Discourse 07 - The Rapture and the First Resurrection: a single event?




The Rapture and the First Resurrection: a single event? / Reply - Marcus Franz 00, 2000-07-11

The martyrs in Rev 20,4: they lived or they came to life? / Reply - Marcus Franz 01, 2000-07-15

Will all faithful come to life at the First Resurrection? / Reply - Marcus Franz 02, 2000-07-25

Those who had not worshipped the image are they martyrs too? / Reply - Anonymous 00, 2000-07-27

Do the martyrs no longer form part of the congregation? / Reply M. H. 00, 2004-11-17

The Resurrection. - Chapter 12


(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(The Rapture and the First Resurrection: a single event? / Reply - MF00, 2000-07-11)

In my opinion it is not possible to see these as being two separate events, as you do. In the whole of chapter 15 of the epistle to the Corinthians Paul writes on the topic of new life coming from God. He uses the words for resurrection (anastasis) and raising of the dead (egeirein) in a synonymous fashion, that is, as having exactly the same meaning. Anastasis here is simply the noun, and egeirein the corresponding verb. So for instance he points out in 1Cor 15, 12 that the erroneous doctrine, prevalent at the time, that there would be no resurrection (anastasis) of the dead is complete nonsense, seeing that, after all, Jesus has been raised (egeirein) from the dead. In verse 42 he describes the resurrection (anastasis) of the dead in the phrase “it is raised (egeirein) an imperishable body”. In 1The 4,16 Paul actually uses the exact verb that corresponds to anastasis, anastesontai, “they shall rise”. For this reason alone, then, there is no distinction to be made between the resurrection and the raising of the dead. According to Rev 20,5, there is a First Resurrection (anastasis), when Jesus returns to earth, and a subsequent one (after the end of the Millennial kingdom). John does not speak of any other multiple resurrections or raisings of the dead. But if, as Paul says, the faithful will be raised on the Second Coming of Jesus, then they must of necessity be involved in this First Resurrection as well, along with the martyrs.

It is worth noting that prophecies often work with abbreviations and compressions. Some biblical passages present an event in great detail and very precisely, others just give a synopsis. So for example we might get the impression from Daniel 12,2 that there is just a single resurrection, while from other passages we know that this is not the case. So we might also admittedly derive the impression from Rev 20,4 that the First Resurrection will not take place until after the Second Coming of Jesus, and that only certain specific believers (martyrs) will be involved in this, but other passages show us quite clearly that the resurrection is to take place shortly before the Second Coming, and that all Christian believers are involved in this. Rev 20,4 also leaves plenty of latitude for this interpretation.

So it does not mean literally that the martyrs came back to life, but purely and simply, that they lived (ezesan - see note on verse 20,4 in the Elberfeld Bible). And then, too, we are told: “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them...”, without any further statements being made on the identity of the “they” here. Therefore, in my view, the attempt to see some kind of “special event” in Rev 20.4 ff is not just unnecessary, but is actually in contradiction with other biblical passages.

(Marcus Franz, XXXXmarcus1973@t-online.de / http://www.marcus1973.privat.t-online.de/endzeit.html ).



So we are concerned here with the question whether the raising of the dead in Christ of 1Cor 15,50-53 and 1The 4,15-17, revealed to Paul by a word spoken by the Lord, and the Rapture of the faithful, together with all those who are alive, constitute one and the same event as the “First Resurrection” seen by John - likewise in a revelation coming from the Lord - along with the coming to life of the slain martyrs in Rev 20,4. And following on from this we need to clarify whether all the faithful of the congregation of all time - that is to say, including us Christians who are alive today - who have not had to lay down their lives for their faith can honestly expect to have a place allotted to them among the slain martyrs of the First Resurrection, or not.

To get a better view of the question, let us look at these passages once more:

The dead in Christ will rise first.

1The 4,15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 4,16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 4,17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 1The 4,15-17;

The dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

1Cor 15,50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 15,51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 15,52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 15,53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 15,54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written (Isaiah 25,8; Hosea 13,14), “death is swallowed up in victory. 15,55 O death, where is your victory? O death where is your sting?” 1Cor 15,50-55;

(See also Chapter 062: “The return of the Lord.” / The Rapture.)


The souls of the martyrs came to life. This is the first resurrection.

Rev 20,4 Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 20,5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. 20,6 Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years. Rev 20, 4- 6;

(See also Chapter 12: “The Resurrection.” / The raising and resurrection of the dead / The First Resurrection.)


If now 1Cor 15,51-53 and 1The 4,15-17 are to be combined with Rev 20,4 to make just one event, we are obliged to wonder how it is that John - who after all received this revelation from an angel, acting on the Lord’s instructions, and the angel in turn must surely have known what he was talking about - how it is, then, that John can call this the “First Resurrection”, when actually, as we are told by Mt 27,50-53, a first resurrection of this kind, of many of the saints, had already taken place at the time of the death of the Lord.

And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and came out of the tombs.

Mt 27,50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 27,51 And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. 27,52 The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 27,53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. Mt 27,50-53;


If on the other hand we keep these things separate, and see the one as the raising of the dead who sleep in Christ (1Cor 15,18.20) and their ascension into heaven, and the other, by contrast, as the reverse process, that is, as the coming to life of these souls and their return from heaven to the earth - in the body, certainly, but with a body over which the second death no longer has any power - then both Mt 27 and 1Cor 15 together with 1The 4 are cases where the dead are raised. Rev 20,4 on the other hand is a resurrection, that is a coming to life of souls from heaven. And this, apart from the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, is truly the first of this kind, and so to characterize it as the “First Resurrection” is correct.

