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Table of Contents

Introduction

The Time of Tribulation – Great Distress

The Rapture

Believers Are to Be Alert and Expecting the Rapture
The Timing of the Rapture
The Description of the Rapture
Paul Confirms the Timing and Description of the Rapture
Event of the Rapture Is Visible to All

The Coming Wrath

Believers Are Not On Earth During God’s Wrath
The Time of Wrath
The Plagues of Wrath
Reaction to the Plagues of God’s Wrath
Rejoicing in Heaven

Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ

Armageddon and Christ’s Second Coming and Reign 
    Prophesied in Zechariah

Satan is Bound for a Thousand Years
The Millennial Reign of Christ and the First Resurrection
The Final Battle and Satan’s Doom

The Final Judgment
Conclusion

 


Introduction

There seems to be great confusion about the coming rapture of the saints, when it will occur, when (or if) it is described in Scripture, mistakenly viewing descriptions of the rapture as the second coming of Christ, and a confusion between the time of great distress – often called the Great Tribulation – with the period of God’s wrath. This short writing will attempt to clarify that confusion and answer questions pertaining to those issues.

The Time of Tribulation – Great Distress

A Mistaken Belief – the Pre-Tribulation Rapture

A popular belief, particularly in America, is that believers are raptured prior to the time when things get difficult on the earth. Those who believe that often seem unconcerned about events which show coming oppression and persecution. They seem to believe they will be “out of here” and don’t have to worry about it.

I fear such people are in for a rude surprise. Those expecting to be wafted away in the Rapture before experiencing hardship and persecution may feel betrayed; then, in bitterness, they may turn away from the faith, fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy: “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people” (Matthew 24:10-13).

Reason for Misunderstanding the Timing of the Rapture

The pre-tribulation rapture is pushed hardest, it seems to me, by those who use the King James Version of the Bible. While I understand the reasons for use of the King James Version and agree with many of them, the translation is not infallible. Scripture is infallible in its original writings, but not the subsequent translations of which we now have so many.

The misunderstanding comes from the King James rendition of Revelation 5:

Revelation 5:8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. 9And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 10And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

Those singing the song to God are the four beasts and the four and twenty elders. Those are twenty-eight persons in total. The text specifically says they sung (sic) a new song.

However, from there on, the King James Version renders the pronouns differently than the other translations, inconsistent with the text, unless it is interpreted that the twenty-four elders are from earth – though there is no warrant to believe that. The KJV uses the pronouns us and we as if humans are singing the song. We know that the text refers to humans because it is only humans who were redeemed to God by the blood of Jesus. We know that humans are God’s chosen ones who will reign with Jesus on the earth.

From this translation error, however, comes the grave error of those following the KJV that humans are in heaven singing this song and that therefore the rapture must have already taken place by chapter 5 of Revelation. They ignore the fact that the text tells who is singing this song. It is by this error of interpretation they claim that believers have been rescued by the rapture from the tribulation of Revelation 6 and after.

Now look at the same passage in the New International Version (NIV):

Revelation 5:8 And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song: ‘‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”

Now the pronouns are consistent with the prior text and in context. As one would expect, the heavenly beings in their song to God are referring to men that were purchased with Christ’s blood, that they (men) were made to be a kingdom and priests, that they (men) will reign on the earth.

When the pronouns match the context – as they do in all translations except the KJV (as best I’ve been able to determine) – there is no warrant or evidence of ANY human in heaven in the fifth chapter of Revelation (except John who was taken there in the spirit). If they are not in evidence, then there is no reason to believe they were not on earth during the distress and tribulation which is recited in Revelation 6 and after.

Believers are Present During the Period of Great Distress – the Tribulation

Scripture passages uniformly show a period of great distress (or tribulation) which precedes the signs we will examine which precede the rapture of the saints – (Matthew 24:29, Mark 13:24 plus the preceding verses in Mathew, Luke, and Revelation 6) and precedes the harvesting of the earth (Revelation 14:14-16). During this period the saints ARE on the earth; they have not been raptured. Jesus described it this way:

Matthew 24:21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. 22 If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.

Mark 13:18 Pray that this will not take place in winter, 19 because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again. 20 If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them.

