© Charles A. Clough 2003
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 6: New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy
Chapter 5 – The Destiny of the Church
Lesson 215 – Futurism: The Post-Tribulational Position &
the Two “Returns” of Christ
30 Jan 2003
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
We’ve been going over some of the details of the last days of the church, and this necessarily as I have prefaced each class by saying that this part of church history, the last two or three centuries is the time when eschatology is being worked on. Imagine yourself being put back in the 1600s when salvation was being worked on. So that’s why there is a diversity going on here, but we believe that it’s slowly clarifying because what happens in all of these discussions, whether you review the discussion of the Trinity, the discussion of the incarnate Christ, the work of Christ on the cross, the appropriation of Christ by faith and justification by faith, the orthodox biblical position emerges because it’s Scriptural and consistent. Usually when you work through these issues, as vexing as they may be, you are drawn more deeply into the Scriptures to appreciate the consistency of our God. God is rational and pieces fit together. That doesn’t mean we always can encompass them, sovereignty and human responsibility being a good example, but you wind up in a position that’s stable.
We talked about two vocabulary terms; I’m going to use three vocabulary terms tonight as labels for the categories of different approaches to this problem. We talked about preterism; we’ve talked and we will talk about futurism. There is actually an in between position called historicism which we won’t go into but I’ll just talk briefly about. This class is not a class on eschatology, it’s not a class in exegesis, it’s a class in Framework so therefore we’re touching basic doctrines, events and broad areas of Scripture. If this was eschatology we’d spend eight months on some of this stuff.
Here are the three definitions: preterism, preterit means past, so the preterist class of views are those views which say that prophecy is completed, that it’s not future, it’s past. That’s preterism. Futurism is the category of beliefs, and we’ll see four or five of them, different futurist positions, futurists are all agreed that the prophecies are yet to be fulfilled. The historicist, that’s another story. Historicists believe that the prophecies are being fulfilled now during the Church Age.
I mention this because wherever you have date setting, that Jesus is going to come back, the latest one was Whisenant or whatever his name was that wrote in the 80s why the Rapture is going to occur in 1988. Obviously it didn’t. You had in the 19th century William Miller started the Seventh Day Adventists because they believed Jesus was coming back in 1844. Everybody got on a hill and waited for it and it didn’t happen. Then he recomputed and it was 1846 or something.
But the point is that the reason they date set is because historicism believes that the prophecy is being fulfilled now. Let’s put our thinking hats on here. If a person believes that the prophecies about the return of Christ and about the Book of Revelation and all that is going on in the Church Age, then when you see sections in the Book of Revelation about 1,260 days and they convert that to years and they work out all this math to make a prediction of the return of Christ, they are operating as though those prophecies apply to the church. Well if you do that, what you in effect have done is you have destroyed the distinction between the church and Israel because you’re taking prophecies … remember, what did we say was characteristic of Israel? They have a calendar, they have clock time. You don’t have clock times and calendar times associated with passages that specifically apply to the church. You have the clock times out of the Old Testament when Israel is in view.
So the historicist’s position was the position that was adopted, actually by a lot of Protestants, and the reason was that by adopting that position guess who they could make equal to the antichrist? The Pope. So the anti-Catholicism of Protestantism used the Book of Revelation as a club against the Roman Catholic Church by picturing the rise of the antichrist out of the Revised Roman Empire. See, Roman, Roman, Roman, Roman, Roman Catholic Church; so they liked to use that and that was a big discussion point. But today you have pieces of historicism somehow bubble up in some Christian writings. About the only people left that are historicists in our day are Seventh Day Adventists, and the people who write books about Jesus is going to return in year X.
I’ll tell you who was a historicist in this regard was a guy who came out of Seventh Day Adventists, the wacko in Waco, Koresh. People say what kind of a cult was that in Waco, Texas? It was a historicist cult, they believed they were in the Tribulation; they believed in the antichrist coming, and that’s why they all withdrew in their little colony waiting for the end of the world. [There is an unintelligible section for a short time]
… predict the return of Christ by taking these references to 1,260 days or whatever in the Book of Revelation. In doing that they’re actually following a historicist position, not a futurist position. There’s a mixed method, they’re trying to dip into historicism and trying to marry it with futurism. It’s not a consistent position.
We’ve worked with preterism and we’re through with that. That’s the idea that Christ came in some sense in AD 70 and that the Book of Revelation was fulfilled in AD 70. Preterism has come in strong, particularly in Maryland, because it comes into Reformed circles. It’s a device that they feel like they can get rid of the pessimism of these passages of Scripture that deal with catastrophe, the apocalyptic ending of history. They don’t like to have that in front of them; they’d rather have that behind them so they have what they call an open history to progress—get that all behind us. So that’s preterism. We talked about it; details are given in the notes about it.
Tonight we come to the first of several views that are classified under futurism. We’ll have four views: we’re going to take up post-tribulationalism, three-quarter tribulationalism, mid-tribulationalism, and pre-tribulationalism. All four of these are classified as futurist; they all share a common belief that these prophecies are for the future. They are all agreed to that. Where they are disagreed is to where in this future time is the Rapture or the end of the church versus the end of Israel. We’re back to the church program and Israel’s program. How do we get these two different programs of God together and synchronize them.
We’ll start with the post-tribulational position. As you could infer from the word “post,” post-tribulationalism means the Rapture, the end of the church comes post, after the Tribulation. So the picture, if you want to draw a line is that in the future, we’re ahead of that but then the world will come into this great period of tribulation and there will be the Rapture and the return of Christ and then, if they’re premillennialists and dispensationalists they’ll hold to a Millennial Kingdom. If they’re amil they’ll just have the Tribulation, Rapture, return of Christ and the eternal state whereas this one has a thousand years in the Millennial Kingdom then the eternal state. Both of those are post-tribulation. Most recent post-tribulationalism is the Millennial Kingdom type people. That wasn’t always the case. A lot of the post-tribulational arguments were devised by amillennialists. I imagine there are still a lot of people like that around.
