Judgment Seat of Christ
Arlen L. Chitwood
We Must All Appear
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
(2 Corinthians 5:10)
Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands,
and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.
His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;
His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters;
He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. . . .
The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches. (Revelation 1:12-16, 20)
Events of the judgment seat of Christ will occur at the end of the present dispensation, following the removal of the Church but preceding the beginning of the Tribulation. This is the revealed order of events as they are set forth in the first six chapters of the book of Revelation.
This, as well, is in complete keeping with the manner in which God deals with both Israel and the Church during Man’s Day — with one, then the other, though not both at the same time.
Christ is not judging today. Rather, He is ministering as “High Priest” in the heavenly sanctuary on behalf of Christians. And He will not act in the capacity of “Judge” until He completes His present high priestly ministry, which will last throughout the present dispensation.
Thus, Christians will not be judged until the present dispensation has run its course and Christ returns for His Church. Once these things occur, the judgment of Christians will ensue; and this judgment must be completed prior to the time God turns back to and continues His dealings with Israel, completing the full number of years (490 years) determined upon the Jewish people and their city (Jerusalem) in Daniel’s Seventy-Week prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27).
Christ as Judge
In Revelation 1:13, Christ is seen dressed in the type of garments worn by both a priest and a judge; but the position of the girdle about the chest rather than around the waist indicates that Christ, in this passage, is exercising a judicial rather than a priestly role.
A priest would be girded about the waist, signifying service; but the girdle placed about the shoulders or chest indicates a magisterial function (cf. John 13:2-5; Revelation 15:6).
Aside from the preceding, the entire scene is judicial, not priestly. Brass, fire, and a sword are mentioned in connection with Christ’s appearance, which speak of judicial activity. And Christ’s countenance is described by the expression, “the sun shining in its strength,” which has to do with His glory, to be manifested during that coming day of His power (Psalm 2:1-9; Revelation 2:26, 27).
Then, more information is given, which will help to ascertain exactly what is being depicted by the scene at hand. The apostle John was transported into “the Lord’s day [the Day of the Lord]” (v. 10), and the vision of Christ that he saw depicts Christ as He will appear following the completion of His high priestly work, anticipating His long-awaited regal work.
The entire scene in Revelation 1:13-18 is prophetic, depicting Christ as Judge in the midst of the seven churches at the conclusion of the present dispensation, anticipating that coming day when He will exercise governmental power and authority over the earth.
The chronological arrangement of events opening the book of Revelation sets forth the fact that God will deal with the Church in judgment before He deals with Israel and the nations after this fashion (cf. 1 Peter 4:17-19). The Church will be removed from the earth and placed in the heavens; and the Church will be dealt with during a period of time before the Tribulation begins on earth.
A review of the first five chapters of the book of Revelation reveals that there will have to be an interval of time between the removal of the Church and the beginning of the Tribulation. That is, the present dispensation will run its course, the Church will be removed, and certain events will then transpire in heaven (while the Church is in heaven) before the Tribulation begins on earth (which, when it begins, will fulfill seven uncompleted years of the previous dispensation).
These events — occurring while the Church is in heaven, preceding the beginning of the Tribulation on earth — concern the Church coming under judgment (as revealed in chapters one through three); and these events also concern the relinquishment of crowns that Christians will wear during the Messianic Era (chapter 4), along with preparations to redeem the domain over which Christians will rule at this time (chapter 5), as well as bringing about the marriage of God’s Son to His bride (a bride previously revealed at the judgment seat in chapters 1-3 [ref. Ruth 3, 4]).
(The event marking the beginning of the Tribulation on earth is not the removal of the Church, as is often taught, but the ratifying of a seven-year covenant between the man of sin and Israel. The Tribulation, following the ratifying of this covenant, will last exactly seven years, completing the full four hundred ninety years of Daniel’s prophecy concerning Seventy Sevens “determined” upon the Jewish people and their “holy city” [cf. Daniel 9:24-27].
Also, for information pertaining to the marriage of God’s Son to His bride, refer to the author’s book, The Time of the End, Chapter 30, “The Marriage Supper of the Lamb.”)
Material in the book of Revelation has been arranged in a three-fold manner, and this arrangement is given at the beginning of the book, in the first chapter:
Write the things that you have seen, and the things that are, and the things that will take place after this. (v. 19)
The “things that you have seen” refer to the things concerning Christ in the verses immediately preceding verse nineteen, in chapter one (cf. v. 12).
