Questions on End of the World
I am confused about Judgement Day. So, when we die, our souls go to heaven and we are reunited with all of our loved ones. But we don't have our bodies yet? And we are judged at that time? Then, when Christ returns, the graves open and our bodies are then reunited with our souls in heaven? So, meantime we are spirits with no bodies? Then will we have to go to the the judgment all over again, or are only those left on earth judged because we have been judged when we die to enter heaven? I have heard many sermons and I am still confused. I can understand why the Roman Catholic Church developed the purgatory teaching, which I know is not true. Did that come out of the same confusion I have?
Let me try to respond to your questions in the order in which you asked them.
When death takes place, the body and soul separate, and judgment also takes place (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Hebrews 9:27). While their bodies remain on earth, the souls of Christians go to heaven (Luke 23:43; Acts 7:59; Revelation 6:9), while the souls of unbelievers go to hell (Luke 16:23; 1 Peter 3:19-20).
When Jesus returns visibly to this world on the Last Day, he will raise the bodies of all who have died and reunite their souls with their bodies (Daniel 12:2; John 5:28-29).
Jesus will then pronounce judgment on all people (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Timothy 4:1). The judgments that took place at people’s deaths will be made known to all. Additionally, the Lord will render judgment on those who are alive on the earth at his coming.
Unbelievers will experience eternal suffering—body and soul—in hell (Matthew 25:41-46), while believers—body and soul—will enjoy a perfect and glorious eternity in the new heaven and new earth (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1).
The Roman Catholic Church developed the concept of purgatory in the 15th and 16th centuries with the false idea that people who die with a debt of temporal punishment for their sins must atone for those sins in purgatory. That teaching denies the full and free forgiveness Christians enjoy through Spirit-worked faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 10:43; Romans 8:1; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14).
When you and I have God’s sure promises about what will happen at death and on the Last Day, we have every reason to join in the prayer: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).
Christians have been living in the end times or “last days” (Hebrews 1:2) since Jesus’ earthly ministry concluded. Since God’s will does not change, that means that God wants us to use life as he instructed his followers in the past.
Here are some specifics. God wants us to love him first and foremost, and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:27-28). God wants us to pray to him (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and faithfully use his Word (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 122:1). God’s will is that we honor his representatives in the home (Ephesians 6:2-3), the church (Hebrews 13:7, 17) and the government (Romans 13:1, 3, 6). God wants us to protect his gracious gift of life, our only time to come to repentance and saving faith in Jesus (Isaiah 55:6). God’s will is that we avoid sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5). God wants us to recognize that he is the owner of all things (Psalm 24:1). God’s will is that we be truthful in our conversations with others (Colossians 3:9) and content with how he is blessing our lives (1 Timothy 6:6-7).
This is the content of the Ten Commandments, isn’t it? This is how God wants Christians to live during the end times. This is how God has always wanted people to live.
Most importantly, God wants us to “Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15) He wants us to cling to Jesus in faith until the end of life (Revelation 2:10). He wants us to proclaim his name and share his Word with all people (Matthew 28:19-20). The Lord tells us to be watchful for his visible return on the last day (Matthew 24:42).
This was not intended to be an exhaustive list. The intent was really to illustrate what the first paragraph stated—that God’s will for Christians now is the same as his will for people in years past. This is no surprise. After God, God says, “I the LORD do not change” (Malachi 3:6).
Many times in Revelation it has been said that the world will get worse before Judgment Day. With everything going on with Covid-19, the election, crime, and the persecution of the Christian Church, do you think Judgement Day will come sooner rather than later? I understand that only God knows when Judgment Day is but I'm asking what you personally believe. That leads me to another question. I forgot what verse this was, but somewhere in the Bible Jesus said he did not know when Judgment Day was, that only the Father did. How is that possible if God is 3 in 1?
I really try to refrain from injecting personal opinion into these answers. I appreciate your interest in what I think, but more important is what Scripture says. The Bible teaches that Jesus will return visibly to this world on the Last Day “soon” (Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20). Existing outside time, Jesus can say “soon” and mean it—regardless of how many years in human history elapse from when he promised to return and when he will return. It comes as no surprise, then, to read that Christians in every day and age have looked at circumstances around them and thought that the Lord’s visible return was imminent.
