The Revelation: Riddles and Enigmas (the Rapture: Where Are the Dead?)

lion-dove-lamb-yeshuaIn the comments, Chris asked me to explain how someone can die today and pass directly to Judgment Day. I offered a shorter version of this explanation:

1. Think of time as a dimension. An arrow drawn on a piece of paper.


2. God is not on the arrow but all around and outside and inside.

3. Judgment Day is at the end of the arrow, bridging time and non-time. But it’s not on the arrow. It’s outside of time, but there is a defined point in time that touches it. Only God knows where in time that point is. (And Jesus didn’t know while on earth because, being in human form, he could not see our universe from outside the universe.)


4. If someone dies, they are on the arrow — and the piece of paper the arrow is drawn on is folded so they pass from death (on the arrow) straight to Judgment Day (just beyond the tip of the arrow) — with hardly any distance at all traveled.


[Not only did I find a picture, I had several to choose from. This is standard fare for physicists.]

5. If someone is alive at the Second Coming, they are at the tip of the arrow and need take but a step to cross out of time into timeless eternity — but they’ll do so with untold thousands arriving at the same place (time?) from further down on the arrow.

6. God, being outside the arrow, sees it all. He knows the future without necessarily causing the future — although he can intervene in arrow-time and change outcomes closer to the arrow’s tip.

7. Judgment, though, is in God’s time-space, not on the arrow but touching the arrow. God doesn’t see Judgment Day in the future the same way he sees our futures, because Judgment Day is part of his existence — unbound by earth time. We have no idea whether he experiences his own form of time or even if time is a single dimension to God. We can only speculate — and only speculate meaningfully at the edges of our existence.

Here’s another way of looking at it from a 2008 post: Surprised by Hell: A Heavenly Time.

As all science fiction fans know, time travel creates all sorts of paradoxes, and a God who exists outside of time and can interact with our time-space reality is not only unimaginably powerful, he exists in a way that is outside of the manufacturer’s specs for our brains. We weren’t designed to think this way.

But this much is, I believe, sure. The scriptures and modern physics agree that time is a part of the fabric of the universe and not an absolute thing. As Einstein famously said, time is relative. That is, time travels at different speeds depending on all sorts of things. It’s very counter-intuitive. Time travels slower in higher gravitational fields because time-space is severely warped there. At the edge of a black hole (very, very heavy), time very nearly stops.

Therefore, if God were subject to our time, we’d have to ask: time as measured from which location in the universe? From a vehicle traveling at what speed? Near what gravitational field? Because time would move at different speeds depending not only on location but your velocity relative to whatever is being observed.

Hence, there is no unique time measure by which God could be bound even in theory. He has to exist outside of time. Time, according to every scientific theory with any evidence to support it, began when the universe was made. Hence, before the Creation, there was no time (at least, none of our time. There might have been some other kind of time — which is well outside our ability to imagine.)

So that much is actually very hard to argue with. One could choose not to believe it, but the science is very solid. As is the theology. It goes back to at least Augustine to notice that God is bigger than time. After all, the alternative is to believe that God is bound by time. And if that’s so, then time is more powerful than God. And the scriptures disagree.

And because God exists outside of time, so does Judgment Day. Or it could. The scriptures aren’t very clear on this point. But it makes all kinds of sense.

Either way, the idea of folding space-time to move a deceased person’s existence (memories? essence? personality? self? body?) straight to the general resurrection is easily within God’s power. This has been a favorite corollary from the general theory of relativity from well before I was born. Anyone who’s read much science fiction has seen this before. (I knew all the science fiction I read in middle school would pay off one day!)

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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21 Responses to The Revelation: Riddles and Enigmas (the Rapture: Where Are the Dead?)

  1. Ray Downen says:

    I do remember reading about a judgment day when all who have ever lived will be gathered before the Judge (Jesus) and separated into the right and the left groups, AT WHICH time the bad guys will be thrown into a fiery pit and the good guys will go into a Heavenly abode, the NEW JERUSALEM. Of necessity, this will happen AFTER THIS UNIVERSE is destroyed and after Jesus has returned to earth and has been seen by all then alive. This isn’t happening as we speak.

