2.1 Church Age Believers Who Die Before the Rapture
2.2 Christ Takes Church Age Believers To Heaven (The Rapture)
2.3 The Rapture Occurs Before Daniel’s Seventieth Week
2.4 The Bema Seat Judgment At The Rapture
2.5 The Marriage of Church Age Believers to the Lamb
Church age believers who have already died, have bodies that are in the grave, but their souls are at home with the Lord in heaven.
“For the trumpet will sound (at the Rapture per 1 Thessalonians 4:16), the dead (bodies of believers who have died) will be raised imperishable.”
1 Corinthians 15:52
“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in (our body) is destroyed (in death), we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built be human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. …. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.”
2 Corinthians 5:1-4,8-9
“We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those (souls of deceased believers who are in heaven) who have fallen asleep (died) in him. …. The dead in Christ (the bodies of dead believers) will rise first. 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. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”
1 Thessalonians 4:14,16-17
Note that the Rapture in only for church age believers. Old Testament saints are later resurrected on earth after the Second Coming of Christ as discussed in 4.11.
The Rapture involves two groups of church age believers; those believers who have already died and those believers who are still alive at the time of the Rapture.
The souls of church age believers who have already died, are, at their deaths, with the Lord in heaven. See 2 Corinthians 5:8 and 2.1 above. Then, at the Rapture, the Lord comes down from heaven with them (see 1 Thessalonians 4:14) into the clouds, where their bodies will be raised from the grave, and reunited as resurrected bodies with their souls and with the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
Immediately thereafter, church age believers who are still living at the Rapture will be caught up with changed (resurrected) bodies to also meet the Lord in the clouds of the air. Both groups will then be with the Lord forever (1 Thessalonians 4:17). The Rapture apparently occurs immediately before the Tribulation (Daniel’s Seventieth Week), thus saving church age believers from the wrath to come during that seven year period. See 2.3 below and Section 3.
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
“We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (died). …. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then when he comes, those who belong to him.”
1 Corinthians 15:20,23
“We will not all sleep (die), but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead (believers bodies) will be raised imperishable, and we (living believers) will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.”
1 Corinthians 15:51-53
“We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.”
2 Corinthians 4:14
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who …. will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”
“When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
“To wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath (i.e. the Tribulation).
1 Thessalonians 1:10
For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes?”
1 Thessalonians 2:19
“So that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones (church age believers).”
1 Thessalonians 3:13
“We believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep (died) in him. 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 (church age believers) who have fallen asleep (died). For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ (bodies of Church age believers who have already died) will rise first. After that, we who are still alive (Church age believers who are still living) and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”
1 Thessalonians 4:14-17
“The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”
1 Thessalonians 5:2. Note that the Day of the Lord is a period of time that begins with Daniel’s Seventieth Week, and that it apparently immediately follows the Rapture. See 3.8.
“For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath (i.e., in the Tribulation) but to receive salvation (at the Rapture) through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake (living) or asleep (have died), we may live together with him.”
1 Thessalonians 5:9-10
“May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Thessalonians 5:23
“Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him….“
2 Thessalonians 2:1
“For it (the Day of the Lord) will not come unless the apostasy (or probably instead the Rapture) comes first, and the Man of Lawlessness is revealed.” 2 Thessalonians 2:3 NASB. Note that the Greek word translated apostasy (or rebellion in the NIV) means departure, and by context with 2 Thessalonians 2:1 probably refers to the Rapture (“our being gathered to him”) which is a departure from the earth rather than a departure from the faith. Note also that the Latin Vulgate and all seven English Bible translations prior to the 1611 King James Version translated the Greek word as “departure”.
See 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 which also indicates that the Rapture comes first (v 7) and then the Lawless One will be revealed (v 8).
“For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back (the Holy Spirit indwelling believers) will continue to do so till he (the Holy Spirit) is taken out of the way (at the Rapture when believers are removed from the earth).”
2 Thessalonians 2:7
Note that both 1st and 2nd Thessalonians speak repeatedly (12 times) about the Rapture (see 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; 1 Thessalonians 5:2,9,23; 2 Thessalonians 2:1; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:7; 2 Thessalonians 2:13 and 2 Thessalonians 2:14). This gives further indication that 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is also speaking about the Rapture, not the apostasy.
“Keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Timothy 6:14
“We wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
“He (Christ) will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation (at the Rapture) to those who are waiting for him.”
“Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. …. The Lord’s coming is near.”
“When Jesus Christ is revealed. …. The grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
1 Peter 1:7,13
“Continue in him, so that when he (Christ) appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.”
1 John 2:28
“When he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
1 John 3:2
“Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.”
“Only hold on to what you (Church age believers at Thyatira) have until I (Jesus Christ) come.”
“I will also keep you (Church age believers at Philadelphia) from the hour of trial (i.e., the Tribulation) that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.”
