For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.John 5:22-30
We are looking at how the judgment of God works. If you have not read previous parts of this study, we have linked to each one at the bottom of this article and invite you to read them.
We are currently looking at three primary views about the thousand-year reign of Christ – known as the Millennium. The first view we studied is known as Amillennialism. The second was Post-Millennialism. We move now to the third view.
Pre-Millennialists believe that Christ will return to earth before setting up His earthly Millennial Kingdom. It is a literal view of eschatology (study of last things – the final events of world history). Where Christians who hold this view differ is basically on the timing of the rapture.
Most Pre-Millennialists believe that Jesus will raise Christians (both alive and deceased) to meet Him “in the air” before setting up His earthly Kingdom. Some Pre-Millennialists believe that will happen before the Tribulation Period (Pre-Trib). Some believe it will happen mid-way into the Tribulation Period (Mid-Trib). Some believe it will happen after the Tribulation Period (Post-Trib) as Christ comes from Heaven to establish His earthly Kingdom. We’ll look closely at each of those views during our series.
First, let’s look at a central belief of Pre-Millennialists – the rapture. The idea of the rapture (Latin – rapturo) comes from the Apostle Paul’s letters to the Corinthians and the Thessalonians. Some church members were confused about how Christ’s return and the resurrection would affect their loved ones who had already died. Paul wrote to instruct and comfort them –
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will 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. Therefore comfort one another with these words.1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Behold, I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will 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 has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.1 Corinthians 15:51-58
The words “caught up” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 are the English translation of the Greek word ἁρπάζω (harpazó). It means “ to seize, catch up, snatch away” and is the idea of a sudden and decisive snatching up. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:52 that the catching/snatching up would be “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” The words “in a moment” come from the Greek ἐν ἀτόμῳ (en atomō) and mean “unable to cut or divide, in an instant, in an indivisible part of time.” We get the English word atom from the Greek and it was used for something too small to cut or divide. That gives us an idea of the size of something. The size of the moment would be so small it could not be divided.
Paul went on to say that the snatching away would be “in the twinkling of an eye.” The Greek is ἐν ῥιπῇ ὀφθαλμοῦ (en rhipē ophthalmou) and means “any rapid movement, especially of lights or eyes.” That gives us an idea of the length of time of something.
The twinkle in someone’s eyes comes from a light source, which is traveling at 186,282 miles per second. If you are standing close enough to see the twinkle in someone’s eyes, you can imagine how fast that would be. The twinkle in someone’s eye is believed to be faster than the blink of an eye, which has been measured between 100 and 400 milliseconds (Harvard Database of Useful Biological Numbers). That’s in the range of about a third of a second.
I did an experiment many years ago with a video camera and editing equipment. Video at the time I was doing the experiment (more than 25 years ago) was based on 30 frames per second. Looking at the frame measurement of an eye blinking and the twinkle of an eye was so fast that it was almost not noticeable. However, it was seen. The human eye can detect both a blink and even the faster twinkle. The twinkle is similar to what video editors call a flash frame. That means one or two of the 30 frames per second was either black or had a piece of video that did not match the other 28 or 29 frames for that second. An experienced editor can identify that a flash frame occurred, but often has to play the video back very slowly to identify the flash frame and fix it.
Paul’s saying that being caught up “in the twinkling of an eye” means people who were not caught up would notice something had happened, but they wouldn’t necessarily know what had happened unless they had video to play back and slow down to view. The idea of being “caught up, snatched up, seized up, snatched away” would mean that a living person would disappear from view at an astounding speed. The Latin word rapturo (rapture) was used to describe that being caught up at a speed of the twinkling of an eye.
Change at the Speed of Light
Pre-Millennialists believe that what happens at the rapture is change.
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed …
Paul made clear that the change would be physical and not just spiritual –
But someone will say, ‘How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?’ Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body … The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-49
It’s important to remember that our resurrected body will be like the Resurrected Body of Jesus Christ. We will “bear the image of the heavenly Man.” Here are some examples of that image (likeness) we will bear (wear constantly as a habit) from Jesus’ interaction with His disciples after His Resurrection –
Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. But they constrained Him, saying, ‘Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.’ And He went in to stay with them. Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. And they said to one another, ‘Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?’ So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, ‘The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!’ And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread. Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’ But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have. When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, ‘Have you any food here?’ So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence.Luke 24:28-43
Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.John 20:19-23
Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.John 20:27
After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself … Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish which you have just caught … Jesus said to them, ‘Come and eat breakfast.’ Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, ‘Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish. This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead. So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these? … And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.John 21:1, 9-10, 12-15, 25
Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.Acts 1:9-11
Jesus’ Resurrected Body was both physical and spiritual.