The “things that are” refer to things concerning the seven churches in chapters two and three, which depict the Church in a two-fold respect:
1) The Church during the present dispensation, showing a history of the Church throughout the dispensation.
2) More specifically these chapters reveal the Church at the end of the dispensation (in the Lord’s Day [1:10]), showing the Church coming under Judgment (continuing from chapter one [note that John was relating “the things that are” from the perspective of a future time, in the Lord’s Day, not from the perspective of his own time and day — about. 90 A.D., during Man’s Day — though it is evident that these two chapters drop back and have to do with the Church throughout the whole of the dispensation as well]).
And the “things that will take place after this” refer to things not only beyond the present dispensation but beyond that time when the Church is judged (chapters 1-3). And this section of the book, though having its own divisions, continues from the beginning of chapter four throughout the remainder of the book.
The word translated “after this” in 1:19 and the words translated “after these” and “after this” in 4:1 are from the same two words in the Greek text (meta tauta). In all three instances the translation should be, “after these things.” The thought, as shown at the beginning of chapter four, is after the things revealed in chapters two and three.
In one respect (time-wise), this would be a reference to events following the present dispensation (one way in which chapters 2 & 3 are to be viewed); but, more specifically, the reference would be to events following findings and determinations emanating out of activity at the judgment seat (the primary thrust of chapters 2 & 3).
The seven churches in the presence of Christ in Revelation chapter one depict the Church as a whole coming under judgment at the conclusion of the present dispensation; and the fact that this judgment will occur in heaven and has to do with issues surrounding the judgment seat of Christ becomes evident as one studies the opening chapters of this book.
“Seven” in Scripture is God’s number. It is a number showing completion. It is used more specifically to show the completion of that which is in view, and in this case, the Church is in view, with “seven churches” showing the complete Church (all Christians, faithful and unfaithful alike).
The seven churches named in the opening chapters of the book of Revelation, though referring to seven existing churches in the Gentile world during the first century (in Asia [1:4]), depict completion in relation to the Church. These seven churches represent Christianity as a whole — both on earth during the present dispensation (chapters 2 & 3) and in heaven at the conclusion of the dispensation (chapters 1-4, as a whole).
Chapter one introduces the matter at hand, (judgment awaiting all Christians); chapters two through four then form a commentary on chapter one; and chapter five leads into that section of the book covering the Tribulation, which begins in chapter six.
(Note: When studying the book of Revelation, look for the book’s own built-in interpretation, as in chapters one through four. A unit of truth will be given; then, following Scriptures provide commentary upon this unit of truth, allowing the Holy Spirit Himself to interpret that which He gave through John (e.g., cf. 12:1-6 and 12:7-17; cf. 12:1-17 and chapters 13 & 14; cf. 12:3; 13:1-18; 17:1-7 and 17:8-18.)
The trumpet beckoning to John in Revelation 4:1 can only be synonymous with the trumpet in Revelation 1:10. In this respect — because of the revealed events that follow in each instance — the trumpet in these two sections is evidently the trumpet that will be heard when the Church is removed from the earth at the end of this dispensation, subsequently appearing in the presence of Christ to be judged, as revealed in chapters one through three (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-5:9). Then, a sequence of events, revealed throughout the remainder of the book, begins to unfold.
John, transported into the Lord’s Day, at a future time, in chapter one, was instructed to record that which he saw and send the record to seven existing churches in Asia. These churches, along with a brief description of each, are seen on earth in chapters two and three; but the scene back in chapter one, as well, has them in the presence of Christ in heaven, at the end of the dispensation, about to come under judgment.
An overcomer’s promise is listed for each church in chapters two and three, and in chapter one the churches are seen as they are about to be judged relative to these overcomer’s promises. Chapters two and three not only furnish the background material to show why and on what basis the judgment set forth in chapter one will occur, but these chapters actually have to do with that judgment.
Note the structure of each of the seven epistles to the seven churches. All seven are structured exactly the same way:
1) I know your works.
2) Judgment is then seen to be on the basis of these works.
3) And this judgment is with a view to showing whether the Christian has overcome or has been overcome (there is an overcomer’s promise concluding each epistle, and these overcomer’s promises are millennial in their scope of fulfillment).
Christians will be judged on the basis of works, with a view to showing whether they have overcome or have been overcome; and this will be with a view to their realizing or being denied regal promises and blessing in the Messianic Era that follows.
