Aug 1 2004
Question: Isaiah 65 from verse 17 onwards seems to be about the Millennium. You have said, “Israel is the earthly people and kingdom; the church is the heavenly.” Does this mean there will be no church during the Millennium? I had always assumed I would be there. Am I wrong?
Answer: The Rapture of the church marks the beginning of the seven years of great tribulation, after which the Millennium begins. I believe that all, whether Jews or Gentiles, who have believed on Christ, either prior to or during the Great Tribulation, but before His visible return at the Second Coming, make up the church—the heavenly people. Those who only believe in Christ upon seeing Him return to earth in power and glory to destroy Antichrist and his kingdom will remain on earth into the Millennium—and for eternity will be the earthly people.
Included in the Rapture and first resurrection, then, would be the Old Testament saints, whether Jew or Gentile. Those who “sleep in Jesus” [i.e. have died in faith in Christ and whose souls and spirits have been in heaven with Him] will Christ “bring with him” (1 Thes:4:14)to be reunited with their resurrected bodies. They and those still alive at that time will be “caught up together…to meet the Lord in the air” (4:17), and Christ will then take them to His Father’s “house [of] many mansions” as He promised in John:14:2-3.
When Christ’s feet touch the Mount of Olives at the Second Coming (Zec:14:4)He brings “all the saints” from heaven with Him. It is inconceivable that Abraham, David, Daniel, Isaiah, et al., are not among the “saints” in heaven and who come with Christ as part of the armies of heaven to destroy Antichrist and his kingdom and to reign with Him during the Millennium. When were their souls and spirits clothed with new bodies to accompany Christ at His second coming? That could only have been at the resurrection of those who “sleep in Jesus” and the Rapture of 1 Thessalonians 4.
The statement, “this is the first resurrection” (Rv 20:5)refers only to those “beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God [i.e., were martyred under Antichrist].” What about the rest of the redeemed who died prior to the Great Tribulation? They couldn’t be resurrected at the end of the Great Tribulation because they don’t qualify as martyrs killed by Antichrist. This is one more reason for a pre-trib rapture.
Thus the phrase “the first resurrection” can only mean the completion of the resurrection that occurred at the Rapture —which could only have been prior to the Great Tribulation: otherwise, there is no resurrection of anyone except those who are killed by Antichrist. That these martyrs are included in “the first resurrection” would mean that they are part of the church, the heavenly people.
Those who come to faith in Christ only as a result of seeing Him at the Second Coming obviously are not killed (and thus not resurrected) but will remain alive into the Millennium and will live forever on earth. They are the earthly people for eternity. They will receive new bodies at the time this present universe is destroyed and the new heavens and new earth are created.
The church will also be on earth during the Millennium, but not as participants in earthly affairs. They will reign with Christ over the earthly people.