How many groups will be gathered out of this world when Christ returns? The Bible plainly reveals two harvests will take place: a spiritual and a physical. These two harvests are clearly described in numerous places in the scriptures.
In His Olivet prophecy, Christ stated "Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matthew 24:30-31). This prophecy of Christ is dual, just as many Old Testament prophecies are, and refers to a spiritual and a physical gathering: two very specific harvests at Christ's return.
The prophet Isaiah wrote of this same gathering, in reference to the physical remnant of Israel: "And it shall come to pass in that day...ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel" (Isa. 27:12 - now notice verse 28, and the duality with Matthew 24:31) "And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem." Under God's inspiration, Isaiah also wrote: "And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea...and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and GATHER TOGETHER the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth." (Isa. 11:11-12) Both these prophecies refer specifically to a physical remnant of Israel which will be gathered out of the nations by Christ, and brought up to Jerusalem at the beginning of the seventh millennium.
TWO MULTITUDES OF REVELATION SEVEN
The seventh chapter of Revelation describes two great multitudes: the 144,000 who are sealed, and "a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues" (verse 9). We must allow Christ to tell us who these two multitudes are. For a thorough explanation of who the 144,000 of Revelation 7 and 14 are, please read my article on “Who Are the 144,000?” For this article, suffice it to say that they are those "redeemed from among men" and are "firstfruits unto God" (verse 4). These obviously will be raised and gathered at Christ's coming as spirit-born saints and children of God. Keep in mind that there are only "Israelites" in the family of God - "If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed" (Gal. 3:29) - the 144,000 undoubtedly includes Gentile converts. The "twelve thousand" sealed from each tribe is merely a description of the rulership structure within the kingdom of God. God is not a respecter of persons, nor does He discriminate against the Gentiles. In the government of the new world under Christ, the twelve apostles will "sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matt. 19:28 & Luke 22:30) and yet, Simon "the Canaanite" was an apostle, and will be over one of those tribes.
God plainly spells out who the people of this second multitude "which no man could number" (Rev. 7:9) are. One of the twenty-four "elders" before the throne of God asks John "What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence come they?" (verse 13). John answered "Sir, thou knowest" (verse 14). He then gives the plain answer - "These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (same verse). Here, then, is that physical remnant that is "gathered" at Christ's return, and brought up to Jerusalem; before the very throne of God: "Therefore (because they repented) are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple" (verse 15). However, these were not sealed prior to Christ's return. We are given the number of those who are sealed, and these were not among them. These are the virgins Christ describes in Matthew 25 who allowed their oil to burn out. They were told to "go...to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready, went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut" (Matt. 25:3-10). They did go and buy, but they were too late to be in on the marriage of the firstfruits to Christ.
There are only two gatherings at Christ's coming: the one is unsealed physical Israel, the other sealed spiritual Israel. The physical group has to go through the great tribulation, and repent. These two groups are clearly defined in Revelation seven. Many will question this because the “great multitude” of Revelation 7 is described as being "from all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues" while the Old Testament prophecies speak of an Israelite remnant. We must keep in mind, that when the remnant of Israel comes up to Jerusalem, they will come "with weeping and supplications" - they will be deeply repentant. If we are Christ's "then are we Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3:29). Any Gentiles who would choose to come up with the physical Israelites would also be considered a part of greater Israel. Paul wrote in Romans that all Gentiles will eventually be grafted into the nation Israel. God's plan of salvation is an "Israelite" plan - that is, the kingdom of God will eventually be composed of "all Israel" - "In that day there shall no more be the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts" (Zech. 14:21).
Also, keep in mind that the remnant of Israel, gathered out of the nations where they will have been taken captive and subjugated to the beast power, will be brought up to Christ as a mixed multitude, just as the nation of Israel was a mixed multitude when they came up out of Egypt. In Ezekiel 47, where we find a description of the new nation of Israel in the world to come, we find that room is to be made for "the stranger that sojourns among you, and they shall be unto you as born in the country among the children of Israel; they shall have inheritance with you..." (verse 22). We also read that "In those days it shall come to pass that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, we will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you" (Zech. 8:23).