The elect are still on the earth during this period of great distress – the tribulation period. In all the following passages describing the signs preceding the rapture which follow the period of great distress, the elect are still on the earth.

Mark 13:24 ‘‘But in those days, following that distress, “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; 25 the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

Matthew 24:29 ‘‘Immediately after the distress of those days “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

The following passage in Luke ties it all together, showing that the rapture takes place AFTER these signs.

Luke 21:25 ‘‘There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

The first part of Luke’s passage confirms that it refers to the same period as the preceding passages – there will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. It is at that time Jesus commands the believers to stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. And it is at that time that the other passages we will examine find the angels gathering the elect from the four corners of the heavens and the earth. It is the time of the rapture – not the time of the second coming of Jesus.

Daniel’s Prophecies Confirm Persecution of the Saints

Before reviewing the other scriptures describing the rapture, let’s take a detour to reinforce the fact that believers will be subjected to the tribulation period. Daniel is given visions and explanations of the visions by angels which speak directly to this point. To understand Daniel’s prophecies, it is helpful to understand that the “horn” referred to is the anti-Christ, also referred to as the beast (see below) in The Revelation:

Revelation 13:5 The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. 6 He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7 He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.

Daniel prophesied the same hundreds of years earlier:

Daniel 7:21 As I watched, this horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.

Daniel 7:25 He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time.

Daniel learned about the timing of this awful persecution. He wrote:

Daniel 12:6 One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, ‘‘How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?”
7 The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, ‘‘It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.”

The Book of Revelation Also Emphasizes the Persecution of the Saints

In the following verse, the dragon is Satan.

Revelation 12:17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

The next verses refer to the beast (the anti-Christ).

Revelation 13:5 The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. 6 He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7 He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. 8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.
9 He who has an ear, let him hear. 10 If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.

Note that verse 7 is almost the same wording as the prophecy of Daniel.

Revelation 13:15 He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. 16 He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, 17 so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.

Verse 15 speaks of governmental power – even the death sentence – used against those who refuse to acknowledge the authority of the beast and take the mark of the beast. The media and government spokespersons may mockingly call them troublemakers, dissenters, fundamentalists, or cultists, even as is already happening in America.

Verses 16 and 17 speak of the infamous “mark of the beast” which for the first time is now being advocated by various governmental agencies and banking groups and which is technologically available for immediate use.

An article appeared in the Friday, May 16, 1997 issue of the Christchurch Star titled, “Do we want to go this way?” The article suggested that in order to prevent kidnapping, some children in Florida (America) are having microchips placed in the forehead or wrist. This is supposedly because they can now use microchip transponders developed in Germany powered by lithium which recharges by temperature changes in the human body. The chips have 250,000 components and have to run on recharging circuits. The article suggested this could be called modern progress or one could call this pre-planned or even the impending fulfillment of Revelations 13:16-18.

A Purpose for the Suffering of the Saints in the Great Tribulation

Some will say that God would not be so hard-hearted and uncaring that he would allow his saints to suffer in the tribulation when he could protect them or remove them from it through the rapture. One need only look at the church today, however, to conclude that it is similar to the Laodicean church of which Jesus said, “15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:15-17).

It is important to God that people who will come to spend eternity with him are purified, made holy and righteous. Consider what the angel told Daniel about the end times:

Daniel 12:9 He replied, ‘‘Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. 10 Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.

Let us be among those who are wise and understand.

When the believers are confronted with the necessity of taking the mark of the beast or starving or being killed, the angel told John:

Revelation 14:12 This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.
13 Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”
“Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”

None of this should surprise us. Did not our Lord give us this instruction:

Matthew 16:24 “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.”

All who would be true believers are confronted with the challenge Jesus put before us. Jesus also stated: “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). For some (perhaps many) of us alive today, we may be faced with the need to give up our physical life to remain true to Jesus. I pray we will remain true to our Lord Jesus then and now!

The Rapture

The first passage, below, is not explicit, but is a point of beginning, and a point of error for some who describe it as the Advent or the second coming of Christ.

Revelation 14:14 I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one ‘‘like a son of man” with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15 Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, ‘‘Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16 So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.