One of the characteristics of post-tribulational authors is they’re very vitriolic against pre-tribulationalism. It’s a reaction to pre-tribulationalism and they feel like they’re house-cleaning to get rid of it. So a lot of their writings are kind of sarcastic; it’s just a flavor of their writings that you can get.
On page 126 of the notes: “During recent church history in which eschatology began to be refined and sharpened, there arose a strong emphasis upon literal interpretation of prophetic texts with a rise in popularity of premillennialism.” Premillennial means that there’s going to be a Millennium and Christ is going to come before that. “The same literal hermeneutic that led to resurgent premillennialism also led to a differentiation between the Rapture of the church and the return of Christ.” I’m going to use those two terms technically but I’m warning you that it’s just my terminology for this class, and I’m doing that just as a teaching device. But the word “return,” parousia in the Greek can be used of either one of these events. The New Testament uses the return of Christ and it can mean the Rapture, it can mean the return. But I’ve got to have a vocabulary term; I guess I could say the first part of the return and the second part of the return.
But what we’re talking about are these two arrows. The Rapture, which is the end of the church, remember we said the milestones of the church, the Church Age goes down into history and time. There’s the Rapture when two things happen, all the dead in Christ are resurrected and all the living in Christ are transfigured. So there are two things that happen simultaneously, probably only seconds apart, the dead in Christ shall rise, and the living in Christ shall be transfigured. When that happens the entire church, all the people in the Church Age who have ever lived, Peter, Paul, everybody else, get resurrection bodies and go to be with the Lord forever in the resurrection bodies. That’s the end of the church; the church is done in history.
If history is to march on after that clock time, if after that point in history there are believers who will be saved the same way believers were saved before Christ in the Old Testament, Gentiles namely, the atoning work of Christ. They may have known less about it but they were saved on that judicial basis. They will not be technically Christians. They will be believers in the sense of Old Testament saints and they will be believers in the sense of the Gentile things. That’s the church. I might add what were the other milestones for the church? The Rapture, then the Bema-seat, that’s the judgment where every believer in Christ is evaluated on the basis of works, whether they were done with the motive of the Holy Spirit as unto the Lord or whether we were trying to impress somebody with some false motivation, peer pressure, I was going to impress my wife, my husband, the pastor, impress my girlfriend of boyfriend or whatever. We get rid of all that stuff and the genuine stuff that was done as unto the Lord will be rewarded and recognized. Then there’s the marriage supper that happens when the bride, the body of Christ, and the head of the body, Jesus, are coming back into history, as it were, as a completed entity. That’s the church.
Israel is going to go on and because Israel has left Christ behind, because obviously every Jew that believed in the Messiah has become a Christian, leaving the Jews that don’t believe in Christ back in the status of Israel, the nation of Israel. Israel is a nation, the church isn’t; Israel is a nation that goes on in history and is going to go through a period of trouble. We said that’s a milestone identified with Israel, a time of tribulation, code named sometimes “the day of the Lord,” other times “the day of the Lord” means something slightly different. But the day of the Lord is a term for it, Jacob’s trouble is another term for it, Daniel’s 70th week is another title of this period. But the big idea in this is that the Tribulation has nothing to do with the church. The Tribulation has to do with Israel, that’s what it’s for. It has to do with Israel in that Israel must be brought nationally to recognize the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s got to be a national recognition because Israel is God’s nation. There has to be a national repentance. That’s what Jesus was referring to when He said you will not see Me, addressing the nation, you will not see Me until you welcome Me back. And when the nation Israel welcomes the Lord Jesus Christ He will come back. In that sense, and only this, I qualify it, in that sense that’s one of the impediments to world peace today. If Israel would welcome the Lord Jesus Christ back we would have world peace. But Israel is not in a position spiritually that she will do that right now. And this is one of the functions of the Tribulation, is to get Israel ready to do that national confession, to do her job as the priestly nation among the human race.
The other story about the Tribulation is to settle scores with all the Gentile nations on the basis of how they treat Israel. That goes back to the terms of the Abrahamic Covenant, “I will bless those who bless you and I will curse them who curse you.” And during the Tribulation nations will have a time of decision, whole people groups will have a time of decision as to whether or not they recognize that it’s Israel’s God who runs history. And whether they like Jews or they don’t like Jews they’d better bow their knee to the God of Israel. That’s the decision, or they can choose the other way; you’re for Israel or you’re against her. If you want to be against her fine, your choice, but you share the judgment and wrath of God; that’s the issue during the Tribulation.
So the problem is how to marry these two together. The picture the post-tribulational takes is that as we go into this period of seven years, if I’m a literal post-tribulationalist, tonight for simplicity we’ll just take the literal post-tribs, not the old fashioned loosey-goosey ones, but the seven-year tribulational period, the church will parallel that, will still be on earth during all those seven years and at the end of that period when the Lord Jesus Christ comes down to establish the Kingdom, the church will go up just prior to that. In other words, the Rapture and the return occur quasi-simultaneously, almost at the same time, but they are part of one event.
This is crucial because on page 126, here’s the central issue. “What post-tribulationism needs to prove is that the Rapture and the return” can be considered the same event, that the differences between those two things, those two clusters of Scripture, that the differences are not sufficient, they’re not big enough, they’re not numerous enough to say hey guys, we just really can’t get these two things together, they really are two distinguishable events. So to be a post-tribulationalist you have to show that those two things are part and parcel of the same thing.
