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TLDR

Dispensational Premillennialism teaches that the resurrection of believers occurs at the Rapture, which seemingly conflicts with Jesus's promise to raise Christians on the "last day."

John 6:40
For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.

Analysis

I really enjoyed learning about Dispensational Premillennialism from teachers like John MacArthur and RC Sproul. The literal approach to attempting prophesy really resonates with me. Most common objections to the framework have reasonable answers on sites like GotQuestions, but I can't really find any compelling answers that directly address Jesus' clear words that the resurrection of believers takes place on the last day.

The Lord mentioned this promise several times. Even Martha reflects on Jesus' teaching:

John 11:24
Martha replied, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."

Now, my understanding of the dispensational timeline is:

(1) Church Age <= (we are here)

(2) Resurrection of believers, both living and dead, at a time that no one can predict; aka Rapture

(3) Tribulation lasting seven years

(4) Second coming of Christ and Sheep/Goat Judgement

(5) Literal 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth

(6) Brief rebellion, led by Satan who is "loosed for a while"; Rebellion is summarily squashed.

(7) Unbelievers resurrected into new bodies suitable for eternal punishment; They're thrown into their final destination, the Lake of Fire.

(8) New heaven and new earth. Time ends, eternity begins.

So it would seem then that the timeline indicates the resurrection of believers occurs at Step #2. Whereas, if we take Jesus at His word, and the resurrection of believers takes place on the last day (of time), it would take place just prior to Step #8.

If we were talking about unbelievers, then the timeline holds true since they are indeed resurrected on the last day prior to being cast into the lake of fire. But clearly Jesus is talking about believers being raised on the last day.

So how might a Dispensational Premillennialist interpret the phrase "last day" in a way that is consistent with their timeline?

Thanks!

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  • The exact term is only used in the Gospel of John.
    – Perry Webb
    May 12 at 9:08
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You correctly speak of “Jesus' clear words that the resurrection of believers takes place on the last day. The Lord mentioned this promise several times. Even Martha reflects on Jesus' teaching: John 11:24 Martha replied, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."

In the Revelation Jesus gave to John via an angel, there is no ambiguity about “the last day” starting with “the last trump” – the fearsome angelic trumpet sound heralding the end of the Day of Salvation and the start of the Day of Resurrection and Judgment. Revelation 8 speaks of Christ opening the 7th seal, showing 7 angels being given 7 trumpets, blown by them in turn. Various plagues and afflictions fall from heaven on to the earth. Chapter 10 then says, “that there should be time no longer. But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets”. Chapter 11 says “And the seventh angel sounded;” vs 15, adding in vs 18, “And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged…” Chapter 20 makes it perfectly clear that that time of judging is when “the dead, small and great, stand before God”. Time is no more. The hour of judgment has arrived and ALL the dead are given resurrection bodies. This harmonises perfectly with what Jesus said about the resurrection happening on “the last day”, which Martha correctly understood would see her brother Lazarus arise from the grave, resurrected.

So, how can it be that dispensationalal premillennialists insist that there is a prior resurrection of Christians who will be taken up (‘raptured’) into heaven? It is point 2 in your “dispensational timeline” that requires explanation, and the most essential requirement for it is a secret rapture, requiring a two-stage return of Jesus Christ. This is where the following link needs to be checked, What scripture is used to support a "Pre-Tribulation Rapture"? to see the answer by Dick Harfield on 22/3/2015, for he cites a book that claims the origin of this idea was in 1830 when a 15-year-old Scottish girl called Margaret MacDonald attended a healing service, where she claimed to have had a vision of a two-stage return of Christ. Apparently this was adopted and amplified by John Nelson Darby, a British evangelical preacher and founder of the Plymouth Brethren. The book in question is called ‘The Rapture Exposed’, by Barbara R. Rossing.

To summarise Darby’s explanation, he has to claim that Christ returns secretly for his congregation, but that a literal angel appears in Rev. 4:1; that the voice saying, “Come up hither” into heaven, was spoken to Christians on earth – and they were raptured (dead Christians being raised first, the living ones following them up into heaven). However, given that ch. 4 is crystal clear that the voice like a trumpet was talking to John shortly before the end of the 1st century A.D., and that John was given a vision of himself being in heaven, such an explanation is insufficient (to put it charitably).

