Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory (1 Corinthians 15:51-54).
When Paul preached on Mars’ Hill at Athens the philosophers listened until he spoke of the resurrection and we read:
when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked (Acts17:32).
The rapture of the Church is a resurrection to life of all those who are “in Christ.” At death, the soul of the Christian is transported by the angels into the immediate presence of Christ; absent from the body and present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Physical death occurs when the spirit and soul leave the body, but for the believer, the body will be raised to be with Christ. Jesus said:
The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:28-29).
There is a resurrection to life and a resurrection to damnation. The saved are raised in the resurrection to life and the unsaved are raised in the resurrection to damnation.
The vast majority in Christendom believe in a General Resurrection when all the dead, saved and lost, will be raised at the same time to stand before God to be judged for their works. This view distorts the Gospel of Christ and maintains a works-based Gospel so that heaven or hell are rewards for deeds recorded in the book of works.
The Gospel of Christ teaches us that salvation is “not of works lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:9). By the grace of God, men are saved when they turn from sin and place their faith in Christ.
The teaching of a General Resurrection not only confuses the Gospel message but also what the Bible teaches about resurrection. If there is only one General Resurrection at the Great White throne, and all the saved are judged with the unsaved, then how do they explain the resurrection of the Old Testament saints which took place when Christ rose?
The scripture could not be clearer that
the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many (Matthew 27:52-53).
Furthermore, the resurrection of Old Testament saints was not partial, for Jesus went to Paradise when He died and Paradise was transferred to heaven when Jesus led the resurrected saints into heaven at His ascension (Ephesians 4:8-9; 2 Corinthians 12:4). Nobody could rise from the dead before Christ rose.
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept (died) (1 Corinthians 15:20).
So if all the Old Testament saints have already been raised from the dead, when will the Church-age saints be raised? Obviously it is at the Rapture when both dead and living saints arise together to meet the Lord in the air.
Living Old Testament saints were not changed when Christ rose. They became New Testament saints. After the Church age is finished, God will deal with Israel so there is a difference between Church-age saints and Tribulation saints.
In this Church age the saved are the Body of Christ and the Bride of Christ which is “neither Jew nor Greek.” In the Tribulation, the saved are Jews and Gentiles. They will be saved under the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood and they will be born again of the Spirit and indwelt by the Holy Spirit as promised in Ezekiel 36:27, but they will not be baptized by the Spirit into the Body of Christ. The chief witness in the Tribulation will be 144,000 Jewish men from the 12 tribes of Israel.
The Church age ends when “the fulness of the Gentiles” comes into the Church and the Father determines that the number is complete. For this reason the Church cannot remain on earth during Israel’s 70th “week” and the living saints must be removed beforehand. Hence, there will be the resurrection of dead and living saints from the Church age before Israel’s last seven years begins and 144,000 Jews will turn to Christ immediately after the Rapture.
This fact is a great encouragement to those working among Jewish people for though it is hard to win Jews to Christ in this Church age, if we teach them about the Rapture and how they can be justified by grace through faith in Christ, then there will be a great harvest immediately after we have departed.
We know that Jews will be saved immediately after the Rapture because two Jewish witnesses preach at Jerusalem for 1,260 days and they are slain at the mid-point of the Tribulation, therefore they must be saved immediately after the departure of the church.
The resurrection of the Tribulation martyrs will occur at the end of the Tribulation. These will include the 144,000 Jewish martyrs. John said:
I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years (Revelation 20:4).
Finally, at the end of the 1,000-year reign of Christ the earth will be burned (2 Peter 3:10-13) and there will be the final stage of the resurrection of life. The millennial saints who have died will be raised and the living saints will be changed just as we will be at the Rapture.
The rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the (completion of) first resurrection” (Revelation 20:5).
The resurrection of the Just (Luke 14:14) or the resurrection of Life (John 5:29) may be understood as a harvest. The firstfruits of the harvest rose with Christ but the main harvest will be from the 2,000 years of the Church age. The gleanings of the harvest will be at the end of the Tribulation and at the end of the millennium.