If the raising of the dead in Christ (from the realm of the dead) and their Rapture, together with those believers who are alive, is only to take place at the time of the First Resurrection of souls mentioned in Rev 20,4, then a further question suggests itself: who are those souls who already in Rev 6,9 - that is to say, as early as the breaking of the fifth seal - are seen “underneath the altar” and asking the Lord for vengeance “on those who dwell on the earth”? These are martyrs and “souls” in the same way, just like those in Rev 20,4. How did these martyrs get into heaven? When did they rise from the dead?

Underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain.

Rev 6,9 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 6,10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Rev 6, 9-10;


M. Franz writes in the passage quoted above:

“So we might also admittedly derive the impression from Rev 20,4 that the First Resurrection will not take place until after the Second Coming of Jesus, and that only certain specific believers (martyrs) will be involved in this, but other passages show us very clearly that the resurrection is to take place shortly before the Second Coming, and that all Christian believers are involved in this. Rev 20,4 also leaves plenty of latitude for this interpretation.”


It is certainly correct to say that all the faithful will be involved in the raising of the dead and in the Rapture. But now we are told by John - and it is not just John who has dreamed this up, after all, but an angel of the Lord who has revealed it to him - “And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”

To make the point yet again: here it is written that  “t h e y came to life” - these specific individuals, and not any one else. How is it possible, now, to ignore this passage and to claim that we may derive an “impression” from this, which will be refuted by other passages? Which other passages? Where is there any “latitude” left by Rev 20,4? So long as words make sense, according to this passage it is solely and exclusively these beheaded martyrs who come to life! To interpret it in any other way would be to stand the passage on its head!  

If the commentator is reluctant to accept the raising of the dead and the resurrection as two different events which are independent of one another, he is faced with a further problem.

Seeing that the exact words of Rev 20,4 are not to be distorted, it is only martyrs (the beheaded) who partake of the First Resurrection. If, now, this First Resurrection is identical with the resurrection and the Rapture, events of which Paul tells us in 1The 4,16 and 1Cor 15,52, then in consistency only the martyrs can be involved in this event as well, rather than the whole congregation. The statement made by Rev 20,5, that “the rest of the dead” - that is, both believers and non-believers as well - will only rise after the thousand years of the Millennium can thus only lead to one possible conclusion, namely that for the congregation - with the exception of the martyrs - there can only be any Resurrection at all at the end of the world.

It is therefore clear that if these two events are to be combined into a single happening, we must of necessity somehow find a place for the resurrection and Rapture of the faithful, events that do really occur, along with these martyrs, because otherwise there would no longer be any resurrection option available.

If, on the other hand, we assume that the First Resurrection is the coming to life of martyred souls who are already in heaven, and their coming down to earth (to reign with Christ in the Millennium), and the raising up and Rapture into heaven of the faithful is an event that takes place at the Return of the Lord, this problem is not a problem at all, and there is no longer any reason to force the faithful who have died a natural death into the company of the slain martyrs.

Finally let us also put forward an argument here which can answer these questions better than any theoretical disquisition. We find all these processes - raising from the dead, Rapture into heaven, coming to life and coming down to earth - already present, in their entirety, in the biblical account. It is Our Lord, the first fruits of this order, as Paul calls him in 1Cor 15,23, who has trod this path before us. In the relevant account in the gospel of the apostle John, we find the encounter of Mary of Magdala with the Lord who has just been raised from death.

Do not touch Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.

Jn 20,11 But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; 20,12 and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 20,13 And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 20,14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 20,15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 20,16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). 20,17 Jesus said to her, “Do not touch Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” 20,18 Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her. Jn 20,11-18;


When she recognized the Lord, she plainly wanted, in her transport of joy, to touch or embrace him. But the Lord said to her, “Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.” This was immediately after he had been raised from the dead. Now whatever may have been the reason for this reaction of the Lord’s, one thing can be taken as certain: when, some time later, he came down again from the Father in heaven and came among his disciples, he no longer had any such anxieties. He said to Thomas: “Reach here your hand and put it into my side”.

Reach here your hand and put it into My side.

Jn 20,26 After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” 20,27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Jn 20,26-27;


So when he later appeared once more to the disciples, and they did not recognize him at first and were afraid, thinking they were seeing a spirit, he expressly urged them to touch him, and actually ate and drank with this resurrected body.

Touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.

Lk 24,36 While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be to you.” 24,37 But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. 24,38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 24,39 See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 24,40 And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. 24,41 While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 24,42 They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; 24,43 and He took it and ate it before them. Lk 24,36-42;


Without wanting to read all too much meaning into this, it is nonetheless obvious that when the Lord first encountered Mary his body could not be exposed to contact. It was in any case a different body from that which the Lord later had when he appeared among the disciples. It is also plain that this Resurrection of the Lord had been acted out in two phases:

-  His being raised from the dead with an “untouchable” body, and subsequent Ascension to the Father in heaven.

-  And his later coming down from heaven with a body which not only could be touched, but also one in which the Lord had flesh and bones, and was able to eat human food.


(See also Excursus 07: “The resurrection body.”)


If now Paul says, in his epistle to the Philippians, that he would like to be conformed to the death of Christ, so that he may also attain to the resurrection from the dead, he is here prophesying the death which he later was indeed to undergo himself, and showing us the criterion which is to apply to those who take part in the resurrection of the martyrs - that is to say, the First Resurrection described by John in Rev 20,4.

