Does the Scripture speak of a
rapture only at the end of the world? / Reply to Erika Tinhofer 00,
Will the Apostles be alive at
the First Resurrection?
The Infinite Love of God.
Will everyone be raised who
comes “to the knowledge of the Son”? / Giuseppe De Candia 00,
(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)
You write about the people being raised (from the dead) and
the rapture of the church at the Second Coming of the Lord before the
millennium. But I have just read in Jn 6,40 that Christ said that he would
raise all those who believe in him on the last day only. And if I understand
it correctly, this refers to the end of the world, the General Resurrection
and the Last Judgment. Should we thus interpret the prophecy of Paul in 1Cor
15,51-53 and 1The 4,15-17 as the coming of the Lord to judge at the end of the
world (Mt 19,28)?
E. Tinhofer, Wien
Ms Erika Tinhofer from Vienna has been reading Immanuel.at for many years and I am particularly grateful for this reference, because it could possibly point to a new aspect of this topic. But let us first look at the text quoted from Jn 6,37-43:
Everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.
Jn 6,37 "All that the Father gives Me will
come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 6,38
"For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of
Him who sent Me. 6,39 "This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all
that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 6,40
"For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son
and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on
the last day." 6,41 Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him,
because He said, "I am the bread that came down out of heaven." 6,42
They were saying, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and
mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?"
6,43 Jesus answered and said to them, "Do not grumble among yourselves. Jn
The Lord prophesies here that on the last day - thus at the end of the world - he will raise up all those who believe in him (see also Jn 6,44,54; 11,24; 12,48). He had evidently taught this to all his disciples, because if we look at what Martha from Bethany said, when she was discussing the death of her brother with the Lord, we find the same teaching:
Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.
Jn 11,20 Martha therefore, when she heard that
Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house. 11,21 Martha
then said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have
died. 11,22 "Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give
You." 11,23 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
11,24 Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the
resurrection on the last day." 11,25 Jesus said to her, "I am
the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,
11,26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe
this?" Jn 11,20-26;
But here we actually have statements by the Lord that appear to contradict the teaching about the rapture. For Paul writes in his first letter to the Thessalonians:
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven, and 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;
In the verses following this, in 1 The 5,1-5, Paul points out to
the Thessalonians that it is not necessary to write about times and dates, for
they know that the day of the Lord - and thus the rapture - will come like a
thief in the night. And according to everything we know from Scripture about
this day of the Lord, it will certainly not take place at the end of the world
but will happen before the millennial kingdom and therefore more than a thousand
years prior to the end.
(See also Chapter 05: “The Day
of the Lord.”)
But when the Lord says in Jn 6,40 that all who believe in him
will be raised on the “last day” and thus quite clearly at the end of the
world, he is referring only to the General Resurrection and we can therefore
dismiss, with respect to time, the idea that it concerns the rapture here
prophesied by Paul in 1Cor 15,50-52 and in 1The 4,15-17 and by the Lord in Mt
24,30-31. But, as the text also says in Jn 6,40, the text has to do with
believers in Christ and these would nevertheless, according to 1The 4,16 (the
dead in Christ), be raised at the rapture and not on the last day.
But as is well known, it frequently happens in Bible study that one reads a text many times and repeatedly overlooks a certain expression or meaning. Here in Jn 6,40 it is that small word “beholds” that, if one ignores its proper meaning as “behold" and interprets it symbolically - for example as “recognizing/acknowledging” - can lead to such misunderstandings. We therefore take this statement rather quite literally and assume that the Lord was actually speaking to all those who saw him physically, with their own eyes, and promised to raise precisely them on the last day.
One could object that, because of one single small word, Christians are practically divided into two groups: first, those believers who saw the Lord personally during his lifetime (and those who will see him later as well during the Millennium) and who therefore - as the Lord says - will be raised only on the last day at the General Resurrection. And there is the second group of people who have not seen the Lord but have nevertheless believed and who, according to not only Pauline teaching (1The 4,16) but also the prophecy of the Lord in his discourse on the end times (Mt 24,31), will be raised when the Lord returns for the rapture.
Those well acquainted with the Bible certainly know that there are precisely such small words to which the Lord ascribed the greatest weight. Let us take two examples. In Jn 8,51-59 the Jews accused the Lord of having a demon because he said, “If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death.” And they argued, “Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out to be?” When the Lord then answered them by saying, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad,” they laughed at him and said, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” And then the Lord said the famous words to them: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” In this small word “am” lies the whole of Christology. From the divinity of Jesus Christ through the preexistence of the Son with the Father until his post-existence at the right hand of God.