Your second question addresses what Jesus said in Mark 13:32: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” As true God, Jesus knows all things; he certainly knows the day and hour of his visible return to this earth. It is important to keep in mind that Jesus spoke those words during his state of humiliation—that time in his earthly life when he did not always or fully make use of his divine attributes.
Each hour and each day bring us closer to the Last Day (Romans 13:11). That is reason why the Bible uses the word “now” (2 Corinthians 6:2) in exhorting people to tend to their spiritual needs.
We want to tell others what the Bible does and does not teach.
The Bible does not teach that there will be a secret resurrection of Christians or that Christians who are alive on the earth will be whisked out of this world to heaven prior to the Last Day. People who believe in the rapture usually look to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 for support for their belief. That section of the Bible, however, describes what will take place on the Last Day.
The Bible teaches that on the Last Day, Jesus will return visibly to this world, raise the dead and gather to himself the Christians who are still alive on the earth at his return. Being “caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17) is what will take place on the Last Day not prior to the Last Day. There is nothing in the context of that portion of Scripture to remove that event from the events of the Last Day.
If you would like more information on what the Bible does and does not teach about the Last Day, you will find value in reading this chapter of This We Believe, a statement of belief of our church body.
Do penitent, believing Christians get judged right after they die as God takes them to heaven instead of on Judgment Day?
Hebrews 9:27 teaches that there is judgment at the moment of death for all people—Christians and unbelievers. That judgment provides entrance into heaven for the souls of believers, while the souls of unbelievers are condemned to hell.
On the Last Day, there will be judgment of those who are alive on the earth. There will also be public proclamation of the judgments that took place when people died (Matthew 25:31-46).
I’ve been a Christian all my life. I’m currently 16 now and have my heart set on being a veterinarian. My walk with God has taken a huge hit recently because I found out that my animals are not coming with me in the rapture. They are left here to suffer the horrible fate of all the unbelievers. It’s a lonely, painful, sad, horrible death and I just don’t see why God would inflict that on a little puppy or even a lion. God is supposed to be merciful and loving! How is that any of this? I can’t get over the fact that my poor little maltipoo is going to be left here to die all alone and afraid when I’m taken up. Why would God do that?
There is no need to be concerned about the rapture because the Bible does not teach that. 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.”) is describing what will take place on the Last Day. The context of that verse is clearly describing events associated with Jesus’ visible return on the Last Day. The Bible does not teach a whisking away of Christians prior to the Last Day.
While God created animals, people are the crown of his creation (Genesis 1 and 2). It is people who have bodies and souls. It is possible that animals will be part of the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1), but Scripture does not explicitly state that.
I wish you well as you pursue a vocation in veterinary medicine. You can serve God and others by using your God-given abilities in that career.
The Bible speaks of the time between Jesus’ earthly ministry and Judgment Day as the “last days” (Hebrews 1:1-2). We are living in that time. What we do not know is if we are living in that “short time” (Revelation 20:3) before Judgment Day when Satan will be given more flexibility and freedom to do his dastardly work.
When death takes place, the body and soul separate, judgment takes place (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Hebrews 9:27) and souls are in heaven or hell (Luke 16:19-31). That means that those who die are no longer affected by what takes place on earth—during these “last days.”
We also want to keep in mind that just as we do not know the hour of Jesus’ visible return on the Last Day (Matthew 24:36), so we do not know when our death might take place.
A friend told me Jesus will come back three times. I know Jesus will only come back on judgement day only one time. Where in the Bible can I find the verses that say Jesus will return?
It sounds like your friend is reflecting views that are associated with the false teaching of premillennial dispensationalism. By misunderstanding and misinterpreting different parts of Scripture, some people wrongly look for Jesus to return to this world secretly to resurrect or rapture Christians, to return another time to bind Satan and begin the millennium, and to rule visibly over an earthly kingdom for a 1,000-year period.
Scripture speaks of a single return of the Lord to this world (Matthew 24:36, 42; 25:13; Acts 2:20; 1 Corinthians 1:8; 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10). That return will be visible not secret (Acts 1:11).
