Chapter 062 – The Return of the Lord – Part 2: The Rapture.



The Rapture: The raising of the dead in Christ.

The gathering of the elect.

Recognize the signs of the time.

The judgment after the Rapture – the judgment of reward.

The differentiation from the Universal Resurrection.

The Rapture in tabular form.

Table: Sequence and Duration of events in the Last Days

The Return of the Lord and the Rapture. /    Chapter 06, Part 1

The marriage of the Lamb.. /    Chapter 063, Part 3

Of that day and hour no one knows, but the Father alone.. /    Chapter 064, Part 4



Postscript:

This old interpretation, going back to the year 1995, is still based on the conventional understanding, advocated by almost all biblical commentators up to the present, that the seventieth week of seven years is a temporally unified event and that there is only one Antichrist. These assumptions are fundamentally based on the one hand on the prophecy in Dan 9,27, according to which the one who makes desolate will come in the middle of the seventieth week of seven years, and on the other on the statement of Paul in 1Cor 15,52, according to which the Second Coming of the Lord and the Rapture will occur at the time of the last trumpet, which is then referred to the last and seventh trumpet of the plagues of the trumpets (Rev 10,7).

More recent studies however have resulted in the realization that there is a parallel course of events between Mt 24 and Rev 6 and 7. This necessitates a transposition of the Second Coming and the Rapture to after Rev 6,12–17 (6th seal) and so interrupts the seventieth week of seven years at that point.

(See also Discourse 05: “The parallel course of events of Mt 24 and Rev 6 and 7”)


In this connection we also come to realize, on the basis of 2The 2,1–4 and Rev 13,1–11, that there cannot be just one Antichrist who will dominate in the Last Days, but two: a human dictator (the rider on the white horse, Rev 6,1–2) in the Great Tribulation (Rev 6,1–8; Mt 24,1–25) and a demonic spiritual being (the beast from the sea, Rev 13) on the Day of the Wrath of God.

(See also Discourse 86: “The first and second Antichrist.”)


In view of the fact, however, that this new point of view in principle only results in transpositions in the temporal sequence of events, while the content – apart from a few exceptions – essentially remains the same, the documents based on the old interpretation (taking these indications into account) remain fully valid and so have been retained here. A summary of the changes may be found in Discourse 48.

(See also Discourse 48: “An alternative view on the sequence of events in the Last Days.”)



The Rapture.

The raising of the dead in Christ.

Those who are Christ’s will be raised 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. 1Cor 15,20–24;


Paul shows us here above, in 1Cor 15,20–24, the order of the various raisings. First Christ was raised and ascended to the Father into heaven. At his subsequent Resurrection the Lord came (physically) to life again and appeared to the Disciples on earth. This happened already, and we have enough convincing reports about that in the Gospels.

The next raising is the raising "out of" the dead and will take place at the Return of the Lord. When he comes, those who are Christ’s, will be raised.

The living will not precede the dead.

Paul reports this event in two of his Epistles to us. He received a revelation from the Lord in this matter, a "word of the Lord", as he says. And in this revelation he was told that those who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will not precede the dead in Christ.

The dead in Christ will rise first and will be caught up together with those who are alive.

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;


And Paul confides this secret to the brothers and sisters also in his First Epistle to the Corinthians. He specifies here that all of this will take place when the last trumpet sounds (that is to say the seventh and last trumpet in the Revelation of John 11,15). Then the Lord will descend from heaven, and first the dead, who died in Christ, will be raised. Then those who are still alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, who obviously will be waiting on a cloud in the air.

On the basis of the statements of Paul, above, in 1Cor 15,20–24 and 1The 4,15–17 as well as below, in 1Cor 15,50–55 – which – as has been proved – are speaking of the same event all three – we can now draw some conclusions about the identity of those who will be caught up.

As Paul mentions the last trumpet as sign for the beginning of this event, we can proceed from the assumption that he describes here the time of the seventh trumpet and with that the time of the antichristian reign. Also the hint in 1The 4,17 "we who are alive and remain" adds to this impression that those who are alive and will be caught up here, are those who survived the time of the antichristian persecutions.

It is said of the dead who are raised first here and then caught up together with those who are alive above, in 1Cor 15,23 and 1The 4,16 that these dead are those "who are Christ’s" and "who died in Christ".