That I may know the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.

Phil 3,10 That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 3,11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Phil 3,10-11;


Now no one who is not forced to know such suffering, and is not conformed to the death of the Lord, should either claim a place among the martyrs or expect resurrection in the sense that he will come to life to rule and govern with the Lord in the Millennium. He will be raised from the dead on the Second Coming of the Lord, like all the faithful in Christ who have not had to lay down their lives as martyrs, and will then be raised up to the Lord in the sky and will be with the Lord for ever. This is promised us, finally, by Paul as well, in that scriptural passage from which we took our point of departure:

And so we shall always be with the Lord.

1The 4,15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 4,16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 4,17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 4,18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. 1The 4,15-18;



(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(The martyrs in Rev 20,4: they lived or they came to life? / Reply - MF01, 2000-07-15)

Of course it is quite clear to me that egeirein is not a derived form of anastasis in a grammatical sense. It was rather my aim to show what is shown by the text, namely, that Paul does not make any distinction between the two words, but rather on occasion uses anastasis (as a noun) and at other times again egeirein (as a verb), just as he pleases, both however having the same significance. With reference to Revelation 20,4 I can only point out once more that the original text expressly does not read “... and they came to life...”, but purely and simply “... and they lived...”. See note to this passage in the Elberfeld translation, see Schlachter translation and King James translation. If you can see here a time specification that is to be understood in an absolute sense (in the sense, that is, that the martyrs also really have life restored to them at just this point), then that is your affair - as it is, too, if you are in a position precisely to identify who the “they” of verse 4 are who sit upon the thrones, and likewise if you are of the opinion that the First Resurrection mentioned in Rev 20,5 is a different one from the resurrection of the faithful at the Second Coming of the Lord, referred to by Paul in 1Cor15, 20-24. I believe your interpretation is wrong, but would not permit myself to accuse someone who in this tricky field took a different view from my own, of standing a biblical passage on its head, and I would ask you, reciprocally, to be a little more restrained with such utterances.

(Marcus Franz, XXXXmarcus1973@t-online.de / http://www.marcus1973.privat.t-online.de/endzeit.html ).



With reference to your statement above about the use of the verb egeiro (to raise from the dead) and the noun anastasis (resurrection) -

“It was rather my aim to show what is shown by the text, namely, that Paul does not make any distinction between the two words, but rather on occasion uses anastasis (as a noun) and at other times again egirin (as a verb), just as he pleases, both however having the same significance”


- there is a passage in the New Testament - to be specific, from Acts - which demonstrates that the two terms are not used loosely, but in a very deliberate way:

God raised Him up on the third day.

Acts 10,40 "God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, 10,41 not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. Acts 10,40-41;


In these two verses both “raised up” (egeiren) and also “arose(anastenai) are found, and it appears that there is a deliberate meaning in this:

Acts 10,40: “God raisedHim up on the third day”

On the third day the Lord was raised from the realm of the dead.

Mt 16,21 From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Mt 16,21;


Acts 10,41: “to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead”

The disciples had only eaten and drunk with him when the Lord returned to earth and visited them:

Lk 24,36 While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be to you." 24,37 But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. 24,38 And He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 24,39 "See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." 24,40 And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. 24,41 While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" 24,42 They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; 24,43 and He took it and ate it before them. Lk 24,36-43;


So we see that Luke, as the author of Acts, uses these two terms in Acts 10,40-41 not loosely but quite consciously, and with reference to the situation - writing in one case “raised up” (egeiren) and then in the same sentence “arose from the dead” (anastenai), and plainly seeing these as two separate events.

The argument repeated here that in Rev 20,4 it is said of the martyrs not that they “came back to life” but that “they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” is perfectly correct (see also Rom 14,9; Rev 13,14!). This, however, does not make the least difference to the statement the passage makes. What is this actually supposed to prove?

-  That these martyrs have not risen from the dead? In the next verse we are expressly told, “This is the First Resurrection”. And here surely only the martyrs who have just been mentioned can be intended. So they have indeed risen.

-  That these martyrs were not dead? In the next verse we are expressly told, “The rest of the dead did not come to life...”. If the “rest of” the dead, then, were not alive, that plainly has to mean that the martyrs were among these dead and rose from among them. Thus they “came to life”, while the other dead did not come to life, as incidentally it is also written in all the common translations (including Elberfeld).


The judgment of the interpretation

The judgment whether an interpretation is right or wrong cannot be a question of subjective estimation. Otherwise we would be stuck with the dogmas of the Catholic church, or the “directives” of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Every interpretation of Holy Scripture must be evidenced and backed up in the light of Scripture, and on the basis of specific scriptural passages. This is in my view the only method for a fruitful discussion that can lead us to our goal, and I expect to find the same attitude in my partner in discussion. If we can only justify an interpretation without the support of biblical passages, we would be better advised to take another look, and investigate Scripture to see whether an interpretation that is in conformity with Scripture may not be possible after all. Otherwise it is extremely difficult to carry on an objective discussion. If we are not obliged to justify our opinions on the basis of scriptural citation, we will be free to read anything and everything into the text and to declare that any other interpretation is wrong.