Why is it that so many Christians and government leaders place so much importance not only on the land of Israel (especially during the end times) but on the Jews as being God's people (as in the Old Testament)? Some even believe that we will be blessed if we help/align with the Jews. Seems to me that the land is of little importance during Armageddon, since it will be a spiritual battle. God's people to me are ones who believe in Jesus as their personal Savior, ask for forgiveness and repent of known sins. By faith, by God's grace, we are saved, and not by any works or an attempt to keep the law. This would not include Jews (Judaism). Only 2% currently are Christians in Israel. Am I correct on this?
What can often account for people placing great importance on the nation of Israel today is a wrong understanding of biblical prophecy. Dispensational premillennialism imagines a special role for the modern nation of Israel in the end times. The Bible does not address the modern nation of Israel.
When the Bible states that “…all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26), it is clear from the context (Romans 9:6-8) that we are not to expect a mass conversion of the Jews prior to the Last Day. No, the “Israel” of Romans 11:26 speaks of people who have the faith of God’s Old Testament people: faith that was centered in the promised Messiah. That Messiah is Jesus, the Christ.
Dispensational premillennialism requires a greater explanation than I can provide in this response to you. You will find a lengthy treatment of that subject in End Times: Jesus is Coming Soon. Your church library may have a copy of that book. It is also available from Northwestern Publishing House.
As you noted, people enjoy salvation “by grace, through faith.” God the Holy Spirit works saving faith in people through the means of grace. We do not decide to believe or choose to follow Jesus. Christian faith is God’s gift to people (Ephesians 2:9).
On the Last Day the Lord will raise the bodies of all who have died (John 5:28-29). Bodies and souls will be reunited.
As you noted, God will transform and glorify the bodies of Christians. That will be true for Christians who died prior to the Last Day or who are alive on that day when the Lord returns visibly to this world (1 Corinthians 15:35-57; Philippians 3:21).
On the mount of transfiguration did Moses and Elijah have glorified bodies? Elijah went to heaven without dying, but Moses died (Deuteronomy 34:5-6). Also in 1 Corinthians 15:22-23 we are told those who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes again. Can you please shed some light on this?
In his account of the transfiguration, the evangelist Luke tells us that Moses and Elijah “appeared in glorious splendor” (Luke 9:31). Those men appeared to Peter, James and John with bodies that reflected the heavenly glory they were enjoying.
1 Corinthians 15:22-23 does speak of Jesus’ resurrection and the resurrection of Christians. Verse 23 speaks of “Christ, the firstfruits.” Although other people in the Old and New Testament had been raised from the dead (but then experienced death a second time), Jesus was the first person to die, rise from the dead and never die again. Christians who die will rise on the Last Day and never die again—just like Jesus.
John 5:28-29 is one of those sections in the Bible that teaches that on the Last Day God will raise all the dead: Christians and unbelievers. He will reunite bodies with souls (and glorify the bodies of Christians – 1 Corinthians 15:35-57). All those people, along with the people who are alive on earth at Jesus’ visible return on the Last Day, will face judgment (Matthew 25:31-48). Unbelievers, body and soul, will experience the horrors of hell forever. Christians, body and soul, will enjoy a perfect and glorious life with God on the new heaven and new earth.
When God raises the bodies of the dead and reunites them with the soul, is the judgment of each individual made public for all to see? If so, would I then be aware of the damnation of a family member? Assuming I will be in heaven by the grace of God, wouldn't the knowledge of a loved one going to hell affect my happiness in heaven? Thank you so much.
When people die, they face judgment from God (Hebrews 9:27). As you correctly noted, that personal judgment will be made public on the last day (Matthew 25:31-46).
How might Christians react to the realization that a loved one is not among the sheep of Jesus’ fold? We do have to keep some Scripture passages in mind. Revelation 21:4 – “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Psalm 16:11 – “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
Without knowing precisely how your question will play out in the lives of Christians on the Last Day, some have proposed that Christians will have perfect joy in heaven because they will not be aware of a loved one not being with them. Others have suggested that Christians will have that knowledge, but it will not be a source of sorrow for them. While that sounds cold and heartless right now, in heaven our wills will be entirely in line with God’s will (as was the case with Adam and Eve at the beginning of time). Therefore, if God condemns people on the Last Day for their rejection of him, just as he said (Mark 16:16), Christians—whose wills will be entirely in line with God’s will—will recognize and acknowledge that God’s judgments are true and just (Revelation 16:5-7). While our emotions right now might interfere with and object to God’s will, that will not be the case in heaven. In heaven, the words we pray now—“Your will be done”—will be a way of life for us.