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, "death is swallowed up in victory. 15,55 "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" 1Cor 15,50–55;


Here, in 1Cor 15,50–55, Paul makes it clear to us that we cannot enter into eternal life with our fleshy, material body. The reason why this is important is because – as he prophesies – at the Return of the Lord there will be faithful alive who will not die, but who are to be caught up. But those living will not precede the "dead in Christ" at the Rapture. First those dead will be raised with a spiritual body and will be "imperishable" (or "imputrefiable" as Luther translates in the German version). Then, also those who are alive will be "clothed" with a spiritual body, and thus they will be all immortal. So, their bodies will be like the body of the Lord Jesus right after he has been raised. And then both groups will be caught up together, that is to say they will float on the clouds to the Lord Jesus in the air and get into heaven.

Also the Lord points out the immortality of the resurrected dead already in Lk 20,34–36.

Those who attain the resurrection from the dead, are like angels and cannot die anymore.

Lk 20,34 Jesus said to them, "The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 20,35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; 20,36 for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. Lk 20,34–36;


So, those who were raised cannot die anymore henceforth, for they are like angels. They will not marry either nor will they be given in marriage. They have a new body, an immortal spiritual body.

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

Those dead who will hear the voice of the Son of Man will live.

Jn 5,24 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. 5,25 "Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 5,26 "For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; 5,27 and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Jn 5,24–27;


Also this text above from the Gospel according to John deals in its first part with the raising of the dead. Especially in verse Jn 5,25 it has to be born in mind that here there is no talk about the fact that all dead will be raised. Even though the first half of the sentence reads "when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God", the second half of the sentence specifies "and those who hear will live". So, at that time, at this "hour", only those will hear the voice of the Lord who are Christ’s, who died in Christ, as Paul tells us in 1Cor 15,23 and 1The 4,16. All other dead people – faithful just as godless – will not hear this voice and will not be raised from the dead either. Only at the Universal Resurrection at the end of the world, at the "second" hour in verse Jn 5,28, also these people – namely "all who are in the tombs" – will hear the voice of the Son of God and will come forth to a resurrection of life or to a resurrection of judgment, as we are told some verses later in Jn 5,28–29.

All who are in the tombs will hear the voice of the Lord.

Jn 5,28 "Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, 5,29 and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment. Jn 5,28–29;

(See also Chapter 13: “The Last Judgment.”)

Also the statement in verse Jn 5,25 "and now is" must not be disregarded. See chapter 12 "The Resurrection" for a detailed analysis.

The statements above of Paul in 1The 4,15–17 and 1Cor 15,50–55 about the raising of the dead in Christ and their Rapture with those who are still alive, who remained – of whom it can be likewise assumed that they are "in Christ"– , are the basis for the wide–spread view that this is now the universal congregation of all times, which will be raised and caught up into heaven at the coming of the Lord.

In order to be able to confirm this view, we would have to know, however, what is exactly meant by the attribute "in Christ". The advocates of the Rapture of the universal congregation proceed from the assumption that all faithful Christians are meant by that. But can this also be confirmed by the Scriptures?

We should therefore try to find a further hint at the identity of these faithful – if possible with Paul himself. And in his Epistle to the Philippians we also find such a hint.

Being conformed to His death, in order that I may attain to the resurrection out of the dead.

Phil 3,7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 3,8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 3,9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 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 out of the dead. Phil 3, 7–11;


Paul says here in verse Phil 3,9 that he "counts everything but rubbish" so that he "may be found in Him (Christ)". In the next verse Phil 3,10 he then describes also the consequence of this being "in Christ": the community of his – Christ's – sufferings and his death. And he also tells us why he wants to go through all of this: "in order that I may attain the resurrection out of the dead". Paul is explicitly speaking here of the raising "out of" a certain group (exanastasis), and he uses a similar expression in 1Cor 6,14–15:

The Lord will also raise us up through His power.

1Cor 6,14 Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up from among the dead through His power (Darby). 6,15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! 1Cor 6,14–15;


So, Paul wants to say here that quite particular dead – namely those "in Christ" – will be raised out of the entirety of the other dead. This is a hint at the fact that this event here and the First Resurrection described in Rev 20,4–6 have the same background. Also there John speaks of the fact that the one part of the dead will come to life again in the First Resurrection, whereas the remaining dead will come to life again only after the one thousand years.

