Questions From Readers
◼ Will some anointed Christians survive the “great tribulation” to live on earth in the new world before being taken to heaven?
Pointedly, the Bible does not say.
Christians have long been interested in the privileges that God might extend to them. (Acts 1:6) That has especially been true in our time since the Kingdom was established. (Matthew 24:3, 24, 34) With the end of this wicked system to come in their time, Christians have wondered whether some spirit-anointed ones might live through “the war of the great day of God” and serve on earth for a time before receiving their heavenly reward. (Revelation 16:14) The Bible does not say that this will occur, yet certain patterns and prophecies have been taken to indicate that it might. Rather than be dogmatic, we can watch to see how God will handle things.
Some Biblical events have parallels later on among God’s people. For instance, we know that Jonah was in a large fish for three days and three nights. Some people would view that as simply an example of divine deliverance, but Jesus said that it was a prophetic pattern of how he would be in the grave for a comparable period before his resurrection. (Jonah 1:17; Matthew 12:40) Yes, Jonah’s experience was a prophetic type. Understandably, God’s servants have looked at prophecies and specific Bible accounts to see whether these might indicate how Jehovah will yet deal with them.
As an example involving Bible prophecy, The Watch Tower of December 15, 1928, discussed Micah 5:2-15. The book of Micah dealt with ‘the Assyrian’s’ desolating of Samaria and the Jews’ return from exile in Babylon. (Micah 1:1, 5-7; 4:10) But it also pointed to later developments, such as the Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2) Micah prophesied that after their deliverance from “the Assyrian,” “the remaining ones of Jacob” would become “like dew from Jehovah” and “like a maned young lion among droves of sheep.” (Micah 5:6-8) The Watch Tower commented: “This may be taken as an indication that some of the remnant will be on earth even after Armageddon is fought and will then have some more work to do in the name of the Lord and to his praise and glory.” Notice the modest, reasonable language used to introduce this possibility: “This may be taken as an indication.”
What of a Bible account that might parallel such survival on earth? One example that has been presented concerns Noah and his family. Noah has been viewed as typifying Jesus in this time of the end. (Genesis 6:8-10; Matthew 24:37) As Noah led his wife and their three sons and daughters-in-law through the end of that ancient system, Christ will provide leadership for the remnant of his bride class and those who become children of the “Eternal Father,” Jesus. Noah’s wife survived the Flood and shared in the renewing of true worship on a cleansed earth. A parallel might be the survival into the new world of a remnant of the bride class.—Isaiah 9:6, 7; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 21:2, 9.*
Other Biblical accounts have also been viewed as suggesting that some of the anointed might live into the new world. For example, Jeremiah survived the destruction of Jerusalem; “the man” with the secretary’s inkhorn remained to see the executional work before he went back to give his report.—Ezekiel 9:4, 8, 11.
Comments about the possibility that some of the anointed might survive into the new world are made with good intentions and in the light of Biblical precedents for trying to understand prophecies or patterns that could have later parallels. If it turns out that none of the anointed are left on earth, there will be no reason for dissatisfaction. We already have accepted that Biblical matters are understood better as time passes. For instance, The Watchtower of July 15, 1981, discussed Micah 5:6-9 again and explained that “the remnant of spiritual Israelites have not had to wait until after . . . Har–Magedon in order to be as a ‘dew’ of refreshment to people.” This discussion again offered the possibility that the remnant might survive God’s great war and for a while “continue to be as a refreshing ‘dew’ to the ‘great crowd’ of ‘other sheep.’” We can see, though, that the passing of time and the increase in spiritual light can broaden and alter our understanding of prophecy or of Bible dramas.—Proverbs 4:18.
We do know that the Bible links the ‘coming of the Son of man’ with ‘the gathering of the chosen ones from the four winds.’ (Matthew 24:29-31) Also, during “the presence of the Lord” in Kingdom power, anointed ones sleeping in death are raised to life in heaven. (1 Thessalonians 4:15, 16) These sealed ones are there to become part of the Lamb’s wife. When does that occur?
In the book of Revelation, immediately after John tells of God’s executing the religious harlot, Babylon the Great, he describes “the marriage of the Lamb.” A filthy, immoral “woman” is removed from the scene, and we see “the bride, the Lamb’s wife” ‘arrayed in bright, clean, fine linen, which stands for the righteous acts of the holy ones.’ (Revelation 18:10; 19:2, 7, 8; 21:9) The destruction of Babylon the Great is part of the great tribulation. (Matthew 24:21; Revelation 7:14) So it could be reasoned that some of the bride class will survive the great tribulation as evidence of Jehovah’s approval and protection. (Zephaniah 2:3; compare Matthew 24:22.) If they are thus preserved on earth, they could remain here until God chooses to take them to heaven.
However, the presentation in Revelation is not in strict sequential order. And it is not as though the small remnant of anointed ones will be needed to get the new world underway, for they have already trained millions of loyal Christians who will live forever on earth. Accordingly, God could take his anointed ones to heaven immediately after the destruction of Babylon the Great, setting the stage for “the marriage of the Lamb” to occur. All the holy ones could thus share with Christ in ‘shepherding the nations with an iron rod’ in the remainder of the great tribulation. (Revelation 2:26, 27; 19:11-21) If that is how God handles things, all the 144,000 would be with Jesus to ‘rule as kings with the Christ for the entire one thousand years.’—Revelation 20:4.
It certainly is fine that God’s people are keenly interested in peering into how he will direct and reward his servants. (Compare 1 Peter 1:12.) This reflects their confidence that his will is going to be done. Though we cannot and should not be dogmatic about particulars, we can eagerly look forward to what will occur.
Compare: You May Survive Armageddon Into God’s New World, pages 61, 292, 351; “Your Will Be Done on Earth,” page 347; The Watchtower of May 1, 1942, page 133. (All published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.)