  2. Larry Cheek says:

    Is there a place on earth where all the eyes of everyone who have ever lived on earth could see him? Would that mean that all who have ever lived would have to be assembled on the same side of the earth? Anyone on the other side could not see around the earth to see a human like Jesus. Would the mass of weight assembled to one side throw the earth out of balance and disrupt the rotational movement of the earth? Or could all of the creatures that are alive (dead creatures will not be resurrected) assemble to the opposite side for a counterbalance? Will a cloud stay stationary in the sky and as the earth rotates then he could be visible to the complete earth within 24 hours? Will living humans will still be physical when he returns?
    (Rev 1:7 ESV) Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
    (Act 1:11 ESV) and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
    As he left this earth into the clouds a few were watching , there were only a few from a small area of earth, but all who have ever lived will see him in the cloud as he returns.

  3. Larry Cheek says:

    It seems than that all humans are judged and sentenced at the death of this physical body. Christians go to Heaven and those who are not are immediately sent to their destruction. So where do we place in this picture the salvation or damnation of those who have died prior to Christ?
    There were no Christians prior and Christ was sent be a savior of the world, to save them even though they had already died. He did not come to only save those who believed him but those who had the faith of Abraham. So did they also jump, leap or get pushed off the arrow with the same result that is being portrayed, when they died?
    Are we then raised from the dead immediately after death? If not how could we be judged, rewarded or condemned as our bodies are still in the grave?

  4. Alabama John says:

    All this has been discussed, believed in many ways, and taught the same many ways for thousands of years by all human cultures.

    None have had as many options as we do.

    Answer is we don’t know and must by faith know that all will be OK. Simply have faith.

    And in the end if after we die we are like Rover, dead all over, we would of had a happier life by having that faith.

  5. John F says:

    A J, Paul would disagree: 1 Cor 15:19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

    Why would Paul make such a statement? Time for the commentators and philosophers . . .

  6. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    Obviously, Jesus will coming to middle Tennessee, during the Seek the Old Paths lectureships. All the saved will be there and have a clear view of the Second Coming.

  7. John F says:

    I’ve only been to middle Tennessee twice; I guess i missed seeing the Great Temple of Orthodoxy :). Who can point the way? …….

  8. Alabama John says:

    Keep in mind the Bible is written as Good News. The way many interpret it it is bad, scary, surely damned news. Written by the Jews and for us that came later. Jesus hand picked the 12 but God had to bring an outsider, a lawyer, in to write a lot of what we teach to straighten it all out.
    That doesn’t mean there has not been any contact with Jesus, God, or the Holy Spirit prior to that with peoples all over the world. If Jesus can be a fire by night and a cloud by day and a rock with running water, He can sure be anything,anywhere, at any time.
    Interesting that all peoples I am aware of looked upward to their Named God.
    We must keep in mind this Good News is not nearly all the events God has done and it just might not be the only place on earth or the universes.

  9. Larry Cheek says:

    I did not realize that this event was so powerful as to attract all the saved. But, I do understand many to project that they are the only elected from the earth.

  10. Alabama John says:

    John, I agree with Paul as I think I understand what he is saying.
    Hope in Christ in this life ONLY would bring misery, but hope in Christ for a great life eternal after this short one would bring much happiness. That’s the way I see and believe it.
    That is why most people, if not all, throughout the ages and in most if not all places have a hope of some kind for a better life, greater reward, after this one.

  11. laymond says:

    AJ the gospel is “good news” for some not so good for others. If you submit everything to God “good news” if you choose to follow your own will, not so good. actually to most people this is a scary threat. The only way it could be good news for all, is universal salvation. forgiveness , grace toward all.