There is no mention of Christ having returned for the events in ch. 4, and no mention of any dead people having been raised. The phrase, “Come up hither” [to heaven] is interpreted as meaning a secret rapture of believers. An admission is made by Darby’s disciple, W. Kelly: ‘One important thing, then, we have seen to be assumed.’ He continues, ‘This most solemn and blessed event must occur therefore between chapters 3 and 4 of this book.’

The claim is made that the assembly of believers was seen on earth in chapters 2 and 3 but by ch. 4 the congregation is now in heaven, represented by the 24 elders. Thus, they conclude, there must have been a secret rapture (which didn’t happen to be mentioned anywhere, let alone in the chapter where it was supposed to have happened). Regarding Rev. 4:1 Darby admits, ‘There is no mention here of the fact of the Lord’s coming in reference to the assembly.’ That is why this dispensationalist, premillennialist system of interpretation claims virtually the whole of the rest of the Book of Revelation is irrelevant to Christians and only applicable to the Jews. It is only at ch. 20 that a sort of general resurrection is described.

Yet, as pointed out at the start of this answer, the Book of Revelation depicts the Day of Resurrection and Judgment, “that there should be time no longer. But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets” (ch. 10). Chapter 11 says “And the seventh angel sounded;” vs 15, adding in vs 18, “And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged…” It is not until the final, seventh, last trump that the awesome resurrection happens. Of course, I am not giving an answer in support of the dispensational premillennialist interpretation, but I offer this in the hope that some who do hold to such an interpretation might correct or enlarge.


Reference source for quotes by Darby and Kelly and summary of their view, ‘The Revelation of Jesus Christ’ by John Metcalfe, pp81-84 & p379 (The Publishing Trust 1998)

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    Thank you. I was saved and grew in a dispensational church and could never see the rapture in scripture for myself. I spent many years wondering what was wrong with me. May 16 at 12:56
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There is no contradiction between two verses you mention. The key to resolving them is noting "who" those verses are written to and whom they concern. Sort that out and understanding follows.

Jesus was a minister to the Circumcision to confirm the promises God made to the fathers (Romans 15:8). Gentiles were excluded from the commonwealth of Israel ( Ephesians 2:12). The Church Christians are members of did not yet exist during the period of time covered by the gospels.

The last day in the verse you quoted refers to the resurrection of the just when the righteous of Israel will be raised.

Paul is the apostle to the Gentiles. God, through Christ revealed secrets, called mysteries, to the apostle Paul and he recorded those revelations in his epistles. One of those secrets concerns the change of the Christian's body into a spiritual body at the Lord's return. That secret is revealed in I Corinthians 15:51-58. It corresponds to I Thessalonians 4:13-18. This was new revelation and cannot be found anywhere in pre-pauline Scripture ( because it was a secret that God Himself hid). This event occurs before Christ returns for Israel.

The body of Christ began in Acts 13:1,2 when Paul and Barnabus were severed from the Circumcision and sent to the Gentiles. When Israel's apostasy was full by rejecting Paul's final testamony to Israel in Acts 28, Israel's kingdom was put on hold, held in abeyance until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in:

Romans 11:25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.

Note that this was also the revelation of a secret ( mystery) and had never been prophesied before. The joint-body of Christ began at the timing of Acts 28:28 when Paul wrote Ephesians and revealed that secret (Ephesians 3).

In summary, the Christian church is not the subject of any Scripture preceding the Pauline Epistles. We are a church separate from the Circumcision (Israel). God will take Christ's ambassadors up before He pours His wrath out on the earth. We are saved from the day of wrath. Sometime after the church meets the Lord in the air (note, not on earth) he will return to the earth for Israel. The Church of Christ will be enjoying our heavenly inheritance while Israel enjoys their earthly inheritance. Israel and the church ate two distinct bodies, but remember that currently, Israel is on hold until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in (culminating in the Rapture), so any Jews who come into the churynow come into the joibt-body of Christ. Once the church is taken up, on earth Israel will rule the nations ( Gentiles). The two groups are again separate. At the Consummation, when God becomes All in all, all will be one with no division, and no separate groups.

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