Who will return with Christ when He comes to establish His kingdom? Dispensationalists usually have a simple, pat answer – the church. End. Of. Discussion. Maybe not.
Here is one excerpt from the crucial passage:
Then I saw heaven opened and here came a white horse! The one riding it was called ‘Faithful’ and ‘True,’ and with justice he judges and goes to war. His eyes are like a fiery flame and there are many diadem crowns on his head. He has a name written that no one knows except himself. He is dressed in clothing dipped in blood, and he is called the Word of God. The armies that are in heaven, dressed in white, clean, fine linen, were following him on white horses. From his mouth extends a sharp sword, so that with it he can strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod, and he stomps the winepress of the furious wrath of God, the All-Powerful. He has a name written on his clothing and on his thigh: ‘King of kings and Lord of lords,’ (Revelation 19:11-16).
Which people comprise these “armies?” The standard dispensational interpretation is this is the corporate church, the figurative “bride of Christ.” I am not convinced. There are many reasons, but one in particular stands out – people who become Christians and die for their faith during the great tribulation are said to be with the Lord in heaven, dressed identically to these “armies” who will return with Christ:
After these things I looked, and here was an enormous crowd that no one could count, made up of persons from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb dressed in long white robes, and with palm branches in their hands. They were shouting out in a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ (Revelation 7:9-10).
Who are these people? The Bible tells us:
Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These dressed in long white robes—who are they and where have they come from?’ So I said to him, ‘My lord, you know the answer.’ Then he said to me, ‘These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb!’ (Revelation 7:13-14).
So, I am not at all convinced only “the church” returns with Christ. Some will object; “but . . . but, the only people who have resurrected bodies yet are Christians from the church!” Yes, but so what? The Bible just told us tribulation martyrs are wearing white robes, yet have not been reunited with their glorified bodies.
Are we to believe the corporate church heads off with Christ to war, while every single other believer from every age simply stays behind in heaven? Like impatient husbands waiting for their wives in the Michael’s parking lot?
I am tempted to see every believer from every age as returning with Christ to defeat the antichrist and the false prophet. I could be wrong. If I am, let me know why . . .