good enough?
- If God doesn't like the way I want to do it, I just won't do anything.
- That thing was trouble for me. You take it.
Do any of those sayings sound familiar? They do to me. What happened next? I'm sure that Obededom the Gittite wasn't too happy to have the ark move in. After all, just a touch from Uzzah had cost him his life. Yet God blessed Obededom, simply because the ark rested there.
2 Sam. 6:11-12:
6:11 And the ark of the LORD continued in the house of Obededom the Gittite three months: and the LORD blessed Obededom, and all his household.
6:12 And it was told king David, saying, The LORD hath blessed the house of Obededom, and all that pertaineth unto him, because of the ark of God. So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obededom into the city of David with gladness.
When David heard that Obededom was being blessed, he immediately set about to retrieve the ark again. Who knows how long it would have been in Obededom's house if David hadn't heard of his blessings. But this time, he goes back to the ancient ways of transporting the ark so there will be no further mishaps.
2 Sam. 6:13-15:
6:13 And it was so, that when they that bare the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed oxen and fatlings.
6:14 And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod.
6:15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.
It only took him three months to realize that his new way was not the proper way. Perhaps nothing else would have happened if he had continued to use his cart. Perhaps there would have been another accident. No one knows. But he did get back on God's path and that is all that matters.
To close with this example, I will go back to the message of a couple of weeks ago. God spoke through prophecy about the ancient and new ways. I will repeat the first part of that message to refresh our minds.
I have said to you My people that I am doing a new thing. I am doing a new thing, a new thing, but you do not perceive it. You do not perceive it because you choose to look for it in a way that you choose to look for it. Even as I tell you I am doing a new thing, I also tell you to look to the ancient way, and to look to the ancient path. For that new thing and that ancient path are linked up together. I choose to do the new thing in you as I chose to do the new thing to My people in the past. When I chose to do that new thing, that became the ancient way.
How much better it is to allow God to dictate the path and merely follow! Sometimes the path can seem hard to find, and many times the first steps of the path are difficult to take. But God knows all the risks - even the ones we do not think about, and is able to lay the road out in the best fashion for us if we will see. We can be sure that all the paths we lay out on our own will be judged before Christ.
Things Judged in the New Testament
There are absolute standards for conduct and sin avoidance in the New Testament. These scriptures are well known to us all, and we try hopefully with some success to follow them. A couple of classic examples:
12:36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
Not only do we get to hear our idle words again, we get to tell the world why we said them in the first place. I get accused of being pretty quiet, but I find I get in less trouble that way. Nevertheless, I have my own share of idle words to account for as well.
1:19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
1:20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
1:21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
Are we doers of the word. The message last week was to expect to go out and win others to Christ. Be prepared always to pray and expect God to work. Be ready to intervene. These are easy words to hear but tough words to do.
4:2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.
4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
At the first of this message, we used the scripture from Romans 14 talking of the judgment seat of Christ. That whole chapter is excellent. The primary focus is on Christians who are looking on the outside and not the inside. Paul's point is that outward religious forms are not essential or important. How many church denominations would we have today if it weren't for differences in outward religious forms. One thing is certain. Our front against the enemy would be more direct and unified if we could start looking on the inside instead of dwelling on the outside.
Even in this body, do our outward religious forms take too high a priority. The things of Romans 14 are still with us, although the names have been changed. These things are neither good nor bad, but do we dispute over silly things. Are they points which cause us to lose our united front against the enemy?
Do our ordinances take on the proper weight? Do we have the respect that we should have in the house of God (simply because it is a church) or do we treat it as a cross between a auditorium and baseball stands, depending on the age and mood. I don't mean to imply that God is only in the churches of this world - certainly not. However, these buildings are still where God ministers to bodies of His people as a group. Uzzah was struck dead for touching the ark of the covenant and he only did that to steady it and keep it from falling. Where are we today in our conduct in church and what does our conduct in church tell the world in the form of visitors to our body about us? Has this changed in the last year, five years, ten years? Has God changed?