- Jesus’ disciples could touch Him and they could eat with Him.
- Jesus’ Resurrected Body had “flesh and bones.”
- Jesus had a physical body.
- Jesus ate fish and bread with His disciples.
- Jesus’ disciples recognized His physical features as the Man they had followed for years.
- Jesus’ disciples saw the scars from His death on the Cross which was also powerful evidence that He was their Lord and Savior who died for their sins and rose for their victory over death.
- Jesus could vanish from their sight and appear in the middle of a room without going through a door or window.
- Jesus was taken up (ἐπήρθη – epērthē .. lifted up) from earth into the air, which is somewhat similar to the snatching up of Christians described in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4 – except at a much slower speed. That was probably so the disciples could watch the event unfold before their eyes.
God will change our bodies to be like Christ’s Resurrected Body. That change will be from mortal to immortal, from corruptible to incorruptible, and will give us the ability to travel from earth to be with Christ in the air and be with Him forever. Based on what Jesus did after His Resurrection and what we read in the Book of Revelation, it seems that resurrected Christians will also have bodies with “flesh and bones” and will be able to eat food (e.g. Revelation 2:7, 17; 19:9).
It is amazing to me that God will change our bodies and those of deceased Christians to be all of that in a micro-second of time. It would be amazing if God did that for just one person, but billions of Christians will undergo that change from corruptibility to incorruptibility.
This super-rapid change will be the resurrection of Christians who have died and the instantaneous physical change of Christians who are alive at the moment of the rapture. Even though the change will be in a moment (atomō), in the twinkling of an eye (rhipē ophthalmou), the dead in Christ will rise first.
For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will 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.
This is a true victory for Christians. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15 –
For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will 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 has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’
The words incorruptible and incorruption come from the Greek word φθορὰ (phthora) which means “corruption, decay, deterioration, decomposition.” What will happen at the rapture will be that φθορὰ (that which is corrupt) will put on ἀφθαρσίαν (that which is incorruptible) which means “incorruptibility, indestructibility.” The words “put on” are the translation of the Greek word ἐνδύσασθαι (endusasthai) which means “to clothe or be clothed with, sinking into a garment.” We will be immortal and indestructible.
We can look at a verse earlier in 1 Corinthians 15 to see why –
And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.1 Corinthians 15:49
The Greek words translated “borne” and “bear” come from φορέω (phoreó) which means “to wear or bear constantly as a habit.” The basic difference between the two words is grammatical. The word for “we have borne” (ἐφορέσαμεν) is aorist indicative active. The word for “we shall also bear” (φορέσομεν) is future indicative active. Whereas we have borne the image of the man of dust (past and present), we will bear the image of the heavenly Man (future).
The word image is εἰκόνα (eikona) and means “likeness, mirror-like representation.” It reflects its source. Our source for corruption was the man of dust (Adam). We were “like” him in this life. Our source for incorruption is the heavenly Man (Christ). We will be “like” Him.
The Apostle John explained our future “likeness” this way –
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.1 John 3:2
When Jesus is revealed (φανερωθῇ – phanerōthē .. make visible, make clear make known), we shall be like (ὅμοιοι – homoioi .. resemble, similar to, same as, of equal rank) Him, for we shall see (ὀψόμεθα – opsometha .. perceive, attend to, look upon, experience) Him as He is.
Pre-Millennialists view these verses as meaning that Jesus Christ will miraculously raise members of His Body (both alive and deceased) from earth to meet Him in the air and be with Him forever. Christians will become like Christ as fast as the speed of light. Only God can do something like that – changing and transporting billions of human beings from earth to meet Jesus Christ in the air and be with Him forever. Hallelujah!
If you have not read the parts of this study published so far, we invite you to do that now for the Scriptural background to Christ as Judge.
- Part One
- Part Two
- Part Three
- Part Four
- Part Five
- Part Six
- Part Seven
- Part Eight
- Part Nine
- Part Ten
- Part Eleven
- Part Twelve
We will look at the first of three views of Pre-Millennialism in the next part of our special series “God’s Judgment: How It Works.”
We’d also like to invite you to read the Introduction and first part of our new companion series, God’s Justice: How It Works.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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