When we compare these two texts we also see immediately the difference between "raising" and "Resurrection". While in the raising the dead from the realm of the dead will be raised and caught up into heaven, where they – here in the case of the raising out of the dead – will stand as souls before the judgment of reward, the Resurrection will take place after this judgment, with these souls coming to life again and being able to live on earth.

The rest of the dead did not come 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;


Now John speaks here, in Rev 20,4 on the one hand of the "souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God" – that is to say of the martyrs – but on the other hand also of those "who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand". However, there is no explicit mention of the fact that in the latter case also here killed faithful are meant. Nevertheless, both groups are promised that they "came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years".

The assumption that this second group are the still living elect – we will speak about below in more concrete terms – , is, however, rather doubtful for the following reasons: When this "image", which they were to worship, was put up by the false prophet, it says in Rev 13,15:

As many as do not worship the image of the beast will 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. Rev 13,15–17;


So, all people who did not worship the image were killed. To be more precise: They were killed by the image itself. And the formulation "it causes" as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed, suggests an "automatism" of some way or other so that nobody could be forgotten or overlooked here. This is also confirmed by the next verse Rev 13,16, which says that "they all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, are given a mark …".

If we start out from a worldwide reign of the Antichrist, the people of that time will have only these two alternatives, either to make themselves a "mark" or to be killed. And as it says in Rev 20,4 of the second group that they did not admit a mark to be given to them, they must have been – just as the other group of the souls – killed as martyrs. That means, however, that according to Rev 20,4–6 only martyrs will take part in the First Resurrection (that is to say those people who have been killed because of their faith).

(See also Chapter 12: “The Resurrection.“”)

Can we now proceed from the assumption that the faithful "in Christ" mentioned by Paul above, in 1Cor 15,50–55 and 1The 4,15–17, who will be raised and caught up into heaven at the coming of the Lord, concern the same group of persons and that therefore the "universal congregation" does not take part in this raising and Rapture, but only those martyrs? Critics will probably think that one would need a clearer hint here in order to dispute the right of the congregation as a whole to this position.

And there actually is such a clear hint which we find with Paul as well, in 2Tim 2,10–12:

For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him.

2Tim 2,10 For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. 2,11 It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; 2,12 If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; 2Tim 2,10–12;


Paul confirms us here that the hope to be able to take part in the First Resurrection and with that to be able to live with the Lord in the Millennium and to reign with him, is only possible when we endured in distress, recognized the sufferings of Christ, died the same way as he did, and thus were killed as martyrs. For Paul this sorrowful way then fulfilled. He was put to death as a martyr in Rome.

The possibility that Paul is speaking here above, in Phil 3,11, of another Resurrection than in 1Cor 15,50–55 and/or 1The 4,15–17 is inconceivable. For in those days the teachings of the Resurrection at the end of the world, on "Judgment Day / Doomsday" – as also Marta confessed to the Lord after the death of her brother Lazarus in Jn 11,23–24 – was part of a general stock of ideas in the congregation. Even the assumption of a second Resurrection, namely the "raising up from among the dead", required the conclusive force of a revelation of the Lord. By a further "extraordinary" resurrection (exanastasis) the entire teachings of resurrection would probably have been questioned and jeopardized. So, Paul definitely speaks in these passages of the Scriptures of one and the same resurrection all the time, namely of the “raising up from among/out of" the dead, as the Lord revealed it to him.

So, it becomes apparent that we have to differentiate on the one hand between raising and Resurrection. Not all, who are raised from the dead, must necessarily also resurrect in the First Resurrection and thus come to life again and walk again on the earth. As we will see below, there are groups of raised persons, who do not come to life again, but remain as souls in heaven with God and serve him. On the other hand, in this analysis below of groups in heaven we make out only two criteria, which justify their raising and Rapture into heaven: either they are martyrs – that means they have been killed because of their faith – or they are faithful of the last days.

As now neither the one nor the other criteria applies to the "congregation of all times", which many exegetes want to place here, only one alternative seems to be left: The "universal congregation" will come to life again only at the Universal Resurrection – that is to say it will be reborn – and then, after the Universal Judgment, it will enter into the heavenly Jerusalem of the New Creation of God.