The second example is also based on this same word “am.” In Mt 22,23-33 the Sadducees, who said there is no resurrection, wanted to ask him a trick question to show that a resurrection would lead to chaos because seven men would then fight over one woman. Nevertheless, the Lord showed them they were wrong and did not know the Scriptures, for the resurrected people were not male and female but were asexual. And to answer their own, unarticulated question - namely, if there would be a resurrection - the Lord cited Ex 3,6, where God says to Moses:
I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
Mt 22,31 "But regarding the resurrection of
the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: 22,32 ‘I am the
God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is
not the God of the dead but of the living." 22,33 When the crowds
heard this, they were astonished at His teaching. Mt 22,31-33;
And here as well the Lord proves with the little word “am”
that there will be a resurrection and that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are in fact
alive, for otherwise God would have to say "I was …." Therefore, we
must always read the Scripture very closely and not jump to any conclusions or
to see symbolizations where there is nothing symbolic.
But to explore the question now why those, of all people, who saw the Lord physically and believed in him would not be raised up at the rapture but only at the end of the world, we will examine yet another Scripture passage. It is this, the well-known history of “doubting Thomas” in Jn 20,19-29, where the Lord, after being raised and having ascended, comes to the disciples in the evening of this day after his resurrection and enters the room despite the closed doors. After their initial surprise, the disciples rejoiced when the Lord showed them the scars in his side and on his wrists and they recognized him.
However, one of the disciples, Thomas, who was also called the twin, was not present. When the other disciples told him later that they had seen the Lord, Thomas was full of doubt and told them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” But after eight days the Lord came once again and this time Thomas was present.
Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.
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."
20,28 Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" 28,29
Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed
are they who did not see, and yet believed." Jn 20,26-29;
One can conclude from the statement of the Lord in Jn 20,29, ‘Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed,” that those people who - like Thomas - have seen and then believed are saved. However, all those who have not seen and have yet believed are not only saved but they are also “blessed.” And thus we have in practice two groups of believers. Peter and Paul also confirm this. The one, Peter, saw the Lord and believed and therefore belongs to the first group, whereas the other, Paul, did not see the Lord but nevertheless believed.
Jesus Christ, and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him.
1Pet 1,3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord
Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to
a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 1,4 to
obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade
away, reserved in heaven for you, 1,5 who are protected by the power of God
through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1,6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 1,7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 1,8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 1,9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. 1Pet 1,3-9;
Here Peter writes to those “who reside as aliens, scattered throughout” the world, who, in contrast to him, have not seen the Lord but loved him even though they have not seen Him and believed in Him even though they did not see him at that time. And Paul as well, who likewise did not see the Lord but only heard his voice when he was converted on the road to Damascus, writes to the Corinthians in his second letter:
For we walk by faith, not by sight.
2Cor 5,5 Now He who prepared us for this very
purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. 5,6 Therefore, being
always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are
absent from the Lord- 5,7 for we walk by faith, not by sight 2Cor 5,5- 7;
Until the death of the Lord the disciples walked by sight. After
his death on the cross and until today we walk by faith and not by sight. That
this is an essential distinction is supported not only by the Scriptural
passages above and the explicit promise of the Lord, “Blessed are they who did
not see, and yet believed,” but also by the faith life of every orthodox
Christian: we often wish that we could stand face to face with the Lord. But
since we have a just God, this difficulty will be rectified for us in the end.
We have been living for almost two thousand years in a time of faith and,
precisely because we cannot see, we are more blessed and God thinks of us more
highly, because of this faith, than he does of those who saw at that time.
But this time of faith will, of course, come to an end, when the Lord returns and “every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him” (Rev 1,7). Then there will be no more faith, for it will then again be a matter of sight. And also those people who will die as the righteous (for there will be no more “believers” then) from this moment on and during the whole millennium until the end of the world will, of course, also be raised only at the General Resurrection.
Thus, when the Lord says in Jn 6,40,
“For this is the will of My Father, that
everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal
life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day”
he is referring both to those who have seen Him in His earthly
life and followed Him as well as to those righteous who will see and believe in
him in the thousand years of his reign on earth.
(See also Chapter 10: “The
And here we come now to a difficult problem: this premise above inevitably includes not only Thomas but the other apostles of the Lord as well. They also have seen and believed in the Lord. But this would consequently mean that precisely the twelve apostles also will be made alive only on the last day, at the General Resurrection. We do indeed have a reference in Scripture where the Lord promises the apostles that they will sit on twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel at the regeneration, thus at the General Resurrection at the end of the world when the Lord will judge the world in the last judgment.