As previously seen, John’s experience of being transported into the Lord’s Day in chapter one is synonymous with his being removed from the earth at the beginning of chapter four. Thus, events about to be revealed in chapter four begin at exactly the same place events in the previous three chapters began — with the removal of the Church to be judged. But this judgment is not repeated in chapter four. Rather, events surrounding the judgment seat shift to related events that will immediately follow this judgment.
The scene in heaven throughout chapter four provides additional details concerning the seven churches in the presence of Christ in chapter one. All Christians, comprising the complete Church in the presence of Christ in that future day, will not only see that which John saw in chapter one, experience that which is depicted in chapters two and three, but also see that which John saw in chapter four (along with, it would appear, the things that John saw in the remaining chapters of the book as well).
(For additional details pertaining to the first four chapters of the book of Revelation, refer to the author’s books, The Time of the End, Chapters 1-6.)
By way of summation, to grasp exactly what is being taught in these opening chapters of the book of Revelation, keep two things in mind:
This is completely in line with any Scriptural teaching on the subject. The widespread teaching that either all or part of the Church will remain on earth during the Tribulation has no basis whatsoever in Scripture. The Scriptures teach, unequivocally, that the complete Church — all of the saved from the entire 2,000-year dispensation — will be removed before the Tribulation begins; and that the complete Church will, at this time, appear before the judgment seat of Christ in heaven — a judgment that, as previously seen, will be completed before the Tribulation even begins on earth.
Removal of the Church to be Judged
Aside from the opening chapters of the book of Revelation, scriptural warrant for both the removal of the Church before the Tribulation and the fact that all Christians — faithful and unfaithful alike — will be removed at this time is not difficult at all to find. Teachings of this nature can be found beginning with the Old Testament types. And the Old Testament types must not only agree with one another but they must also agree with the New Testament antitype. All must parallel one another and be in perfect agreement.
(For additional material on the rapture, refer to the author’s book, The Time of the End, Chapters 4, 5, “In the Lord’s Day,” Parts 1, 2.)
1) The Old Testament Types
The three main Old Testament types dealing with the removal of Christians from the earth at the end of the dispensation, commonly referred to as the rapture, can be found in the opening book of Scripture, the book of Genesis. The first is seen in the experiences of Enoch, the second in the experiences of Lot and his family, and the third in the experiences of Rebekah. And each of these three types present different facets of the same picture, together forming an Old Testament composite word-picture of the rapture.
Enoch, the seventh from Adam, is seen being removed from the earth between two points in time — following a blood sacrifice, prior to the Flood — at the end of the seventh generation, at the end of a complete period of time (“seven,” a number showing completeness). This points to those whom Enoch typifies (Christians) being removed from the earth at a time following that which Abel’s death typifies (Christ’s death) but preceding that which the Flood typifies (the coming Tribulation), which occurs during Noah’s day, the tenth from Adam (events in connection with a subsequent complete period of time [“ten” is a number showing completion as well]).
Thus, both the participants and the timing of the rapture are introduced in the foundational type. The rapture, according to this type can only have to do with those of the present dispensation (with Christians). It cannot pertain to any other than the ones who have appropriated the blood of the One dying in the antitype of Abel’s death. And it has to occur preceding that time typified by the Flood during Noah’s day.
(Some individuals move beyond that which is revealed in Genesis 4-8 or Hebrews 11:4-7 and attempt to teach a selective removal of Christians by and using this overall, foundational type. A teaching of this nature is derived by viewing Enoch’s removal from the earth as being conditioned upon his faithfulness. Using the type after this fashion forms a beginning point that individuals often use to teach that only faithful Christians will be removed at the time of the rapture (the faithful among the dead in Christ raised and removed with the faithful who are alive at that time).
This though is an improper way to view that part of the type under discussion — the dispensational aspect of the overall type. There is a dispensational scheme of things seen through that which is set forth in both Genesis 4-8 and Hebrews 11:4-7, but the central teaching surrounding “faith” is really not part of this dispensational scheme per se. Rather, the central teaching surrounding “faith,” contextually, has to do with the salvation of the soul [Hebrews 10:35ff]. And to bring “faith” from this central teaching over into this dispensational structure and attempt to teach a selective removal of Christians on this basis is clearly incorrect.