So we’re going to spend a lot of time with Table 9 because we need to be acquainted with these Scriptures. From now on we’re going to look at a bunch of Scripture. If you look at Table 9, page 127 in the notes, you’ll see that what I’ve attempted to do there is to list features or a cluster of Scripture references that talk to the church about the church’s end. So if you want to clarify Table 9 where the word “Rapture” is, you might want to put a parenthesis of something else that might tie this together better for you; that is if you write right next to the word “rapture” in parenthesis (end of the church), because that’s the spirit of those verses. All those verses that you see in the left column are addressing the end of the church. It’s what the apostles are saying about where the church is going to go in history. On the right column, all those Scriptures and you’ll notice there are Old Testament Scriptures there, there are no Old Testament Scriptures in the left column, only in the right column, that cluster of Scripture speaks of the destiny of Israel. So the left column is the end of the church and the right column is the end of Israel. Now we’re going to through Table 9 row by row.
Only and all of those “in Christ” are resurrected or translated (1 Thess. 4:16-17)
Resurrection not mentioned in Olivet Discourse and OT resurrection reference speaks of resurrected of “some” dead OT saints but not of translation of OT living saints (Matt. 24; Dan. 12:2)
Physical union with Christ in the air with all Church Age believers in resurrection bodies; no mention of inauguration of the Kingdom on earth with natural bodies (1 Cor. 15:50-57; 1 Thess. 4:16-17)
Judgment of nations with everyone in natural bodies and inauguration of the Kingdom on earth (Matt. 25:31-46)
Christ comes in blessedness to deliver His Body into eternity (John 14:1-3; 1 Cor. 15:50-57; 1 Thess. 4:16-17).
Christ comes in judgment against all nations, including Israel, and to save the elect remnant of Israel and the “sheep” among the Gentiles for entry into the Kingdom on earth (Matt. 24:29-31; 25:31-46—OT imagery from Joel 3:12-16; Zech. 14:3-5)
Believers removed; unbelievers left (see above references)
Unbelievers removed; believers left (Baptism of Fire motif in Matt. 3:12; 24:40-41 cf, 25:30,41)
Christ comes for His globally-dispersed church (see above references)
Christ comes with His church back to the Mt. of Olives (Zech 14:4; Acts 1:11; Rev. 19:7-14)
Church delivered from the wrath of God (1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9; Rev. 3:10)
Entire globe, including believers dwelling on it at the time, experience the wrath of God (Rev. 6-19)
Church to look forward to physical union with Christ with no mention of anticipatory “signs” (1 Cor. 1:7; 4:5; 15:51-52; 16:22; Phil. 3:20; 4:5; 1 Thess. 1:10; 2 Thess. 3:10-12; Titus 2:13; Jas. 5:7-9; 1 John 2:28; Rev. 3:11; 22:7, 12,20)
Numerous signs associated with the Tribulation and Day of the Lord (OT prophecies; Matt. 24:3-44; Rev. 5-19)
Table 9. Partial listing of the differences between the Rapture for the church and the Return of Christ to earth to establish the Kingdom. Post-tribulationism must show that these two events cannot be distinguished.
Let’s turn to 1 Thessalonians 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 shall rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.” Where it says “meet the Lord in the air” how do you suppose someone who is a post-tribulationalist would handle that verse? The way they would handle it is Christ is coming down; the church meets Him and comes down with Him, just like people go out of the city wall to meet the coming dignitary and welcome him back. That’s how the post-tribulationalist views that passage.
The point is, verses 15–17 are addressed, clearly, to the church. And clearly in the church it’s talking about resurrection. It’s clearly talking about transformation there, transfiguration. If that’s the case, this is the church, the picture here is that you go on in time and then there’s an end and all who are in Christ at that point have resurrection bodies. Question, let’s ask a question of the text. I’m sitting here with a stop watch; bang it happens. I’m an unbelieving reporter, I work for Ted Turner and I have a watch that I synchronized and two seconds later I take a reading, maybe I’m watching on satellite or something, now who is left on earth two seconds after this event? Believers, unbelievers or mixed? If everybody is resurrected and removed who is “in Christ,” then there aren’t any believers left two seconds after this event. That’s something you want to remember. If that event really happens this way, there is a big fat zero after that as far as the presence of believers in history; they’re all gone, there are none left. That doesn’t mean that two seconds later somebody can’t trust the Lord; that’s not what it’s saying. It’s just saying that as of that moment there aren’t any believers left, you have to start repopulating the segment of believers on earth after that event, but you have to start from zero because there aren’t any after that event. That’s why on Table 9, row one it says “Only and all of those ‘in Christ’ are resurrected or translated.” That’s what the text says, that’s the logical [can’t understand word] of the content of that text.
Now let’s go to Daniel 12:2, here’s the resurrection, one of the few resurrection, explicitly resurrection texts out of the Old Testament. It’s interesting the Lord Jesus Christ built His doctrine of the resurrection not out of either one of these texts that I’m going to show you. The Lord Jesus inferred resurrection from the Old Testament covenant structure. Remember the passage in the Gospels when He said, and by the way, He paid attention to the grammar of the text. I don’t know whether they taught their young Hebrew boys and girls to diagram sentences when they went through their schools then; I’m sure they paid more attention to reading than they did sex education then but the point is that Jesus built His case on a point of grammar. He said “the Bible says that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” it didn’t say he “was” the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He says “He is the God,” and He will be the God, and implicit in Jesus’ argument is that man cannot perpetually exist without a body, but those guys are dead so there’s going to be a resurrection. That’s the logic of Jesus; it’s sort of an indirect approach.
We’re not going to use that tonight, that’s valid, but I just want to take you to a key passage in the Old Testament regarding resurrection and that is Daniel 12:2. There’s a debate about how to translate this out of the Aramaic, and if this was a class in exegesis we’d go into all that; we won’t tonight. “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.” And it was that verse that Jesus did refer to in John when He said there will be a resurrection unto good and a resurrection unto damnation. So He continues that motif. The Old Testament knows about resurrection; it doesn’t know about translation like the 1 Thessalonians passage.