In the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Mt 19,27 Then Peter said to Him, "Behold, we
have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?"
19,28 And Jesus said to them, "Truly I say to you, that you who have
followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious
throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of
Israel. Mt 19,27-28;
One could conclude from this statement that the apostles will appear only at the regeneration at the General Resurrection - thus on the last day - and therefore an earlier resurrection will not be necessary. However, this is clearly refuted by a parallel passage - characteristically again in Luke, who is usually much more accurate in such descriptions than the other synoptics.
You may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Lk 22,28 "You are those who have stood by Me
in My trials; 22,29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a
kingdom, 22,30 that you may eat and drink at My table in My
kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Lk
Here the Lord promises the twelve disciples that he will grant
them a kingdom, just as his Father has also granted him a kingdom. This can
refer only to the millennial kingdom of peace of the Son of God on earth. And
when the Lord says that he will grant a kingdom to his apostles, he then means
that they will reign with him for those thousand years (Rev 20,6). That
presupposes, however, that the twelve will be resurrected and alive at the
beginning of the millennial kingdom.
But then the Lord also says that they will eat and drink at his table in his kingdom (that confirms the assumption above that this has to do with the millennium) and sit on thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. While the judging - as also mentioned above - at the Last Judgment occurs at the end of the world, the eating and drinking in the kingdom of the Lord clearly refers to the time of the millennium, seeing that a resurrection at the end of the world would of course be much too late for this.
But the promise that the twelve will reign with him in the millennium admits of another alternative. In Rev 20,4 John reports about the First Resurrection and states more precisely that all who participate in the First Resurrection are martyrs. That is, all those who were beheaded (literally, killed by the axe) because of the word of God and their testimony of Jesus, and also “those who had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand.” The latter would indeed, according to Rev 13,15, be killed “automatically” by the image of the beast. It thus concerns all martyrs who will be resurrected here and will reign with the Lord for those thousand years.
They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
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. Rev 20, 4- 5;
(See also Discourse 07: “The
Rapture and the First Resurrection: a single event?”)
If we proceed on the assumption that the twelve apostles will be
resurrected at this time, so as to reign with Christ along with the other
martyrs, according to the promise of the Lord, then we must, according to Rev
20,4, also consequently assume that all the apostles were martyrs and died
violent deaths for their faith.
According to Scripture, we certainly know that James, the brother of John, who were both sons of Zebedee, was killed by Herod with the sword (Acts 12,1-2). About Paul, we know that he was imprisoned in Rome (Acts 28,17-31) and, according to extra-biblical sources, was probably killed in 64 AD. There are no traditions available about Peter. That he was in Rome, there crucified and hung on the cross upside down is a legend told by the Roman Catholic Church. In contrast to what we know about Paul, we do not even know if Peter was in Rome.
But as we read in Jn 21,18-19, the Lord prophesied to Peter at that time that he would die a martyr's death when he was old. The Lord had also predicted something similar for both Zebedeans (James and John): in Mk 10,37-39 both brothers want the Lord to promise them that they will sit on his right and his left in his glory. When the Lord then asks them if they can drink the cup that he drinks, they assure him that they can.
The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.
Mk 10,37 They said to Him, "Grant that we may
sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory." 10,38 But
Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able
to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I
am baptized?" 10,39 They said to Him, "We are able."
And Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you
shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. Mk 10,37-39;
The Lord then took them at their word and prophesied to them
that they would drink the same cup that he drinks and be baptized with the same
baptism with which he was baptized and thus die as martyrs. This was very
quickly fulfilled in the case of James (cf. above). Based on this example, but
above all on the Lord's promise to the apostle in Lk 22,29-30, “and I
assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom,” and in conjunction
with Rev 20,4, the assumption appears to be justified that all the apostles died
a martyr's death and will therefore be alive with all other martyrs at the First
Resurrection in order to reign with Christ in his kingdom.
It is now correct that these connections as a whole have rather less relevance for us today. But if we consider those explanations that assert that not the martyrs but “the believers of all times” (RenÚ Pache: Le retour du JÚsu-Christ [The Return of Jesus Christ]) are resurrected - martyrs or not - and that this has been taught and believed in many churches worldwide for decades, we thus see the great danger that emerges from such superficial interpretations for believers in Christ if we do not analyze the texts precisely.