First, note what viewing matters after this fashion would do to the next type in the light of the antitype — Noah and his family going through the Flood, typifying Israel going through the coming Tribulation. This would necessitate Israel, in the antitype, exercising faith prior to the Tribulation and being delivered by acting in accordance with that faith [as Noah exercised faith prior to the Flood and was delivered by acting in accordance with his faith]. But exercising faith after this fashion will not be true of Israel during the Tribulation at all. Israel will not exercise faith until the end of the Tribulation, following the Jewish people looking upon the One whom they pierced.
Then, viewing the matter from another perspective, subsequent types clearly reveal that all Christians (faithful and unfaithful alike) will be removed at the time of the rapture. If the foundational type shows a selective rapture of faithful Christians alone, so must any subsequent type that deals with this aspect of the rapture. And the antitype, dealing with this same aspect of the rapture, must show a selective rapture as well.
But, when one turns to Scripture alone, the preceding is not seen to be the case at all. Something other than a selective rapture of the faithful is clearly seen in subsequent types. And the antitype must deal with the matter after the same fashion as it is dealt with in the type, which it does.)
The foundational type in Genesis chapter four deals centrally with the participants and the timing of the rapture (Christians, and a pretribulational event). It has nothing to do with a selective or nonselective rapture. Different types contain different facets of information, and subsequent types deal with the all-inclusive nature of the rapture, along with the antitype.
B) Lot and His Family
Lot, his wife, and his two virgin daughters were removed from Sodom prior to the destruction of the cities of the plain. And the manner in which the New Testament handles this event leaves no room to question that which is in view from a typical standpoint. The destruction of the cities of the plain can point only to the coming destruction of this present world system, and the removal of Lot and part of his family can only point to a removal of certain individuals from this world (from the earth) prior to this destruction (a destruction occurring during and immediately following the Tribulation).
This account forms a subsequent type of that which is previously seen in Genesis 5-8, and the account is dealt with in the New Testament in a parallel manner. The destruction of the cities of the plain during Lot’s day is dealt with in the New Testament alongside the destruction produced by the Flood during Noah’s day, introducing a parallel type. Both destructions in the two types point to the same destruction in the antitype.
And as it was in the days of Noah . . .
Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot . . .
Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed. (Luke 17:26a, 28a, 30).
Then Christ — relating the accounts of these two destructions occurring in history, which point to the same destruction in prophecy — sounded two main warnings. And the warnings were directed to two groups of people — to Israel, and to the Church (about to be brought into existence).
The account surrounding Noah and the Flood was given first (v. 26). And, accordingly, Christ sounded the warning to Israel in connection with this type first (v. 31). Noah and the Flood, not Enoch and his removal from the earth, are in view; and the matter has to do with those typified by Noah going through the Flood — Israel going through the Tribulation.
The same statement, comprising the warning, is later seen within a more lengthy warning that Christ provided in the Olivet Discourse. Christ, in this discourse, warned the Jewish people to flee for their lives when they saw a particular man (Antichrist) do certain things during this coming time of destruction (Matthew 24:15ff).
Immediately following the warning that had to do with the days of Noah, Christ sounded a warning that had to do with the days of Lot (Luke 17:28). Rather than dealing with individuals going through a time of destruction, the days of Lot had to do with individuals removed prior to this destruction. And the warning that Christ sounded was in connection with Lot’s wife and the salvation or loss of one’s soul.
Remember Lot’s wife.
Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life [soul] will preserve it. (Luke 17:32, 33)
Lot’s wife, along with her husband and two virgin daughters, was delivered from Sodom. And, though delivered from Sodom, she lost her soul. She looked back toward Sodom rather than out ahead toward the mountain to which Lot had been told to flee (Genesis 19:17, 26; Luke 9:62).
Lot, in similar fashion, failed to realize the salvation of his soul as well. Lot is contrasted with Abraham; and though Lot later found himself on the mountain to which he had been told to flee, his portion on the mount was diametrically opposed to that of Abraham.
(A “mountain” in Scripture symbolizes a kingdom [cf. Isaiah 2:2-4; Daniel 2:35, 44, 45; Matthew 16:28-17:5]).
Lot found himself dwelling on the mountain, but in a cave on the mountain, in a place separated from the Lord (Genesis 19:30; cf. Matthew 22:10-14). Abraham, on the other hand, found himself also dwelling in the high country, but standing before the Lord — a place where, unlike Lot, he had been both dwelling and standing for quite sometime (Genesis 19:27; cf. Genesis 18:22).