God will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and He will be their God.

Rev 21,1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. 21,2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.

21,3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 21,4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." Rev 21, 1– 4;


Although we all want to see it, of course, the participation of the congregation of all times in the raising and Rapture at the coming of the Lord seems to be no clear message of the Scriptures at all. But should the promises above in Rev 21,1–4 be too little for us as the congregation that we want by all means to take part in the raising out of the dead and to reign with Christ in the First Resurrection in the Millennium on earth?



Postscript:

The above statement, that the participation of the congregation of all times in the raising and Rapture at the coming of the Lord seems to be no clear message of the Scriptures, has now – after 15 years – been refuted by newer conclusions There is the statement of the Lord in  Jn 6,40:

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;


Althoug this text is confusing at a first glance, because it apparently denies the Rapture, but when we examine it more closely, it contains some surprises especially in connection with the Rapture of the congregation. Further explanations are to be found in Discourse 95.


(See also Discourse 95: "Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed!")




The gathering of the elect.

So we found out that the dead of the raising out of the dead and the dead of the First Resurrection are all martyrs. But who are now the "elect", who still live at the coming of the Lord, and who "are alive and remain" as Paul says in 1The 4,17? If in the antichristian reign actually all people without the mark were killed (Rev 13,15–16), no faithful would be left any more.

Now a supposal comes up here, which can be recognized also at other passages of the Scriptures. Even though the Antichrist was given the authority over "all tribes and peoples and tongues and nations", nevertheless for instance the fact that in Rev 16,13 the dragon, the Antichrist, and the false prophet have to go out to the kings of the whole world with three unclean spirits, in order to gather them for the Battle of Armageddon, shows that out of the sphere of influence of the Antichrist there are also other rulers, namely the "kings of the whole world", who are dependent on him, but obviously have to be "invited" first, in order to fight together with him against the Lamb. From that it can be concluded that these kings and the territories, which they administer, are not directly subordinated to the sphere of control of the Antichrist.

Also the fact that these activities of the Antichrist and the false prophet are obviously restricted to Jerusalem

–  the Antichrist defeats the two witnesses in Jerusalem

–  he takes a seat in the temple and pretends to be "God"

–  he alters holytides and laws of sacrifice of the Jews

–  the false prophet puts up the image in the temple in Jerusalem


fosters the suspicion that the antichristian reign proper is restricted to Jerusalem and Israel and that therefore in other countries of the world at least a survival could still be possible for faithful Christians.

However that may be – the fact that there will be really these chosen surviving people then, is proven by the following passages from the Scriptures.

When these things begin, lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

Lk 21,25 "There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, 21,26 men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 21,27 "Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 21,28 "But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." Lk 21,25–28;


Here, in Lk 21,28, the Lord promises to these elect, "But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near". With these happenings first of all the darkening of the celestial bodies is certainly meant, but in particular the visible coming of the Lord in the clouds.

Then the Lord will send forth his angels and they will gather together his elect worldwide.

He will send forth His angels and they will gather together His elect.

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 in 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;

For the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.

Mt 24,21 "For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. 24,22 "Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 24,23 "Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. Mt 24,21–23;


And the Lord gives them even another comfort for this time of distress, in which they will be. For the sake of these elect the Lord will cut short the time of tribulation. In fact, with the hint "(otherwise) no life would have been saved".

False Christs will show great signs, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.

Mt 24,24 "For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. 24,25 "Behold, I have told you in advance. Mt 24,24–25;


Although, of course, the entire dimension of this distress is hardly reconstructable for us today, it can nevertheless be recognized by the fact that even those who were elected by the Lord will be in danger of being tempted that it requires almost superhuman strength of faith in order to withstand then.

But the Lord has still further information for these faithful of the last days. The coming of the Lord – and with that the gathering of these elect and their Rapture – will take place as suddenly as the coming of the Flood in the days of Noah.

The coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.

Mt 24,37 "For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 24,38 "For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 24,39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Mt 24,37–39;


Also the comparison with the situation at the downfall of Sodom and Gomorrah shows us that we should not orient ourselves by the men of this world. They will not realize that they are endangered until it is too late.

As it happened in the days of Lot it will also happen on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.