If those who were not beheaded are called beheaded for the sake of “increasing the numbers,” it is not surprising that, for example, the 144,000 sealed in Rev 7,3-8 are also proclaimed to be “the believing church of all ages” (Karl Hartenstein: Der wiederkommende Herr [The Returning Lord]), even though all 12 tribes of Israel are explicitly cited there and therefore there can be no doubt that this refers to the Israelites - and exclusively Israelites. As one can see, in this way biblical promises for certain groups (martyrs, Israelites) are quite simply robbed of their group-specific features and then it is asserted that this is a prophecy for the church.
(See also Discourse 862: “18
Arguments for Placing Rapture before the Great Tribulation - and their
Readers well acquainted with the Bible know that precisely the book of Revelation, from which both of the above promises are cited, contains an important and interesting reference in its first verse:
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him … and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John.
Rev 1,1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which
God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take
place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John.
Rev 1, 1;
This is the only book of the Bible that concerns thus altogether
a revelation that God gave his Son. And the Lord has now communicated
this revelation to John through his angel. Therefore, if many exegetes assume
that here “John was thinking of the Old Testament prophets” or that the text
of Revelation was stamped with the “messianic expectation of Judaism,” one
should ask oneself if these people have really read this first verse and if they
know what they are talking about. This text comes from the mind of God
and John has only committed to paper what he saw in his vision.
But even more astonishing yet in this connection is the complete disregard for the closing verses of this book by those exegetes. Here the Lord testifies that all those who add to or subtract from these lines will be punished.
If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book.
Rev 22,16 "I, Jesus, have sent My angel
to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the
descendant of David, the bright morning star." 22,17 The Spirit and the
bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come."
And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of
life without cost. 22,18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the
prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the
plagues which are written in this book; 22,19 and if anyone takes away
from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part
from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.
22,20 He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming
quickly." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. 22,21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with
all. Amen. Rev 22,16-21;
Therefore, if someone adds “the believers of all ages” to
the martyrs in Rev 20,4-5, or “the believing church of all ages” to the
144,000 sealed Israelites in Rev 7,3-8 and no one, with the best will in the
world, can see any such connection, the question arises here as well as to how
far these exegetes have taken note of the last verses of this book.
That the Christian church must not in any way be confused with
the 144,000 who are sealed is also shown by the following consideration: based
on the interpretation presented at beginning and the statement of the Lord in,
among others, Jn 6,40:
For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds
the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will
raise him up on the last day”
as well as in Jn 20,29:
Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed
are they who did not see, and yet believed”
we can assume that, for the righteousness of God, there is a qualitative distinction between the believers who saw the Lord during his lifetime or will see him in the Millennium and those who, in until now almost two thousand years, have not seen him and have yet believed. And this also yields a logical basis for the return of the Lord and the rapture of the “elect” prophesied by Paul in 1Cor 15,50-52; 1The 4,15-17 and by the Lord in Mt 24,29-31.
The angels will gather together His elect from one end of the sky to the other.
Mt 24,29 "But immediately after the
tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give
its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens
will be shaken. 24,30 "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in
the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see
the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.
24,31 "And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they
will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to
the other. Mt 24,29-31;
Even if all believers in Christ are included among all those who
are raptured, all those who are elect through their faith among the godless
people of the world, it is nevertheless not quite clear why those believers who
will also come to faith in the Son of God in the millennium will not be raptured
prematurely during the Millennium already but have to wait until the General
Resurrection. There must therefore be a criterion for distinction here. The term
“elect,” which the Lord uses here in Mt 24,31, seems to mean something more
specific and many exegetes, such as Ruth Lapide, the scholar in religious
studies, relate it to the 144,000 sealed in Israel whom the returning Messiah
will gather, according to Mt 24,30-31.
But if one proceeds from a parallelism of events between Mt 24 and Rev 6 and 7, we find the return of the Lord with the rapture of Christian believers in Mt 24,29-31 taking place in the sixth seal in Rev 6, 12-14. But if, as according to Lapide, it is not Christians but the 144,000 sealed Israelites who are raptured with the Lord into heaven in this event, it would be incomprehensible how those same 144,000 sealed are explicitly excluded, according to Rev 9,4, from the plague of the fifth trumpet some time later (months, years? Rev 9,12) and therefore must still be on earth at this time. Since they cannot simultaneously be in heaven and on the earth, the understanding that these are the 144,000 sealed from Israel must be excluded.
(See also Discourse 05: “The
parallel course of events of Mt 24 and Rev 6 and 7.”)
With the knowledge gained here that those believers in Christ
who have not seen and yet have believed are to be understood as falling under
the term “elect,” we have a clear explanation for this specific background:
they are elect among the Christian believers. But the question as to why
there is a special rapture at all and why not all Christians are raised on the
last day is also answered here: it is the reward for the “blessed” ones who
have not seen and yet have believed.
