Why is God's work of judgment and cleansing necessary in the last days?

Which judgment and cleansing are you referring to? Believers will stand before the Bema seat of Christ, where their works will be judged, and they will either be rewarded, or suffer loss of reward. Yet they will themselves be saved, as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:15).

If you’re referring to the Great Tribulation described in Revelation 4–19, I believe this is the “time of Jacob’s trouble”, designed to get Israel prepared to receive her Messiah, and punish those who worship the beast and reject Christ. Israel rejected Him at His first appearing. Like Joseph, His brothers (Israel) will be put through a harsh time, then they will be prepared to receive Him as Lord, when He returns at the end of the Tribulation.

If you look at the context of Revelation, the book is divided into three segments. Revelation 1:20 tells John to write the “things he has seen” (vision of the glorified Christ as Lord of the Church), the “things which are” (letters to the seven churches), and the “things which shall be hereafter”. Chapters 2–3 mention the church around 19 times, during the “things which are”. But once the things which shall be "hereafter" begin (chapters 4–19), the word “church” doesn’t appear again, till chapter 21.

Also, Revelation 3:10 says God will save the church from the very “hour” in which the Tribulation occurs. The Tribulation is said to be for the “inhabitants of the earth”. Why make this distinction, if it doesn’t denote that there are inhabitants in heaven (the church)? We see 24 elders (the Church and Israel) in heaven, in Revelation 4. It also says afterward, “Let him who has ears hear what the Spirit says to the churches”. So it isn’t just for that one church, it’s for all the church.

Further, before John is allowed to see the “things which shall be hereafter”, a window is opened, and he’s caught up to heaven. I believe this is typical of the rapture of the church. In Revelation 19, a window is again opened in heaven, and the bride of Christ follows Him from heaven, to earth. Thus, it appears the church is with Christ during the Tribulation, and returns with Him, to earth, at the end of it.

The 144,000 who are sealed in Revelation 7, is clearly Israel. While there are gentiles saved as well, none of them are referred to as the Church. We know from 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 that when Christ returns for the church, every member will receive their glorified, immortal, eternal body. It will not be possible for glorified saints to marry, reproduce, or die. Yet all those things occur during the millennium. There must be saved but unglorified people who survive the Tribulation, to populate the millennial kingdom (Revelation 19).

So I don’t believe the church will have to be cleansed or judged, other than their works at the Bema seat of Christ.

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