The account of Lot and certain members of his family being delivered from Sodom adds additional information to the type surrounding Enoch in Genesis chapter four. This second type makes it quite clear that faithfulness or unfaithfulness of Christians and the consequent salvation or loss of the soul have nothing to do with the rapture itself. These are issues that will come into view following the rapture, as seen in God’s dealings with both Lot’s wife and Lot following their deliverance from Sodom. These are issues that will come into view following the rapture, as seen in God’s dealings with both Lot’s wife and Lot following their deliverance from Sodom. These are issues that have to do with the judgment seat following the rapture, not issues that have to do with the rapture.
Then there is a subsequent type that deals with the matter from a different perspective yet, building upon that which is revealed in the previous types and providing additional information. And that type is found in Genesis chapter twenty-four.
This chapter in Genesis relates the story of Abraham sending his eldest servant into Mesopotamia to procure a bride for his son, Isaac. This chapter is the fourth of five consecutive chapters in Genesis (chapters 21-25) that form one overall type consisting of numerous individual types. And within the complete typology seen in these chapters, God has set forth exactly the same thing seen in previous chapters (chapters 4-8) — a dispensational framework of events surrounding Christ, Israel, and the Church.
Throughout these chapters, “Abraham” is seen as a type of God the Father, “Isaac” a type of God the Son, and “Sarah” (Abraham’s wife) a type of Israel (the wife of Jehovah). “Abraham’s servant” sent into Mesopotamia in chapter twenty-four is seen as a type of the Holy Spirit sent into the world; and “Keturah” in chapter twenty-five (who Abraham married following events in chapter 24) is also, as Sarah (in chapter 23), seen as a type of Israel, though within another frame of reference than Sarah.
Typology after the preceding fashion becomes evident as one works his way through these chapters.
Isaac’s birth in chapter twenty-one was via supernatural means, typifying Christ’s subsequent birth through the same supernatural means. The offering of Isaac by his father in a designated place in the land of Moriah in chapter twenty-two typifies the subsequent offering of Christ by His Father in a designated place in the same land. Abraham’s wife, Sarah, dying in chapter twenty-three (following the offering of the son) typifies God’s wife, Israel, subsequently being set aside (following the offering of the Son). And Israel, as Sarah, is looked upon during this time as being in the place of death (Jonah 1:17ff; John 11:6ff).
Next in the dispensational structure and overall type are events in chapter twenty-four, where the search for and procurement of the bride is seen prior to Abraham’s remarriage in the following chapter. Chapter twenty-four details the work of the Holy Spirit in the world today, searching for the bride, following Israel being set aside (chapter 23). And this search will occur and be completed before the time God resumes His dealings with and restores Israel (chapter 25).
In the past, Israel, as Sarah, was barren (Genesis 16:1, 2). And because of Sarah’s barrenness, Isaac’s birth required God’s supernatural intervention. But when Israel is one day restored, typified by Abraham marrying Keturah in chapter twenty-five, conditions will be reversed. Keturah bore Abraham six sons (Genesis 25:1, 2). Keturah was very fruitful, as Israel will be during that coming day after the nation has been restored.
It is between these two dispensational points (Israel being set aside [chapter 23] and Israel subsequently being restored [chapter 25]) that God procures a bride in the antitype for His Son, Jesus. And as Abraham sent his eldest servant into Mesopotamia to search for and procure a bride for his son, God has sent the Holy Spirit into the world to search for and procure a bride for His Son.
Thus, within the dispensational structure of the things which are seen throughout Genesis chapters twenty-one through twenty-five, there can be no question concerning that which is involved in the typology of chapter twenty-four. This chapter has to do with the mission of the Holy Spirit in the world during the present dispensation — searching for and procuring a bride for God’s Son.
The servant arrived in Mesopotamia with “ten camels” laden with his master’s goods. “Ten” is the number of ordinal completion, showing all of the master’s goods (Genesis 24:10), and the master had given all these goods to his son (Genesis 24:36; 25:5). The servant was to show the prospective bride, from Abraham’s family, all the glories that the father had given to his son. Then the invitation to become the wife of Abraham’s son was to be extended (Genesis 24:3, 4, 53, 57, 58).