There’s another passage on resurrection in the Old Testament. Turn to Isaiah 26. I was talking to my wife earlier and we both were thinking about Job. Job believed in resurrection. What did he say? In the latter days I will see Him in my flesh. So he looked forward … now where did he get the information from? It beats me, he got it from the Noahic Bible plus all the knowledge that the peoples group that populated the planet after the great flood spread out.
In Isaiah 26:1, “In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah,” it’s looking forward to the time of the Kingdom. Isaiah 26 is sometimes called a little apocalypse of the Old Testament. But the context of this Old Testament passage is looking forward in time to that kingdom to come, to the nation Israel. Included in this is verse 19, “Your dead will live; their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, for your dew is as the dew of the dawn, and the earth will give birth to the departed spirits.” There’s another resurrection passage in the Old Testament.
So the resurrection is explicit and implicit in the Old Testament. This is talking about Israel and you can place this because clearly these passages are talking about something that happens prior to this Kingdom time, this Millennial Kingdom. So the resurrection that is being discussed happens right there. The post-tribulationalist says yeah, see, the Rapture is just part of that and he mixes these two together and says that there’s no difference between them. Well, there’s a problem with that too. Turn to Matthew 24, the Mount Olivet Discourse. This is a very critical discourse.
Matthew 24, Jesus is addressing certain questions the disciples asked Him about the end time, and you’ll notice the questions, verses 1–3, watch how the passage starts. They’re sitting there, in Matthew 24:1-2, they’re looking across the Kidron Valley and they’re looking at the Temple. So what nation are they in? Israel! What are they looking at? The Temple! Physical temple or spiritual temple? They’re looking at the physical temple. Well if that’s the context then you would expect what follows has to do with Israel and the Temple. We’re not imagining things here, that’s the context of that Scripture.
Verse 2, “And He answered and said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down.’  And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and the end of the age?’” What age? Is there a Church Age? The church doesn’t exist here. The church hasn’t even started. Remember 3 or 4 chapters ago, what did we say was true in the book of Acts? Let’s recall something about the book of Acts; we’ve got to get our history straight. You’ve got to interpret Scripture in the time in which the Holy Spirit wrote it and the context, the historical context. We have the four Gospels. So here’s the time of the Gospels, the time that depicts the ministry of the Lord Jesus. As Jesus was introduced, by whom? Who was the introducing prophet to the Lord Jesus? John the Baptist, just like in the Old Testament the prophets always introduced the kings.
So you have John the Baptist first, then you have the Lord Jesus Christ and He goes on and He has a ministry, and He gets more popular and more popular and more people follow Him until halfway through all four Gospels there’s a rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ and things go down hill. Matt. 12 is the dividing point in the Gospel of Matthew. In John it’s about 10 or 11, somewhere in there. All four Gospels record this same thing, and it’s at this point when the Lord Jesus Christ changes His ministry, begins a new teaching to the disciples and says I’m going, I’m not going to stay here, I’m leaving. And they say WHAT?!!! This wasn’t on the program. You’re the Messiah, You’re supposed to bring in the Kingdom, what’s this I’m going away business? Sorry, the nation is not ready for Me yet. So the Lord Jesus Christ gently prodded these disciples to understand that there would be an extension of the period of history in which they existed, that the Kingdom was no longer imminent to them, that He would come back.
We all know what happened, the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, He rose from the dead, He went to heaven and He sent the Holy Spirit. Now recall the book of Acts; it’s very critical to understand what those first few chapters in the book of Acts are doing. Peter, although we know in retrospect the church was formed on the day of Pentecost, they didn’t know it then, for all they knew this was another opportunity for the Kingdom to be offered to the nation. And who was the spokesman that literally offered the Kingdom to the nation in the first few chapters of Acts, namely Acts 2 and Acts 4? Peter. And that address is not a Church Age evangelistic address. Look at it, he’s addressing Jews and he’s saying if you will repent and accept Him, He will come back from heaven and the times of refreshing will happen. He’s talking about the Kingdom coming. So the Kingdom was offered, Kingdom number one, that’s the first offer of the Kingdom during the Gospels. After Christ was rejected, in grace, He gave them a second option, through Peter, and gave them a second option to trust Him so that the Kingdom could begin.
And tragedy upon tragedy as He foretold in that parable when the king sent his servants to the people, first He sent the first group and they were rejected. And then the king sent the second group and they not only were rejected, they were killed. The book of Acts begins to record the murder of believers. The Gospels do not record one instance, other than John the Baptist, do not record any instance of murderous persecution. That begins in the book of Acts. So that parable of Luke 22 is a parable of this whole period of time. Now all during that period of time the church really isn’t visible as the church. The church gradually is made known throughout the rest of the book of Acts. As Israel goes down, the church comes up in prominence.
And the man who was a leading agent in making the church prominent was Paul. When Paul was on the Damascus Road, I believe that’s where he gained the insight into what the church was all about, because you remember what he was doing. He was out to kill Christians and stop this new Jewish sect. And on the Damascus Road he got intercepted by the Lord Jesus Christ. And the Lord’s words that afternoon to Paul were, Saul, why do you persecute ME! In other words, the people that Paul was murdering were somehow in union with this ascended Messiah. How could that be? And I believe Paul spent years prayerfully seeking the answer to that question. Why do you persecute ME, when he wasn’t persecuting Him, he couldn’t persecute Him, He was up in heaven, how could he persecute Jesus if Jesus was in heaven? But Jesus said you’re persecuting Me, and I think that triggered a whole massive re-thinking in his mind about this union. Paul, more than any other write in the New Testament is the one who keeps holding on, you are in Christ, you are in Christ, you are in Christ, you’re seated with Him in the heavenlies, you’re in union with this One who has ascended. Paul grabs hold of that with clarity. Peter sits around and says pay attention to what Paul is teaching, that’s hard stuff, because the Lord gave that insight to Paul.
