My dad is a faithful believer who has end-stage bone cancer. He has always held to a mid-tribulation rapture theology, but lately that view has become a source of torment, as he contemplates leaving his loved ones behind to the cruel persecution of believers that he foresees. I have tried to comfort him with your articles teaching about a pre-trib rapture and he has actually come close to seeing your point of view a few times. His only remaining problem concerns the 144,000. He doesn’t believe people will be getting saved by grace after the rapture, so why do we call the 144,000 “witnesses” especially when the Bible never calls them that? This is no big deal to me, but I’d sure like an answer for my dad. Why do we call them witnesses anyway?
He’s right in the sense that the 144,000 are not called witnesses in the Bible. They’re called “Servants of God.” The Greek word is usually translated “bond servant” denoting someone who has willingly given his life in service to another. Paul used this same word in describing his own role in the Kingdom. According to the Strong’s concordance the metaphorical use of this word refers to “those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men.” I believe this qualifies them as witnesses.
Whether your dad accepts the pre-trib position or sticks with the mid-trib view, his real problem is his opinion that no one gets saved by grace after the rapture. The only way any one has ever been saved is by the Grace of God. This was true before the Church was born and will be true after the Church is gone because no one could ever qualify for salvation based on merit. The thing that’s different about the Church is that we aren’t required to do anything else as evidence of our faith.
One of the most eloquent descriptions of salvation by Grace anywhere in the Bible comes from the Old Testament and is recited by Orthodox Jews on the first afternoon of the Feast of Trumpets.
“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. You will be true to Jacob, and show mercy to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our fathers in days long ago” (Micah 7:18-20)