What is ripe? What is being harvested? I contend the following will show that the time is ripe for the “taking away” of the church – it has finally been purified and refined in the period of great distress. Subsequent passages will make that clear.

I believe the harvest is symbolic of the rapture of all true believers.

Believers Are to Be Alert and Expecting the Rapture

How often I have heard quoted the statement, “Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2).

But Jesus told us: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him (Matthew 24:42-44).

Are you aware that Paul said, “But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:4-5).

This is not inconsistent with Jesus’ statement, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert!” (Mark 13:32-33). We will not know the day or the hour. We do know the signs of his coming so his coming should not surprise us. We should be on guard and alert!

We should be fully aware of the signs of the coming of the Lord – those very signs which we have looked at in detail.

The Timing of the Rapture

Within the book of Revelation, we can see where the rapture must take place:

Revelation 6:12 I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, 13 and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. 14 The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.

Remember that description. You’ll see it on other occasions where the rapture will occur immediately after the foregoing signs in the heavens.

The verses immediately following show that the rapture has occurred after the signs recited above and before the following verses:

Revelation 6:15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

This passage places in view ONLY the unbelievers, those that suddenly are terrified of God and the Lord Jesus, somehow aware that the time of the wrath of God has come. Notice the underlined words. The passage is inclusive of everyone left on earth – every slave and every free man, as well as every king, prince, general, rich and mighty person.

Would any true believer fear the coming of the Lord? Is this not the day we look forward to with great anticipation, the day we can join our Lord in the skies? This will be particularly true after the believers who are left have been persecuted in the great tribulation. The only conclusion: ALL those remaining are unbelievers, those who have not trusted Christ as their Lord! Thus, the rapture – the removal of all true believers – will take place before the events of those verses are in view.

To further corroborate from The Revelation that the rapture takes place at that point, for the first time – only 9 verses later – Scripture records people appearing in heaven before the throne of God. The description follows:

Revelation 7:9 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

We know only people – humans – are from nations, tribes, peoples and languages. In case further explanation is needed, the Apostle John and the angel discuss who these people are:

Revelation 7:13 Then one of the elders asked me, ‘‘These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”
14 I answered, ‘‘Sir, you know.”
And he said, ‘‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

Now hearken back to the scriptures in Revelation 6 where I said we would know the rapture had taken place. Consider the parallel descriptions in the following passages which show the same signs as those in Revelation 6:

Matthew 24:29 ‘‘Immediately after the distress of those days “‘the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

Mark 13:24 ‘‘But in those days, following that distress, “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; 25 the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

Luke 21:25 ‘‘There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars.

These signs are given us by God in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Revelation. God wants us to be aware and alert to the imminence of the rapture.

The Description of the Rapture

In the preceding verses we see similarity of events and signs which immediately precede the rapture. The passage in Matthew continues and relates Jesus’ description of the rapture and confirms the timing as following the preceding signs:

Matthew 24:30 ‘‘At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

To understand what Jesus is saying, consider the earth as a globe. When the rapture comes, suppose the believers go straight up, just as Jesus ascended into heaven. If they do, they will all be going in different directions. Those on one side of the earth will be going in one direction, those on the other side the opposite direction. How appropriate then that Jesus would say the elect will be gathered by the angels from the four winds – from every direction, from one end of the heavens to the other.

Mark recorded a similar description:

Mark 13:26 ‘‘At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.

The parallels in the passage of Mark are obvious. Here he adds the fact that Jesus will send his angels to gather the elect from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.

The timing of the rapture is confirmed. It immediately follows the signs in the heavens we first examined.

When “the angels gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens” that event may be referred to as the “harvest of the earth (Rev. 14:14-16)? It is the harvest of believers from the earth.

In one of the best recognized descriptions of the rapture, Paul states: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Paul’s description of the rapture confirms what we’ve learned from the other New Testament writers, that the Lord himself will come down from heaven – “They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30 & Mark 13:26) – and with the trumpet call of God – “And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call” (Matthew 24:31) – to meet the Lord in the air – “and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Matthew 24:31 and Mark 13:27).