This is what’s going on here. Now, Matthew 24 happens back here, let’s get where it was given in the flow of events. This is where you’ve got to look at the order and sequence of revelation and learn to interpret Scripture in the time in which it was given. Let me give you a more graphic example. In Matthew 10, the Lord Jesus Christ gave a commission to His disciples. Where did He send them and where did He tell them don’t go to? He sent them, in that first commission, ONLY to Jewish towns; you stay out of the Gentile towns, I only want you to go to Jewish towns. Does that look like the great commission to you? No! The great commission happened later on, but if you try to put those two commissions together you’re going to have a conflict. One time He’s telling the disciples don’t; the next time He’s telling the disciples do. Why? Because there’s been a progress; you have to be flexible. As the plan of God unfolds in history there are changes to it.
In Matthew 24 you can read all the way through here and you never once encounter a peep about resurrection; not a peep, not a mention, not an illusion, it’s missing from the Mount Olivet Discourse. Why is that? Because for the question that was being asked in verse 2 the resurrection is not an answer. The question was, “when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming and the end of this age? What age were they in at that appoint? They were not in the Church Age. They were in the age of Israel. So they’re asking Him what’s going to be the end of history, it’s a Jewish question asked by Jews about a Jewish nation and does not have the church in view. So they want to know about Israel, they don’t know anything about the church here. So that’s what Jesus is talking about.
On the right side, row 1, that’s why I summarized it by saying the resurrection is not mentioned in the Olivet Discourse and Old Testament resurrection reference speaks of resurrected of “some” dead saints but not of translation of Old Testament living saints. Even in those resurrection passages there is no emphasis or mention of a translation; that’s all new revelation. You’ve got to understand there is a progress in revelation as it goes on.
The next row, turn to 1 Corinthians 15:50, we’ll come back to Matthew but I want to contrast this as we go down. This is a major passage on the resurrection and Rapture. “Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” When the Lord Jesus rose from the dead, remember the case when Thomas doubted, and what did the Lord Jesus ask Him to do? Touch Me, for spirit has not flesh and … He didn’t say blood, He said “flesh and bones.” Here’s the mystery, physiologically now, we’re talking bodies here; a health lesson. Every person over 30 can get a bang out of this one. That body you are in is going to be replaced; the health care system won’t be an issue for the resurrection body. Medicare won’t be an issue for a resurrection body, but the resurrection body has a strange composition to it because the only empirical historical evidence we have of what it looks like is the Lord Jesus’ body. There are no other bodies around like that. So we have to go based on the eye witness account of what that body looked like.
That body looked somewhat like the Lord Jesus, but not quite, it was a little different. Maybe it was because it was perfect and the last time they saw they saw the Lord Jesus He wasn’t in too good a shape. But whatever it was, He said touch Me, Thomas, tough my flesh. So you can just see Thomas sitting there, you’re not a spirit, you came through the wall there, I think you’re a spirit. No, I’m not a spirit, I materialized right in front of you Thomas and here I am … [blank spot] … space, it can eat food, it apparently doesn’t need it, and it can go through walls. That’s an amazing future that every person that accepts Christ has. And it’s a body that guarantees most of all, not just perfect health, but it’s a body that doesn’t have this sin nature embedded in it that tempts us to sin, all that burden will be removed, you don’t have to sit there and fight with the flesh all the time, it’s gone. And the resurrection body is what makes eternity perfect because there is going to be no repeat history. There is not going to be another fall a billion years from now. No, that’s all over. So the resurrection body has this characteristic.
So in 1 Corinthians 15:50 when He says “I say this, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable,” or corruptible some translations read. The idea there is that our bodies with flesh and blood … by the time you are born you’re dying already. It’s interesting, you see a newborn baby. Did you ever notice a newborn baby’s skin and you compare it with yours, especially if you’re older, gee, all these wrinkles. And you see that newborn baby, not a wrinkle on it, just perfect. But as that baby gets older the scars and hard knocks and that skin begins to age and age and age; it’s not a pretty sight. But that’s because God built our bodies corruptible. Do you know that was an act of His mercy that He did that, because had He not done that and had He given us bodies that were incorruptible, let me ask a question. What would have happened when Adam and Eve sinned and they could never die? They would be doomed forever to live in a fallen body. So in one sense when you see your body dying around you and you are losing your body parts one by one, or their functioning, just be thankful that it’s just a process to get rid of the thing so we can get the next one. That’s the resurrection body.
That’s what’s going to happen, but in this passage in Corinthians look at the emphasis in verse 50 and following. After He gets through making this radical distinction in bodies He says, “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,” so there everyone gets a resurrection body. 1 Corinthians 15:51, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” so evidently this happens very, very rapidly, it’s not s slow thing. This probably takes less than a second to occur. You talk about a transforming event in history, I mean, can you imagine this, that on every continent, simultaneously there’s this event that happens. All of a sudden resurrection bodies happen, nobody can explain it, it is totally unpredictable. Do you see any sign here? Notice to in verse 51, “we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,  in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound,” but the trump sounds in a twinkling of a moment, it’s not saying the trump sounds and then a few weeks later the resurrection happens. This all happens instantly. It “will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.  For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.” You hear this all the time at Christian funerals.
1 Corinthians 15:54, “But when this perishable will have put on imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;  but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my beloved brethren,” on the basis of that hope, “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” The whole world can be going to hell in a hand basket, but those works that are done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ will accompany the resurrection body. There will be an existence after this. The force of that passage along with 1 Thessalonians 4 is that we’re in union with Christ; we share His body, we are going to be with Him.
Now if you look at Matthew 25 because we’re contrast row 2 of Table 9; we’ve just done the left side of row 2, now we’re looking at the right side of that same row. Matthew 25:31, observe the text, observe the details. This is still being addressed to the disciples; it is still being addressed to Israel, and it goes on and involves certain things. “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.  And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats;  and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in.  naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’  Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty, and give You drink?  And when did we see you a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?  And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’”
Verse 40, “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”  Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;  for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink.”
