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Some who are gathered at that coming of Christ will be eternally lost

It is taught that those people that go into the millennium with natural bodies are comprised only of Christians who were saved during the tribulation.  All non-Christians have been condemned at Christ’s judgment (the Sheep and Goats judgment).

However, why would born-again Christians need to be ruled with a ‘rod of iron’[1]

Rev 2:26-27 NKJV  And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—  27  ‘HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON; THEY SHALL BE DASHED TO PIECES LIKE THE POTTER’S VESSELS’— as I also have received from My Father;

Rev 12:5 NKJV  She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.

Rev 19:15 NKJV  Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

In the millennial reign Jesus is said to rule the nations with a ‘rod of iron’. But this is a very strange phrase to apply to those who now love Jesus and have been saved by Him.  Why would they need to be ‘ruled with a rod of iron’ and be ‘dashed to pieces’.  

A better understanding seems to be that the ‘nations’ that the Lord ‘strikes’ in Rev 19.15 are the same nations that He and His church rule over.  That is, these are the people from nations around the world who survive the Great Tribulation but still remain unconverted. 

Thus, the following seems most likely:

  1. When Jesus returns at the end of the tribulation He gathers to Himself all those who have believed on His name and confessed Him as Lord. This includes both good and bad. Those believers who are alive at His return will be raptured and the deceased will be resurrected.
  2. All those gathered will be judged by Jesus
  3. The good (sheep) will reign with Jesus will the bad (goats) will be eternally damned
  4. All other people who were not believers at Jesus return will go into the millennium and be ‘ruled with a rod of iron’ by Jesus and His saints.

The general arguments I make in favour of this view are:

  1. Some who take part in the first resurrection are eternally lost
  2. The subjects of the judgment at Jesus’ return seem to have a special relationship to Jesus
  3. Those who go into the millennium are ruled in a way that is completely inconsistent with Jesus rule over his church.

The following verses are used to support this view.

There are only two resurrections mentioned that are relevant to the end times discussion.

First resurrection:

Rev 20:4-6 NKJV  And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.  (5)  But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.  (6)  Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years….

Second resurrection:

Rev 20:11-15 NKJV  Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.  (12)  And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.  (13)  The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.  (14)  Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.  (15)  And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

The first resurrection happens when Jesus returns.

1Th 4:13-17 NKJV  But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.  (14)  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.  (15)  For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.  (16)  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  (17)  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

1Co 15:51-52 NKJV  Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— (52)  in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

However some of those gathered in the first resurrection will go away to ‘everlasting contempt’

Dan 12:1-3 NKJV  “At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book.  (2)  And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt.  (3)  Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.

Note that ‘many’ are resurrected but not all.  This is consistent with the first resurrection when many, but not all, are resurrected.

When Jesus returns He gathers ‘His elect’ as well as unrighteous believers.

First note int he following passages that those gathered to Jesus are ‘His elect’.  

Mat 24:30-31 NKJV  Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  (31)  And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Mar 13:27 NKJV  And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.

However, now note the variation in Mathew 13.  It describes the ‘gathering out of His kingdom’ of those things that offend.  The previous passages have focused on the gathering of his elect but this passage says that within this gathering there will be ‘those who offend’.

Mat 13:38-43 NKJV  The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one.  (39)  The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.  (40)  Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.  (41)  The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness,  (42)  and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.  (43)  Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

Note the significant parallel between this passage and Daniel 12.  

Mat 13.43: Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father

Dan 12.3: Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.

This is further confirmation that those who are gathered in Matthew 13 and those who are resurrected in Daniel 12 are part of the same group of people.  The two passages describe the same end for the unrighteous believers:  ‘everlasting contempt’ (Dan 12) and the ‘furnace of fire’ (Mat13).

Other passages confirm that Jesus’ judgment is a judgment upon good and bad believers only and not upon the whole world.

All the references to those people whom Jesus judges at His return seem to include only those who have some expectation of being saved.  They are goats in Jesus’ flock, virgins betrothed to Him, those planted in His field, servants in Jesus employ, those who have eaten with Him and performed many miracles and so on. 

1) Those at the ‘wedding feast’ who are not righteous will be excluded

There are three categories of people. 

  1. Those who were called but rejected the call and were subsequently destroyed (v7). This could include every person who has been presented with the Gospel but rejected it.  The parable is probably more specifically referring to the Jews though.  Either way it does not compromise the point I wish to make.
  2. Those who heeded the call and were ‘good’ (v10)
  3. Those who heeded the call and were bad (v10) and so did not have a wedding garment on (v11)

Mat 22:10-13 NKJV  So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.  (11) “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.  (12)  So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.  (13)  Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

2) The 5 foolish virgins

These virgins appear to be like the five wise virgins in all respects except that they have insufficient oil.  They have been selected by the groom and are eagerly awaiting His return.  However they are excluded just prior to the wedding feast.

