Updated: Jan 1, 2022
I am not a scholar, nor the son of a scholar, but I do believe I am being faithful to the calling the Lord has set me upon. In that calling, I’ve come to understand some basic truths about the nature of God through study, mentorship, and leading by the Holy Spirit. One of those truths is that God never changes.
However, how He has dealt with mankind over the past six thousand years, has changed. This is primarily because the information available to mankind has changed. God did not reveal everything to Adam, nor to Noah, or Abraham, etc. Information about God, His nature, and His agenda would be revealed incrementally. This progressive revelation came in the form of administrations or dispensations. Changing from one to the next, meant changes in what man was accountable for knowing or doing.
I liken these administrative changes, to how a parent raises a child. It would be unjust and irresponsible for a parent to have the same rules for a 2-year-old that they do for a 12-year-old, or vice-versa. Even though the rules and responsibilities may change, a good parent never stops loving or caring for their children regardless the age.
So we come to one of those topics today that I inject my understanding of Scripture for the things I know. I’ll also inject some speculation on things I am unsure of, simply because there is not enough information about it in Scripture to make firm declarations. And since I am also not a prophet (or son of one), I can only work with the tools I have available at my disposal. One of those topics I believe is what salvation looks like after the Church is caught up in the Rapture. I believe the keys to understanding this are:
Old Testament (OT) salvation (and I use that term liberally) is not the same thing as our salvation now in this dispensation. Romans 4:3 states that Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. But what did Abraham believe? Did he believe in the Gospel of Christ crucified? Well, no, because the Incarnation had not yet happened, and thus how God would redeem mankind remained a mystery (1 Cor. 2:7). In fact, in Matthew 16, when Jesus asked His disciples who men said that He was, He praised Peter’s answer of “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” by saying Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
But Abraham was asked to do to Isaac (his only son) the very thing that Christ would one day have to do…become the sacrifice. I believe that Abraham’s faith in God was that He would resurrect his son and ultimately himself. He may not have understood it then as we do today, but He had faith in God. This is why there is an entire chapter on the faith of the Old Testament saints (Hebrews 11). In the OT, salvation is more akin to redemption, which is still a result of God’s grace through our faith, but the object of said faith was not yet fully understood.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. Hebrews 11:1-2
This good testimony is what redeemed them to a place we know as Paradise or Abraham’s Bosom. At certain times and usually, for specific reasons, the Holy Spirit would indwell individuals to carry out God’s specific task for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it was national deliverance (Samson), sometimes it was national leadership (Saul, David). But what it wasn’t, was universal. Not everyone who had this good testimony was indwelt by the Holy Spirit (or at least Scripture does not tell us this).
But the Holy Spirit could also depart from men when they strayed from God’s plan (Samson, Saul). When these OT persons died, they either went to a place known as Paradise (or Abraham’s Bosom), or to Torments, which comprised the other half of Sheol (or Hades). (See Luke 16:19-31, 23:43)
While redemption was not exclusive to Israel (see Job 19:25-27), they were however set aside as a people who were meant to be light to a world shrouded in demonic darkness (Exodus 19:6). Instead, we read about a people who struggled nationally with holiness and the demands of the Law. The Law as it was given to Moses, was designed to point them to their need for the coming Redeemer. Instead, they made a religion out of the Law and began adding to it making it even more cumbersome (Acts 15:10-11). Instead of pointing to the Christ (Messiah), it became a shallow, works-based version of what it was meant to represent. This is why when Jesus pointed out the intent of the Law, the Jewish clerical leadership (Pharisee, Sadducees, and Scribes) plotted to kill Him (Mark 3:6, 14:1).
Key takeaway: OT salvation meant justification and/or redemption by faith in God and what He would do (future tense). The Holy Spirit could come upon a person, but could also depart from said person. The Holy Spirit would come and go from man as necessary to accomplish God’s plan. The deceased either went to Paradise or Torments. The OT ends with Christ’s death on the cross (Matt. 27:51).