Your question underscores how important it is that we share with our family and friends the good news of Jesus Christ, so that through Spirit-worked faith they can be with us in the perfect joys and glories of God’s presence in heaven.
In the Nicene Creed what does "He will come again to judge the living and the dead" refer to? Since we are judged at the moment of death, I take this to mean: when Jesus returns, those that are still alive in a worldly sense will be judged on that day. The living and the dead is referring to the souls of those people. The living is one that is living in faith as a Christian, and the dead is one that is dead to sin.
In all three ecumenical creeds (Apostles’, Nicene and Athanasian) Christians confess what Scripture teaches: “…Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead…” (2 Timothy 4:1).
As you noted, when people die, judgment takes place (Hebrews 9:27). When Jesus returns visibly on the Last Day, he will make public what those judgments at death were, and he will pronounce judgment on those who are alive on the earth on that day (Matthew 25:31-46).
With reference to whether people died before Jesus’ visible return on the Last Day or if they are alive on that day, Jesus will “judge the living and the dead.”
My friend is a recent WELS convert from Judaism. She is very concerned about her mother who passed as a Jew. What comfort can I give her regarding judgement day and her loved ones?
The truth of Scripture is that “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). “Believing” and “not believing” in that passage center around Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Scripture says about Jesus, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
If we are convinced that someone has died in unbelief, the only comfort we can give is that which concerns the Christian survivors. We can remind Christians whose lives have been affected by the death of loved ones that Jesus promised: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). We can remind Christians mourning the death of family members of God’s promise to them: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). We can remind Christians whose lives have been shaken by the death of loved ones that God is their “refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
Death is a reminder of the wages of sin (Romans 6:23). One of the petitions in a prayer that was often offered in churches upon the announcement of a member’s death was this: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Whenever a death takes place, there is a call for the survivors to use their time of grace wisely (2 Corinthians 6:2). True wisdom is knowing Jesus Christ in faith as Lord and Savior (Psalm 111:10; Colossians 2:3).
God bless the conversations you have with your friend, as you direct her to the truths and promises of God’s word.
When Paul says that “God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (1 Thessalonians 4:14), he is referring to the believers who have died, but have been raised to life to witness Jesus’ return. See Daniel 12:2 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52.
Jesus refers to the 12 apostles judging the 12 tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28), and Paul mentions that we believers will judge the world, including angels (1 Corinthians 6:2-3).
Whatever else may be involved, Lutheran teachers explain these verses as showing us how we believers do with Christ whatever he does. We “judge” the world by sitting together with Christ on Judgment Day, and by giving our own loud “Amen!” to the judgments he pronounces.
Are souls of deceased believers in heaven now? If so, wouldn't that mean their judgement day was when they died instead of when God comes back to judge the living and the dead?
Yes, the souls of Christians who have died are in heaven now. When death takes place, judgment also takes place (Hebrews 9:27). Jesus promised the repentant thief that he would be in heaven that very day (Luke 23:43). The book of Revelation describes Christians in heaven who were killed for their faith (Revelation 6:9-11).
On the Last Day, when Jesus returns visibly to this world, he will judge all people (Matthew 25:31-46). Those who died prior to the Last Day received judgment when they died. On the Last Day, that judgment will be made public. Those who are alive on the Last Day will be judged at that time.
When we know Jesus Christ in faith as our Savior, we know what the Judge will say to us whenever we appear before him. That is our joy and confidence.
I grew up in a family who wandered from church to church over the years, finally landing in a WELS church. However, my siblings and other friends I know are premillennial dispensationalists in their thinking. It is not a surprise that my siblings are a little misguided from all the wandering growing up. My question is, how do I communicate the truth about the great tribulation, the rapture and the 1000-year reign of Christ to my family and friends who believe in these false teachings? I am aware of the book at Northwestern Publishing House, "End Times: Jesus is Coming." It is on my list of books to order, but is there any guidance I could get now to help my friends and family see the truth? I know that prayer works best, but these things come up from time to time and would like to know the best way to respond, rather than backing out of a conversation because of lack of understanding on the subject. Thank you.