Paul Confirms the Timing and Description of the Rapture

Paul begins his letter to the Thessalonians by reassuring them of God’s love for them and that the result of their suffering will be eternity with the Lord. In doing this, he tells them the end-time scenario in a way which confirms what we have just seen in a remarkable way:

2 Thessalonians 1:6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.

Paul emphasizes the timing: This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. We’ve just seen the same sight – “the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory” – at Matthew 24:30 and Mark 13:26, immediately following the signs in the heavens. Those verses also show it is exactly at that point that the rapture takes place. Jesus is coming on the clouds of heaven to claim his own from the earth and his angels gather them from the four corners of the heavens (Matthew 24:31 and Mark 13:27).

Paul says of that time, as it relates to the believers, “He will . . . give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well.” Isn’t that exactly what the rapture will do? It will remove all believers from the face of the earth during a time of extreme persecution and tribulation.

We also know from Revelation 6:15-17 that at that moment the ones remaining on earth will be in terror of God and the Lamb because “the great day of their wrath has come.” Speaking of the unbelievers, Paul says “he will pay back trouble to those who trouble you” and “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.” That describes the time of wrath which will come upon all who remain on the earth.

Paul again emphasizes the timing: “on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.” Those things – the rapture and the beginning of the time of wrath – will happen “on the day” the Lord Jesus comes to be glorified in his holy people.

What does the following describe: “he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed”?Is not this the rapture? Note that he is not coming to be marveled at among all people. No, just among all those who have believed. “We who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them (those who had died in the Lord) in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17) is equal to “all those who have believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:10).

Again, through different writers writing at different times and places, Scripture perfectly corroborates itself.

Event of the Rapture Is Visible to All

The foregoing passages are often confused with the second coming of Jesus because tradition has grown up that the rapture will be a quiet, almost secret event, where the believers will suddenly disappear. As we will see, the rapture is quite the opposite. It will be an event of earth-shaking proportions of which all are aware.

Look again at Revelation 6:15-17. As we saw before, this passage places in view ONLY the unbelievers, those that suddenly are terrified of God and the Lord Jesus, somehow aware that the time of the wrath of God has come.

Revelation 6:15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

Could this be the second coming of Christ? No, because at his second coming Christ’s army is coming with him to fight the battle at Armageddon and some of his resurrected saints are coming to earth with him to judge the earth for a thousand years. That is not in view in that passage, but only terror of the unbelievers. See Jesus’ corroboration:

Luke 21:25 ‘‘There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.

Why are they terrified? It is because of what they SEE!

Mark 13:24 ‘‘But in those days, following that distress, “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; 25 the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

26 ‘‘At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.

It is worth repeating again. Tradition says this is the second coming. It is NOT! It is the appearance of Jesus IN THE SKY as he comes for his church. He is not touching down on planet earth. Jesus describes the view of his coming in Matthew:

Matthew 24:27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

30 ‘‘At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

This appearance of Jesus – visible throughout the world – follows the signs we’ve looked at earlier which precede the rapture of the church. When Jesus appears, he is coming for his church – the saints, the elect. This is the rapture! We know this is a universal, world-wide event from verse 28 because vultures gather over carcasses everywhere. Wherever there are believers, the appearance of Jesus will be visible.

And we have seen in Revelation 6:15-17, as in the verse above, the nations of the earth mourn and are terrified at what they see They know the wrath of God will follow!

He is not yet coming to earth in his second coming to rule and to reign. He is coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. Before his second coming, God’s wrath must be poured out on the earth.

The Coming Wrath

One of the primary problems in understanding the end-times seems to be the tendency to lump end-time events together, not understanding that there is a time of great tribulation or great distress (term used by Jesus), but there is also a time of WRATH – a period of time which follows the great tribulation!

Believers Are Not On Earth During God’s Wrath

Another way to determine when the rapture will occur would be if one could determine when God’s wrath will be poured out on the earth; the rapture must occur first. First, however, let’s establish that believers will not be on earth after the rapture. God made this promise through the writing of the Apostle Paul:

1 Thessalonians 1:9 They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

1 Thessalonians 5:9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

And the following may be a reference to the same period, though the word “wrath” is not used. Jesus spoke this to the church at Philadelphia by a letter through the Apostle John:

Revelation 3:10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.

