Who Is ‘Left Behind’ After The Rapture?

Hello Reggie:

As for the destruction of those who take the mark of the beast. What is your scriptural basis that they will be physically killed upon the return of Jesus?

I will come to your more specific question, but first I would like to ask what many ask. “If all who are not saved take the mark, and if all who are in Christ are raptured at His return, who then is left to enter the millennium in natural bodies? This question is raised by the considerable volume of OT scriptures that show newly saved Jews and a sizable host of newly awakened gentiles from the nations taking part in many natural activities and functions that are clearly incompatible with a resurrected state of glorified immortality.

This has been a great puzzle for many who are aware enough of the many scriptures that bear upon this question. The problem has been part of the reason many have chosen to adopt a spiritualizing hermeneutic (principles of interpretation) in their approach to prophecy.

Certainly, there are some passages that seem to speak of the total destruction of “all” the lost at Christ’s return. One such example would be 2Thes 1:8-9. This passage would appear to include every person who is not born again at the time of the rapture. But what then of many other scriptures that seem to imply that some who are not raptured at Christ’s return (both Jew and gentile) are depicted as entering into the millennial age in natural bodies?. Did not all the unsaved take the mark of the beast? And were not all true believers caught up in the rapture?

From the perspective of a literal reading of the OT, a number of scriptures depict gentile and Jewish survivors of the tribulation in the millennium in un-resurrected, natural bodies. This is a problem, because from such passages as 1 Cor 15:23, 52, 1Thes 4:14-17, and 2Thes 2:1, we see that “all” who belong to Christ, and all who sleep ‘in Jesus’ are promised translation and resurrection at the time of Christ’s return. This leaves the question of what is the fate of those who are left behind? It is clear that many are destroyed in the judgments of the tribulation, but it is also clear that some survive that are neither raptured nor destroyed. Who are these that remain?

We know that a remnant of the Jewish people are not saved until the time of the Lord’s appearing (Zech 12:10; Mt 23:39; Ro 11:26; Rev 1:7). This suggests that at the same time the church is translated, the penitent remnant of Israel, who have been prepared through the judgments of Jacob’s trouble, are just then receiving the first fruits of the Spirit through repentance and faith in Christ.

I believe this is the point of the great divide between those that enter the millennial age in their natural bodies, and those that enter that time in resurrected bodies. Apparently, all who have the ‘earnest’, or ‘first-fruits’ of the the Spirit before this point are instantly changed. Whereas those who are only now seeing Him whom they pierced (not by mere natural sight, of course, but by the revelation of the Spirit) are at that same moment being transformed into new creation believers. These, together with their penitent counterparts from among the gentiles will populate the millennial earth in natural bodies.

The scripture is clear that the saved remnant of Israel is not at once resurrected with the church, but enter the millennial period as Spirit filled saints. While there will always be Jewish salvation before that day, this is not to be confused with the sudden and dramatic salvation that comes only at the day of the Lord, when the nation will be “born in one day” (Isa 66:8; Eze 39:22; Zech 3:9; 14:7). And, as often pointed out, there is no ambiguity in scripture, as to when “that day” comes in the order of last day’s events (compare Mt 24:29 with Acts 2:20; Rev 16:14-16).

There are mysteries here, but we know that many who are not resurrected at the rapture, are NOT at once destroyed by the final judgments that accompany Christ’s return from heaven, but are left to enter the millennial age in natural bodies. A number of scriptures show gentile survivors of the last tribulation assisting Jews in their return to the Land (Isa 49:22; 60:3, 5, 9; 66:20; Zech 8:23). Though “few” (Isa 24:6), there will be some “left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem … ” (Zech 14:16; see also Dan 7:12; Isa 60:5; Eze 39:2 (1/6th left in some translations).

Those that advocate for a pre-tribulational rapture argue that this is one of the greatest proofs of their position. For them, the solution is simple. Supposing that every person that is not “in Christ” is at once destroyed at the Lord’s post-tribulational return, and that only saved persons enter the millennium, they conclude for a pre-trib rapture, since, in their view, this alone can provide time AFTER the rapture for a great number to be saved, and it is this number that enter the millennium in their natural bodies along with the saved of Israel.

On other grounds that cannot be argued here, we believe the pre-tribulational view of the rapture is refuted by clear, and in our view, undeniable evidence to the contrary. So, on those good and sufficient grounds, the answer of a pre-tribulation rapture of the church is no solution at all to the problem.