I could suggest that you have a discussion with your family members on the basics of biblical interpretation. In other words, how are we to read and understand the message of the Bible?
One principle of faithful biblical interpretation is to consider Bible verses in their proper context. Let me apply that principle to just one of the subjects you mentioned: the rapture.
Those who believe that God will whisk Christians out of this world prior to judgment day point to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 for support. A careful reading of that section of Scripture, however, reveals that the apostle Paul was writing about events connected to the last day—not events removed in time from the last day. It is Christians who are alive on the earth on judgment day who “will meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Moving that event prior to judgment day is illegitimate and inaccurate biblical interpretation because the context is violated.
If you focus attention on keeping Bible verses in their proper context, you will teach your family members an important lesson. And, as long as you are ordering books from Northwestern Publishing House, you might benefit from a book on biblical interpretation. This link will show you some possibilities. God bless your testimony of his word.
I saw a bumper sticker once that said, "Everybody lives forever, one way or the other ↑↓" which seems to say that after resurrection and judgment, all people are eternal beings, whether in heaven or hell. Is this accurate? We believe with Job that "...after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes...". Are the damned resurrected to new flesh along with the faithful?
In the Apostles’ Creed we confess: “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” In the Nicene Creed we confess: “We look for the resurrection of the dead.” The resurrection of which we speak is not limited to Christians. That becomes clear when we use the words of the Athanasian Creed: “At his [Jesus’] coming all people will rise with their own bodies to answer for their personal deeds.”
Those confessions are based on Scripture. Jesus said, “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28-29). Those last words speak of saving faith and unbelief showing themselves in everyday living.
When he was on trial, the apostle Paul stated: “There will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked” (Acts 24:15).
Daniel 12:2 states: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.”
“The resurrection of the dead” on the last day applies to all who have died: Christian or unbeliever.
I see the question "If you knew the Lord was coming tomorrow, what would you do today?" posted on social media often, especially by non-Lutheran family and friends. My reply without hesitation is: "Nothing different, as I am ready." How, as a WELS Lutheran, do I answer the inevitable follow-up questions? Comments always range from "Pray" and "Get Ready" to "Spread the Gospel." Shouldn't we already be doing those things?
I am with you in how I would react to such (hypothetical) news. If we take seriously the Bible’s instructions to live each day of life soberly (1 Peter 4:7), with prayerful watchfulness (Matthew 25:13; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-8) and an urgency to spread the gospel (2 Corinthians 6:2), then such news of the Lord’s Second Advent will not change the focus of our daily living. Rather, there will be good reason to intensify those ongoing activities of prayer, personal preparedness and outreach.
Here is a little twist to that question: knowing (somehow) that the Lord was coming sometime tomorrow does not guarantee that I will be alive on the earth when that momentous event takes place. My earthly life might end at some point today, before “tomorrow” comes. Recognition of that leads me to live each day of life as God directs in his word. “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
I'm considering changing religions and in researching yours. I read through "This We Believe" in regard to Jesus' return. You state some believable things in this section, however, you never quote the Book of Revelation. #4 and #5 in this section seem to be contradictory to each other. Can you please just help me to understand your thoughts on what you believe when it comes to Jesus return? I'm trying to make the best decision in which church to go to. Also, what is Paul's blessed hope? In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, I Cor. 15: 51-52. Many state that is regarding the rapture as well. Regarding the 1,000 year time period, why don't you believe in an actual 1,000 years? I take it as literal, but would like to hear your explanation as to why you don't believe in this. I know in the Bible it says a thousand years are like a day and a day is like a thousand years, but I'm not sure if that's supposed to be applied here.
We believe from the Bible that when Jesus visibly returns to this world, the bodies of those who died will be raised and reunited with their souls (John 5:28-29). The Lord will judge all people on the basis of faith or unbelief (Mark 16:16). Because only God can see what is in a person’s heart, Scripture speaks of judgment on the basis of how saving faith and unbelief showed themselves in daily living (Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20:11-15). The judgment that took place at the time of a person’s death (Hebrews 9:27) will be made public, as will the judgment of those who are alive at the time of Jesus’ visible return.