Thus the last shall be first, and the first last."
Mt 20,1 Â "For the kingdom of heaven is like
a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
20,2 "And when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day,
he sent them into his vineyard. 20,3 "And he went out about the third hour
and saw others standing idle in the market place; 20,4 and to those he said, ‘You
too go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And so they
20,5 "Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. 20,6 "And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing; and he *said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’ 20,7 "They *said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He *said to them, ‘You too go into the vineyard.’
20,8 "And when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard *said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’ 20,9 "And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. 20,10 "And when those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; and they also received each one a denarius.
20,11 "And when they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, 20,12 saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’ 20,13 "But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 20,14 ‘Take what is yours and go your way, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 20,15 ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’ 20,16 "Thus the last shall be first, and the first last." Mt 20, 1-16;
As can be seen, those explanations that hold that they do
Christianity a service if they add “the believing church of all ages” to the
144,000 sealed Israelites do exactly the opposite: precisely the church that has
not seen and yet has believed is thus robbed of its greatest reward, namely the
rapture at the return of the Lord.
But in addition to the wrong interpretation, we are also
currently experiencing one of the greatest dangers for the church in false
preaching. For many preachers tell us about the “infinite” love of God for
all people. But this attempt to insinuate that there is an “automatic”
forgiveness of all sins, without conversion and confession, will not stand up to
the test of Scripture.
The infinite and unconditional love of God.
If the love of God were to be infinite and unconditional,
this God would have to forgive all human beings of all ages (infinite
time!!) all their sins, without any conversion or repentance on their part
(unconditionally!!). There would then no longer be any need of a redeeming
sacrifice – and Jesus Christ would not have had to die on the cross.
(See also discourse 30: “Why did Jesus have to die on the cross?”)
The Bible does indeed tell us that God wills that all people be
saved (1 Tim 2,3-4) but not through an infinite and thus completely blind love
of God but through the decision for Christ and our faith in his redemptive
sacrifice for our sins.
(See also Discourse 84: “Pro
Christ: Chance oder Risiko?” [only in German])
We must thus prove our love to God. God has already proved his love, when he had his only Son die on the cross for the sins of all. And that is at the same time also clear evidence for the fact that God does not forgive our sins in an “infinite” love but that the sacrifice and death of his Son in our place was necessary for God's justice.
For God sent the Son into the world, that the world might be saved through Him.
Jn 3,16 "For God so loved the world, that
He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not
perish, but have eternal life. 3,17 "For God did not send the Son into
the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
3,18 "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe
has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only
begotten Son of God. Jn 3,16-18;
This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.
Mt 26,26 While they were eating, Jesus took some
bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said,
"Take, eat; this is My body." 26,27 And when He had taken a cup and
given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; 26,28
for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for
forgiveness of sins. Mt 26,26-28;
The bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.
Jn 6,51 "I am the living bread that came down
out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the
bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh." Jn
As the Lord says to us above, in Jn 3,16, only those are saved
who believe and confess that Jesus Christ died on the cross for their sins. And
that through that - and only through that - they are free from sin before God.
They enter into eternal life and there are only a few who go through these
narrow gates. The way that leads to destruction is, in contrast, wide and many
will travel that road (Mt 7,13). Our experience in life also teaches us that the
majority of our fellow human beings are either godless in general or worship
false gods, thus idols.
With an infinite love of God, which must inevitably also be unconditional, all these people - including mass murderers, violent criminals and atheists - would enter into eternal life without repentance and conversion and the sacrificial death of the Lord would be turned into something absurd. The fact alone that the last judgment of which the Bible speaks again and again would become completely superfluous because there would be no one - because of God’s “infinite” love - who would need to be condemned, shows that this false teaching is not confirmed by Scripture and is therefore completely devious.
On top of that, these preachers and teachers accept that these people lured by them with the “infinite love of God” believe they are saved, although they are in fact not saved at all - because there is no recognition, confession and forgiveness of sin. And finally, most important: through this bowing to a spirit of the times - which expects the best for the lowest price and thus a “conversion” without great cost - the actual love of God in the redemptive sacrifice of his Son is shoved into the background and faith in that sacrifice rendered negligible.
But such unbiblical teaching could not find any footing at all if we study that attribute of God that is actually infinite, because it is absolute - namely, God's righteousness. It is this righteousness that guides all of God's other attributes and thus determines his actions. The omnipotence of God would be pure arbitrariness without his absolute justice. Joined with his omnipotence, without absolute justice, the love of God would have long ago eradicated humanity - except for some “love children.”