    1Co 1:25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

    1Co 2:4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
    1Co 2:5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

    1Co 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.
    1Co 3:20 And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.
    1Co 3:21 Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours;

    My faith is strong in the power of God to do as he wishes, and he said he does not wish even one to be destroyed eternally.

  12. laymond says:

    Back to the future, I believe Jay is saying time travel is possible, but only in the spirit world. yesterday is still here, just in the past. Tomorrow is here just in the future. just available to the spirit. good theory I just don’t know how he is going to prove it . Maybe the rich man and the poor man who died.

  13. laymond says:

    Where are the dead?

    Ecclesiastes 3:11

    11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has even put eternity in their heart; yet mankind will never find out the work that the true God has made from start to finish.

    Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6

    5 For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing at all, nor do they have any more reward, because all memory of them is forgotten. 6 Also, their love and their hate and their jealousy have already perished, and they no longer have any share in what is done under the sun.

    Ecclesiastes 9:10

    10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do with all your might, for there is no work nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom in the Grave, where you are going.

    The dead, are dead, until they are raised from death. to face judgment by the word of God. and the bible never once mentions a “Bent Arrow” I believe that was a western movie. was that the one Elvis made??

  14. Alabama John says:

    No, that movie was Broken Arrow, but understanding physics it had to be bent before it broke.

  15. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    Simple enough to prove. All I need is —

    1. A Delorean
    2. A flux capacitor
    3. 88 MPH

    You bring the parts and I’ll drive.

  16. John F says:

    I only have the flux — nothing else. Where should I ship it AFTER the rest is assembled:)

  17. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    John F,

    I don’t believe you. Flux = change, and therefore does not exist in Church of Christ circles.

  18. Monty says:

    Paul never for one second thought he would die and go to the grave and non-exist. HIs body would go to the grave but he said he would depart and be with Christ. Did Paul have a clue? To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord(for the believer).

  19. laymond says:

    Monty, I know the writings of Paul are very important to the “New Church of Christ” but do they just erase Ecclesiastes, and Psalms ?

  20. Dwight says:

    The scripture speaks often about having something before it is had in reality. The Jews had Canaan because of the promise, even before they got to it. As has been noted we can be in the Kingdom of God, without having seen it or having attained it, but we will attain it if we are loyal to the end.

  21. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    Paul said he’s rise from the grave at the resurrection.

    (1 Thess. 4:13-18 ESV) 13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

    (1 Cor. 15:51-52 ESV) 51 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 imperishable, and we shall be changed.

    He refers to the dead as “asleep.” The Tartarus/Hades waiting room theory declares Paul mistaken. We don’t sleep. We wait while fully conscious.

    Paul says we’re not imperishable (immortal) until we’re raised at the Second Coming. Even the dead aren’t transformed until Jesus returns.

    But, as I speculate, if the dead pass from death into God’s time and then to the resurrection, there is no moment of non-existence — as experienced by the dead. They go from dead to resurrection and Judgment all at once. Obviously, their physical bodies are left behind and they appear to sleep as seen in earth time. They are “asleep” because there is no communication between the living and the dead. We can see their bodies and know that they’ll awaken when Jesus returns — and so sleep is a helpful metaphor.

    There’s a form of anesthesia I’ve had where my sense of time is turned off. I wake up thinking I’m still waiting for the procedure, and wondering why the walls have changed color. Very weird. And I imagine it will be a little like that at death. You die, God transports you (your essence, your personality, your memories, something like that) to the Second Coming, where he wraps you in a new body, like the resurrection body of Jesus. In your experience, this is but a twinkling of an eye — and surely disorienting and confusing. But God will treat us kindly and gently as his children.

    To those still alive, they see you come out of your grave just as Daniel and Jesus declared. But you never have a moment of non-existence. You don’t feel like you’ve been asleep for years because, as you experience the world, it happens all at once.

    I can’t prove it, but it suits Ockhams Razor. It’s actually far simpler than Tartarus/Hades. It’s not without its difficulties, but it’s the closest fit I can come up with.

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