Dispensation of Grace
Salvation, as we know it today, is a Church-age phenomenon that makes salvation open to all mankind by believing in the finished work of Christ on the Cross. When Jesus said, it is finished (John 19:30), He meant that there was nothing further He could do to satisfy God’s demands in the Law for sacrifice. He offered Himself as the perfect, blemish-less lamb that takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). His burial and subsequent resurrection on the third day, were simply the fulfillment of the prophetic texts (Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, etc.), patterns (feasts), and sign (the sign of Jonah) that had to be fulfilled. Furthermore, anyone in this dispensation who believes on Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins is immediately filled and sealed by the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption (Eph. 1:11-14, 4:30). None of the OT saints ever had that guarantee bestowed upon them.
Believers in this age are sealed by the Holy Spirit by a one-time profession of faith. Not because of works, or how dutiful we are in our “Christianity” (John 3:16, 36; Romans 10:9-10; Eph. 2:8-9). The reason it’s called the Age of Grace by dispensationalists is not that its grace (grace has always been a factor through every dispensation), but probably because we are the least deserving of it. We have history, archeology, prophecy, technology, and a complete set of Scriptures for our benefit, and still, many reject God, pervert His words, and/or live unchanged lives after we are redeemed (See Luke 12:48).
But one day, this special dispensation (age/era) will come to an end when those who are sealed by the Holy Spirit, will be caught up (both the living and the dead) to be glorified in their eternal bodies and be with our Lord forever (Jn. 14:1-3, 1 Thess. 4:13-18, 1 Cor. 15:51-55). We have to be changed (from mortal to immortal) because where we are going (third heaven), the human body (flesh and blood) cannot survive. This is why the Holy Spirit is withdrawn (2 Thess 2:7) [I believe the ESV has the best translation of this particular chapter], because He currently indwells all believers as a guarantee. But does this mean that no one else can be saved after the Rapture?
Key Takeaway: The key distinctive of this age, and the ones before and after, is the role of the Holy Spirit. Redemption and/or justification by grace through faith remains as it always has, but now, God sent the Holy Spirit to permanently seal those who professed true faith in Christ death, burial, and resurrection for the forgiveness of their sins (1 Cor. 15:1-5, Gal. 1:9). Once this dispensation ends, the world goes back to the way it was before Acts 2 Pentecost.
The Seventieth Week
The Seventieth Week of Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27) chronicles the last seven years of human-led history. This week of years is devoted to two things: destroying all the Christ-rejecting nations, and disciplining, but preserving a remnant of the Jewish nation Israel (hence why it’s called ‘the time of Jacob’s Trouble’) (Jeremiah 30:7-11).
Just like the world before the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4 when the Holy Spirit was given), the world will one day return to an age and reality where the Holy Spirit does not, in fact, seal everyone who places their faith in Jesus Christ. If Acts 2 had any significance at all, then it was the physical, visible given of the Holy Spirit to mankind to demonstrate the significance of the Church Age (or Age of Grace).
But we also know that the Holy Spirit existed on the earth before Acts 2. Genesis 1:2 and numerous subsequent OT passages indicate that the Holy Spirit is omnipresent and was busy on earth long before that Pentecost. So the idea that the HS is no longer on the earth at all is simply a misreading of the passage (2 Thess. 2:7). The Holy Spirit is in fact, the Restrainer, who is acting to restrain evil by always keeping a remnant of believers alive.
The Church (i.e.…the salt and light and body of Christ) preserves God’s judgment from being exacted upon a lost world whose current administrator is Satan (Luke 4:5-6) until the day of redemption (the Rapture). We do not see the Holy Spirit active on the earth during the last seven years except to seal the 144K Jewish male virgins as found in Revelation 7.
But we know that God is merciful and long-suffering (Jonah 4:2, 2 Peter 3:9). It could be that the martyrs we see in Revelation 6:9-11 (the fifth seal) are a result of believers who come to faith in Christ during the gap of time between the Rapture and the beginning of the official 70th Week. Seeing as the Rapture does not start the 70th Week, but must wait for a peace accord or a kind of covenant (Dan. 9:27), it makes sense that they come to faith early on because of the Rapture. It could be that the Holy Spirit makes one last past through (a gleaning if you will) before the strong delusion is placed upon the earth (2 Thess. 2:11).