But that is not how it is. God gives people free will. Every human being has the freedom to accept or to reject this God. And, using the Bible, he can find out what fate awaits him in either case. A human being created with immortal existence can choose between eternal life with God or eternal damnation far from God. And this knowledge, that it was the free and desired decision of every human being, will produce this “weeping and gnashing of teeth” of the wicked in eternity and thus never-ending damnation.
Thus let us tell the people the truth:
- That they - like all other people - are sinners
- That sin is every - even the tiniest - offense
against God’s commands.
- That the righteousness of God condemns these sins and
punishes them with the second death (Gen 2,17; Rom 5,12; 6,23)
- That there is absolutely no possibility that this
punishment can be remitted through an allegedly “infinite” love of God or
through any kind of service such as penance (Ave Maria), pilgrimages, social
engagement, asceticism, support of aid organizations, large contributions of
money, etc., etc.
- But that the love of God in the redemptive sacrifice
of his Son on the cross offers people the only valid and possible satisfaction
of his justice: the acceptance of the death of Jesus Christ in our place for our
Whoever thus recognizes that he is a sinner, confesses his sins
before God and prays to God for their forgiveness in the name of the redemptive
sacrifice of Jesus Christ has made the first and decisive step in his faith
life. He has pulled down the wall of separation between God and him and restored
the connection to God.
Certainly, one should warn against expecting some special event, a “spiritual” feeling or demonstration of the Spirit of God, as many preachers - especially in charismatic circles - sadly announce. The only thing on which the newly converted Christian can actually count is a certain joy, rest and order that will now gradually come into his/her mind and in his/her life.
But where this rest and order are absent, where the singers on the stage run rabidly to and fro in mass happenings, where the spectators are tattooed and wear rings in their noses and ears like cattle, where they jump around ecstatically with jerking arms stretched upwards and where thundering loudspeakers almost burst the ear drum, newly converted Christians - and not only they - should ask themselves if they are in the right place. This is so even if we are not talking here about rock and pop concerts but occasional quite Christian happenings with “praise and worship” where such a presentation is dominant.
As one can see, these few references already allow to see that it is not enough to say “Yes to Jesus.” The faith life that follows - if it is real - contains all kinds of challenges: laying aside old habits, separation from friends, new friends in exchange for old, new opinions and insights, new foci in life and above all a new reality: we will live eternally! God has created human beings - both good and bad - for eternal existence. With our physical death we lay aside only our physical bodies but our spirits are clothed with a new body at the regeneration at the resurrection and continue to exist eternally with our entire personality.
(See also Chapter 12: “The
Our earthly life is therefore immensely important. That is when
we decide whether we will live with God in the light and love or be tormented
forever far from God in extreme darkness (Rev 14,10-11). Our spirit is molded
while we are still alive and prepared like the unborn child in the womb of its
mother. It is solely up to us whether we will come as children of God to a new
world in the second creation or no longer be able to change in the so-called “second
death” as children of damnation, what we neglected in our lives.
(See also Excursus 08: “The
first and the second death.”)
This website is known for its realistic and biblically faithful
exegesis of Scripture. Therefore, do not see the above statements as the usual
sermon of whatever professional figure trying to gloss things over, who usually
has no understanding of the material. After more than 30 years of meticulous
Bible study and comprehensive analysis, the reality of these biblical
connections has become absolute certainty for me.
(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)
In the course of translating Chapter 13, “The Last Judgment”,
into Italian, it struck me that the German translation of John 6,40, “everyone
who beholds the Son and believes in Him”, varies from the translations found
in some Italian Bibles. There we find: “che chiunque viene alla conoscenza
del Figlio”, “that everyone who comes to the knowledge of the Son”. So
should the German text be adjusted to the Italian, or the Italian translation
to the German?
Giuseppe De Candia
One of the biggest problems for biblical commentators is those
biblical translations where the translators do not stick to the original text.
This is most commonly justified on the grounds that many words in the languages
of the biblical original (Hebrew and Aramaic in the Old Testament, Ancient Greek
in the New Testament) may have several different meanings, so it remains for the
translator (based on his or her feeling for language, and also, and above all,
his or her knowledge of the biblical context and connections) to decide which
meaning to choose.
As we can already see from this, it follows that biblical translation has a whole lot to do with biblical interpretation. So for example with Luther’s translation of Rom 8,29:
For those whom He chose, He also predestined.