Lk 17,28 "It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building;17,29 but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. (Gen 19,1–29)

17,30 "It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. Lk 17,28–30;


However, as we will see immediately, the order to Lot and his family to leave the town does not apply any more here, at the gathering and Rapture of the elect.

Everyone shall stay where he stands – on the housetop or in the field.

Lk 17,31 "On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out; and likewise the one who is in the field must not turn back.

17,32 "Remember Lot’s wife. 17,33 "Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. Lk 17,31–33;


We discover here, in Lk 17,31–32 the intrinsic meaning of this particular warning of the Lord: "The one who is on the housetop must not go down and the one who is in the field must not turn back." In Mt 24,17–18 and Mk 13,15–16 we have an almost literally identical statement, which obviously refers, however, to quite a different situation. Whereas this text occurs with Matthew and Mark in connection with the abomination of desolation and the flight into the mountains, we find it with Luke at the coming of the Lord and at the gathering of the elect.

And here there is no talk about flight, but quite on the contrary: the faithful are called upon to exactly remain at the place where they are at the moment. The one who is on the housetop shall remain on the housetop and the one who is in the field shall remain there. And whoever seeks to keep his life and flees will lose it, but whoever remains where he is full of confidence in the prophecy of the Lord, will preserve it. He will be changed and clothed, as Paul writes it, too, in 1Cor 15,52, and will be caught up into heaven together with the martyrs who have been raised out of the dead.

(See also Table 05: “Synopsis of the Lord's eschatological discourses.”)

For the angels of the Lord will go out and gather together these elect all over the world. Then there will be two in one bed or work together, and one will be taken and the other will be left. Also the warning in Lk 17,32, "Remember Lot's wife!" admonishes the faithful of that time to let go all earthly hope in this last moment and to trust in the Lord and his words alone. And just as the vultures do not have any difficulty finding the carrion instinctively, also the angels will not have any difficulty recognizing the elect from the millions of people and taking them with them.

There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left.

Lk 17,34 "I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. 17,35 "There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left. 17,36 "Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left." 17,37 And answering they said to Him, "Where, Lord?" And He said to them, "Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered." Lk 17,34–37;

(See also Discourse 65: …The two men in the field (Mt 24,40): who will be taken, and who will be left?.”)


Although there is talk about "that night" here above, in Lk 17,34, it cannot be concluded from that at all that the Lord will come at night. As the return and the gathering of the elect will take place worldwide, in one half of the earth there will be night and in the other half of the earth there will be day. As for the rest, it cannot be definitely clarified if the darkening of the celestial bodies extends still over the time of the plagues of the trumpets or not. If this is the case, the whole earth would be covered by darkness and thus there would be "night" everywhere.

Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.

Mt 24,40 "Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 24,41 "Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. Mt 24,40–41;


In conclusion we can say concerning the raising out of the dead and the Rapture – and with that also concerning the First Resurrection – that at this event only those faithful will be raised who were killed because of their faith. The at that time still living faithful, who are caught up into heaven together with them, are the elect who the angels of the Lord gather together. All of them come to life again according to Rev 20,4–6 and will reign in the Millennium as priests and kings together with the Lord. The remaining congregation will follow at the Universal Resurrection, at the end of the world – on "Judgment Day / Doomsday" – and will enter together with them into the kingdom of the Father in the New Creation for eternal life.

Recognize the signs of the time.

Even though we do not know the exact time when the Lord will come, the Lord gives us nevertheless some clues when we can reckon with his appearance. We have on the one hand the hint in 2The 2,3 mentioned at the beginning that first the apostasy, the son of destruction and the Great Tribulation must come. In the following texts, especially in Lk 21,29–33, the Lord shows us now by means of the parable of the fig tree that the elect who see the "trees put forth leaves", that is to say at the latest at the darkening of the celestial bodies, can count on it that the coming of the Lord for the gathering is already near.

When you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near.

Lk 21,29 Then He told them a parable: "Behold the fig tree and all the trees; 21,30 as soon as they put forth leaves, you see it and know for yourselves that summer is now near. 21,31 "So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near.

21,32 "Truly I say to you, this race will not pass away until all things take place. 21,33 "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. Lk 21,29–33;

When you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.

Mt 24,32 "Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; 24,33 so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.

24,34 "Truly I say to you, this race will not pass away until all these things take place. 24,35 "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. 24,36 "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Mt 24,32–36;

When you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door.