The utterances

Rev 20,4-6 deals with the First Resurrection of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony. The formulation of my note pointing out that an interpretation which here, without any support in Scripture, also wants “non-beheaded” Christians to be included in this, where I said that this amounts to standing the passage on its head, is intentionally not meant in a personal way, but rather as a general statement referring to all interpretations of this sort (of which there are quite a number), and corresponds exactly to the facts of the case. I therefore see no grounds for personal animosity, the more so when your statement that my “understanding of the passage and the conclusions are simply wrong” (The parallelism of the events of Mt 24 and Rev 6 and 7 / Reply - MF01) is expressed in altogether comparable terms, without my being in the least put out by this.



(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Will all faithful come to life at the First Resurrection? / Reply - MF02, 2000-07-25)

Why does John write of a First Resurrection? Can we perhaps infer from this a special event that applies only to the martyrs?

Most certainly John does not mean that there was no resurrection before this time, seeing that, in whatever way we choose to take the difficult account in Mt 27 of the saints who were raised from the dead, there had of course been a Resurrection already, namely that of Our Lord Jesus. So far we seem to be in agreement. The term “First Resurrection” is here to be taken in conjunction with the term “second death” (Rev 20,6 and 14; 21,8). The “second death” is not the natural death which comes to every human being, including the faithful: rather it is final damnation, the final separation from God. A similar distinction is made in connection with the resurrection. For we are told here (Rev 20,6), in quite general terms (and not just with reference to the martyrs), that none of those who take part in the First Resurrection have anything more to fear from the second death: rather, they will be permitted to reign with Christ for a thousand years. Daniel already wrote (Dan 12,2) that there is one resurrection to everlasting life and another to everlasting contempt. Paul later picks up this point in 1Cor 15, when he writes of a definite sequence in the resurrection events: first Jesus, then, on his Second Coming, all those who belong to him, and only after that the end.

To sum up we may say that there is a resurrection of the faithful and of the non-believers.

Is John then really writing only about the martyrs? Here again we must consider the precise context: before John speaks of the First Resurrection in Rev 20,5, he writes that the rest of the dead do not come to life until the thousand years have been completed. And only then does he continue, “This is the First Resurrection”.

John, then, sees the First Resurrection as being linked with, or - more accurately - as being opposed to the “second” resurrection at the end of time. Consequently, all he is doing here is to make a distinction between the resurrection of the faithful and that of non-believers, as other biblical passages also do. Now there are beyond question plenty of biblical passages (see the ones just mentioned, as a sample) which tell us that ALL the faithful will be involved in the First Resurrection, the resurrection of the faithful, and not just certain specific individuals or groups.

Can we infer from the fact that in connection with the fifth seal there is a mention of the martyrs at the altar of God that they are treated differently, after their death, from the rest of the faithful? Admittedly, we are here not concerned with the question of special rewards, honors, etc., but rather with the question what happens after their death. Far be it from me to attempt to introduce and promulgate a doctrine of the Beyond at this point. Here it is truer than ever that we know only in part. And yet there are some biblical passages which must lead us to answer our initial question in the negative:

Lk. 16, 23-1: While the rich man is in torment, Lazarus is comforted in Abraham’s bosom, although there is no question of a violent death here. All this took place at a time when the brothers of the rich man were still alive on earth.

Lk. 23, 43: Jesus said to the criminal who was crucified with him (who most definitely did not die the death of a martyr), “Today you shall be with me in Paradise”. The understanding of a sort of “preliminary” state of blessedness, whereby the faithful who have died are already in the presence of God, have feelings, etc., is then on the face of it to be seen as applying rather to all the faithful, not just exclusively to the martyrs.

Or will it only be the martyrs who are present in the Millennial Kingdom? As has been said already, according to Rev 20,6 all those who partake of the First Resurrection will also reign with Christ in the Millennial Kingdom. And with that the question has on the face of it already been answered. But a glance at other biblical passages as well will confirm the view that ALL the faithful will be permitted to be a part of the Millennial Kingdom. The seven letters to the churches each end up with a promise that is introduced by the words “he who overcomes...”. For us, in this context, the following assurances given to those who overcome are the significant ones: they will not be hurt by the second death (Rev 2,11); they will be given authority over the nations (2,26); they will be permitted to sit upon the throne with Jesus (3,21). All assurances, then, which point to their partaking in the Millennial Kingdom. The word for ‘overcome’ here is the Greek word “nikan”, which may be translated as ‘conquer, defeat, overcome’. Who, then, is the one who overcomes? Only the martyrs? The key lies in 1Joh 5,4 and 5: “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith. And who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” Anyone, then, who holds firm to his faith in Jesus until the end, whether it means that he has to lay his life on the line for it or not, is one who overcomes.

Apart from this, it would be hard to make sense of things if the faithful were to be with the Lord for all time (1The 4,17) and yet were not permitted to be a part of the Millennial Kingdom, when this is specifically going to be ruled by Jesus (Rev 20,6).

(Marcus Franz, XXXXmarcus1973@t-online.de / http://www.marcus1973.privat.t-online.de/endzeit.html ).



The question asked above - “Why does John write of a First Resurrection? Can we perhaps infer from this a special event that just applies to the martyrs?” - must be answered in the affirmative. The special event that applies just to the martyrs is the necessity of having these individuals, who are to reign with the Lord Jesus in the Millennium, rise from the dead at precisely this point in time, so that they may enter upon their office of rule.

In the continuation of the argument of the above commentary, the view is advocated that all believers will rise from the dead in the First Resurrection. This consequently would mean that at the second resurrection, the General Resurrection of the Universal Judgment, only the ungodly and the damned will be left to rise from the dead. As the discussion of this topic promises to become rather extended, it will have to be made the topic of a separate discourse.