Rom 8,29 For those whom He chose, He also
predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be
the firstborn among many brethren; 8;30 and these whom He predestined, He also
called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He
justified, He also glorified. Rom 8,29-30;
This later became the foundation of John Calvin’s doctrine of
predestination, and is still cited today by advocates of this doctrine as a
proof. People point out that according to the Bible, God in his sovereign power
chose human beings before the beginning of creation and predestined them, some
to eternal life and the others to eternal damnation, without reference to any
actions on their part.
Now anyone who knows what the Bible has to say about God and his actions will be aware that God is justice in person, so this completely kind of arbitrary proceeding cannot possibly be God’s way of treating human beings. When we then check the original Greek text, we find that it actually says something slightly different from Luther’s translation:
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined
Rom 8,29 For those whom He foreknew, He
also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He
would be the firstborn among many brethren; 8;30 and these whom He predestined,
He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He
justified, He also glorified. Rom 8,29-30;
So it is not that those people have been predestined whom God,
in an egregiously arbitrary act, “chose”, but rather that God in his
omniscience, before the beginning of creation, saw and recognized (foreknew)
those who in the course of their lives were going to decide for him and for his
Son Jesus Christ. And these are the people whom he predestined to become
conformed to the image of his Son and to be his brothers.
(See also Discourse 100: “Johannes
Calvin: True and False Predestination.”)
The Italian translation of the text of Jn 6,40 cited in the
above commentary has a similar background. Brother De Candia, who so kindly
provides his services for the translation of this website into Italian
completely free of charge, has found, in the course of work, that this verse is
incorrectly translated in some Italian versions.
Whereas the original Greek text (Nestle-Aland / literal sense) formulates the following statement:
Jn 6,40 "For this is the will of My Father,
that every beholder of the Son and believer in Him will have eternal
life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day." Jn 6,40;
which the German translations – here the Elberfeld Bible – rightly translate as follows:
Jn 6,40 "For this is the will of My Father,
that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal
life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day." Jn 6,40;
- we find similar formulations in some Italian translations of
the Bible (C.E.I./Gerusalemme, Diodati), others offer differing interpretations.
For example, the Nuova Diodati writes at this point:
Jn 6,40 "For this is the will of My Father,
that everyone who comes to the knowledge of the Son and believes
in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last
day." Jn 6,40;
[Giov 6,40 Questa infatti Ŕ la volontÓ di colui che mi ha mandato: che chiunque viene alla conoscenza del Figlio e crede in lui, abbia vita eterna, e io lo risusciter˛ nell'ultimo giorno╗. Giov 6,40]
Why it is that the translators of this more modern Italian
edition, in the first part of the verse, do not write “the will of my Father”
(Patros), in accordance with the perfectly plain Greek text, but instead feel
obliged to write “the will of him who sent me” (“la volontÓ di colui che
mi ha mandato”) remains a riddle. And the same is the case with the second
part of the sentence, where the literal Greek text reads “every beholder of
the Son” – in other words, “everyone who beholds the Son” – again this
has been modified and “everyone who comes to knowledge of the Son”
But this last textual change could have an altogether plausible explanation. In this very discourse, earlier on, we responded to a query from Ms. E. Tinhofer and investigated the question whether this (correctly translated) statement in Jn 6,40, “(…) everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day”, has the implication that there is no Rapture, but that all the Christian faithful will only be raised at the end of the world (on the last day), in the General Resurrection.
When we examine the text more closely, however, we came to the logical conclusion that these words of the Lord’s were evidently addressed to his believing contemporaries – because, after all, “who beholds the Son” could only mean those people who lived in the time of Jesus. None of those people who came to believe after the Ascension of the Lord (40 days after his raising and resurrection) can be said to have seen him.
And this realization now casts a new light on the Lord’s words to the apostle Thomas, who could not believe that Jesus had risen, and objected to the other disciples who had told him about it, in Jn 20,24-25, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe”. When after eight days the Lord appeared to the disciples again, Thomas was with them.
Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.
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." 20,28 Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my
God!" 20,29 Jesus *said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you
believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed." Jn
And this promise of the Lord’s here, in Jn 20,29, “Blessed
are they who did not see, and yet believed”, must have a special meaning,
otherwise the Lord would not call these people “blessed” (see the Beatitudes
in Mt 5,1-12!!). And for this very reason the statement in Jn 6,40 acquires a
completely new meaning. Those people who were able to see the Lord and the
miracles he worked while he was still alive had a much easier time believing in
him (see Thomas) than all those in subsequent times who did not see him, and yet
came to believe.