In addition, large portions of the New Testament deal with our relationships with each other and God and give standards for conduct in these things. Again, this is not an exhaustive list. It is just about impossible to open the New Testament and not be able to categorize some part of the page of scripture your eye falls on into directives or advice on some sort of relationship. These are some which came to mind as I was preparing this. All will form the basis for judgment and the determination of what was gold, silver, and precious stones or what was wood, hay, and stubble in our lives.
- between wives and husbands: Eph. 5:22-33, 1 Peter 3:1-7
- parents to children: Eph. 6:4.
- children to parents: Eph. 6:1-3.
- of pastors to the flock: 1 Peter 5:1-4
- of younger to elders: 1 Peter 5:5-9
- for each other: 1 Peter 3:8-13
- our work for our employers: Eph. 6:5-8
- for those who are employers - our duties toward the employees: Eph. 6:9
- the government / rulers: 1 Peter 2:13-17
- to God: Chapters two and three of Revelation give discourses from God via John about seven churches along the Roman road. Many had problems in their relationships to God, doctrines, interrelationships with members, affections, et cetera. Many had good works, but were rotten at heart: Rev. 2,3,
Haggai and Solomon's Temple
I listed our relationship to God last, although it is certainly the most important. As I was studying, I felt drawn to Haggai once again, and would like to finish up with that. The problems of the seven churches were in many ways similar to those of the Jews in the time of Haggai, and are a problem for us today. So I would like to take the remainder of the time talking about that.
Hag. 1:3-11, 2:2-5:
1:3 Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying,
1:4 Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste?
1:5 Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.
1:6 Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.
1:7 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.
1:8 Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD.
1:9 Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.
1:10 Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit.
1:11 And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands.
Skipping to 2:2 Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and to the residue of the people, saying,
2:3 Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?
2:4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts:
2:5 According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not.
Here God directly chastises His people when they aren't putting His work first. There isn't any need to wait until the Judgment Seat of Christ. They knew they had trouble immediately - if not before Haggai's commentary at least thereafter. Do we need similar warnings today to focus ourselves on the gold, silver, and precious stones of the kingdom?
This example certainly challenges us to be sure we are walking along God's paths. Too often, our works become more important than the things of God. Whether it is God's house - as in this example, or in other things we are doing for God, we get distracted by what we are doing for ourselves and lose sight of what we need to do for God. This particular house of the Lord isn't in as bad a shape as the conditions of the temple in Haggai's day. But it needs some major overhauls. Whether it is doors, roof, carpeting, drapes, outside and inside painting, drainage of grounds, parking lot repairs, plumbing, or hymnals, there is much to be done. There is even much we have said we would do, and yet we forget or delay in these things. Too often, I run to my house just as the Jews did then, without taking the time or making the investment in making God's house look good.
One thing is certain. God will ensure that we get focused on what we should be doing at some time. We will rarely like the process it takes to accomplish that end.
I don't want to imply that this is just a physical plant issue. It is much broader than that. God has desires for each of us in people we could reach, pray for, witness to, help, guide, train, et cetera. The ancient way of the early church was much above where we are today in dealing with each other. We have too many defenses which take too long to break down. Churches fragment and people move from one place to another because they don't let themselves put down roots anywhere. They have been hurt in the past and don't want to let people get close. If the church is going to grow in the last days, at least some things need to get back to a level of community as seen in the early church. Some are perhaps doing that in some groups and in some things. But overall, how do we relate to new people? How do we let them in?
God has a plan for each one here. Just as was shared last week, and in the message earlier, God desires to do a new thing. He doesn't want to do it alone. He needs our help. An unattributed quote I ran across this week said "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure." We are happy to stay in the background and not accept all the gifts God wants to give us because we are afraid that with those gifts will come the responsibility to act and interact with the world and each other. Yet work in God's kingdom and along His path will surely lead to the gold, silver, and precious stones that stand the test of fire at the Judgment Seat of Christ. We had marvelous testimony this morning of workers who with God's help were disseminating the Gospel. They are successful because they are doing the will of the Father and listening to Him for guidance about every facet of their ministry. Let us all seek to find those things which will stand up in the test of time and not be burned up as stubble in the day of judgment. Let us be working for the kingdom.