(See also Discourse 10: “The General resurrection at the end of the world: only for the ungodly?”)


The view that all believers will reign in the Millennial Kingdom on earth is not new. It is chiefly advocated by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and is an indication given by their “channel” in Brooklyn. But there is nothing surprising about this, seeing that they confuse the scriptural prophecies of the Millennium with those that refer to the New Creation. They therefore believe that eternity will be acted out on this earth that we live on today. And they are deaf and blind to what is stated in Rev 21 and 22.

(See also Discourse 01: “The Millennium and the New Creation.”)


Among evangelical groups this hypothesis is encountered rather less frequently. It is assumed, then, that all the faithful will rise from the dead in the First Resurrection. In this Discourse we have repeatedly come up with the question how it is that here in Rev 20,4, where there is a plain and exclusive reference to the “beheaded” ( the martyrs, that is), a commentator can suddenly try to include here the whole of the congregation - that is to say, all those brethren who have ever died a normal death. Seeing that this question plainly is not to be answered in concrete terms, we can only speculate that we here have to do with a psychological phenomenon which is inaccessible to rational argument.

Let us take the statement from the above passage:

“As has been said already, according to Rev 20,6 all those who partake of the First Resurrection will also reign with Christ in the Millennial Kingdom.”


Yes, of course, that is so. But it is also written in Rev 20,4 just who it is will rise from the dead and reign with Christ. It is the beheaded, and not the entire congregation. The passage quoted above then continues:

“And with that the question has on the face of it already been answered.”


What then is the answer to the question? That all the faithful will reign with Christ in the Millennium, as the next sentence states? Not so, not on any account. So long as words make any sense, beheaded Christians are not the same as Christians who have not been beheaded.

Why it is just the martyrs who are chosen to rule with the Lord Jesus in the Millennial Kingdom is more than I am able to say. I just do not know. But what I do know is that the Lord Jesus had his angel tell John, in his Revelation, that in the First Resurrection only the beheaded would rise from the dead and would rule with Christ. The view that the entire congregation is meant here, and that they will rule with the Lord as kings and priests and not only the martyrs (Rev 5,9-10), here entails the further problem that there might well then be hundreds of millions of kings and priests upon earth. While we might still just be able to imagine such a quantity of priests, hundreds of millions of kings for this world would surely be a bit too much.

But let us look at the matter from a different angle. In view of the last sentence in the argument quoted, a certain suspicion comes to mind. The author there writes:

“Apart from this, it would be hard to make sense of things if the faithful were to be with the Lord for all time (1The 4,17) and yet were not to be permitted to be a part of the Millennial Kingdom, when this is specifically going to be ruled by Jesus (Rev 20,6).”


Here we can hear the idea coming across that to live in the Millennial Kingdom must be the goal of all the aspirations of the faithful. Is that really the case? If that is what we think, then we have not taken sufficient thought about life in heaven. Paul already says in his epistle to the Philippians that our citizenship is in heaven, and not on earth:

For our citizenship is in heaven.

Phil 3,20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 3,21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. Phil 3,20-21;


And does not the Lord Jesus also speak of the dwelling places in his Father’s house?

In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; for I go to prepare a place for you.

Jn 14,1 “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.14,2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 14,3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. 14,4 And you know the way where I am going.” Jn 14, 1- 4;


Most certainly, the Father’s house referred to here is not the Millennial Kingdom! It is heaven, the throne room of God. And the joy and rapture of the faithful in heaven at their being permitted to praise and glorify God will exceed all conceivable feelings of happiness that human beings could have in the Millennium on earth - even if, admittedly, there too justice and peace will prevail under the governance of the Lord Jesus. Nor is there any question who would enjoy greater closeness to the Lord, who will after all be present both in heaven with the Father, and also here on earth: human beings on earth in the Millennium, or the saints in heaven.

So if anyone is anxious about being sold short here, he is very greatly mistaken. The true existence of the faithful Christian is with God the Father and the Son in heaven, and not anywhere else. Those martyrs who are apparently the object of envy, because they partake of the First Resurrection and are permitted to rule in the Millennium, will of course likewise, in their resurrection body, be alive both in heaven and also on earth. But their time in heaven will be limited, because they will have obligations on earth, and tasks they must attend to. For human beings, whose highest conceivable bliss is to be close to the Father, this will be a sacrifice.



(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Those who had not worshipped the image are they martyrs too? / Reply - AN00 2000-07-27)

In your elucidation of the First Resurrection you repeatedly quote Rev 20,4, and claim that here only martyrs will rise from the dead. In this connection, though, you studiously avoid mentioning the second part of this verse, where we read: “... and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand...”. These are the faithful from the time of the Antichrist, and not martyrs!

(Anonymous comment)



You may be right in asserting that I have not yet mentioned this part of Rev 20,4. You may judge, however, from the fact that I invariably quote scriptural passages in full, and in the light of their context, that it would be far from me to want to suppress any of the statements made by Scripture.

In answer to the specific question here, it has to be said that appearances are deceptive. We find in Rev 13,15-18 a statement to the effect that “all who did not worship the image of the beast were killed”.

And cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.

Rev 13,15 And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed. 13,16 And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, 13,17 and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. 13,18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six. Rev 13,15-18;


In Rev 15,2-4 we then find precisely those faithful who have not worshiped the beast and his image, and who have consequently been killed, now already standing on the sea of glass, which Rev 4,6 tells us is situated before the throne in heaven.

