In Job 19:25-27, Job makes a series of really remarkable statements about the future. He claims to know that his Redeemer lives and not only is he alive, but Job expects to see him standing upon the earth at some future date. Job expects to see him even if Job dies before the arrival of this ‘latter day’. Even if the natural course of decay happens, Job has full confidence that he will see God, not as ‘Job the Friendly ghost’, but with eyes of flesh. Job is expecting a resurrected body of some sort.
Moving forward a few centuries, we have the Redeemer standing upon the earth and in John 11, his friend Lazarus dies. Lazarus’s heartbroken sister approaches Jesus and confesses, when asked, that despite her sorrow she understands that one day, the “last day” her brother’s dead body will once again live in a resurrected form. Jesus tells her in John 11:25 that he is the resurrection she is expecting. He had clarified just a few chapters earlier in John 5 that there would actually be two resurrections; the resurrection of life and the resurrection of damnation. All of mankind from Adam onward will be resurrected from the grave as part of one of these two resurrections.
We see, through prophecy, these resurrections being carried out in Revelation 20. Everybody that is part of the first resurrection has eternal life; everybody in the second resurrection has eternal damnation. With this as a guide, you can look at any resurrection earlier in the bible and know which resurrection that you’re seeing purely by where the resurrected end up.
The business of preparing men for the first resurrection is compared to a harvest in scripture in Mathew9, John 4 and Luke 10, among other places. Any harvest has 3 parts to it; the first fruits, the main harvest, and the gleanings. When you plant a crop, regardless of what the fruit is, some of the fruit comes ready early, and is picked early. These are the first fruits. The bulk of the fruit comes ready all at once in a main harvest, and a small amount isn’t ready until later as gleanings. The entire crop isn’t ready at the same time, so it’s not harvested all at the same time, but it is all fruit, and it is all considered part of the same harvest. The same is true of the resurrection.
That brings us to Matthew 24, an oft-disputed passage of scripture. We could dwell on the peculiarly Jewish tone to the passage. We could ponder the similarities and differences between the events of Matthew 24, 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4. We could wonder at the fate of the servant at the end of the passage. These are all interesting things to discuss, but I want to zero in on two very basic questions. One of these questions is easy to answer; the other requires a bit more thought.
In Matthew 24, a group of people are gathered from off the earth unto God. The first question is; which resurrection is this? Obviously these folks aren’t slated for damnation, so this is the first resurrection. The second question is; which part ? Are we seeing the first fruits, the harvest or the gleanings?
If this group are the first fruits, then there must needs be two other groups that leave after them. But this Matthew 24 crowd appears to leave so late in the timeline of God’s dealing with mankind that there isn’t time (or scriptural support) for two more groups to leave. By the middle of Matthew 24 Jesus Christ is already at least visible from the earth on his way to the events of Revelation 19:11. In addition to that, there are a group of saints that already qualify as the first fruits according to 1 Corinthians 15. These saints are mentioned in Matthew 27 and arise immediately after the resurrection of Jesus. Because of this, the Matthew 24 crowd disqualifies themselves as the first fruits, and only two possibilities remain; harvest and gleanings.
They might be the main harvest, which would include everyone who is ‘dead in Christ’. This is a pretty large crowd by comparison. This main harvest would certainly appear to be a ‘great multitude which no man could number’ and they certainly seem to share many of the qualities of the souls in Revelation 7:9, but before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s consider this. If they are the main harvest, then one more group of resurrected saved human beings leave after them. When does this happen? If Matthew 24 is the main harvest or the rapture of the church, when do the gleanings leave? There simply isn't time for anybody else to leave before the clock runs out, so to speak.
It seems inescapable to me that the group in Matthew 24 are the last group of humans to be gathered unto God, and that makes them the gleanings. Carrying this to its inevitable conclusion, if the Mathew 27 crowd are the first fruits, and the Matthew 24 crowd is both the church AND the gleanings, that leaves an interesting hole right there in the middle. Can we expect one more group to leave before us? Who are these people in the main harvest if it’s not us, and when can we expect them to leave?
I submit to you that the Matthew 24 crowd is the gleanings. Furthermore they cannot be the gleanings AND the church. Since they leave at the end of the tribulation, the main harvest, or church has to leave sometime between March 21st 2014 and the return of Jesus Christ to rule and reign. That is one of many reasons that I believe the church leaves before the beginning , or at the very least, before the end of the time of Jacob’s trouble.