When is the Resurrection of the Just?
Will Christians go through the period known as the Great Tribulation? If so, predictions to that effect in the Scriptures will serve to warn us to be prepared and will provide that we may be strengthened by the knowledge that this is part of the detailed plan of our Lord. If Christians will not go through the Great Tribulation, it will be comforting to know it. Surely, the Lord has permitted His people to suffer at times in the past and we have no right to suppose ourselves any better than they. We can only know what is in store for the Lord's people, therefore, by specific revelation on this subject. It is our prayer that the Lord will bless this effort to understand the Scriptures pertinent to this question.
|Although the author is in agreement with the doctrinal statement of IBRI, it does not follow that all of the viewpoints espoused in this paper represent official positions of IBRI. Since one of the purposes of the IBRI report series is to serve as a preprint forum, it is possible that the author has revised some aspects of this work since it was first written.|
The late pastor Hermann J. Eckelmann of Faith Bible Church, Ithaca NY, wrote When is the Resurrection of the Just? in 1967 to explain his view on what is called the “post-tribulation rapture.” Pastor Eck, as we called him, after careful study of the Scriptures, concluded that Christians who are alive at Jesus’s second coming will go through a period of trial called the Great Tribulation before they are taken to the sky to meet Jesus. Pastor Eck believed that it was important for Christians to understand this scenario so they would not feel abandoned by the Lord if they found themselves living in the period of the Great Tribulation.
It is clear from Scripture that God controls all history, even times when Christians are reviled, persecuted, or killed for their testimony of Jesus Christ. We read in Scripture that in spite of the extent of the Great Tribulation⎯which will usher in unprecedented catastrophes and persecution⎯God is still in control. As He is in control over such extreme circumstances, so He is also in control over the daily lives of Christians in lesser trials. This should encourage all of us as we read the revision of Pastor Eck’s When is the Resurrection of the Just?
This revision keeps the original thoughts of Pastor Eck. I have modified some of the diagrams and reworded sections of the original where I felt it would clarify Pastor Eck’s thesis.
Finally, my thanks to Dale Pleticha for careful reading and comments on this article.Perry G. Phillips
All Saints Day, 2006
When is the Resurrection of the Just?Hermann J. Eckelmann
Revelation 6.12-17 —Then I saw Him open the sixth seal. A violent earthquake occurred; the sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair; the entire moon became like blood; the stars of heaven fell to the earth as a fig tree drops its unripe figs when shaken by a high wind; the sky separated like a scroll being rolled up; and every mountain and island was moved from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the nobles, the military commanders, the rich, the powerful, and every slave and free person hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, because the great day of Their wrath has come! And who is able to stand?”1
From the above material, we infer the following time sequence:
But when will the Great Tribulation be? The following passages bear upon this question.
Matthew 24.15, 21, 29-31, 33, 36 — So when you see the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place” (let the reader understand) … at that time there will be great tribulation, the kind that hasn't taken place from the beginning of the world until now and never will again! Immediately after the tribulation of those days: The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not shed its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the celestial powers will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the peoples of the earth will mourn; and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. Now concerning that day and hour no one knows—neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son —except the Father only.
We can now add more details to figure 1:
Note: If the gathering of the elect precedes Christ’s return, why is it not listed as one of the signs in Matthew 24.29-31?
2. When is the rapture? 2
1 Thessalonians 4.14-18 — Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus. For we say this to you by a revelation from the Lord: We who are still alive at the Lord's coming will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel's voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
1 Corinthians 15:51-54— Listen! I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will 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 will be changed. Because this corruptible must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal must be clothed with immortality. Now when this corruptible is clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal is clothed with immortality, then the saying that is written will take place: Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Point 2 has taught this:
3. With the preceding important facts as a setting, let us examine a rarely noticed passage that sheds great light.
Revelation 20.1-7—Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven with the key to the abyss and a great chain in his hand. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for 1,000 years. He threw him into the abyss, closed it, and put a seal on it so that he would no longer deceive the nations until the 1,000 years were completed. After that, he must be released for a short time. Then I saw thrones, and people seated on them who were given authority to judge. [I] also [saw] the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of God's word, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and who had not accepted the mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with the Messiah4 for 1,000 years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the 1,000 years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! The second death has no power over these, but they will be priests of God and the Messiah, and they will reign with Him for 1,000 years. When the 1,000 years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison.
human author of Revelation, is carried forward in time to see as
present things that are future to us.
b. He sees the
capture and the internment of Satan at the beginning of a one thousand
c. We read, “They came to
life and reigned with the Messiah”…
but “the rest of the dead did not come to life until the 1,000 years
were completed.” We understand these phrases as referring to two
together points 2 and 3 to get this general, compressed view of events
at the Lord’s coming:
4. There are additional confirming evidences:
Revelation 11.15-18⎯The seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven saying: The kingdom of the world has become the [kingdom] of our Lord and of His Messiah, and He will reign forever and ever! The 24 elders, who were seated before God on their thrones, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: We thank You, Lord God, the Almighty, who is and who was, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry, but Your wrath has come. The time has come for the dead to be judged, and to give the reward to Your servants the prophets, to the saints, and to those who fear Your name, both small and great, and the time has come to destroy those who destroy the earth.
When is the Resurrection of the Just?