Those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, standing before the throne.

Rev 15,2 And I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God. 15,3 And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations! 15,4 Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; For all nations will come and worship before You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed.” Rev 15, 2- 4;


While in the verse quoted previously, Rev 20,4, we are also told that this third group of the risen martyrs - after those martyrs of the Old Testament (killed for their testimony to the word of God) and the martyrs of the New Testament (killed for their testimony to Jesus) - are precisely those who have not worshiped the beast and his image.

Those who had not worshiped the beast or his image.

Rev 20,4 Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. Rev 20, 4;


From the above conclusion, it thus emerges from Rev 13,15 that these Christian believers have also been killed and so are likewise martyrs - martyrs from the time of the dominion of the Antichrist.

And here we can now see, with great clarity, the difference between “being raised from the dead”, that is, ascension into heaven on the one hand, and “resurrection”, that is, a descent from heaven, in the living body of the Resurrection on the other hand. Whereas in the above passage (Rev 20,4) these martyrs from the time of the dominion of the Antichrist, along with the other martyrs, return to life and come down from heaven to reign with Christ in the Millennium, we find them in an earlier passage (Rev 15,2-4) after they have been raised from the dead, and here they are still in heaven on the sea of glass, which according to Rev 4,6 is situated before the throne of God, singing the song of Moses and praising God. If “raising from the dead/Rapture” and the “First Resurrection” were a single event, these martyrs from the time of the dominion of the Antichrist could not already be in heaven at Rev 15,2-4, when they are not raised from the dead until Rev 20,4.

The argument that is also often advanced - that  in this situation, after all, not every believing Christian without exception can have been killed, that there must surely have been some who survived to the end in hiding - overlooks the conclusion to be drawn from the extended statement made in Rev 13,15. There the second beast is mentioned - that is to say, the false prophet. And power was given to him by the first beast, the Antichrist. And seeing that the latter derives his authority from Satan (Rev 13,2.4.7), the false prophet also, in the last resort, possesses satanic power and authority. And in this power he endows the image with spirit, “so that the image of the beast might even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.”

We have to do here, then, not with just any kind of secret police or with merely human bloodhounds. This image of the beast is an artificially created spiritual being, which does not require any accusation or proof. It recognizes “automatically”, so to speak, in each individual, whether he or she has submitted to the dominion of the Antichrist or not (“cause as many... to be killed”). But this means that there can be here no escape. Either you submit to him and worship the image - to be tainted with the “stable odor” of the beast, as one might feel inclined to call it - and you remain unmolested. Or you stand up against this invitation to worship, and then there is no chance that you will be able to hide or to find any way of keeping it secret. This idol is the Big Brother of the Last Days, so to speak: he sees everything, hears everything and knows everything that is going on throughout the Antichrist’s dominions.

If we now take these scriptural passages seriously, the conclusion to be drawn is that everyone who refuses to worship the image will at once, and “automatically”, be killed. There is no chance of getting away. And that is also the reason why all those of the faithful who have not worshiped the image of the beast, because their faith forbade them to do so, have all without exception been killed, and so are likewise martyrs.



(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Do the martyrs no longer form part of the congregation? / Reply MH00 2004-11-17)

But we now find in Rev 20,4 those who have remained faithful to their Lord in spite of persecution. They have actually had to resist the beast and his mark. It follows that they must have lost their lives in the second half of the Great Tribulation - subsequently, that is, to the Rapture as you picture it. But anyone who is not included in the Rapture no longer forms part of the congregation, as the numbers of the latter have already been made up and it is now celebrating the marriage (according to standard teaching, anyway). We might suppose, then, that we have to do with two groups of martyrs here, but I do not think this is a satisfactory solution. Without an approach such as this, the fifth seal would be linked in with the Great Tribulation, along with the Antichrist and the mark of the beast.

(M. H.  www.bibel-info.net)



(See also Discourse 86: “Do the martyrs no longer form part of the congregation?


What you say here is absolutely right, and I must thank you for your contribution. Here at Immanuel.at the dominion of the Antichrist is considered to consist of two periods:

-  The first part involves the Antichrist in human form, the rider on the white horse of Rev 6,2. This period extends over the time of the plagues of seals 1 to 4 (i.e., the Great Tribulation), and ends with the Second Coming of the Lord (2The 2,8) and the Rapture of the faithful in Christ at the time of the sixth seal.

-  In the second part (the 42 months of the beast from the sea) we encounter the demonic Antichrist, who first appears when he is raised from the dead by Satan in Rev 13,1, and remains until the downfall of the Antichrist and the false prophet at the battle of Armageddon (Rev 19,20).


The author of the commentary quoted above observes now, quite correctly, that the martyrs of Rev 20,4 must have lost their lives during that period of the dominion of the Antichrist in which all who did not worship the beast and his image were killed (Rev 13,15). Seeing that this identifies it as the second period of the rule of the Antichrist, on the other hand, and in view of our positing the Rapture as taking place at the end of the first period, we are faced with the question how these martyrs, after they have been murdered, have succeeded in reaching the sea of glass as described in Rev 15,2, which as Rev 4,6 tells us is situated before the throne of God in heaven.

To analyze these implications, let us first of all examine those scriptural passages that provide definite information about the martyrs of Rev 20,4. We can take the following passage as a starting point:

The souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and who had not worshiped the beast or his image.