From judgment day on, believers will spend eternity in God’s presence with both body and soul. Their bodies will be glorified and freed from every weakness caused by sin (1 Corinthians 15:35-57; Philippians 3:21). From judgment day on, unbelievers will spend eternity in hell with both body and soul (Matthew 25:41).
1 Corinthians 15:51-52 does not refer to a rapture of any kind. (1 Thessalonians 4:17 speaks of what will happen on the last day.) The verses explain how God will transform and glorify the bodies of Christians who are alive on the earth when Jesus returns visibly (just as he will do for those Christians who have died).
Numbers in Revelation are symbolic (cf. the 144,000 in chapters 7 and 14). The 1,000-year time period of chapter 20 means anything but 1,000 years. We understand that to be the New Testament time period. Jesus made it very clear that his is not an earthly kingdom (John 18:36).
The 2 Peter 3:8 reference of “a thousand years” and “a day” simply describes how God is unaffected by earthly time. He is eternal and is not bound by time as people are.
If you would like to read more about these topics, I can recommend End Times: Jesus is Coming Soon. It is available through Northwestern Publishing House. Also, do speak to one of our pastors for more thorough responses to your questions. God bless you.
When we die our soul either goes to heaven or hell. On judgment day why are the souls of the dead judged again?
You are correct in stating that a person’s death is a personal judgment day. When Jesus returns visibly on the last day, he will separate all humanity into two groups: his believers (sheep) and unbelievers (goats) (Matthew 25:31-46). By doing that, Jesus will make public what judgment took place at a person’s death, and he will also render a verdict on those who are alive at his return.
So in the case of those who died prior to the last day, it is not a matter of being judged again. It is a matter of Jesus publicly pronouncing, and supplying the evidence for, the judgment that took place at death.
How wonderful it is to know our verdict ahead of time! “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).
It is my understanding from the Bible that when a person dies, his soul is separated from his body. Our bodies at this time remain on earth while a believer's soul goes to Heaven and a non-believer's soul goes to Hell. So those in death have already faced their judgement. On the day of Judgement when our Savior returns, it is my understanding that a person's body and soul are reunited and believers go to Heaven with non-believers going to Hell. Is this all correct? Also, after a person dies and before Judgement what is the status of, I guess, our souls both as believers and unbelievers? Are we kind of in "limbo"? As believers do we enjoy all the benefits in heaven with our soul (not body) or do we have to wait until Judgment Day? Same for non-believers, are they in "limbo" or are they feeling the pains of Hell before Judgment Day? Thank you.
Your understanding of events in the first paragraph is correct: when death takes place, judgment also takes place (Hebrews 9:27).
Since that is the case, Christians after death and before the Last Day enjoy the benefits of heaven with their souls, and unbelievers after death and before the Last Day experience the torments of hell according to their souls. There is no limbo of any kind. The account of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) illustrates how Christians enjoy being in the presence of God and unbelievers experience suffering after death and before Judgment Day.
On the Last Day the Lord will raise the bodies of all who have died (John 5:28-29). Bodies and souls will be reunited and Christians will continue to enjoy perfect life in God’s presence according to both body and soul, while unbelievers will continue to experience suffering according to both body and soul. Those who are alive on the Last Day will not experience death but will be judged according to what is in their hearts.
Not to be overlooked is the transformation of Christians’ bodies—whether they died or will be alive on the Last Day (1 Corinthians 15:35-57). Certainly our Easter celebration is reason to praise God for our victory over death and to share that victorious message with others.
On judgment day, as listed in Rev. 20:12, "the dead were judged according to what they had done." Will the Christian's life (both good and bad things) be reviewed before going into heaven?
God judges on the basis of faith or unbelief (Mark 16:16). While faith and unbelief are matters of the heart, neither is invisible; there is evidence of faith and unbelief in daily life. Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46) shows how the Lord will provide evidence for the judgment of the heart he renders.