This points to that which is occurring during the present dispensation. The Holy Spirit is in the world showing those from God’s family (Christians) all the glories that the Father has given to His Son. And He is doing this by and through opening the Word to their understanding, revealing these things to them. Then, as in the type, the invitation is extended to Christians to become the wife of God’s Son.
Rebekah, in the type, said that she would go (Genesis 24:57, 58). And once the purpose for the servant’s mission had been accomplished, he removed Rebekah from Mesopotamia (Genesis 24:59ff).
In the antitype, exactly the same thing will occur. Once the purpose for the Holy Spirit’s mission has been accomplished, He will remove the bride from the world. And the manner in which Isaac’s bride was removed, along with that which followed, forms the pattern for the manner in which Christ’s bride will be removed, along with that which will follow.
Abraham’s servant removed the bride on camels, and the bride was accompanied by damsels. All of them together rode on the camels, and they all went forth together to meet Isaac.
Though the number of the camels at the time of the departure is not stated, the inference would clearly point to ten camels. The servant entered the land with “ten camels” to search for the bride, and the reference to camels upon his departure with the bride would clearly point to the same ten camels.
Rebekah and her damsels leaving on the camels show ordinal completion once again. All went forth to meet Isaac, but only Rebekah was later presented to Isaac as his bride for whom the servant had searched. Rebekah was the one seen putting on her veil when she and the damsels accompanying her came into the son’s presence, typifying the wedding garment to be worn by Christ’s bride when Christians find themselves in the Son’s presence.
As they all went forth to meet Isaac in the type, so will they all go forth to meet Christ in the antitype. And, as a distinction was made between Rebekah and the damsels accompanying her in the type, so will it be in the antitype.
Rebekah was the one who had responded positively to the servant’s mission in Mesopotamia; and she was the one who, following her removal from Mesopotamia, was separated from the other damsels and presented to Isaac as his bride.
In like manner, those Christians forming Christ’s bride will be the ones who respond positively to the Holy Spirit’s mission in the world; and they will be the ones who, following their removal from the earth, will be separated from other Christians and presented to Christ as His bride.
2) The New Testament Antitype
There are not really that many verses in Scripture (Old or New Testament) that pertain to the rapture per se. Scripture, dealing with Christians, centers on two main areas:
1) With issues surrounding faithfulness or unfaithfulness during the present time, preceding the rapture.
2) With issues surrounding the results of one’s faithfulness or unfaithfulness, following the rapture. Scripture provides a great deal of information in both realms; but, from a comparative standpoint, Scripture does not present that much information concerning the rapture itself.
The rapture though, as has been demonstrated, is dealt with in several of the types. And the existence of the types demands the existence of an antitype. An individual could really go to only two places in the New Testament to view the rapture in connection with the events set forth in the three Old Testament types under consideration — Revelation 1:10-4:11 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:10 (though the rapture is presented in 1 Corinthians 15:51-57, details surrounding the events seen in the types are not presented here).
Each of these two sections provides information peculiar to the passage, but only one provides the complete sequence seen through comparing the types — Revelation 1:10-4:11. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:10 provides everything except a reference to the Tribulation. And since this is provided in the context of Revelation 1:10-4:11 (chapters 5ff), this section of Scripture will be used to show the antitype, with reference back to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:10.
It is sometimes stated that there is no place in Scripture that shows the sequence of events having to do with all Christians being removed preceding the tribulation. But that’s not true at all. This is seen in the Old Testament types, and this is also seen in the New Testament antitype as well.
Again, the only possible way to properly deal with the rapture from the standpoint of Scripture is to call attention to the matter after the fashion in which God has set it forth. One simply calls attention to the types and the antitype, leaving the matter to rest upon the foundation of Scripture itself.
A) Christians in the Lord’s Day
John, in the book of Revelation, was taken to the Isle of Patmos and then transported into the Lord’s Day (or Day of the Lord), at a future time (1:10; 4:1, 2). And, in this future time, in the Lord’s Day, John was told to record that which he was being allowed to see (1:19), which dealt first with events surrounding the Church in Christ’s presence in heaven (1:10-4:11), then with events surrounding Israel and the nations on earth (5:1-19:21).
The Lord’s Day follows Man’s Day in relation to man on the earth, whether for the Church or for Israel and the nations. Once Man’s Day has been allowed to run its course, or once man has been removed from the earth during Man’s Day (as John being removed from the Isle of Patmos, or the removal of Christians from the earth at the end of the dispensation), the Lord’s Day begins for man at that time.
