“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” (2nd Peter 3:10)
Peter refers to this as the “Day of the Lord” and later, the “Day of God” ((2nd Peter 3:12). This is different than the “Day of Christ.” The “Day of Christ” is the day He returns for His Church at the Rapture.
“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.” (2nd Thessalonians 2:1-2)
While the “Day of Christ” refers to the ingathering of the Church at the Rapture and the Bema Judgment for rewards, the “Day of the Lord” refers to judgment for sin; judgment against the Gentile nations; judgment against unbelieving Israel and the final judgment at the Great White Throne.
It is important to remember that “Christ” is not God’s last Name; it is His title. “Christ” is the Greek equivalent [Christos] to the Hebrew Messiah [Mosiach]. The Day of the Lord is therefore significant of judgment, whereas the day of Christ signifies redemption.
So, here is the chronology remaining for the human race: the current Dispensation [the Church Age] comes to an end at the Rapture as part of the Day of Christ.
The Raptured Church attends the Bema Seat Judgment (2nd Corinthians 3:11-15), the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9) and accompanies Him to the earth at His triumphant Second Coming. (Jude 1:14-15)
The Tribulation Period is its own Dispensation, in addition to being a resumption of the Age of the Law – it represents the 70th Week of Daniel.
The revealing Angel gave Daniel an panoramic view of Israel’s history, beginning with the order to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple and ending with the coming of the Messiah.
Daniel’s outline is interrupted at the end of the 69th week (of years) with the ‘cutting off’ of the Messiah and resumes with the revelation of the Antichrist when he confirms a seven-year peace treaty between Israel and her enemies.
How can we know that the 70th Week is set apart from the Church Age? The angel listed six specific things to be accomplished during the 70th Week, from Israel’s perspective:
“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.”
Before going down the list, notice that the 70th week is for Daniel's people, [the Jews] and Daniel's holy city [Jerusalem] and NOT for the Church.
1) “Finish the transgression” – yet future for Israel/accomplished at the Cross for the Church.
2) “Make an end of sins” – sin loses its power over believers at regeneration – regeneration is a function of the Cross in the lives of believers
3) “Make reconciliation for iniquity” – simply stated, it means to make restitution [payment] for sin. Accomplished at the Cross for believers – yet future for unbelieving Jews
4) “Bring in everlasting righteousness” -- Christ returns to set up the Millennial Kingdom with Himself on the Throne in Jerusalem.
5) “Seal up the vision and prophecy” – the fulfillment of all Messianic prophecy – yet future
6) “Anoint the Most Holy” – the Mosiach is ‘anointed’ King as per Israel’s ancient custom and reigns over mankind for a thousand years - the “Millennial Kingdom.”
The Church has no role to play during the Tribulation, which Scripture identifies has having two specific purposes; the judgment of a Christ-rejecting world and the national redemption of Israel.
The Church was judged at the Cross and found judicially blameless by grace through faith. The Church neither rejected Christ nor has need of further redemption. The Church does not remain on the earth beyond the Church Age.
So, who inhabits the Millennial Kingdom? According to Scripture, there are but two groups who survive the Tribulation – believing Gentiles and believing Jews.
In Revelation 19:11-16, we find the return of Jesus Christ to the earth. This is His Second Coming. The Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53) is an appearing of Christ in the air. That is not the same as His Second Coming.
This is included, I believe, to draw a distinction between the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ. There is no mention in Revelation 19-20 of any kind of rapture event where believers receive glorified bodies.
The prophet Joel, in his description of the Tribulation Judgment, was clear and specific concerning those to come under Tribulation judgment:
"Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up . . . Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD. Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about.” (Joel 3:9,11-12)
The believing Gentiles are non-Jews who come to faith during the Tribulation. Note that they are distinct from the ‘new creature’ of the Church Age.
Jesus said that He will separate the ‘sheep’ [righteous, or believing,] nations from the ‘goat’ [unrighteous, or unbelieving] nations. The goats are cast into the Lake of Fire whereas the sheep [the righteous Gentiles] survive and live on into the Millennial Kingdom.
By implication, no unbelieving Gentile will survive the Second Coming. The righteous Gentiles, or sheep, will live on into the millennial kingdom. They will give birth to children and will populate the earth. However, these are not the only ones who will be producing children during the millennial kingdom.
The impression is given that when Christ returns, all Israel will trust in Him (Zechariah 12:10). They, too, will not receive glorified bodies (as those did who were raptured prior to the tribulation). They also will produce children during the millennial kingdom.
To summarize, the Millennial Kingdom will be populated by believing Gentiles, Israel, and the resurrected/raptured believers whom, according to the Apostle Paul, will hold positions of authority and judgment as well.
“Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?” (1st Corinthians 6:2-3)
According to the Prophet Isaiah, during the Millennial Kingdom, the earth is restored to its original ecological balance, and lifespans return to what they were prior to the Flood. “. . . for the child shall die an hundred years old” (Isaiah 65:20)
Everyone who enters into the Millennial Kingdom will be a believer, but the Scripture say that children will be born to believing Jews and Gentiles.
And, as incredible as it sounds (what with Jesus Himself on the throne and resurrected believers in glorified bodies running around directing traffic, or whatever) many of those born into the Millennial Kingdom will reject Christ, and they will, once again, gather themselves together to do battle against the Lord of Hosts. (Revelation 20:7-10)
And with that act, the final curtain comes down on the human race. “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind,” writes the Prophet Isaiah. [65:17)
Which leaves us contemplating the question asked by the Apostle Peter; “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?”
That’s a question that each of us has to answer for ourselves in this life. For it will surely be asked of us as we seek admittance into the next.