So this permits the conclusion that those who did not see and yet believed will be raised and raptured as early as the Second Coming of the Lord, as a reward for their trust, while those who saw the Lord and therefore believed will only be raised a thousand years later, after the Millennium in the General Resurrection at the end of the world.
But the translators of the passage in the Italian Bible quoted above did hit upon the consequence of the formulation in Jn 6,40, “everyone who beholds the Son”. They may perhaps have thought – quite rightly – that after all, only his contemporaries had actually seen him. But in view of the fact that many passages in scripture promise that everyone who comes to the true faith will be saved, they simply “amended” the statement and substituted “everyone who comes to knowledge of the Son” in place of the original “everyone who beholds the Son”. This formulation is timeless, and would have validity for all human beings of all times.
Unfortunately they missed the fact that there may still be a possible solution in the second part of the sentence, in any case – and indeed this is the case if we leave the text just as John wrote it. This is the implication that only those who have seen the Lord will be raised and go into eternity at the very end of the world, in the General Resurrection, whereas those who have not seen him and yet have believed are the blessed ones to whom it is granted, as the Elect, to be raised and gathered by the Lord on his Second Coming (Mt 24:31), and so already at this time, on the Second Coming of the Lord, will be raptured to God and taken into heaven.
And when, in the light of this, we now look at the text of the Italian biblical translation quoted earlier:
Jn 6,40 "For this is the will of My Father,
that everyone who comes to the knowledge of the Son and believes in Him
will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."
we can recognize that this mistaken “correction” has
actually turned the meaning of these statements into their exact opposite. The
Lord says here, in the original text, “everyone who beholds the Son and
believes in Him” – that is to say, every person who came to believe during
the lifetime of the Lord – “will be raised at the last day.” So it follows
in consistency that all the other faithful for two thousand years and to the
present day, who did not see him and yet believed in him, will be raised already
on the Second Coming of the Lord and raptured into heaven. This is the only
biblical proof so far that the congregation of all times – apart from the time
of the Lord’s ministry on earth – will actually take part in the Rapture.
(See also Chapter 062: “The
Return of the Lord – Part 2: The Rapture.”)
But as we have seen above, the text inserted by the biblical
translators says the precise opposite, namely that “everyone who comes to
knowledge of the Son” – that is to say, all people who have ever come to
believe – “will be raised on the last day”. And since this interpretation
does not envisage any resurrection for the faithful before the end of the world,
all prophecies referring to the Rapture on the occasion of the Second Coming of
the Lord, both in Paul (1Cor 15:51-53; 1Thess 4:14-17), and indeed in statements
made by the Lord himself in Mt 24:30-31, are completely ignored and withheld
from the readers of this biblical translation.
And when we then find the introduction to this translation of the Bible claiming that it offers “the greatest possible fidelity to the text in relation to the original Greek”, we can recognize not only a want of biblical understanding but also a lack of any relation to reality. As we see, biblical translation harbors the very real risk – when not carried out by believers with the required biblical background knowledge – that suppositious errors in the text will be reinterpreted in such a way that the content of the statements is falsified or even turned around into its opposite.
A further biblical circumstance, which many biblical commentators are quite unaware of, is the difference between raising and resurrection. We find these two different processes quite clearly presented, with the raising of the Lord in Jn 20:17-18 and after his Resurrection from Jn 20:19 on. In Acts the two processes are mentioned, very neatly, practically in the same breath:
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 (by Mary Magdalene), 10,41
not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that
is, to us (the apostles) who ate and drank with Him after He arose from
the dead. 10,42 "And He ordered us to preach to the people, and
solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge
of the living and the dead. Acts 10,40-42;
Brother De Candia bewails the fact that this distinction is all the more difficult in Italian because the language has no real word for raising. The fact that even in German translations of the Bible – with the exception of the Elberfeld Bible – there is practically no distinction observed between raising (Mt 27:52, Greek text or Elberfeld) and resurrection (Rev 20:5) is to be put down to the fact that the texts relevant to this issue have never been correctly analyzed and kept apart from one another. But when we reflect that those phases which the Lord went through, as the first fruits, in his raising and resurrection are something that we too will go through, as 1Cor 15:20-24 tells us, the neglect of these two separated processes actually conceals from us an important biblical implication, which in turn can help us to understand other biblical passages better.
But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming.
1Cor 15,20 But now Christ has been raised
from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 15,21 For since by
a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 15,22 For as
in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 15,23 But each in
his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at
His coming, 15,24 then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to
the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.
(See also Discourse 97: “Raising
and resurrection ‒ the realities of another dimension.”)