You’ll notice several things about this judgment that’s happening. This is a passage on judgment and this is talking about when the Lord Jesus Christ comes again to the earth, and He’s going to set up His kingdom, it’s got a gate, visualize a gate, and He’s going to let some people through the gate and He’s going to reject others. What is the basis of the acceptance or rejection, just based on the prima facie view of the text? It’s their response. First of all, who’s gathered together? It’s not Israel. What does it say? Who is gathered together? It says the nations; here the nations are gathered together for this great judgment. These are Gentiles. These Gentiles are gathered together and they are judged, Gentile groups, judged on whether or not they visited these people who are identified intimately with the Lord Jesus. So it’s a judgment of Gentiles based on their responses to whoever these people are. And they’re going to be judged on the basis of whether they helped them, were they sympathetic.
It’s a case where during the Tribulation you have this … a good example, can you imagine living under Saddam Hussein tonight and you may be a very well educated person, you may be a high officer in his military, but you dare not turn against this man because he’s got his agents all around. If you get out of line, he’s going to take care of your wife; you get out of line and he’s going to take care of your daughter, if you get out of line, he’s going to get you. He may not be able to get you personally but he’ll get your family. So are you going to revolt against the guy? I don’t think so, because He’s got you. It’s that kind of totalitarian environment when the antichrist rules world society like a Saddam Hussein rules Iraq, now comes the test. Are you going to visit, going to help the insurrectionists? Who are the insurrectionists during the reign of the antichrist? They are the believers. They are people who have not received the mark. They are the people who refuse to bow their knee to the antichrist. And in that totalitarian scheme how would faith be shown? It would be show by your allegiance with the insurrectionist movement or your capitulation and fear to go along with the totalitarians that are in charge.
So there’s a judgment based on this, but what’s missing from this passage? Resurrection! You’ll notice what He says here is He says inherit the kingdom; there’s no mention of resurrection. These people are in natural bodies and they go into the kingdom, because the Millennial Kingdom is made up of people in natural bodies. Let’s turn to the Old Testament to see this. Turn to Isaiah 65, here’s one of many passages we could cite but we want to close out on this one because we want to see the nature of this kingdom into which these people are invited to come. The kingdom in the Old Testament is a blend of an earthly mortal kingdom as well as eternal state.
In Isaiah 65:20, this is in the middle of a kingdom passage. “No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his days, for the youth will die at the age of one hundred and the one who does not reach the age of one hundred shall be thought accursed.” Are people dying in the Millennial Kingdom? Obviously, they’re dying later in life but there is mortality there. How can that be if they’re made of resurrection bodies? They have to be natural bodies. The Millennial Kingdom is made up of people in natural bodies, otherwise you wouldn’t have dying. It’s less dying than it is now but nevertheless it is dying. And verse 23 points out there is reproduction, there’s procreation going on, people are having babies. In the Millennial Kingdom they’re reproducing, natural bodies. There’s no marriage in resurrection.
So the picture that we have of this Kingdom necessarily involves natural bodies. And that fits with Matthew 25 because the Gentile nations who will be admitted into this Kingdom are those who have shown themselves by their treatment of the believers during the Tribulation period, the insurrectionist party and they are admitted to the Kingdom. It doesn’t mean, necessarily, that they are all believers at this point. They may be people who are unbelievers but the Lord is going to admit them based on their response to the insurrectionist movement during the Tribulation.
We’ve got down two rows on Table 9 and we are going to go through the others, if you want to just take a minute we’ll just scan down those because next week we’ll develop them more. Notice in row three “Christ comes in blessedness to delivers His Body into eternity.” On the right, “Christ comes in judgment against all nations, including Israel,” as we’ve just gone through, and you’ll note that in the verses there He’s going to separate people, both in Israel and … Matthew 24 and 25. There’s something I want you to notice about that, remember the idiom or the metaphor that John the Baptist used as he introduced the Lord Jesus Christ. What did He say the Lord Jesus had in His hand? Some translations have it that the fan was in his hand, well, it wasn’t a fan, it was a shovel, and it was used in the grain, and what they’d do is they’d shovel the grain up in the air and the wind would blow and carry the chaff off of the grain, a key point. What was blown away and removed? Wheat or chaff? The chaff was removed, the wheat stayed. That’s an interesting observation. In other words, Christ clears the earth of the clutter of people who have rejected Him, and the people who have accepted Him He begins with that nucleus, the wheat, the good stuff. In the Rapture it’s the other way around. Who is left in the Rapture? The unbelievers are left and the believers are taken.
So I’m hoping to show you with Table 9, I know if you’ve never gone into this it’s getting kind of hairy, complicated, but let me assure you that I have a method in my madness here. I’m taking you through you Table 9 to show you that there are differences here. And you’ve got to put yourself back as an Old Testament person would have when he saw similar type things to what? The coming of the Messiah. Didn’t they see differences? What were some of the differences they saw in the Old Testament to the coming of the Messiah? They saw passages that spoke of His glory and they saw that passages that spoke of His suffering and they couldn’t get that together. Now we know why they couldn’t get it together—because they are two different events. So similarly we’re working with the Rapture and the return that look different and it ought to tip us off because we ought to learn from what they had to learn in the Old Testament. In the First Advent they had to learn that there are differences here. You’ve got to respect differences.
Table 9 is a depiction of these differences and we’re going to work our way through all these verses. Again, not thoroughly because this is not a class in exegesis or eschatology, but I’m going to at least make you familiar with the passages and familiar with the overall arguments.
Question asked, something about the passage about the New Jerusalem coming down: Clough replies: The question concerns the New Jerusalem and I tend to be leery about getting into all these little details and the reason I am is because this is not a class where we get into the details, I’m trying to get the big picture of the fact that history is going somewhere, it has a conclusion and there are some interesting features to that conclusion that we want to get straight.