Rev 20,4 Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. Rev 20, 4;


So here we are told that these martyrs have been beheaded, and among the reasons for this is the fact that they have not worshiped the beast and his image, and have not received his mark on their forehead and on their hand. And we find still further and more precise information on this count in Rev 13,11-17:

The image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.

Rev 13,11 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon. 13,12 He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. 13,13 He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. 13,14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life.

13,15 And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed. 13,16 And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, 13,17 and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. Rev 13,11-17;


After Satan has resurrected the first beast, the demonic Antichrist, from the sea, now another beast comes up out of the earth. In the light of our interpretation, this Antichrist will appear as a “substitute Christ” (the Greek anti can also carry the connotation of “instead of”), who when he appears will pretend to be the true Christ, and will actually be successful in persuading people to believe in him, as a result of the incredible signs and wonders that he works. He will present his creator, Satan, as God, and induce humanity to worship Satan as “God the Father” and himself as “God the Son.

Who denies that Jesus is the Christ this is the antichrist.

1Jn 2,22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. 1Jn 2,22;


The second beast, which here comes up out of the earth, is patently acting as the deputy of the Antichrist in his guise as “God the Son”, and so strongly evokes that title and that office to which the Popes of the Catholic church have laid claim up to the present day. Likewise the fact that this deputy of the Antichrist leads people astray by causing them to make an image to the false Christ and to worship it is fatally suggestive of the Catholic church, which after all has suppressed the second of the Ten Commandments from the awareness of its faithful for this very reason - because it sets up images of wood and stone in its churches which the faithful are encouraged to worship. From our point of view today, then, we can assume that it is the Catholic faithful in particular who will see nothing wrong in this demand that the image of the beast should be worshiped, and will comply with the invitation. But as we are told in Rev 14,20, these people have got a fearful punishment coming to them:

If anyone worships the beast and his image, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God.

Rev 14,9 Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 14,10 he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 14,11 "And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name." 14,12 Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. Rev 14, 9-12;


After their resurrection at the end of the world, then, they will be condemned at the Last Judgment, and will be consigned to eternal damnation. But even during their lifetime these worshipers of the beast will be made to suffer from the plagues of the bowls:

It became a loathsome and malignant sore on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image.

Rev 16,1 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple, saying to the seven angels, "Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God." 16,2 So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth; and it became a loathsome and malignant sore on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image. Rev 16, 1- 2;


On the other hand, all those people living in the last days who are still aware of the second of the Ten Commandments, and who know, too, that Our Lord will only come for the Rapture of his faithful after this apostasy and after the revelation of the “lawless one”, as Paul calls him (2The 2,7-11), will refuse to worship the beast and his image and to receive his mark on their forehead and hand. And the above passage now goes on to tell us (Rev 13.15) that this deputy of the Antichrist has been given power “to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast might even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.” And this makes it absolutely clear: anyone who does not worship the beast and his image will be automatically killed by this artificially animated figure, whom we might feel inclined to describe as the “Big Brother” of the Last Days.


Now if we once again recall the description of the martyrs of Rev 20,4, of whom we are told that they “had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and... had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand”, these are without any doubt those Christian faithful living under the dominion of the Antichrist who have been killed because of their refusal to worship the beast. We then see these martyrs again in Rev 15,2. Here they have already been caught up into heaven, and are now to be found by the sea of glass before the throne of God.

Those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name before the throne.

Rev 15 2 And I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God. Rev 15.2;

So if these martyrs have already been translated and are already to be found in heaven at this point (Rev 15,2), they cannot be caught up in the Rapture yet again in Rev 20,4: in fact the reverse is the case - they must come down from heaven to earth, for “they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years”. This constitutes a refutation of the view of a number of commentators who want to see Rev 20,4-6 - the “First Resurrection” as John calls it - as referring to the resurrection and Rapture of the congregation of all time, and their reigning with Christ in the Millennium. We do not have to do here with the hundreds of millions of Christian believers who have died a natural death up to the present day, but only with those martyrs who have been killed - “beheaded” - for the sake of their faith. But this also points to the martyrs of the fifth seal (of Rev 6,9), to whom Mr Hufnagel refers in his commentary above.

I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God.

Rev 6,9 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 6,10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" 6,11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also. Rev 6, 9-11;


They have been “slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained”. This means that these individuals too are martyrs. And they urge God finally to avenge their blood on those who dwell on the earth. And they are then told “that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.” These fellow servants and brethren are now clearly the martyrs from the time of the dominion of the Antichrist, who will be killed, some time later, by the speaking image because of their refusal to worship the beast. Seeing that the fifth seal (Rev 6,9-11) with its martyrs follows directly on the Great Tribulation (Rev 6,3-8), while on the other hand we are told that these “fellow servants” are to be killed only a short time later, under the dominion of the Antichrist, we have yet another demonstration that the Great Tribulation and the dominion of the demonic Antichrist are by no means one and the same event, but must be seen as taking place at different points in time.

Pace Mr Hufnagel in his above commentary, however, we really do have to do here with two different groups of martyrs. This can be demonstrated beyond doubt:

o  On the one hand we have the group of martyrs referred to in Rev 6,9-11 above, who come from all periods of history (from Old Testament into New Testament times, and right through to the Last Days), and who have been killed
”because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained”.

o  On the other, we have those martyrs who have been killed under the dominion of the Antichrist, and who then in Rev 15,2-3 stand around the sea of glass before the throne of God. These are those who
“have not worshiped the beast or his image”.

o  Both groups then come together - in terms of the text as well - when they are united in the First Resurrection of Rev 20,4, where we are told of
those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God” (that is to say, the martyrs of Rev 6,9-11), and

those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand(that is to say, the martyrs from the period of the dominion of Antichrist in Rev 15,2-3)

- “and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years”.