As stated above, there are too many passages, taken in their clear OT context, that show a surviving remnant, not only of Israel, but also of the nations, that are depicted as freshly awakening to the meaning of the last days events (Eze 39:23; Rev 10:7). This surviving remnant from both Israel and the nations were manifestly NOT destroyed with the Antichrist and his armies; nor were they saved before the time of the rapture (see Isa 66:19-20; Zech 8:23).

Therefore, in view of a careful survey of all the relevant scriptural evidence in its proper setting and context, and in the interest that ‘all’ relevant scripture must harmonize and not contradict, I am constrained to share the view of a comparatively small number that not everyone who is unsaved takes the mark.

We may be puzzled to hear someone suggest that NOT EVERYONE who is not a Christian will take the mark. I agree; that’s a problem, because this is what we would naturally infer from a passage like Rev 13:8. My only answer to that is, the inspired scripture cannot contradict and must be harmonized! There are just too many plain scriptures that show un-raptured survivors of the last tribulation entering the millennium in their natural bodies. In some of those passages, gentiles are depicted as assisting Jews back to the Land.

A careful survey of all that scripture describes of conditions that obtain only AFTER the tribulation and day of the Lord, will confirm that there are many activities and functions that are described of the inhabitants of the millennial earth that are quite incompatible with the final state of glorified perfection. That all the unsaved do not take the mark is further confirmed by the fact that an elect remnant from among the natural branches are not saved until the very end of Jacob’s trouble (Isa 59:21; 66:8; Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1; Mic 5:3; Zech 12:10; Mt 23:39; Ro 11:26).

So the pre-tribulation solution to the problem of tribulation survivors is unnecessary, as it assumes what scripture does not assume, namely, that only those who are saved during the tribulation will survive the return of Christ in order to populate the millennial earth. As we have shown, there are many who are not saved UNTIL the time of the Lord’s post-tribulational return, and the evidence suggests that many enter the millennium, as only beginning to awaken to the full meaning of all that has lately transpired (Eze 39:23; Rev 10:7). Many of these who were not raptured will count it a great privilege to assist in Jewish return, as an offering to the Lord. What a change of mind has come!

So, if not all take the mark, and many that are not raptured are left behind to enter the millennium in their natural bodies, then who are destroyed by Christ personally at His return? My answer is those that have taken the mark, and your question is, “how do we know that all who took the mark are destroyed at Christ’s return?

You have no question concerning the ultimate fate of those that take the mark, but only whether they will all be at once destroyed at Christ’s return. You have no question of their ultimate fate (Rev 14:11). Your question is how do we know that those who have taken the mark will “all”, and to the last person, be destroyed by Christ Himself at the moment of His return?

You seem to be asking, “since not all unbelievers are destroyed at Armageddon and Christ’s return, how do we know that ‘all’ of those who have taken the mark are necessarily destroyed at that time?” You noticed that I assumed this, and you are wondering if I have proof of my assumption.

Well, Isa 11:4 is the background for Paul’s statement about the destruction of the Antichrist by the ‘breath of the Lord’s mouth’ in 2Thes 2:8. The wicked are slain by the Word of the returning King. But here’s the problem: Since all unsaved persons are regarded as ‘children of wrath’, how is it that some seem to survive the Lord’s return, while others do not? It is here that I propose (tentatively), in the interest of the harmonization of ‘all’ scripture, a division between those among the myriads of the lost who take the mark, and those who, for whatever reason, do not appear to take it, as, for example, the beleaguered remnant of Israel.

I reason thus: If the Antichrist is slain in that instant, I believe we can safely infer that all who have irreversibly consummated their union with Satan by a deliberate acceptance of the mark, will be destroyed by the same revelation of the Word from heaven. Note too what the mark represents. It signifies the sign and seal of final hardening. From this, there is no repentance and return. It is final reprobation.

This is not the usual unbelief that all persons have outside of Christ. Therefore, it is hard to think of people entering that millennial age in the knowledge of their hopeless state and with a fixed heart of hatred towards God, just as it is inconceivable that the Antichrist can survive a moment beyond the moment of Christ’s return. There is an ontological polarity between the two natures that cannot abide the presence of the now revealed Word from heaven, i.e., Christ’s personal presence.

I say this, because I believe that the mark represents a degree of consummated union with the Spirit of Satan from which there is no repentance. Those that take it put themselves “past feeling”, and therefore, beyond repentance, which comes only by the sovereign work of the Spirit. Call it an inference, but I don’t believe the consummated ‘mystery of iniquity’ can stand for one moment the brightness of His coming (2Thes 2:8).

