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November 28, 1999

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Resurrection and Christ's Elect

Two Scripture passages seem to cause confusion for many people; and thus, false doctrines are promoted. Mt24:31 speaks of the Son of Man's "elect" which are gathered "with a sound of a trumpet". This, of course, -follows- the "affliction of those days" (vs29) where the stars fall and the powers of the heavens are shaken where God's wrath is poured out. Around this same time frame, when satan is bound for a thousand years, there is a resurrection that is called "the first resurrection". (Rev20:5b)

Forsaking all the other -multitude- of clear Scriptures which speak of the Lord delivering the Church out of the world before the 70th week, they think these two combination of verses mean that the resurrection, and thus also the Rapture of the Church (1Th4:16-17), occur at the -end- of the 70th week ("The Tribulation"). If it is -Christ's- "elect", it must be the "Church". If it is the "first resurrection", it must also be the "Rapture". Scripture does not contradict itself, but 'they' typically choose to believe what they think these two passages say, ignoring the dozens of other passages that clearly teach a "pre-trib" Rapture/Resurrection of the Church. And as a result, they also apply their views of these passages to many of those other passages, making them say things other than what they actually say.

I have often wondered how to answer people about these two passages the way they interpret them. We have addressed it a bit in the past. But in the context of beginning this section in Matthew starting with ch24, having received some e-mails about this raising the question anew, the Lord has now suddenly made it clear. And I think we have a -simple- explanation for how to understand this matter properly. So we'll interject this parenthetical study into the Matthew series.

Let's go back to that "painting". (Study from Mt24:1-8) For the sake of illustration, let us suppose it is a pastoral scene with a couple of "fences" running across it. There is a fence in the foreground, and another further back. The one in front is obscured in a few places by trees, buildings, etc. But you know it's all part of the -same- fence, whether you see the part over on the left end, or the part sticking out of some bushes in the middle. This fence in the foreground, if we were travelling along, we might call the "first fence", and as we went further, we would come to the other, which we might call the "second" fence, where the farmer might dump his garbage over that fence. The "first" fence is for the "sheep"; the "second" for the "goats". Now, keep in mind how we see -sections- of the "first fence" as we look at the painting.

Another example: a tour bus is carrying a group of people on a trip. They stop for lunch. Now it's time to get back on the road again. It is "boarding" time. One group of people get on the bus and settle in. Another group comes along a few minutes later. Eventually, the final 'stragglers' get on board and as they are climbing aboard the tour guide says to the driver, "this is everybody." After making a head-count, the leader confirms, "that's everybody". The bus is now "boarded". The "everybody" was not that last group of stragglers getting on while he was making the comment, but rather, once they were on it meant that "everybody" was -now- on board.

When Rev20:5b proclaims, "This is the first resurrection" it is like the tour guide telling the bus driver, "that's everybody". The last of those belonging on the bus are now on the bus.

They got on at different times, even though it was -one- 'boarding'. That fence is 'one' fence, but we see different 'parts' of it.

The same with resurrection. Just like the two fences, there are -TWO- resurrections. (Acts24:15) The "first" is of those who are "saved". The "second", while not being labelled as such in Scripture, is understood by the context. The unbelievers are resurrected in order to receive judgment at the "great white throne" (Rev20:11) and end up in the "Lake of Fire". (vs13) And it says, "This is the second death." (vs14) The "second death" corresponding to, and coming after the "second resurrection" ...the resurrection of unbelievers.