Mat 25:10-12 NKJV  And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.  (11)  “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’  (12)  But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’

It seems impossible to make the five foolish virgins correspond to the atheist who does not believe there even is a bridegroom or the immoral person who has no interest in the bridegroom.

3) Those who do mighty things in Jesus’ name are excluded

The reference to ‘that day’ suggests that it is referring to the day Jesus judges the sheep and the goats.  This passage is certainly not referring to the atheist.

Mat 7:21-24 NKJV  “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  (22)  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  (23)  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’  (24)  “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:

4) At the first resurrection Jesus judges between the sheep and the goats

The goats and are in the great Shepherd’s flock. 

Mat 25:31-33 NKJV  “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.  (32)  All the nations[2] will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.  (33)  And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.

It is hard to imagine the professing atheist or God hater saying ‘But Lord, when did we see you hungry…’.  This statement by the ‘goats’ fits much better with those who say ‘Lord, Lord, we have cast out demons..’

This is further confirmed by the view that the sheep and the goats in the middle east look very similar from a distance.  They would often graze together.   Thus, again, the goats better represent unrighteous believers than those who have no interest or belief in Jesus at all.

5) The parable of the talents

Mat 25:14 NKJV  “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.

The servants in the parable are the master’s ‘own servants’.    It could be argued that each servant had direct dealings with the Master and received from His hand and expected his return.

This description best matches the believer who does not use what the Lord has given him.  It does not well represent the unbeliever who ignores or rejects the Master.

Thus, the judgment upon the third servant at the Master’s return seems to be a judgment on a believer who should have known better rather than upon an unbeliever who had never become a servant of the Master in the first place.

6) Judgment starts with Christians

1Pe 4:17-18 NKJV  For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?  (18)  Now “IF THE RIGHTEOUS ONE IS SCARCELY SAVED, WHERE WILL THE UNGODLY AND THE SINNER APPEAR?”

Although the judgment has begun, it is not said to be complete.  I think it is possible that the judgment on the house of God is concluded at the end of the tribulation.  The judgment on the world is concluded at the end of the millennium.

7) The dead are ‘judged’ at Jesus return

The following verse says that the dead are judged at Jesus return.  Although not conclusive, this is an unusual way of describing the reward that Christians receive.  Indeed, a contrast seems to be drawn in this verse between the judging of the dead and the rewarding of ‘Your servants’.  If they are all ‘sheep’ who are raised then they should all be rewarded. 

Rev 11:18 NKJV  The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, And the time of the dead, that they should be judged, And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, And those who fear Your name, small and great, And should destroy those who destroy the earth.”

8) When Jesus returns the ‘great men’ are not ‘gathered’ but hide themselves in caves.  These are who Jesus then rules with a rod of iron.

Rev 6:15-16 NKJV  And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains,  16  and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!

Rev 19:15 NKJV  Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

It seems that these ‘great men’ who have survived up to Jesus visible return are the ones that are  ‘ruled with a rod of iron’.  

Note that the nations that Jesus strikes are the same nations that He will rule.   It seems inconceivable that Jesus is striking His own faithful, tribulation saints and then ruling over them with a rod of iron.   Surely this language is describing a judgment upon and rule over those who had rejected Jesus, not embraced Him.


1. Revelation 20.6: “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection.”

Rev 20:6 NKJV  Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

This suggests that all those who are part of the first resurrection are saved. However this seems to be contradicted by:

Dan 12:2 NKJV  And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt.

It is possible that Revelation 20.6 is not stating that every person who is resurrected reigns forever with Jesus.  The passage is simply focusing on those who are saved.

It is also possible that the Daniel is referring to the second resurrection.  But the context makes this unlikely. 

However, I confess that this is a far from satisfactory explanation of this passage.


[1] Matthew Poole’s Commentary: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron: an iron rod either signifies a right rod, that will not be easily bent and made crooked; or a severe rod, which is most probably the sense: see Psa 2:9 Psa 12:5. The words by the psalmist are applied to Christ, and to the church, Rev 12:5: to particular saints here, who rule the nations either in Christ their Head, or with Christ as their Chieftain, with the word of God powerfully convincing the world of sin and righteousness.

As the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers;  and all paganism and heathen idolatries shall be broken in pieces. Or, in the day of judgment, the saints that persevere shall sit with Christ, and judge and condemn the world severely; and then they shall be broken in pieces, never again to be sodered or cemented.

[2] This does not necessarily mean that all people from all places will be gathered.  I suggest that it means that believers from every nation will be gathered

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