Note that there are two groups of believers who have died physically before the Rapture. These are Old Testament believers (such as Abraham) and Church Age believers (such as Martin Luther). Both groups of believers have their bodies in the “grave” and their souls in heaven with Jesus. For example, see Luke 23:43. Then at the Rapture all Church Age believers receive resurrected bodies and dwell with Jesus in heaven, as discussed above. During the subsequent seven year Tribulation the occupants of heaven include both the souls of Old Testament believers and resurrected Church Age believers. Both groups accompany Christ at his Second Coming to earth as discussed in 4.7. The Old Testament believers then receive resurrection bodies as discussed in 4.11.
This is commonly referred to as the Pre-Tribulation Rapture of all church age believers, who are taken by Jesus Christ to heaven. That is, church age believers will be taken to heaven before the time of God’s wrath (called Daniel’s Seventieth Week or the Tribulation) comes upon the earth. The Tribulation (see Section 3) is a time of trouble and a time of God’s wrath.
“Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath (i.e. the Tribulation) through him! “
“To wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath (i.e. the Tribulation).”
1 Thessalonians 1:10
“For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath (in the Tribulation) but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Thessalonians 5:9
“That day (the Day of the Lord per 2 Thessalonians 2:2) will not come until the rebellion (or probably instead the Rapture) occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple proclaiming himself to be God (in the Tribulation per Daniel 9:27).” 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4. Note that the Greek word translated ‘rebellion’ in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 can mean either departure or rapture (departure from the earth), and was translated ‘departure’ in the seven earliest English New Testament translations. And Rapture is consistent with the subject given two verses earlier in verse 1: “Our being gathered to him (Christ).” Also, see 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 which indicates that the Rapture comes first (verse 7) and then the lawless one will be revealed (verse 8).
“For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he (the Holy Spirit indwelling believers) is taken out of the way (at the Rapture).”
2 Thessalonians 2:7
“I will also keep you (Church age believers) from the hour of trial (i.e. the Tribulation) that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.”
“Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath (i.e. the Tribulation) has come, and who can stand?”
This is the Bema seat judgment of believer’s works at the time of (immediately following) the Rapture. The believer’s sins are not judged because they have already been forgiven, atoned for, taken away and remembered no more (Isaiah 6:7; Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 53:5-6,10-11; Jeremiah 31:34; Matthew 9:2; Romans 3:24-26; Hebrews 8:12; Hebrews 10:17; 1 John 1:7 & 1 John 2:2). But every work of church age believers must come into judgment. This occurs in heaven at the Bema Judgment Seat of Christ, immediately following the Rapture. The result is crown(s) and reward, or loss of reward.
The Greek word Bema means a judgment seat where rewards are given. L. Sale-Harrison wrote: “In Grecian games in Athens, the old arena contained a raised platform on which the president or umpire of the arena sat. From here he rewarded all the contestants; and here he rewarded all winners. It was called the ‘bema’ or ‘reward seat.’”
“Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son.”
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
“For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat (Bema).”
“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man (a believer) builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”
1 Corinthians 3:11-15
“Wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.”
1 Corinthians 4:5
“We do it to get a crown that will last forever.”
1 Corinthians 9:25
“For we (Church age believers) must all appear before the judgment seat (Bema) of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
2 Corinthians 5:10
“Because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does.”
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.”
“For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes?”
1 Thessalonians 2:19
“Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
2 Timothy 4:8
“Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”
“When he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life.”
“And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”
1 Peter 5:4
“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.”
“In my Father’s house are many rooms; …. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
“I promised you (believers in Corinth) to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.”
2 Corinthians 11:2
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. …. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church – for we are members of his body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.”
“After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting …. ‘Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given to her to wear.’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Then the angel said to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”’”
These verses indicate that the Lamb is Jesus Christ (Revelation 19:7,9), and that the bride of the Lamb is the Church (Revelation 19:7-8) . That is, Revelation 19:7-9 is referring to the marriage of Jesus Christ to the Church and to the subsequent marriage supper.
Marriage in Bible times had three phases:
First is the betrothal or engagement covenant (see Matthew 1:18-19). This can be likened to the betrothal of Christ to Church Age Believers (2 Corinthians 11:2) when they are individually born again by faith in Christ.
Second is the marriage when the groom takes his bride from her house to his father’s house (Genesis 24:58,64-67; Ruth 4:11; Psalm 45:10,14-15; Matthew 25:1-10; John 3:29 and John 14:2-3). This can be likened to the Rapture when Jesus Christ takes Church Age Believers from earth to His Father’s house in heaven.
Third is the marriage supper, or seven day marriage feast (Genesis 29:21-23,27; Judges 14:10-12 and Matthew 22:2) usually given by the father of the groom. This can be likened to the marriage supper of the Lamb in heaven (Revelation 19:9) to which guests have been invited. This may be a seven day marriage supper that starts shortly after the marriage (the Rapture), and probably after the Bema Seat Judgment (see 2.4 above). The guests at the marriage supper in heaven may be the souls of all Old Testament saints already assembled in heaven.
The marriage starts after the legally binding betrothal when individual church age believers are saved, continues when Christ, the promised bridegroom, comes in the clouds of the air at the Rapture to claim his betrothed bride and takes her to heaven, and concludes with the marriage supper in heaven. The actual marriage of the Lamb to the Church takes place in heaven as seems to be indicated in Revelation 19:1,5-9.