Mk 13,28 "Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 13,29 "Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door.

13,30 "Truly I say to you, this race will not pass away until all these things take place. 13,31 "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. 13,32 "But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Mk 13,28–32;


As we can infer from these texts, the Lord is speaking here to the Disciples all right, but the statements and hints are not at all meant for the Apostles, but for the elect of the last days. The misleading interpretation of this connection leads, especially in the statements here above, in Mt 24,34 and Mk 13,30: "This race will not pass away until all these things take place", again and again to misinterpretations.

For the correct understanding of this text we must separate the verses Mt 24,33 and 34 as well as Mk 13,29 and 30 from each other. In the case of the first ones the Lord refers to the preceding parable of the fig tree and explains it in view of the happenings of the last days, as it is then expressed in Lk 21,31 quite concretely. And here we see quite clearly that this hint is not addressed to the Apostles, but to the faithful of the last days. They are told that when they see the first signs of the preceding prophecies for the last days, they can proceed from the assumption that the Lord is coming soon.

Some people make the attempt to interpret the verses Mt 24,34, Mk 13,30, and Lk 21,32 in the same direction and, by translating the Greek "genea" with "generation" instead of race, people, to relate this statement to the generation of people in the last days, who "will not pass away (that is to say will not die) until all these things take place".

However, there are things speaking against it: On the one hand the fact that precisely at that time millions of people will die of the various plagues. Godless as well as faithful. Moreover, whenever the Lord is speaking of a "race" in the Gospels, he refers to quite a particular race or people, namely to the people of Israel. A typical example of this is probably Lk 11,49–50:

Lk 11,49 "For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, 11,50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this race, Lk 11,49–50;


These two verses belong to the lamentations of the Lord about the people of Israel and one can see that here not a certain generation – like for instance the one at the lifetime of Jesus – is meant, but the entire people of Israel. And in the same way, also above, in Mt 24,34 and parallel passages, the statement : "This race will not pass away until all these things take place" is supposed to express that this people of Israel – in spite of its dispersion all over the world for centuries – will not pass away until all these prophecies have come true.

The subsequent appeal to be on the alert, however, is once again addressed to all of us.

Keep on the alert, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place.

Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.

Mt 24,42 "Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. 24,43 "But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 24,44 "For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will. Mt 24,42–44;

Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come.

Mk 13,33 "Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. 13,34 "It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. 13,35 "Therefore, be on the alert – for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning – 13,36 in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. 13,37 "What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’" Mk 13,33–37;

For this day will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth.

Lk 21,34 "Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; 21,35 for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. 21,36 "But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man." Lk 21,34–36;

The judgment after the Rapture – the judgment of reward.

Just as after the second, the Universal Resurrection at the end of the world the Universal Judgment takes place, also here, after the Rapture, the raised dead and – supposedly – also the living who have been caught up into heaven will be judged.

We get the confirmation for this view above, in Heb 9,27 and 2Tim 4,1. Whereas the first text points out the inevitability of this sequence of death – raising – judgment and therewith implies the conclusion: If there is a raising – there is also a judgment, the second passage from the Scriptures confirms that Jesus Christ will not only judge the dead, but also the living – just as he judges the living ones who have been caught up into heaven here.

It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.

Hbr 9,27 And in as much as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, 9,28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. Heb 9,27–28;

Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead.

2Tim 4,1 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 4,2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 2Tim 4, 1– 2;

The differentiation from the Universal Resurrection.

However, what is important, is that at the second, the Universal Resurrection, all people who have ever died, will be raised and that therefore in the subsequent Universal Judgment reward and punishment will be dealt out, whereas here, at the First Resurrection, at the second coming of the Lord, exclusively those who were killed because of their faith, that is to say the martyrs will stand before their judges, in order to receive their reward in the "judgment of reward". Also this is alluded to in the above text, in Heb 9,28, where it says expressly: "He (Christ) will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him".

And also 1Pet 1,7 encourages us to have our faith purified by various trials, so that the proof of our faith may be found to result in "praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ":

Your faith may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1Ptr 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; 1Pet 1, 6– 7;


And this "revelation" of Jesus Christ is undoubtedly his return, the second coming of the Lord for the raising of the dead in Christ and for their Rapture together with the living faithful before the Millennium.

