1. THE ‘DEAD IN CHRIST’ RESURRECTED BEFORE TRIBULATION : “I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” (John 5:25) ‘Since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man … But each in his own turn : Christ, the firstfruits; then when he comes, those who belong to him.’ (1 Corinthians 15:21,23) ‘For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the ( first ) trumpet call of God and the dead in Christ shall rise first.’ (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
* The ‘dead in Christ’ also include old testament saints who were resurrected in their spirits as they ascended with Christ. ‘When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.’ (Ephesians 4:7) But they await bodily resurrection, together with the new testament saints. ‘These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what was promised … only together with us (New testament saints) would they (Old testament saints) be made perfect.’ (Hebrews 11:39-40) However, the Bible does say that some saints were bodily resurrected at the time of Jesus’ death.‘The tombs broke open and bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life … and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the Holy city and appeared to many people.’ ( Matthew 27:52-53) They entered heaven led by Christ. ‘And he is the head of the body, the Church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.’ ( Colossians 1:18) Could they be the 24 elders found seated in the presence of God?(Revelation 4: 4)
2. THE ‘ALIVE IN CHRIST’ RAPTURED BEFORE TRIBULATION : “I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.” (Luke 17:34-36) According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep … After that we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.’ ( 1 Thessalonians 4:15,17)
* The ‘dead in Christ’ and the ‘alive in Christ’ together constitute the ‘Raptured saints’. The ‘Tribulation saints’ comprises of multitudes of nominal Christians and Gentiles who will believe in Christ, on account of ‘Rapture’ but many among them will be martyred for their faith. The ‘Raptured saints’ and the ‘Tribulation saints’ together constitute the ‘Church’, which is the ‘body of Christ’. Just as crops are not harvested just once but several times, during a season, as and when it ripens, souls too are not harvested together but several times, as and when they mature. All the Raptured saints in heaven will constitute the ‘firstfruits’; all the tribulation saints on earth can be reckoned as the ‘main harvest’ and the survivors from tribulation who will be found worthy to enter the millennial kingdom and the dead in Hades, who will escape from being condemned to hell at the last judgement, will make up the ‘gleanings’.
3. THE MARTYRED TRIBULATION SAINTS ( MOSTLY GENTILES ) RESURRECTED BEFORE THE MILLENIUM : ‘When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained … they were told to wait a little longer until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.’ (Revelation 6:9-11) ‘After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb … These are they who have come out of the great tribulation.’ ( Revelation 7:9-14) ‘At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels with a loud ( last ) trumpet call and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.’ ( Mark 13: 26-27/Matthew 24:30-31) ‘For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable and we will be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.’ ( 1Corintians 15:51-52) ‘I saw thrones on which were seated those who have been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God … They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years … This is the ‘first resurrection’. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first Resurrection … they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.’ (Revelation 20:4-6)
* Since the Gentiles and Jews are martyred at two different stages during the tribulation, it makes sense to differentiate between the two harvests. Many nominal Christians and Gentiles will believe in Christ and be martyred during the first half of the tribulation while Jews will turn to Christ only during the second half of the tribulation, after the ministry of the two witnesses; the desecration of the temple and the events that follow. However, both Gentile and Jewish saints who are martyred during Tribulation will be resurrected together before the millennium. Those who escape martyrdom and survive the Tribulation, will also enter the millenium, provided they haven’t taken the mark of the beast. ‘There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image or for anyone who receives the mark of his name. This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandment and remain faithful to Jesus.’ (Revelation 14:11-12)
4. THE 144,000 FROM ALL THE TRIBES OF ISRAEL RAPTURED DURING TRIBULATION : ‘Then I heard the number of those who were sealed : 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.’ ( Revelation 7:4) “When you see standing in the holy place the abomination that causes desolation … let those in Judea flee to the mountains … For then there will be great distress unequaled from the beginning of the world …” (Matthew 24:15-21) ‘A woman (which is Israel) clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head ... She was pregnant … gave birth … her child (her firstfruit) was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman (the Jewish church) fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.’ (Revelation 12:1-6) ‘Then I looked and there before me was the Lamb standing on Mount Zion and with him the 144,000 … They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.’ (Revelation 14:1-4).
* The two witnesses (Enoch and Elijah), who will be killed during the tribulation, by the beast from the Abyss (the false prophet) but will be resurrected, three and a half days later, are not in a category by themselves because they should have been counted with the ‘dead in Christ’, had they been dead in the past but since they are still alive, they will be the last of the two pre-testament and old testament saints respectively, who are yet to die and be bodily resurrected. ( Revelation 11:3-12) ‘These are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth’ (Zechariah 4:14)
5. THE MARTYRED TRIBULATION SAINTS ( MOSTLY JEWS ) RESURRECTED BEFORE THE MILLENIUM : ‘Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” … “Take your sickle and reap because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth and the earth was harvested.’ (Revelation 14:13-16) ‘And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb.’ (Revelation 15:2-3) ‘And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded … They had not worshipped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.’ (Revelation 20:4-5)
* The reason they are mostly Jews is because almost all Gentile believers will be killed before the ‘abomination that causes desolation’ is set up ‘in the middle of the seven.’ (Daniel 9:27) ‘Then I saw another beast coming out of the earth … He ordered them to set up an image in honour of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived … and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.’ ( Revelation 13:11-15)
6. THE SURVIVORS FROM TRIBULATION WHO ENTER THE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM : “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates his sheep from goats. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father … I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine (the believers), you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels …’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)
* However, many of the descendants of the survivors who entered the millenium, will be wicked and will join Satan for the final rebellion against God but the righteous will inhabit the new earth and populate it. ‘When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth – Gog and Magog – to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them.’ (Revelation 20:7-10)
7. THE DEAD FROM HADES WHOSE NAMES ARE FOUND IN THE BOOK OF LIFE AT THE FINAL JUDGEMENT AFTER MILLENNIUM : “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” (John 5:28-29) ‘Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it … And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them … If anyone’s name was not found in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.’ ( Revelation 20:11-15)
* At the final judgement of the dead, it was not the names of the living, who reigned with him for a thousand years, that were looked for in the book of life but of the dead who came up from Hades. Why look for their names in the book of life if that was not probable ? ‘All who sin apart from the law will perish apart from the law and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law … For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law … they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness …) This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.’ (Romans 2:12-16) It would be the justice of God to those who never heard the gospel but lived by their conscience. They will be judged by their deeds and if they have done good, will rise to live. As for those who believed the gospel and confessed his name but were not born again, they didn’t go to heaven but to Hades when they died, contrary to popular belief. “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again … no one will enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” (John 3:3,5). Nevertheless, the Bible say ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (Joel 2:32) ‘If you confess with your mouth,”Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’ (Romans 10:9-10) ‘lf any man builds on this foundation … his work will be shown for what it is … fire will test the quality of each man’s work … If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.‘ ( 1 Corinthians 3:12-15) It just takes believing and confessing the name of Lord to escape the raging fire of hell but it takes more than just calling on the name of the Lord to enter heaven. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven but only he who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7: 21) Amen.