The "first resurrection" happens in stages. The first stage has already occurred; right after Jesus' resurrection. It says, "and the tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming forth out of the tombs after His resurrection, they entered into the holy city and were revealed to many." (Mt27:52-53) The second stage is the Church, when the "dead in Christ" rise (1Th4:16), at the same event as the Rapture when "we who remain alive will be caught up.." (vs17) The final stage is when those saved during the 70th week "beheaded because of the witness of Jesus..and had not received the mark on their forehead..and hand" (Rev20:4) are raised to reign with Christ 1000 years. This final group is the same one mentioned in Rev7:14 "coming out of -the- great tribulation.." When these martyrs are resurrected, the living Jews, yet in unbelief (Is45:2-6), will be gathered back to their land, (Mt24:31) where they will be given new hearts. (Jer31:31-34) All three of these 'stages' are part of that -same- "fence". Part of the "first resurrection". And when the final group has been resurrected, it is pronounced, "this is the first resurrection". "This is everybody"..."Everyone is on-board"

Does Jesus mention these like this anywhere else? The "certain man" made a supper. (Lk14:16-24) Those who had been invited (Israel) refused to come when it was ready. So, when they wouldn't come, the "man" instructs that the servant go to the "streets and lanes" to find people. (Gentiles) (Acts28:28) And when all their 'number' had come in (Rom11:25) there was still more room. And the "man" wanting "that my house may be filled" (Lk14:23) instructs that they go to the "highways and hedges and COMPEL THEM to come in.." This is that "everlasting gospel of the kingdom" (Mt24:14) to "every nation and tribe and tongue and people" (Rev14:6) during the 70th week.

All three of these groups end up in the banquet hall; each with their own -stage- of the "first resurrection". And notice that Israel who initially rejected, the "remnant" (Zec8:11, Rom9:27,11:5) gets in on the final one with 12,000 from each tribe. (Rev7:4) But all participate in the "first resurrection" at their own times, until it is complete. The "bus is boarded" once all the 'boarding groups' are finally in their seats; one group boarding, another boarding a few minutes later; it's all -one- "boarding". And remember how that "painting" covers 3000 years of time. That whole "painting" of 3000 years is the "Day of the Lord". That "fence" stretches across various 'parts' of the painting. It is -one- fence within -one- painting.

The Mt27:52-53 resurrection fulfilled the O.T. saints. 1Th4:16-17 will fulfill the Church. And Rev20:4,6 will fulfill those "calling on the name of the Lord" (Joel2:32) during the Tribulation/70th week.

Now... let's understand the "elect" from Mt24:31 a little more clearly.

The argument many give is that, if the "elect" in context belong to the "Son of Man", that must mean the "Church", because the Church is made up of CHRIST-ians. We are "in Christ" (2Cor5:17), etc. That Israel was under "God" in the O.T., not "Jesus".

Paul clears up this misunderstanding for us. Speaking of Israel in the wilderness, their eating and drinking... "that Rock was Christ." (1Cor10:4) Any -physical- manifestation of God's presence to Israel in the wilderness was Jesus Christ, because He is "the shining splendor of His glory, and the express image of His essence" (Heb1:3) Israel was following Jesus Christ in the wilderness. And when Jesus came "to His own" (Jn1:11) He was born as a "Jew". His "own" was Israel. He was born "in the flesh" (1Jn4:2-3) "out of a woman" (Gal4:4) as He came "under Law, that He might redeem the ones under law" (vs5) Who was "under Law"? Israel. Of the "Seed of Abraham" (Heb2:16) as He became "like His brothers".(vs17)

Ps22:22 says Messianically, "I will declare Your name to My brothers.." His "brothers" being, again, Israel. Israel was a nation of "brothers", the 12 tribes having been sibling sons of Israel. The term in Scripture "brother" or "brethren" is most often a "Jewish" expression. When Jesus comes back and judges the nations, He will judge based on how they treated "the least of My brothers.." (Mt25:40) Israel.

Thus, when we gave the detailed account of how the "elect" in Mt24:31 is Israel, it should be clear that they belong to Jesus Christ. And again, for those who will accept it; they are 'gathered' from the "four winds" to which they had been scattered. The Church was not scattered to the winds like stubble (Jer13:24); Israel was. Thus, the Church is not going to be gathered from those -same- "winds", back to the land of promise; Israel is. (Ez36:24, Deu30:4, Is11:12, Jer23:3, 31:7-11, 32:37, Ez34:11-16) Remember that Jesus is the "True Vine" (Jn15). Yes, Israel was pruned off that Vine, Jesus, for a time so that the Gentiles might be grafted in. (Rom11) But Israel, when they are gathered from the "four winds" will be grafted back in TO JESUS again. (Rom11:23,26) So, again, Mt24:31 is NOT the Church. It is Israel.