In Rev 11,18 the Revelation, after all, is speaking quite concretely of the fact that the time for judgment has come in order to give the servants of God their reward.

The time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond–servants.

Rev 11,18 "And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond–servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth." Rev 11,18;


The key verse for this event of judgment is, however, – as it is for the First Resurrection in general – the text from Rev 20,4–6:

And they sat on thrones, and judgment was given to them.

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;

Who is sitting on the thrones?

We have here in Rev 20,4 the statement "Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them". The subsequent text "And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded (…) and they came to life" induces some exegetes to see these "souls" themselves as those who sat on the thrones and who pronounced judgment.

There are, however, pretty clear hints that this view is not correct.

If we take a closer look at the text in Rev 20,4, we see first of all the chronological order of the events. First John sees the thrones and those who sat on them and to whom judgment was given. And only then, afterward, he sees the souls of the beheaded.

But also in the logical analysis one has to realize that these "souls" came to life subsequently. This "coming to life", however, is undoubtedly a result of the preceding judgment. To proceed from the assumption here that it is the souls of the beheaded themselves, who sat on the thrones and pronounced judgment upon themselves, is little convincing. To say nothing of the strange fact that under these circumstances there would have to be millions of thrones there in heaven.

Knowing now that it is not the souls of the beheaded who are pronouncing judgment, we should ask ourselves who now are the judges on the thrones actually. To find this out we have to try to clarify who can be meant by the "they" in Rev 20,4. As it seems, John proceeds here from the assumption that the reader already knows this group of persons and that therefore a more detailed description is not necessary any more.

And indeed, apart from God and the Lamb, there is another group of persons in the Revelation, who are sitting beside, or to be more precise, around the throne of God, on their thrones.

Twenty–four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty–four elders sitting.

Rev 4,4 Around the throne were twenty–four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty–four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads. Rev 4, 4;

Rev 11,16 And the twenty–four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God. Rev 11,16;


So, it is the twenty–four elders, of whom it is also said below, in Rev 19,4, "they fell down and worshiped God" and to whom John then comes back shortly afterward, in the next chapter, in Rev 20,4, and describes that they sit on their thrones and pronounce judgment upon the beheaded souls. So, the pronoun "they" in Rev 20,4 is a reference back to the twenty–four elders in the preceding chapter Rev 19,4.

Rev 19,4 And the twenty–four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, "Amen. Hallelujah!" Rev 19, 4;


This view is also supported by Dan 7,22:

Judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest.

Dan 7,21 "I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them 7,22 until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom. Dan 7,21–22;


Here, in Dan 7,22, it is expressly pointed out that it is the "saints of the Highest One", to whom judgment was passed. And the conclusion that these saints of the Highest One are the 24 elders, who do their service before God in heaven, is almost compelling, as the souls of the beheaded would not be able to judge at all, before they were not judged themselves.

The opinion that it is the "souls of those who were beheaded", who are sitting on the thrones and who are pronouncing judgment, is possibly due to the fact that the promise for the saints to be allowed to pronounce judgment together with the Lord (1Cor 6,2; Jude 1,14–15;), is erroneously brought in already here. But this promise does not refer to this judgment after the Rapture, but – as it is said especially in 1Cor 6,2, "or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?" – to the Universal Judgment at the end of days.

There God comes with his saints in order to "execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him" (Jude 1,15). And there these numerous saints will not sit on many thrones, but together (in spirit) with the Lord on his throne, as it is already said in Rev 3,21:

He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne.

Rev 3,20 ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. 3,21 ‘He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 3,22 ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’" Rev 3,20–22;


But here, at the judgment of reward after the Rapture, only a part of the people are supposed to be judged or rather rated, namely the martyrs and the elect. And it can be assumed that these people did not do any ungodly deeds, but in order to satisfy the justice of God, but also in order to receive their reward, they nevertheless have to undergo a judgment.

Finally, we also find here below, in Dan 7,10, a statement that is identical with the text from Rev 20,4. While it says there with John, "Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them", Daniel reports here,

I kept looking until thrones were set up and the court sat.