But as to the New Jerusalem we know that the New Jerusalem is a place that is the center of God’s habitation in the new universe, the new heavens and the new earth. And it apparently will remind people in position, geographical position, on this new heavens and new earth somehow it’s in a place that corresponds to Jerusalem today on this earth. Whether the new heavens and new earth look exactly like the one that we live in, I don’t know, but there must be some correspondence because terminology carries over.
I’ll give you an illustration. People who have studied the Old Testament point out that in Genesis 2 when it talks about what the earth looked like prior to the flood, it talks about four rivers coming out of Eden. Two of them are the Tigris and Euphrates and that has always made the point with people that oh gee, that’s just a story about the mountains in northern Iraq. Well, not necessarily. The proper way to understand the terminology of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers today … the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers today were named Tigris and Euphrates by Noah and his family as they colonized the planet who were using nouns from the previous earth. So the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers today are not the same as the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in Genesis 2, because there was a totally different geographical configuration. The map was different. You can look at Genesis 2 and you know that’s not the map of the world today. Of course the liberals say yeah, that’s because they didn’t know what the map looked like. But we can’t accept that conclusion.
So similarly, think about when settlers came from Europe to America. What did we name our cities? York—New York. Where did we get that name from? England, that’s where they came from. The nouns are familiar and they carry over. So this New Jerusalem is somehow functioning the same as the old Jerusalem would have functioned had Israel operated according to the Word of God. What was in Jerusalem? The presence of God, the Shekinah glory, the Temple was there. So God’s presence is in some special way localized in this future universe to come, in this New Jerusalem. There are rabbinic commentators who believe that the geometric, if you take the planet earth in its pre-flood continental, however the continents looked prior to the Flood, if you take a map back then what corresponds to Jerusalem in this side of the flood was actually Eden in the other side of the Flood. The reason they do that is because God chose Jerusalem as His dwelling place and He probably chose the same place latitude and longitude wise that the Garden of Eden was. I don’t know, but that’s the demand for continuity.
So there’s a continuity in the idea of the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven in some weird feature of the new creation. And people have held, and I’m not a student of this but I remember listening to Dr. Pentecost back years ago, both he and Dr. Walvoord held to the idea that the New Jerusalem would be present and visible during the Millennium, like it’s orbiting the earth, like some sort of satellite. And then it comes down at the end of that, but I can’t speak directly to that because I haven’t studied it that thoroughly to feel confident of it. But you can’t lose sight of the fact that these passages of Scripture are talking about material, physical entities; this is not some spiritual thing. This is a physical thing.
Question asked: Clough replies: The Lord Jesus promised in John 14:1–3 that I go to prepare a place for you and if I go to prepare a place for you I will come again and you will be with Me forever. [someone says something about the mansions] We don’t know what those mansions are. Remember that mansions passage in John 14 was addressed to the disciples and it’s a preview … Jesus is cagey about that because when was it given? It was given prior to the Church Age. The church hadn’t formed yet, there was no rational for the existence of the church at that point. And it’s interesting that of all the Gospel writers, the rest of the guys don’t even mention it. The Synoptic guys don’t mention that discourse; it was mentioned only by one, John. So it must have been a talk that He gave was just considered as hmm, that’s interesting, and passed over by everybody there and it wasn’t until years and years later that John said wait a minute, He was hinting at something back when He was saying that, I think I’ll write that in my fourth Gospel. So John, you’ll see material in the fourth Gospel you don’t see in the other guys, they wrote early, John wrote late. John had the advantage of saying oh, we’re living in a whole new Church Age here, the other guys were also in the Church Age but they wrote more historically than John; John wrote more theologically; there’s a different style.
But in that passage, to get back to that, Jesus mentioned these mansions and if you think about the total number of believers from all of history, it’s in the millions if not billions. They’re not all going to be crunched into the state of Israel. But, there is the position Augustine took at one point in his writings, where he said that right now, during history as we know it, we are a race confined to a physical planet earth. There are these beings called angels. Obviously they can become corporeal, take on the form of a body, you know, “angels unawares,” you might have served dinner to an angel some day and not known it. We don’t know. They came to Abraham’s house and had steak dinner. We don’t know what they do, but they evidently have domains, heavenly areas, and presumably they operate throughout the whole universe. So then the question comes, we’re made lower than the angels, Psalm 8, and yet the Lord Jesus Christ is going to be above the angels, so that in the business of the universe, celestial as well as terrestrial, in the business of the universe there is now a human being in charge. So that means all the galaxies out to light years are being ruled today by a human being. Planet earth is the scene of the origin of the rulers of the universe. So it’s momentous.
Start thinking through, train yourself to believe the Scriptures enough to draw conclusions, big ones and think through what’s going on here, that here’s a momentous statement made that Jesus is above the angels. And people kind of take it oh, yeah, well that’s good, we’ll snooze through the next 15 minutes of the sermon and never think through what’s just been said here. Something momentous has taken place, that the Lord Jesus Christ as a human being, the Son of Man, rules in the celestial sphere as well as the terrestrial. Now when He says that the church is going to be with Him and He is going to have that rule forever and ever, that’s why scholars have thought about that in eternity the whole universe becomes a dwelling place for believers. Maybe we get to go to a star or something, who knows. This is all speculation but it’s speculation trying to draw out the implications of these momentous texts that because we treat them so religiously and spiritually they’re blunted in their force. All I’m trying to do is to unpack them a little bit so that we realize there’s lots of stuff in those verses and they are not just religious poetry.
Question asked: Clough replies: The Second Advent is a complex of events. If you look up the Greek term for coming, it’s used of both Rapture and return. That’s why I prefaced my remark tonight is that I’m using them as separate terms here, just for a pedagogical device, but when you read the text, you’ll see it used for that whole era, the whole tribulational era is a Day of the Lord, the coming of the Messiah, and it has these parts to it. [Same guy says something] Yeah, and all the complexities with it. That’s what this whole discussion is about, simply Christians trying to understand and unpack all these details, but the details are all contained in a cluster, and the cluster is the return of Christ. The big idea is that He’s returning physically, not in AD 70, He’s returning physically to this planet and He is going to establish a Kingdom the likes of which humans have never even dreamed of.