Of course, there will still be those who will simply not accept this; no matter how many different ways we come up with to present it. No matter how many angles we approach the subject. But then, Israel rejected Jesus, too; no matter how many parables He told, or signs He performed. (Jn12:37)

When Jesus said to the woman of Samaria "salvation is of the Jews" (Jn4:22) He said a whole 'mouthful'. God brought salvation to the world -through- Israel in the Person of Jesus Christ, a Jew.

Sadly... just as Israel rejected their Messiah (Jn1:11), many who claim to be "christian" reject Him, too. How? How do we know this? They reject the "pupil of God's eye". (Deu32:10, Zec2;8) Remember how He says, 'if you did it to My brothers...you did it to Me'? We know we are saved "by grace through faith" (Eph2:8), but our works -manifest/reveal- our faith. (Jas2) "We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brothers. The one not loving the brother remains in death." (1Jn3:14) We usually think of this expression as referring to love for fellow-Believers; which is only partly true. If we realize that Scripturally, typically, "brothers" is a Jewish expression, we should understand that part 'n' parcel of being a Christian is also a love for God's people. Let us not forget that Israel was a "natural" part of the vine. (Rom11:21,24) The Church came from the "wild olive" and was "grafted in" ... "contrary to nature". Israel was the "elect" beginning with Abraham. They are the ones who were "invited" to the banquet. The primarily -Gentile- Church was invited when the Elect gave excuses for not receiving Christ. And Paul says, "Do not be highminded, but fear.." (Rom11:20)

If you refuse to accept God's present/future workings with Israel, and to believe what God says, that He will "gather" -them- again (Mt24:31) you are on very shakey, scary ground!! Jesus was a Jew. If you do not accept Israel's legitimate place, then, how can you claim to accept Jesus' proper place? In a round-about sort of way it could be said that if you reject Israel, you have rejected Christ. You are not a Christian. If a person is In Christ, he will also love Christ's "brothers", Israel.

In closing: the following was sent to me by e-mail. Typically, most things like this that people forward endlessly are so much fluff. This one, while being a bit corny, is somewhat related to what we are discussing. While the Church and Israel are not the same, they are interrelated through Christ. (Eph2:11-14)

    A Jewish father was concerned that his son who was about a year away from his Bar Mitzvah but was sorely lacking in knowledge of his Jewish faith. To remedy this he sent his son to Israel to experience his heritage. A year later the young man returned home. "Father, thank you for sending me to the land of our fathers," the son said. "It was wonderful and enlightening. However, I must confess that while in Israel I embraced Christianity."

    "Oi vey," replied the father, "what have I done?" So in the tradition of the patriarchs he went to his best friend and sought advice and solace.

    "It is amazing you should come to me," stated his friend. "I, too, sent my son to Israel and he returned a Christian." So in the tradition of the patriarchs they went to the Rabbi.

    "It is amazing that you should come to me," stated the rabbi. "I, too, sent my son to Israel and he returned a Christian. What is happening to our sons?

    "Brothers, we must take this to God." They all fell to their knees and began to wail and pour out their hearts to the Almighty.

    As they prayed the clouds above opened and a mighty voice stated, "Amazing that you should come to ME. I, too, sent My Son to Israel..."


What fate to Unbelievers? Ultimate Restoration?

I have always had this question concerning Israel. If those that accept Christ before the Rapture go in the Rapture, and those who go through the tribulation and are purified and accept Christ are saved, what happens to those that die now without believing and those that are killed in the tribulation without accepting? Are they in the end all saved or are those unbelieving damned to hell?