Dan 7,9 "I kept looking until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow And the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were a burning fire. 7,10 "A river of fire was flowing And coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court sat, And the books were opened. Dan 7, 9–10;


So, in both reports thrones are seen, and the court sat. The books, finally, which are opened both in Dan 7,10 and below, in Dan 12,1, are the same as after the Universal Resurrection at the Universal Judgment in Rev 20,12 and 20,15. With that it is unmistakably documented that all people are equal before God's court. At the First Resurrection as well as at the Second, the Universal Resurrection, all people are judged according to the same rules of the court.

At that time Israel, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.

Dan 12,1 "Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. Dan 12, 1;

If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Rev 20,12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.20,13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 20,14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 20,15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Rev 20,12–15;


These "books" are on the one hand the books of the deeds of men, where the raised souls are judged according to what they have done during their lifetimes, and they are on the other hand the Book of Life, in which the names of the rescued are written.

And here we also make out two characteristic features of Rapture, which distinguish them clearly from the Universal Resurrection at the end of the world. While here, at the judgment after the Rapture, the saints of the Highest One who are sitting on their thrones (plural) are given the judgment, and they are consequently the judges, at the Last Judgment, after the Universal Resurrection, in Rev 20,12 there is only talk about one throne: "And I saw the dead (…) standing before the throne …". And on this one throne – as we read above in Rev 3,21 – the Lord Jesus is sitting together with all his saints.

Furthermore, at the First Resurrection only the "killed", that is to say the martyrs will resurrect, whose names are, of course, "written in the Book of Life" and therefore there is nowhere talk about the "lake of fire". At the Universal Judgment, however, all people who have ever died – that is to say also and especially the godless – will resurrect and will be judged, and therefore we find there the inverse formulation to Dan 12,1: "And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire".

In the final analysis, I would like to enter briefly into the argumentation, which sees also in the 24 elders again the "entire congregation" and in the fact that these 24 elders in Rev 4,4 – that is to say before all visions of judgment – are mentioned for the first time, the proof that the congregation will be caught up into heaven before the Great Tribulation.

Upon the thrones I saw twenty–four elders sitting, clothed in white garments.

Rev 4,2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. 4,3 And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance. 4,4 Around the throne were twenty–four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty–four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads. Rev 4, 2– 4;


From this one draws the conclusion that, naturally, the 24 elders have to be also the bride of the Lamb and quotes Rev 19,7–9 (see below), where the marriage of the Lamb is announced. What is not mentioned, however, is the text immediately before this passage from the Scriptures. For in Rev 19,4–6 there is also talk about the 24 elders and it says there:

And the twenty–four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God.

Rev 19,4 And the twenty–four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, "Amen. Hallelujah!" 19,5 And a voice came from the throne, saying, "Give praise to our God, all you His bond–servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great." 19,6 Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. 19,7 "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready." 19,8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 19,9 Then he said to me, "Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’" And he said to me, "These are true words of God." Rev 19, 4– 9;


Here, the 24 elders appear and worship God. At the same time it is said that now "the bride has made herself ready". So, a clear distinction is made between the 24 elders and the bride. Therefore, it does not seem to be very conclusive to proceed here from the assumption that these two groups of persons are identical. The less so, as the bride was given "to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean", whereas it is said of the 24 elders already 15 chapters before, at their first appearance in this vision of John, above in Rev 4,4, "and upon the thrones I saw twenty–four elders sitting, clothed in white garments". So, if these 24 elders were also the bride, they would get white clothes twice, that is to say they would undergo judgment twice and this is inconceivable.

In conclusion here the most important passages of the Bible concerning the Rapture in tabular form:

The Rapture in tabular form.


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.




Rev 6,12 I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake;

the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair,

and the whole moon became like blood;

6,13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its figs when shaken by a great wind.

6,14 The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and



24,30 "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coning 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.



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,












Rev 10,5 Then the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land lifted up his right hand to heaven, 10,6 and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heavens and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it, that there will be delay no longer,

Rev 11,15 Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ;
and He will reign forever and ever."


10,7 but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets.




1Cor 15,51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 15,52a in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound,





15,52b 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 immortality.



1The 4,16b 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.





Table: Sequence and Duration of events in the Last Days

The Return of the Lord and the Rapture. /    Chapter 06, Part 1

The marriage of the Lamb.. /    Chapter 063, Part 3

Of that day and hour no one knows, but the Father alone.. /    Chapter 064, Part 4