The section of Revelation that you cited contains a picturesque way of God explaining that faith and unbelief are visible in everyday life. As is the case with the parable of the sheep and the goats, here too in Revelation only the good works of Christians are mentioned. None of their sins are pointed out because they have no sins. Jesus Christ won complete forgiveness of sins for them by his holy life and sacrificial death, and Christians enjoy that forgiveness through Spirit-worked faith.
On the other hand, only the sins of unbelievers are mentioned because they are unable to do anything pleasing in God’s sight (Hebrews 11:6), and their entire life is one of sin (Romans 14:23). Their sins are evidence of their unbelief.
Judgment day will not be a check list of the good and bad things people have done. The judgment is of the heart, but God will provide evidence for his judgment of the heart.
I know that we as Lutherans reject the teaching of the rapture. There are many passages in the Bible that indicate that Christians will go through a tribulation period in the last days and these passages also confirm that the teaching of the rapture is false. Below I referenced some passages that seem to slightly contradict or maybe just alter the timeline of events that the Lutheran church teaches: Matthew 24:40-41 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52. Also, I have read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 multiple times and from that it is difficult for me to understand that the day the Lord will gather believers to take us home and judgement day are not two different things. That section of Scripture seems like it is only talking about the Lord taking us home and does not mention judgement day. Also, when I read Titus 2:13 and Amos 5:18, it seems like these passages are indicating that there are two separate events. The first event is one we eagerly anticipate and the second event is supposed to be feared. To briefly sum up my understanding of all this I can put it like this: we Christians will go through the tribulation period (Matthew 24 makes this clear), then the Lord will gather his believers and take us home, and finally the unbelievers will be judged. If you could tell me if I'm on or off course with this line of thinking, that would be great.
Allow me to comment briefly on several points you made and Scripture passages you cited. The “tribulation period” Christians go through in life is the Christian life in general, not any particular time in their life or in world history (Acts 14:22).
Matthew 24:40-41 shows how believers and unbelievers will be separated on the last day. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 explains that there will be Christians on earth when Jesus returns visibly on the last day. Those Christians will not experience death, but their bodies—like the resurrected bodies of Christians—will also be glorified.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 describes the Lord returning visibly to this world on the last day, raising the bodies of Christians and reuniting them with their souls, and gathering to himself Christians who are alive on the earth. The apostle Paul was addressing a concern on the part of the Thessalonian Christians regarding fellow Christians who had died. That is why he limits his treatment of judgment day in this section of the Bible to Christians who died and Christians who are still alive on the earth.
Titus 2:13 and Amos 5:18 do not describe two separate events; they describe how different the last day will be for believers and unbelievers. For believers, the last day will usher in an eternity of joy and glory that they will experience with their glorified bodies and souls (Revelation 21:3-4). For unbelievers, the last day will be a banishment, with both body and soul, to the darkness of hell (Matthew 22:13; 25:41). With this in mind, it is very understandable that there will be different reactions to the Lord’s return.
To reflect biblical teaching, your summary statement would need to be revised. Christians do go through much hardship and tribulation to enter the kingdom of God. On the last day Jesus will return to judge “the living and the dead,” as we confess in the Apostles’ Creed. The Lord will gather his followers to himself, while he will banish the unbelievers from his presence.
How wonderful to be able to take to heart what our Lord himself said about his return on the last day: “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28). Let’s share God’s word with others that they too may be prepared for and look forward to Jesus’ return.
The false teaching of the Rapture is the idea that, prior to the end of the world, believers will suddenly be whisked out of this world to heaven. The teaching is a gross misunderstanding of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. That section of Scripture explains that on the Last Day Jesus will return visibly to this world, raise the dead and gather to himself the Christians who are still alive on the earth at his return. Being “caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” is what will happen on the Last Day not prior to the Last Day.
You can read more information on what the Bible teaches regarding the End Times by following this link to the appropriate section of our synod’s publication This We Believe. You may also be interested in a recently-published book by Northwestern Publishing House titled End Times: Jesus is Coming Soon.
Because of what awaits us as children of God through faith in Jesus Christ, we too look forward to our Lord’s visible return on the Last Day and say, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).
My friend, a Christian, tried to explain to me how some will have another 7 years to repent after judgement day, and be saved. She says it states this in Revelation. Please help me understand where she is coming from and direct me on how I can help her interpret this message correctly.