Question asked: Clough replies: Why we’re trying to distinguish it is because we’re trying to answer with more precision that when those passages, like Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians 15 … let’s back up a minute. Those passages were written to ordinary people in the most mundane of circumstances. Think about it. 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15 were written to ordinary believers in a local church who were concerned about dying. So this whole thing emerges out of a discussion of death, and it emerges to give hope in the middle of death. Those passages… I mean, [someone that] goes to funerals all the times and he probably hears this three times a week, because why do people bring up those particular two or three passages, always the same ones that everybody brings up at a funeral, that has any Biblical connection? Because they are there to help us deal with the problem of death.
Question asked: Clough replies: In the pre-trib position that’s true, and the mid-trib position that’s true, in the three-quarter trib position that’s true; most of the positions hold to that, it’s only the post-trib that holds that the church rises to meet Him as He’s coming down.
Question asked, something about marriage feast and judgment taking place on the ground or some place in heaven: Clough replies: I don’t know where, but however we reconcile Israel’s end and the church’s end, we’ve got to deal with those events, and you’ll see this in the notes. What happens at the Bema Seat? That’s the problem. One of the weaknesses of the post-tribulation position is that if the Rapture and the resurrection occur at the same time, where do you put the Bema Seat? It’s got to be a quickie because the church is coming back al ready to co-reign with Christ, and now what do you do with the Bema Seat. These are the questions that have to be answered.
You’ll see in the notes another question. I made a big point, one second after the Rapture how many believers are left? Zero. If the Rapture and resurrection occur at the same time, how many believers to you have to start the Millennial Kingdom with? Zero. Do you see the point? You’ve got to get some schema to handle this cluster of events that doesn’t have these contradictions in it. That’s the problem of the post-trib position as you see in the notes. It historically has failed to really answer the question what about the Bema, what about the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, when is that supposed to happen. What about starting the Millennial Kingdom and you’ve got no believers, because everybody that’s a believer has already been put in resurrection bodies and the Millennial Kingdom is made up of people in natural bodies. What do you do there? That’s the kind of processes that you have to use to think through these things.
Question asked: Clough replies: There’s a close alliance with them, because the New Covenant gives you the theological reasoning behind that. The messing around with what I call the insurrectionists, I’m using that term just because I think it characterizes the role of believers in the Tribulation; they are looked upon as insurrections to the reign of the antichrist. [Someone says something] Yeah, they’re going to become the nucleus in the natural body. But there are admittedly a lot of difficult questions with this material and the reason it’s so difficult is because we’re not there yet. It’s always easy to Monday morning quarterback after the game is over. The game hasn’t been played here yet, that’s the problem. So all we can do is get sort of vague positions about what’s going on here. But we want to at least understand that you interpret literally unless it’s obviously a metaphor; God’s plan is rationally consistent, it’s not contradictory.
And the big idea is get a sense, whenever the Lord Jesus is talking, or Paul is talking, or John is talking, or James is talking about the return of Christ, look at the context, the human context of his readers that were doing something that caused the author to bring in … that’s what I’m interested in because when we get through all this if we can’t apply it, it’s just a waste of time. So what I want to do at the end of this chapter it’s all going to be on, well so what, now what do we do with this truth. We can’t answer if while we’re looking at it we don’t see what were the people doing, what were their circumstances in their personal living that caused the apostles to raise the issue of the Rapture? Already we know one, 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15 talk about dying, so at least we know that, that when it comes to death and dying we are face to face with an eschatology, and anybody who approaches death and dying without a biblical eschatology has to substitute some other eschatology.
Nobody has no eschatology; everybody has an eschatology. We all do; the question is whether the pieces, the chunks of truth in that eschatology are biblical or not, that’s the only issue. But every person you talk to has an eschatology. Even the atheist who says I’m just going to be food for worms has an eschatology, and you want to understand that because if you back up from the eschatology, the atheist who tells you, well I’m just going to die and be worm food … well if you’re just going to die and be worm food then it really doesn’t matter whether I shoot you or you die by natural means, right, because the worms will eat you anyway. What difference does it make to the worms? So by taking an eschatology you can back up a person’s belief system out of that. That’s what you want to learn to do and not be… many Christians feel ashamed because they feel intimidated when somebody talks about the return of Christ. Oh, you religious people are always talking about the return of Christ. Well what do you believe about death? Are you worm food or what’s your belief? Put them on the defensive, don’t apologize for this. We have the only eschatology; name another religion where somebody came back from the dead in a resurrection body to verify it.
See, when we talk about resurrection we’re not talking about an idea, we are but not just an idea. When we talk about resurrection and the Kingdom to come we’ve already got the first person in it. We’ve already observed Him in history; we know that the resurrection body looks like our body, it’s not ten feet tall, it’s the same six feet or five and a half feet that we’re at. It doesn’t look a guy from the Milky Way or something. It looks like a human being; it has a face, eyes, can eat food, that’s data. That’s data for an eschatology. So that’s my point about eschatology. It’s a stabilizing powerful area of truth because it conquers and envelops the worst case in history, which is death. The worst thing we’ll ever face is the end of our lives. If our belief system doesn’t handle that question it’s insufficient. That’s why eschatology is so important, and that’s where’re going finally with all this. It’s nice to ask questions, I’m not trying to hinder people from asking questions about what happens with the New Jerusalem coming down and we’ve got a civil engineering issue here and how is it built. But the bigger idea is how was this taught for application in the pages of Scripture. And when we read those, read the context because they were people no smarter than we are and the Lord shared these things with them for a reason. He had to have a reason for doing it, He wasn’t putting on a magic show, He wasn’t trying to tell a fantasy, this was real life and so there’s reason for it.
Next week we’ll go further in Table 9.