There is a doctrine that some believe, called "Ultimate Restorationism". I don't know all the details of what they believe. But essentially the gist is that, once all the scenarios and dispensations have run their course, ultimately in the end, God will "restore" everything and everybody. They use Scriptures like "whom Heaven truly needs to receive until the times of restoration of all things, of which God spoke through the mouth of all His holy prophets from the age past." (Ac3:21) And, "and all flesh shall see the salvation of God." (Lk3:6,Isa40:3-5) They've got a couple other passages, that don't come to mind right now, to "support" their doctrine.

Without spending a lot of time to refute that doctrine, the Ac3:21 passage refers to Christ's second coming when He judges the world, destroys Babylon, binds satan (Rev20:1-3) and sets up His Millennial rule from David's throne in Jerusalem. The earth will be restored back to its peaceful state where there is no war (Is2:4), where wild animals are again herbivores and do not prey on each other, etc. (Is11:7,65:25)

The second set, in context, obviously refers to Jesus Christ's first coming; His coming to be crucified and rise again, for the sin of the world. (Ps38:22,1Th5:9, Lk2:29-33)

So now, to answer your question:

Regarding unbelieving ones of Israel God says, "They shall not enter into My rest." (Heb3:11, Ps95:11) And this was the case because of "unbelief". (Heb3:19) God was "not well pleased" with them. They fell. (1Cor10:5,12) While God "elected" Israel (Is45:4) as a nation, Abraham and his seed (Gen15:5,22:17) as a "kingdom of priests" (Ex19:6,1Pt2:9); salvation and judgment before God is still an -individual- matter. "So then each one of us will give account concerning himself to God. (Rom14:12) "who will give account to Him having readiness to judge the living and dead." (1Pt4:5) And so, on the flip side of your question, when it appeared that -all- Israel, nationally, was rebelling against God, Elijah was informed that there were 7000 -individuals- who were yet faithful. (1Kg19:18)

Again as review of the First Resurrection:

  1. -Mt27:52 it is "saints" who were raised.
  2. -1Th4:17 the "dead in Christ" rise.
  3. -Rev20:4 those "who had been beheaded for the witness of Jesus" lived.
All of these are "saints" or related to "Jesus". IOW, Believers.

Now notice: "But the -REST- of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were ended..." (Rev20:5) The "rest" of what? Whatever remains. Recall that "this...first resurrection" refers to all the Believing ones up to this point. So, the "rest of the dead", in the same context, are all the unbelieving ones up to that point; O.T., Church age, 70th week.

At the end of the Millennium satan is released to deceive the nations that Jesus is ruling over. They rebel and are "burned up". (Rev20:9) They're obviously -dead-. Right? And then they are all resurrected at one time at some point after the Millennium. The Great White Throne. (vs11) Believers will not be judged at that judgment because their names are in the Book of Life. This is a judgment to determine the degree of their "forever and ever" (vs10) judgment in the Lake of Fire (vs15) based on their "works". (vs12)

Thus, we understand Paul's words, "having hope toward God, which these themselves also admit, of a resurrection being about to be of the dead, both of JUST and UNJUST ones." (Ac24:15) If there were such a thing as 'ultimate restoration' where everybody ultimately is saved and goes to heaven, there would be no need to speak of repentance and salvation; we could live any ol' way we like, and reject Christ... 'cause He'll save us in the end. And there would be no talk of 'everlasting' judgment.

And, if anybody uses Rom11:26a "and so all Israel will be saved" to say that even the unbelieving -Jews- will be saved, they should read the context in the O.T., that that occurs when Christ comes to set up His kingdom rule from David's throne, when He infuses the ones left alive after His wrath, with a new heart. (Jer31:31-34)

Daniel is told, "..And at that time, your people shall be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the Book." (Dan12:1b) This sounds like the same "Book of Life" as Rev20:15 and Ex32:32. The ones delivered of Israel are the ones found in the Book.

And notice in the same context, speaking of "your people" (Israel)(vs1) they have the same fate as the rest of humanity. "And many of those sleeping in the earth's dust shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to reproaches and to everlasting abhorrence. (Dan12:2)


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