There are three specific groups mentioned which are saved during the tribulation. The first is the 144,000 Jews who are sealed. The second, and hopefully the biggest group is known as the tribulation saints. Whether they were composed of lukewarm Christians who got their lives in order, or evil men who convert to Christianity, they will exist. The revival is predicted in Acts 2:16-21.
2:16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;
2:17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
2:18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:
2:19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:
2:20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:
2:21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
The last group is that of the two witnesses.
The last days are truly that - not only will the powers of darkness be fighting their last battle, so will the power of light, led by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will lead in prophesy and visions and dreams. God will show wonders in heaven - as predicted here and in Revelation - blood, fire, vapour of smoke, sun into darkness, moon into blood - all before the second advent. Luke records that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
In Revelation, there are 12,000 Jews sealed from each of the 12 tribes of Israel, making up the 144,000 strong body referred to as the man child. The details are recorded in chapter 7 of Revelation:
7:1 And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.
7:2 And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,
7:3 Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
7:4 And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
7:5 Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand.
7:6 Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nepthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand.
7:7 Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand.
7:8 Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.
These are sealed against the demons which are loosed from the bottomless pit in 9:4 at the 5th trumpet.
9:4 And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.
This man child is caught up in the middle of Daniel's 70th week (3 1/2 years after the start of the tribulation period and at the transition point between the Lesser and the Great Tribulation.) This is recorded in Chapter 12:5 and are the third phase of the first rapture / resurrection of righteous humanity, Christ and those saints whose graves were opened at that time (Matthew 27:52-53) being the first fruits and the those who are Christ's at His appearing in the sky the second. They are seen in heaven before God in Revelation 14:1-5.
Revelation 12:5, 14:1-5:
12:5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
14:1 And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads.
14:2 And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps:
14:3 And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.
14:4 These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.
14:5 And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.
The fourth phase of the first resurrection concerns the martyrs and tribulation saints, saved from Revelation 6:1 to 19:21. The first martyrs are told to wait until the rest are killed and then all are resurrected in time for the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Revelation 17:6, 13:7, 13:15-18, 6:9-11, 7:9-17, 15:2-4, 20:4:
17:6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
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.
13:15 And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.
13:16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
13:17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
13:18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.
6:9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
6:10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
6:11 And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.
7:9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
7:10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
7:11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,
7:12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
7:13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
7:14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
7:15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.
7:16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.
7:17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
15:2 And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.
15:3 And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.
15:4 Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.
20:4 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.
Verse 14 is particularly instructive in terms of indicating who the tribulation saints are and provides another indication of a pre-tribulation rapture of the church. It indicates that these saints are those who came out of the tribulation, and who washed their robes to make them white in the blood of the Lamb to be saved. To me, this indicates that their robes were originally dirty - that they were unsaved at the start of the tribulation. Yet they were saved during the times of revival and went to heaven when they died.
The fifth and final phase of the first resurrection of humanity from the Earth occurs when the two witnesses are resurrected. These two men, Enoch and Elijah, are sent back to Earth to witness and prophecy in the last 3 1/2 years before the second advent. They will be given great powers, and will eventually be killed by the Antichrist. 3 1/2 days later, they will be resurrected and take their place with the rest of the saints.
11:3 And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
11:4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
11:5 And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.
11:6 These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.
11:7 And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.
11:8 And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
11:9 And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.
11:10 And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.
11:11 And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.
11:12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.
Whatever your opinion about the timing of the rapture and the events which are to come to pass, this much is certain.
21:36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
After the end of the battle at Armageddon, when the evil military forces of the world are put down, there will be a mixture of saints and evil people left to enter into the Millennium.