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Compare this with Luke 14:14:
Luke 14:14—And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (ESV)
Matthew 13.27-30; 36-43⎯He presented another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while people were sleeping, his enemy came, sowed weeds5 among the wheat, and left. When the plants sprouted and produced grain, then the weeds also appeared. The landowner’s slaves came to him and said, ‘Master, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Then where did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this!’ he told them. ‘So, do you want us to go and gather them up?’ the slaves asked him. ‘No,’ he said. ‘When you gather up the weeds, you might also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At harvest time I’ll tell the reapers: Gather the weeds first and tie them in bundles to burn them, but store the wheat in my barn.’“
Then He dismissed the crowds and went into the house. His disciples approached Him and said, “Explain the parable of the weeds in the field to us.”
He replied: “The One who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world; and the good seed—these are the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Therefore just as the weeds are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather from His kingdom everything that causes sin and those guilty of lawlessness. They will throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Anyone who has ears should listen! [Our emphasis.]
Jesus’s words of the “Great Commission” also confirm the point that Christians will live through the Great Tribulation.
Matthew 28.18-20⎯Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. [Our emphasis.]
5. When, within Daniel’s seventieth week and after the Great Tribulation, is the rapture?
Daniel 9.24-27 Seventy weeks6 are decreed about your people and your holy city—to bring the rebellion to an end, to put a stop to sin, to wipe away injustice, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place.7 Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince will be seven weeks and 62 weeks. It will be rebuilt with a plaza and a moat, but in difficult times. After those 62 weeks the Messiah will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the coming prince will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come with a flood, and until the end there will be war; desolations are decreed. He will make a firm covenant with many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and offering. And the abomination of desolation will be on a wing of the temple until the decreed destruction is poured out on the desolator.
From point 5 we see thus far:
|a.||On our time map so far developed we see that the abomination of desolation will stand in|
|the holy place at practically the end of the week.|
|b.||The Lord Jesus said that when we see the abomination of desolation stand in the holy|
|place there would scarcely be time for Judeans to escape the Great Tribulation by running|
|to the hills.|
|c.||We see, therefore, that the Great Tribulation is a short time at the end of the seventieth|
|week. It would seem then quite erroneous to call the whole seven years, or even the|
|second half of the seven years, the Great Tribulation.|
6. How long will the Great Tribulation last?
Daniel 12:11⎯And from the time the daily sacrifice is abolished and to the abomination of desolation, 1290 days. Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches 1,335 days. (Our translation)
incomplete in the Hebrew; something needs to be supplied, and the most
natural reading is: “And from the time the daily sacrifice is abolished
and to the setting up of the abomination of
desolation shall be 1290 days.”
Revelation 20.1-16 puts the rapture⎯or first resurrection⎯coincident
binding of Satan for
the millennium. In other words, the resurrection of the just is
immediately before the
to the Lord (Matthew 24.15, 21), the Great Tribulation is the time
between the setting up
of the abomination of desolation and the return of Jesus. This makes
the Great Tribulation
necessarily quite short, since it begins practically at the end of the
70th week. The next
verse in Daniel (12.12), “Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches
suggests that the difference between 1290 and 1335 is the length of the
(45 days). We add this additional fact to figure 7 to come up
A summary of
this section appears in the diagram below:
7. The immanency of Jesus’s return.
2 Peter 3:3-12⎯First, be aware of this: scoffers will come in the last days to scoff, following their own lusts, saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they have been since the beginning of creation.” They willfully ignore this: long ago the heavens and the earth existed out of water and through water by the word of God. Through these the world of that time perished when it was flooded by water. But by the same word the present heavens and earth are held in store for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
Dear friends, don't let this one thing escape you: with the Lord one day is like 1,000 years, and 1,000 years like one day. The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.
But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that [day] the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, [it is clear] what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness as you wait for and earnestly desire the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be on fire and be dissolved, and the elements will melt with the heat.
But based on His promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell.
8. Objections to the view expressed in these pages:
a. “Are we not setting dates?” No, we are not setting a date of such and such a year AD that our Lord will come. Christ said, “Now concerning that day and hour no one knows” (Matthew 24:36). He was speaking of His return to gather His elect from all the earth, and He stated that His return immediately follows the Great Tribulation. The Great Tribulation, in turn, is said to follow immediately the appearance of the abomination in the holy place spoken of by Daniel the prophet. Hence, we have Jesus Himself predicting two events⎯the Great Tribulation and the abomination of desolation⎯will take place preceding His return. When these predicted events begin to appear, we still will not know the “day” or the “hour,” but we will know that His return is close.
After informing His disciples of His impending Passion, the Lord said, “I have told you now before it happens so that when it does happen you may believe.” (John 14:29) He was pointing out that His future suffering was by design, not by chance. (Acts 2.23)
In the same vein, these passages show that the Great Tribulation is also by design so that we who are accounted worthy to suffer for His name may be strengthened in our trust in Him as these things come to pass. We are no better than the early Christian martyrs; the church has gone through tribulation before for His glory. We must arm ourselves for this, which could be in the very near future.
We pray that this short
strengthen Christians to endure in all tribulation, small or great,
present or future.
1 Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.
2 The “rapture” refers to Jesus’s collecting His saints—dead and alive—at His Second Coming.
3 Those who are translated receive a renewed body without passing through death and rise to meet the Lord.
4 Messiah is the same as Christ.
5 Also translated tares, or darnel, a weed similar in appearance to wheat in the early stages
6 All Bible scholars accept that “week” is a seven-year period.
7 Or, “to anoint the most holy one.” A problem exists as to whether the “most holy” refers to the temple or to a person. If the latter, then the person is Jesus Christ. (Revelation 11.15)
Last updated: May 6, 2007