We also see that believers come from all the tribes of the earth (primarily Gentiles then) up until the Seventh Seal. There is no mention of anyone being redeemed beyond that point except for those Jews who are saved. But we know that there will be Gentile believers at the end because of Matthew 25:31-46 and Isaiah 2:1-4. Those martyrs who are already physically dead by the Fifth Seal are positioned below the altar of God asking how much longer it would be (Rev. 6:10-11). We know that these martyrs aren’t part of the Church because the Church isn’t hanging out below the altar waiting for God to exact justice on our fellow brethren and servants.
Key Takeaway: Although many will come to faith in the time immediately following the Rapture (and because of it), but before the start of the official 70th Week, it is unclear that many will become believers once the “Tribulation” officially starts apart from Israel. Since it is extremely likely the Rapture causes many to come to faith finally realizing that it was real after all, then it is also equally likely that those believers are also killed fairly early on leaving primarily Israel and an unrepentant world (whose given over to a strong delusion) as the sole inhabitants of the earth.
We have seen the Church go through seven stages (mirroring the Seven Letters in Revelation) for the past two millennia. As important as the Reformation was, it did not go far enough primarily because it adopted the same Eschatology as the church it sought to reform from the Roman Catholic Church.
It was both the Great Awakening and subsequent Dispensational movement of the 18th and 19th centuries that saw the Church reach its peak in terms of biblical “authority” and knowledge. It was here that the great missionary movements were sent out to every nation, as well as men coming to about the best knowledge they could arrive at (this side of the Rapture). But during the 20th century, both began to wane as a lukewarmness swept across western Christendom.
Here is where I am inserting my own speculation. Some wonder why we spend so much time going on about the Rapture as we do. Aside from our curiosity and excitement about this coming event for our generation, it will also serve as evidence for those who are left behind. One second after the Rapture, the world will be cast into turmoil and chaos. It will remain in chaos until a system (the beast) rises up to take the reins of a global system (possibly ran by some form of Artificial Intelligence). It is in this system that a man (the little horn, the rider on the white horse, the man of sin) rises up to take control of the beast. He confirms some kind of covenant between Israel and the many (many gentile nations) that officially starts the beginning of the seven-year countdown.
How long that gap is between the Rapture and the covenant is anyone’s guess. I believe it is anywhere from a few months, to a few years. But however long it is, it seems long enough for people to realize that this Rapture thing we crazy “Pre-Tribber’s” have been going on and on about was real. Because of the Rapture then, many come to faith in Christ, yet, they will not be sealed by the Holy Spirit in the same manner we are.
The reason they aren’t is that Satan also has a seal (the Mark of the Beast-Rev. 13:16-18) and both systems cannot exist at the same time, because one preserves eternally, while the other damns' eternally. If even one born-again Christian who was sealed by the Holy Spirit were somehow to take the Mark of the Beast, then “theoretically”, Scripture could be broken. We know the 144K Jewish male virgins are marked by a seal on their foreheads, but what exactly that entails we do not know (Ezekiel 9:4; Rev. 7:3). If we assume they aren’t sealed by the Holy Spirit, that doesn’t mean God can’t preserve them in some other way. We’ve seen all throughout the OT (Noah’s Ark, Lot’s early exit, parting the Red Sea, etc.) how God miraculously delivers His own. But overwhelmingly, these Tribulation martyrs are given over for slaughter by the Antichrist and his beast system (Revelation 13:7).
Lastly, while some may take issue with me placing believers in different categories, they shouldn’t. There are different categories of animals, plants, heavenly bodies, angels, humans, etc. why shouldn’t there be different categories of believers? Our diversity and differences will all be used by God to bring Himself glory, and that should be a great comfort to us.
I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:25-27