THE TWO HARVESTS OF REVELATION FOURTEEN
So we see very plainly that there will be two harvests, or "gatherings" at Christ's coming, and at the sound of the great (seventh) trumpet: the one gathering composed of spirit-born firstfruits, the other gathering composed of down-trodden greater Israel, a people having suffered and survived through the worst time of trouble this world has ever experienced. These same two gatherings, or harvests, are also described in Revelation 14:14-20. The first part of the chapter describes the 144,000 and the three angels with their messages: "And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle" (a sickle is a harvesting instrument - this refers to the time of the harvest of God's saints!) "And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe...and the earth was reaped." This is describing the reaping and the harvesting of the spirit-born firstfruits.
Now notice the commencement of the second harvest in verse 18: "And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for they are fully ripe. And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth (for the second harvest) and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God" (compare with Lamentations 1:15) "And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs." The day of the Lord, following on the heels of the great tribulation, and culminating in the destruction of the armies of the Beast and the eastern "Gog and Magog" powers, is what constitutes the "winepress" out of which this physical remnant will be spared. The entire scenario revolves around a gigantic fiery trial, and will separate the truly repentant “remnant” who relies on God from those who merely give God lip service.
Several scriptures indicate that God will take a "tithe" out of Israel, and spare them from destruction. "For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed" (Mal. 3:6). "Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted...and the land be utterly desolate...But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return..." (Isa. 6:11-13). "For thus saith the Lord God, The city that went out by a thousand shall leave an hundred, and that which went forth by an hundred shall leave ten, to the house of Israel" (Amos 5:3). "And I will cause you to pass under the rod...(the way Israel determined the tithe of their livestock) and I will purge out from among you the rebels..." (Ezek. 20:37-38). It has always been God's avowed purpose to establish His physical nation as a model for all the rest of the world. Through this one nation, God will draw in the whole world, and build His one righteous nation; eventually incorporating all people, nationalities, ethnic groups, and races. All people will have the opportunity to become Christ's, and be "of the seed of Abraham." To establish this nation, God has to spare a physical remnant of truly repentant and converted people. Paul writes "Though the number of the seed of Israel (today) be as the sand of the sea (includes all English-speaking natioms), a remnant shall be saved: for He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness; because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth. And as Esaias (Isaiah) said before, except the Lord of sabaoth left us a seed we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha" (Rom. 9:27-29). God has to cut the time short for His physical elect. He does not need to cut time short for His spiritual elect, because they will be raised up, or harvested, with eternal life.
CHRIST FEEDS TWO MULTITUDES
Christ miraculously fed two great multitudes of people while He walked the earth in the flesh: the five thousand and the four thousand (plus women and children). There is much more significance to these two groups than most have imagined. Both these groups are types of multitudes Christ calls, works with, and teaches. Here, again, we have the two multitudes described which are gathered at Christ's coming: the one spiritual, the other physical.
The five thousand, fed with the five loaves and two fish, was the first multitude Christ miraculously fed. When Christ fed the 5,000 (Matt. 14) plus many other women and children, it was not just to demonstrate His power, nor was it all a matter of having empathy toward the multitude because of their hunger. Christ gives us an overview of what He is doing, step by step, to fulfill His Father's seven thousand year plan. His first order of business, to be accomplished during the first six thousand years of human experience, is to prepare His rulership team of firstfruits, also known as the "bride" of Christ and the "temple" of God. Revelation 7 and 14, with the 12,000 from each tribe, gives us the top rulership structure for each of the twelve tribes of Israel.