In addition to the demonstration given above that the Great Tribulation and the dominion of the demonic Antichrist are to be seen as events separated in time, there is yet another scriptural indication that the Great Tribulation of Rev 6,3-8, as it is understood here at Immanuel.at, and the 42 months of the dominion of the demonic Antichrist (Rev 13,1-18) are two different events, when we look at the respective content of the narratives. Those people who appear in vast and uncountable multitudes, coming from all nations and languages, who John sees in Rev 7,9 standing clothed in white garments before the throne of God, are subsequently presented to him by the elder as those “who come out of the great tribulation”.

Those who come out of the great tribulation, they will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them.

Rev 7 13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, "These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?" 7,14 I said to him, "My lord, you know." And he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 7,15 "For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them.

7,16 "They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; 7,17 for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes." Rev 7,13-17;


And as we are told in Rev 7,16, “they will hunger no longer, nor thirst any more; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat”. From this we may infer that this uncountable multitude coming from all nations has not been killed in the Great Tribulation under the regime of the Antichrist, but that they have found death through hunger, thirst and blazing heat. So it is perfectly possible that there may already be persecution of the faithful in the Great Tribulation, as the Lord prophesies in Mt 24,9, but we can see that while this may be the climax of the afflictions, it does not yet constitute the climax of the dominion of the Antichrist.

On this view, the Great Tribulation follows from the fact that with the second seal, as Rev 6,3-4 informs us, peace has been taken from the earth, and men are slaying one another on all sides. The Lord’s prophecy in his eschatological discourse (Mt 24,6) confirms this:

You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.

Mt 24,4 And Jesus answered and said to them, "See to it that no one misleads you. 24,5 "For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. 24,6 "You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 24,7 "For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 24,8 "But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. 24,9 "Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 24,10 "At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 24,11 "Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Mt 24, 4-11;


And when the Lord in the above passage (Mt 24,7) indicates that “in various places there will be famines and earthquakes”, this confirms that at this period there will be massive famines throughout the world, resulting from some years of drought. And precisely this is referred to with the next seal in Revelation, the third seal (Rev 6,5-6), where the utterance “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius” indicates that as a result of failed harvests foodstuffs are in exceedingly short supply, and so have become extremely dear. And finally we also find it stated in the passage under consideration - that referring to the uncountable multitude that comes from the Great Tribulation (Rev 7,16) - that “they shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; neither shall the sun beat down on them” - and this again lends support to our assumption. With the fourth seal in Rev 6,7-8, we then find a summing up of the dimensions of this worldwide catastrophe:

Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with death and by the wild beasts of the earth.

Rev 6,7 When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, "Come." 6,8 I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with death and by the wild beasts of the earth. Rev 6, 7- 8;


A quarter of the world’s population will be killed as a result of worldwide wars, in which men will slay one another, nation against nation, and in consequence of catastrophic drought, with the associated famine and water shortages. Among these, however, are not just the ungodly, but all those Christian faithful who are found in the above passage (Rev 17,6) standing in white garments before the throne of God, and who, as the elder tells John, will no longer be subject to thirst and hunger or the excessive heat of the sun.

Finally we still have to address the question whether the martyrs no longer form part of the congregation who will be caught up into the Rapture, and translated to heaven on the Second Coming of the Lord. And if not, when do these martyrs arrive in heaven?

According to the interpretation favored here at Immanuel.at, the martyrs cannot belong to the congregation, and so cannot be caught up in the Rapture on the Second Coming of the Lord either. There are two reasons why this is the case. If we leave Rev 20,4 out of account, which speaks of the judgment of reward and the coming to life of the martyrs who come down from heaven to earth, there just remains the pointer in Rev 15,2, after the seventh trumpet, where these martyrs are seen as being in heaven already. Assuming that Revelation presents a chronological sequence, this holds open the possibility either of a Rapture of the martyrs together with the congregation at the sixth seal in Rev 6,12-14 (as posited by Immanuel.at) or of a Rapture in connection with the seventh trumpet, as suggested by Mr Hufnagel. But seeing that these martyrs are described in Rev 15,2 as “those who had come off victorious from the beast and from his image and from the number of his name”, and inasmuch as the beast only makes an appearance in Rev 13, the martyrs cannot have been caught up in the Rapture in Rev 11,15-19, at the seventh trumpet, and still less at the sixth seal in Rev 6,12-14.

If we look at the second passage (Rev 6,9-11), we find these martyrs “under the altar”. It hardly seems a likely assumption that this refers to the earthly altar of the temple in Jerusalem. So here too we must presume that these martyrs are already to be found in heaven, below the heavenly altar, which Revelation mentions a number of times (Rev 6,9; 8,3; 11,1; 16,7). But this would still be too early for us to envisage a Rapture at the time of the sixth seal - or at the time of the seventh trumpet, for that matter.

Never mind which interpretation we favor with reference to the Second Coming and the Rapture - whether we posit these events as happening at the time of the sixth seal or at the time of the seventh trumpet - there is no way, realistically speaking, in which we can associate these martyrs with the congregation, or see them as sharing the Rapture experienced by the latter. So we have to suppose that these martyrs - analogously to the two witnesses of God - have been taken up into heaven in a separate Rapture of their own.