However, I see from other scriptures that some who were not already believers at the time of the rapture, do, in fact, survive the radiant power of His glorious return (Mt 24:27; Rev 1:7). This is admittedly a mystery that I do not presume to fully understand, but I believe I can see how it can be. I think it is best explained by distinguishing between those that have taken the mark, and some who have managed to escape it for the entire duration of the tribulation.

What some may reasonably dispute is my contention that not all the unsaved take the mark. I respect this objection, but ask that I be corrected, not only on the basis of one or two verses from the NT, but that time and pains be taken to show how I am to better account for the several passages that depict a multitude that were not changed at the time of the rapture, but were either saved at the time of the rapture, or after the rapture, or were spared immediate damnation at Christ’s return, to enter the millennium, as greatly humbled, but perhaps not yet born again, which is the picture I get.

I cannot advance my view for anything more than it is, an inference based on an effort to take into account all that scripture reveals on the subject, but there it is. I certainly welcome correction that can better explain the problem without resort to a spiritualizing dismissal of any of the relevant scriptures.

Finally, I want to say that I believe the revelation of “the wrath of the Lamb” will be a special terror to those who have lifted themselves up in their self serving hearts to assault the outward tokens of God’s everlasting covenant, what Daniel calls the “holy covenant” (Dan 11:28, 30). I speak particularly of those who harbor a deep and unrelenting hatred of the Jew and any that would identify, or lay their lives down for the Jew (Jacob), particularly in “the day of his calamity” (Eze 35:5; Obad 13).

There is something about the nature of the incarnate Word in glorious revelation when it meets with this fixed posture of unbelief and hatred of God’s election. Those in this full union with the spirit of Satan will not be able to abide the revelation of the Word from heaven, in the same way that the Philistines were immediately slain before the opened Ark of the covenant.

According to Isa 11:4 and 2Thes 2:8, I believe it is this particular kind and degree of wickedness that will not be spared at Christ’s return. All wickedness and sin will at length come up before God for final judgement, but we must remember; with the exception of the beast and the false prophet, who are at once cast into the lake of fire, all the rest of the dead are not raised to face final judgment until after the millennium (compare Dan 7:11; Rev 19:20; 20:5, 10).

This tells me that many of the judgment parables are comprehensive in their scope. It is not the interest of scripture to speak of millennial distinctions when speaking about the finality of judgement. Much that sounds as though it is being judged immediately upon Christ’s pre-millennial return, is not fully carried out until the end of the millennium. Often, the parabolic picture implies final sentence as being carried out immediately upon His return, whereas, progressive revelation shows the final casting into hell does not occur until the end of the millennium. This is because the state of the soul is sealed at death, or at the point of final reprobation, and even this is not finally judged until the second resurrection.

So I see that not only the Antichrist, but all who share a direct and full allegiance to what he represents, to be at once destroyed at Christ’s return in glory. That is to say, all who share consummated union with that spirit, will not be able to survive the revelation of the Word, because they have hardened themselves beyond the possibility of repentance, and have participated in the completion of the mystery of iniquity (2Thes 2:7-8) of the last and final ‘great falling away’ (2Thes 2:3). Hence, those that take the mark are in a distinct spiritual category from the rest of fallen humanity. Even in the tribulation, the receivers of the mark are singled out for many special plagues that are not aimed at the rest of humanity (Rev 16:2, 10).

I believe the unveiled wrath of God is somehow related to the full unveiling of the unapproachable meekness of God, which, of course, is just one attribute of His infinite holiness. That is why “the wrath of the Lamb” is so unbearable to all that is high and lifted up (Isa 2:17; Zeph 2:3). It is just one part of the picture, but according to many depictions in the prophets, the wrath of ‘that day’ is particularly directed against those who have lifted themselves up against the ‘holy covenant’ (i.e., the chosen and set apart things of God; Isa 24:5).

It is particularly the unveiled meekness of God that will be unbearable to the now unveiled pride of man (represented in the ‘revelation of the man of sin’) in this final act of the gentiles against the covenant (Jews have no less opposed the covenant in their own way). Not only this, but all who presume to stand before God in any other righteousness than the righteousness of Christ are equally lost, whether or not they ever lived in a final tribulation to take the mark in that particular form.

I ask the patience of many who have sent questions. Many are forthcoming, as time permits, not so much in the order they arrive, or their value, but in terms of the time and labor that is required. Some of the best must therefore be last :-). For those who would be willing to remember us in prayer, I am going through more than the usual distress in both health and home. Your prayers are greatly coveted.

Your brother in His goodness, Reggie

Filed under
The Day of the Lord, The Rapture
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