That is, the Lord’s Day will begin on earth at the end of Man’s Day; and the Lord’s Day can begin for a segment of mankind prior to that time by and through man being removed from the earth, removed from Man’s Day on the earth. Thus, the Lord’s Day will begin at least seven years earlier for the Church (removed from the earth) than it will for Israel and the nations (remaining on the earth).
(Matters surrounding Man’s Day and the Lord’s Day in relation to the preceding are dealt with more fully in Chapters 4, 5 of the author’s book, The Time of the End.)
Christians removed from the earth preceding the seven-year Tribulation will no longer be living in Man’s Day. “Man’s Day” has to do with man upon the earth during an allotted 6,000 years of time (with the foundation upon which the whole of the matter rests seen in the six and seven days of Genesis 1:1-2:3).
Christians, at the time of the rapture, will be removed from Man’s Day and transported into the Lord’s Day. That, as previously shown, is what is seen through John being transported into the Lord’s Day in Revelation 1:10 and seeing seven churches in Christ’s presence, in heaven, in that future day.
This is also what is seen in 1 Thessalonians 5:2ff, following the removal of the Church into the heavens (4:13-18). A removal of the Church into that future day will overtake many Christians “as a thief in the night,” though this will not be true for other Christians (5:2-4; cf. 2 Peter 3:10, 11).
Christians in the Lord’s Day, in connection with either faithfulness or unfaithfulness, resulting in either salvation or wrath, is the subject at hand in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-9. And this is the same subject set forth in the opening chapter of the book of Revelation (in conjunction with that which is revealed in chapters 2 & 3), though seen from a different perspective.
(As previously seen, the rapture of the Church in the book of Revelation is set forth in John’s experience [removed from earth into heaven, into the Lord’s Day in 1:10, with the same event repeated in 4:1, 2].
If, as taught by some Christians, the rapture of the Church is not seen in John’s experience in these opening chapters of the book, then the rapture itself is not dealt with in this book. But, even if the preceding were correct, which it isn’t, the rapture would still have to occur at the time of or preceding John’s experience, for John, immediately following, saw the complete Church in Christ’s presence, in heaven, in the Lord’s Day.
Thus, relative to the timing of the rapture, whether or not the rapture is to be seen in John’s experience would be immaterial. Contextually, it would still be pretributional. As well, the rapture is plainly shown in a companion passage [1 Thessalonians 4:13-17] to precede the same mention of Christians in the Lord’s Day as seen in Revelation 1:10-20 [cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4].)
B) Christians in Christ’s Presence
Thus, as clearly stated in the opening chapter of the book of Revelation, this book begins with Christians in Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Day, at a future time. And two things are seen in this chapter relative to Christians in that future day:
1) All Christians will be present, together, at the same time and place.
2) All Christians will appear before Christ at this time to be judged.
The complete Church is seen in Christ’s presence at this time, shown by the number “seven” — shown by all seven churches from chapters two and three appearing in Christ’s presence at the same time (1:12, 13, 20).
Not only is the church in Ephesus seen in Christ’s presence (the church that left its first love), but the church in Laodicea is seen there as well (comprised of “lukewarm” Christians, of whom Christ said, “I will vomit you out of my mouth” [3:16]). All Christians — shown by seven churches, seen together in Christ’s presence — will be there, awaiting judgment.
Or, perhaps it would be better to draw the contrast between the Philadelphian and Laodicean churches. All Christians represented by both will be there, along with all Christians represented by the other five churches. All Christians — shown by seven churches seen together in Christ’s presence — will be there, awaiting judgment.
A separation of Christians on the basis of faithfulness occurs in Christ’s presence alone, at the judgment seat. Scripture knows nothing of a separation of this nature occurring at the time of the rapture.
And all Christians will appear in Christ’s presence to be judged in this manner preceding the search for One worthy to break the seals of the seven-sealed scroll (chapter 5). Only when these seals begin to be broken will the judgments of the Tribulation begin (chapter 6).
Thus, the antitype, in complete accord with the types, presents the rapture as both all-inclusive and pretribulational. All Christians will be removed together, at the same time; and this will occur preceding the Tribulation.
This is simply what Scripture has to say about the matter, viewing the types and then going to the antitype. What man may have to say is of no moment at all. Scripture alone contains the correct, necessary information to properly address the issue at hand. And that is where the matter must be left.