Your friend is echoing ideas of something called dispensational premillennialism. That is a false teaching that inserts numerous events prior to the end of the world. One of those events is a so-called great tribulation of seven years. Scripture does not teach a special period of seven years of tribulation at the end of time. It teaches that the whole New Testament era will be a time of tribulation for the church (Acts 14:22) with an intense period of tribulation at the end. The three and one-half years described repeatedly in Revelation (time, times, and half a time, forty-two months) is a figurative expression for the whole New Testament era. This is especially apparent in Revelation 12, where the three and one-half years begins with Christ’s ascension and ends with his return.
People who believe in dispensational premillennialism do allow others (especially the Jews) to have a second chance to be converted. That sounds like the view of your friend.
Your friend needs to know that people have one time of grace, one time for God to bring them to a confession of sins and a confession of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. When that time of grace ends at death or, if people are alive on the earth when Jesus returns visibly to this world, then there is immediate judgment (Hebrews 9:27; Matthew 25:31-46). There are no second chances. That is why Scripture repeatedly urges people to focus on their salvation now, today (2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 3:12-4:7).
Because your question is associated with multiple false teachings regarding the end times, you would do well to read a good explanation of what the Bible teaches about the end of the world. Northwestern Publishing House recently published such a book. It is called “End Times: Jesus is Coming Soon” and is available on NPH’s website.
God bless your witnessing efforts as you relay the truths of God’s word to your friend.
A business associate of my husband recently said he believes the weather will be extreme at the end of the world. Of course, I know there will be wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, other natural disasters, but extreme cold to extreme hot to tornadoes. Where might I find these "signs" in Revelation that will be backed up in other parts of Scripture?
In Revelation 6:1-17 we find a picturesque retelling of Jesus’ words in Mathew 24:1-14. In both those sections of Scripture we hear that some of the end-time signs are famines and earthquakes. Certainly, unfavorable weather conditions can lead to famines, but the cause for food shortages is not specifically attributed to vacillating extreme temperatures or tornadoes.
The vision of the seven trumpets (Revelation 8 – 11) describes several physical calamities that plague the world. Conservative biblical commentators have long understood those disasters to represent the flood of false teachings that seek to obliterate the truth of God’s Word. If the physical calamities in those chapters are understood without symbolic meaning, then their content would be a restatement of the disasters mentioned in Revelation 6:1 – 8:5. At any rate, there is no specific mention of extreme temperatures or tornadic activity.
All the end-time signs remind us that the day is coming when Jesus will visibly return to this world as Judge of all. He will not rapture his followers out of this world prior to his return. The rapture is a gross misunderstanding of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17.
As Christians witness the signs of the end, they offer the prayer: “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20). To that, you and I add our “Amen.”
I was wondering about your position concerning the four blood moons over Israel that are falling over feast days in 2014 and 2015 and their remarkable alignments with the Jewish feast days of Passover and Feast of Tabernacles.
Behind the “four blood moons over Israel” is an approach called dispensational premillennialism. Among other things, it maintains that the modern nation of Israel will play an important role in end-time events. John Hagee, who authored the book, “Four Blood Moons: Something is about to Change,” maintains that “God is trying to communicate with us in a supernatural way” through the cluster of lunar eclipses. And he asserts that what God is trying to communicate concerns the modern nation of Israel.
There are obvious errors with that approach. God communicates with us through the pages of Holy Scripture. He tells us that natural disasters are reminders that the last day is approaching (Matthew 24:7). On the last day the universe will collapse (Joel 2:31; Matthew 24:29—quoting Isaiah 13:10; 34:4—2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 6:12).
In the Bible God does not speak about the modern nation of Israel or his special plans for it. Those who claim otherwise follow a literalistic interpretation of the Bible, one that ignores context and the use of symbolic language.
So, what are we to do with all the online chatter of lunar eclipses? We “fix our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2). We continue in what we have learned and have become convinced of (2 Timothy 3:14). We stand ready to testify to the truths of God’s word (1 Peter 3:15). And when the heavenly bodies are shaken and the Lord returns visibly and gloriously to this world on the last day, we will stand up and lift up our heads, because our redemption is drawing near (Luke 21:26-28).