When I first began studying end time events I could not distinguish between the rapture and the Second Advent. I had heard discussions and read points of view proving one or the other, that is, the pre-tribulation and the post- tribulation positions, but I never really considered the possibility that it might be both. In other words, part of the Church, or those who were ready would be taken, but those saints who were unprepared would go through the tribulation before being harvested in the Second Advent, along with many others who would either be saved and/or martyred during the great tribulation. Then I discovered some treasured teachings from old time Pentecostal men that revealed aspects of truths contained in both interpretations. It took me years of sorting it all out, and I’m still learning, but here’s one clue that greatly helped me.
Read Mat 24:36-51. As often is in Scripture, there is a two-fold application here. At the rapture the first-fruit saints will go and the tribulation saints will be left behind. At the Second Advent, when the Lord comes for the elect at the end of the tribulation period (Mat 24:29-31), the tribulation saints will be taken, but the impenitent will be left for judgment. This parable Jesus told applies equally well in both cases.
Here is another clue we referred to in an earlier blog that establishes a precedent.
“Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised…” (Mat 27:51-52)
When Jesus was resurrected, notice that there was also a first-fruits resurrection of many Old Testament saints. Not all were resurrected, but many were. Is it possible that this could establish a pattern for a first-fruits resurrection of New Testament saints? It is definitely something to seriously consider.
The apostle Paul himself when writing about the resurrection stated that every man would be resurrected in his own order (1 Cor 15:22-23).
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the first-fruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.”
Christ is listed as the first-fruits, but if every man is resurrected in his own order, He could not possibly be all the first-fruits. If the translators had just placed a comma after Christ this short text would read very differently. Bible scholars know that punctuation marks are not inspired, but the translators placed them where they thought best.
It is rather clear from the Scriptures that there are different orders and degrees of glory among the redeemed. There are varying ranks and positions among the saints in the resurrection and throughout eternity (Mat 19:28; 20:20-21). Those who are wise and turn many to righteousness will shine brightly like the firmament and stars above (Dan 12:3). Not every saint will be granted the same rewards, honors and privileges.
For example, in Rev 14:1-5 we see one of the highest orders of saints in eternity who receive the honor of following the Lamb wherever He goes. They are called the first-fruits unto God and sing a new song that no one else could sing. They were not defiled with women and are called virgins, denoting the purity of this special group.
As far back as the antediluvian days we see a type and shadow of a pre-tribulation saint in the person of Enoch who is taken or raptured by God before the flood. Then Noah, representing a tribulation saint, gathers his household and the animals into the Ark before the judgment of the Lord is unleashed through the great flood, which is a type and shadow of the wrath of God being poured out during the great and terrible Day of the Lord.
Noah and his household were raised up in the Ark (a type of the coming of Christ) above this terrible judgment. This is a type of tribulation harvest seen in Christ’s teaching in Mat 24:29-31. There is no hope for the impenitent left behind (Mat 24:48-51).
Centuries later still in the Old Covenant we see Elijah as another type and shadow of a pre-tribulation saint who is taken up by the Lord. Elisha, a type of tribulation saint is left behind, but he has resurrection power in his bones (2 Kings 13:21). We know from the book of Revelation that many saints will be martyred in the great tribulation and reign of the Antichrist, but will be resurrected and gathered in the harvest of the earth (Rev 14:14-16).
We’ve already spoken of the Manchild rapture from Rev 12 and the remnant of the woman’s seed that were left behind. We’ve also mentioned how the saints in Rev 14:1-5 were in heaven before the throne of God singing a new song while the tribulation saints were being martyred in that same chapter. But then we see the tribulation saints in Rev 15:1-4 singing the song of Moses, symbolic of their victory over the beast.
Finally, in Rev 20:4-6, if we will read these verses carefully we will again see two separate groups among the saints. One group sits on thrones as kings with judgment committed unto them (v3), while another, martyrs of the great tribulation period, also reigned with Christ, but it appears they were only priests and not kings (v6).
There is a distinction among the saints, my friends. May we be found as a part of the first-fruits with an overflow of oil and our lamps burning when our Bridegroom comes.
“Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” (Rev 19:9)