During these first 6,000 years, Christ uses "five loaves" to feed, nourish, and prepare His firstfruits. It is not perfectly clear what these "five loaves" are, but it does appear that there are five dispensations, or epochs, from which Christ draws out His firstfruits during the first 6,000 years of man on earth. In giving the physical genealogy leading up to Christ, we are given an indication of these epochs of time. The first epoch of time is the period between Adam and the flood, and is not mentioned in the genealogy of Christ. The second dispensation is the period of time from Abraham to David and the establishment of Israel as a nation. The third epoch involves the time between Israel's establishment as a nation, to the closing of the period of the kings. The fourth epoch is the time of the captivity and the diaspora; the time during which Israel and the Jews were "scattered" among the nations. The fifth and final period is the time of the church, from 31 A.D. to the present. There have been firstfruits prepared from each of these epochs. This could well be represented by "five loaves" as we do know that loaves can represent the "church" or called out saints. At the Day of Pentecost, two "wave loaves" of leavened bread were to be prepared and offered, which represents the firstfruit congregations of both the Old and the New Testaments. The "two fish" may represent the "meat" of the two covenants, that are fed to God's people during the five epochs. Notice that there are "twelve baskets full" left over, just as there will be twelve leadership teams from the 144,000, and there will be 12 great nations of Israel in the new world under Christ.
Now the question remains, what does the feeding of the four thousand represent? When viewed in the light of the other "multitude" that will be harvested, it becomes perfectly clear. Once again, we can see the two great gatherings and harvests. Christ, through these two wonderful miracles He performed while in the flesh, has pictured for us the harvesting of the spiritual and the physical "multitudes" He will work with, and feed at His return!
Christ miraculously fed "great multitudes" of people, equaling more that 4,000 men, plus women and children (Matt. 15:30-38). Christ went up into a mountain, and thousands came to Him. Many of the lame, the blind, the dumb, and the maimed were healed. They continued with Christ for three days, and were becoming faint because of not eating. Christ fed them with 7 loaves and a few fish. When they were done eating, there were "7 baskets full" left over. This event foreshadows, or types, the fulfillment of certain end-time prophecies. It typifies "the mountain of the Lord's house" being "established in the top of the mountains" (Isa. 2:2) and the time when "the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped..the lame man leap as an hart" (Isa. 35:5-6).
The multitude's 3 days of hungering foreshadows the great tribulation and the day of the Lord. This multitude corresponds, in type, to the "great multitude, which no man could number" (Rev. 7:9) which comes out of "great tribulation" (verse 14). The 7 loaves used to feed them depict the 7 churches (church eras - Rev. 2 and 3) and the "few little fishes" surely pictures the spiritual meat of the Old and New Testaments. The "remnant of Israel" and their children will be well-fed during the 1,000 year reign of Christ. The spirit-born church eras will lead and teach the physical people begotten as part of God’s church during the millennium, which will include the whole world at that time! Those who show by their fruits that they are willing to walk joyfully under the government of God during the millennium will be added, first to the church, and then to the kingdom of God as they qualify. When the seven church eras used in preparing physical beings to take their role in God's kingdom will be completed, these "seven baskets" will be full.
All those born into the family of God during the millennium, or called and chosen prior to that time, are to be born into the family as spiritual Jews. The "temple" king/priests are the firstfruits bride of Christ. Those comprising spiritual "Jerusalem" will be those repenting during the great tribulation. In referring to the remnant of Israel: "Thus saith the Lord God; This is Jerusalem. I have set it in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her" (Ezek. 5:3-5). Those born and entering the God kingdom during the millennial reign of Christ will comprise the rest of greater Judah: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah" (Gen. 49:10). Even after the 100 year period, all the children of God will be taught and trained to govern God's way, so that God's family can be sent out, and using God's government, beautify the far reaches of the universe. Step by step, God is preparing His family kingdom, and "of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end" (Isa. 9:7). First Christ will gather and harvest His Father’s multitude of firstfruits at the beginning of the millennium. Christ will need them to help teach and train the “great multitude which no man could number” at the beginning and all during the millennium. Coming out of great tribulation, they will be ready to be taught and trained God's way by Christ and His firstfruits bride, in preparation for being added to the ever increasing God family and kingdom. By the end of the millennium, a huge leadership nation of Judaic and Levite kings and priests will be prepared to teach, train, serve, and work with "all Israel" so that they, too, can be added to the eternal kingdom of God.