By Nathan Jones
What immediately follows in Heaven after the Rapture of the Church?
On Monday, January 30, 2012, I was interviewed by host Brian Thomas of Blessings to Israel Ministries on his "God First" program. During the 45-minute interview we discussed the prophetic sequence of end time events, placing each event into its proper chronological order.
2) The Rapture of the Church
Brian Thomas: So, the Day of Pentecost is when the Church Age began, and we're looking at about 2,000 years now that the Church Age has been in existence. What brings the Church Age to a close, or is there even a close to the Church Age?
Nathan Jones: Yes, the Church Age does have an ending and that is the Rapture of the Church. We can read about it in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, "After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever." That passage, along with a number of other passages like 1 Corinthians 15:51-58, tell about the return of Jesus for the Church.
What happens at the Rapture is that Jesus comes back in the clouds. There's a loud trumpet sound and the archangel calls to all the believers who are alive in Christ. The dead in Christ who have already died during the Church Age will be resurrected. Those of us who are saved and alive will be raised just after them, and we will be taken up to Jesus in the clouds and be with the Lord forever. We will get our new glorified bodies. The rest of the people who have disbelieved in Jesus and rejected His salvation will be left behind.
3a) The Tribulation — Heaven
Brian Thomas: So, the Church Age comes to a close when Jesus Christ returns at the Rapture of the Church. Then what happens? Do we go off to Heaven to live for eternity?
Nathan Jones: Technically speaking, yes, we do live on for eternity. But, there's say a parallel time that's going to be happening on Earth during our time in Heaven. There will come a seven year Tribulation period which will befall the earth. It's seven years of intense wrath pummeled down upon the world for its continued disobedience to God.
The purpose for this time of tribulation is firstly that God wants people to come and accept Him as Savior. So, what God does is He releases 21 intense judgments upon the world, forcing people to choose Him or not.
Secondly, God will also use this time period of pouring out His wrath upon the evil of the world to regather Israel back into their land which forces them to acknowledge that Jesus is the Messiah.
Thirdly, God will have Jesus the Messiah return and fight the unbelieving remnant and set up His kingdom on earth.
It's important to note that the Tribulation on Earth is not for the Church. The Church will not be here for the Tribulation for we are promised by God over and over again that we will be spared from the wrath of God. Colossians 3:4 promises, "When Christ who is your life appears than you will also appear with Him in glory." 1 Thessalonians 1:10 reveals, "Wait for the Son from Heaven whom He raised from the dead, Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath." And, probably the best verse for assuring Christians we will not have to live through that seven year Tribulation is Revelation 3:10, "Since you have kept my commands to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth." Only unbelievers are stuck here for seven years plus maybe a little longer after the Rapture.
For those of us who are raptured up to Heaven, we have a different series of events coming to us there while the Earth faces the Tribulation. There are three events that will happen to us while we are up in Heaven:
1. The Judgment Seat of Christ
This can also be called the Judgment of the Just. The Judgment of the Just is for believers to receive their rewards for the good works we did while on Earth. Now, remember that we are already saved. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus is the only way to get saved. So, when we get up to Heaven, this judgment isn't for our salvation as that's already been accomplished by Christ. This judgment is only about receiving the rewards that we will receive in the service of Christ. You can find our more about this judgment in 2 Corinthians 5:10 and Revelation 19:6-9.
While the Tribulation rages over the earth, in Heaven the Church will receive our rewards for the good things we've done in life. We will be judged based on our motives, the quality of our work, and the quantity of our work. How we actually use the gifts that God has given us to serve Him while we are on the earth then really matters.
The rewards, beyond the spiritual reward of just how amazing it is to be with God finally face-to-face, the Bible reveals are special crowns and white robes. We're told we'll be given new names to go along with our new bodies.
It'll be pretty wonderful. I'm so looking forward to that!
2. The Marriage Supper of the Lamb
Jesus will hold a celebration in what is called the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. It's like a giant party. The Church is called the Bride of Christ for a reason. God will have a personal fellowship with mankind once again. That one-on-one, deep, personal relationship will be restored.
Somehow over the years Christians have gotten this idea that Jesus is dull and God is stuffy, but you know, many times when we read about Jesus during His earthly ministry He was attending a party. Jesus loves to celebrate good things. Jesus is going to celebrate that His Church after 2,000 plus years is finally up with Him in Heaven at an event called the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
3. Preparation for the Second Coming
The third thing that we'll be doing while we are up in Heaven is preparing to return with Christ back to earth. We return with Christ at His Second Coming at the end of the Tribulation, which we'll get into a little more later.
So, those are the three things that believers can look forward to experiencing when we get to Heaven.
Brian Thomas: Great! Back to the Judgment Seat of Christ for a moment, I hear quiet often people say that we will have to stand before God someday and answer to every single thing that we've ever done. All of our sins and wicked thoughts are going to be broadcast for all to see on a huge billboard in Heaven and everyone is going to see it as we stand there embarrassed and ashamed before God. Will that really be the case?
Nathan Jones: The whole idea of a big billboard or big TV to me sounds like quiet a fantasy. We are all destined to die once and then face judgment, the Bible tells us that. But, again, this is a celebration. This is a time of gift giving from the Lord. How many people show up for a kid's birthday party and see the parent reading a laundry list of all their kid's failings before they give them their birthday presents? Never! It doesn't work that way.
Yes, I think there'll be regrets. The Bible gives us the example of chaff. Threshers would remove the chaff, that is the weeds and stuff that dried with the grain, out of the grain. Chaff is the works that we just failed to do from wasting our time. Instead, we pursued money, we pursued clothes, we pursued cars, we watched TV too much. We just didn't do the works we were supposed to do while on earth. The natural and spiritual gifts that God gave us for service to Him we didn't utilize properly. Yes, those lapses will affect our eternal gifts.
Some verses talk about achieving our rewards already on earth, like when we seek attention for the things that we do, and that attention is the only reward we can expect. People say "good job" and they forget about what you did and that's that. But, our eternal rewards are works that we did for Christ out of our heart and love for Him. Those rewards last forever.
I love this reference in Revelation 19:7-9 concerning the Marriage Supper, "Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory. For the wedding of the Lamb has come and His bride has made themselves ready; fine linen bright and clean was given her to wear. Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints. Then the angel said to me, 'Write blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the lamb," and he added, 'these are the true words of God.'"
So, I'm excited! It's going to be a great time when the Lord's going to reward us, and not a time to dwell on our sins.
The thing about rewards is this, that it's not all about us. Just look at the 24 Elders who are described by John in Revelation who circle the Throne of God. What do they do with those gifts God gave them such as their crowns? They take their crowns off and they lay them at the feet of God, using their rewards as an act of worship. Our rewards in Heaven are eternal reminders of our worship of the Lord, and we will use those to worship Him forever. Isn't it neat that if you like in love help a homeless person, or share the Gospel with somebody, or anything to do to help the spiritual kingdom of the Lord here on earth, that act's got eternal value that will be used to worship the Lord forever. That's going to be an exciting time!
So, no, I don't think the Judgment of the Just is going to be a battering where we are crying the whole time while we're reminded of our sins. Heaven is supposed to be a place without crying or tears. Instead, the Lord is going to use this as a time of celebration and worship, and He's got seven years to do it all in. I think it'll be just totally awesome.
Brian Thomas: I'm looking forward to it as well!
In the next part of this series on God's order of events, Brian and I will discuss the next in the series — the Tribulation of the Earth culminating in the Battle of Armageddon.