In the larger sense, it is likely that Jesus made that promise to all who have kept his command to endure patiently to the end. If that be so, the hour of trial is the time of God’s wrath that he will keep them from.

The Time of Wrath

Twice we’ve looked at Revelation 6:15-17 where all the people left on earth were so terrified of God that they called to the mountains and the rocks to fall on them. Let’s see again what they said:

Revelation 6:16 “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

Later John showed us a summary of the time of wrath.

Revelation 14:17 Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, ‘‘Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.” 19 The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath.

Revelation 15:1 I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed.*************************

We must take time for a further proof that the rapture has already taken place. The following verses show what is happening in heaven when John saw the angels with the seven last plagues but before the plagues were poured out on the earth.

Revelation 15:2 And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God 3 and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb:

The believers are now in heaven. They hold harps given them by God and are singing songs of praise to God and to the Lamb. From this point on, there is no reference to saints, elect, or believers on the earth. Only unbelievers remain. Note that those with the harps were victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. The ones who were left were not victorious. They were the ones who worshipped the beast:

Revelation 13:8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast — all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.

They had taken the number of the beast on their right hand or forehead so they could conduct business and buy food. What did God say of those who would take the number of the beast?

Revelation 14:9 A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: ‘‘If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, 10 he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.”

All those who took the mark were condemned. That is a warning for all believers in the world today. Should you ever be faced with the edict to receive the mark, you must choose death rather than submit to that. There is NO SALVATION for anyone who takes the mark of the beast. There is no way to rationalize it, saying it was important to take it right then, but you will repent of it later. There will be no opportunity to repent of it. All who take the mark are eternally condemned!

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Let’s return to the subject of God’s wrath being poured out on the unbelievers who now are alone on the earth. After the view of the saints with harps worshipping God, the following is seen in heaven:

Revelation 15:5 After this I looked and in heaven the temple, that is, the tabernacle of the Testimony, was opened. 6 Out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues. They were dressed in clean, shining linen and wore golden sashes around their chests. 7 Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God, who lives for ever and ever. 8 And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.

Revelation 16:1 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, ‘‘Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.”

 The Plagues of Wrath

Revelation 16 proceeds to detail the terrible plagues God will pour out on the earth in his wrath. They are very different than those we saw in the tribulation period summarized in Revelation 6, while the believers were still on earth.

These plagues of God’s wrath involve painful sores (Rev. 16:2), water turning into blood causing the living things in the sea to die (Rev. 16:3), then rivers and springs of water turning into blood (Rev. 16:4). At this point an angel declared:

Revelation 16:5 ‘‘You are just in these judgments, you who are and who were, the Holy One, because you have so judged; 6 for they have shed the blood of your saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.”

Is this language which describes believers? Obviously not. This follows the terrible carnage throughout the earth in which where believers will be slaughtered. These people are the ones who slaughtered the saints of God or were present on earth as (or when) it was done.

The fourth bowl was poured on the sun and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire (Rev. 16:8). The fifth bowl was poured on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness (Rev. 16:10). The sixth bowl was poured on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East (Rev. 16:12).

When the seventh bowl was poured into the air, a loud voice came from the throne, saying “It is done!” (Rev. 16:17). The seventh bowl produced flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake unlike any that has ever occurred since man has been on earth. The cities of the nations collapsed and Jerusalem split into three parts. It is then that God gave Babylon the Great the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath. Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men.

Chapters 17 and 18 of Revelation are devoted to God’s curse and punishment – the pouring out of the cup of his wrath – on Mystery Babylon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes and of the Abominations of the Earth.

Reaction to the Plagues of God’s Wrath

Did these plagues bring repentance, sorrow, and a return to God? Apparently the hearts of the people who were left on earth after the rapture were hardened beyond redemption. Consider their reactions to the plagues:

Revelation 16:9 They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him.

Revelation 16:10 Men gnawed their tongues in agony 11 and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.

Revelation 16:21 From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.

This is further and final proof that there are no redeemed people left on the earth at this time. God’s people do not curse him. God’s redeemed do not refuse to repent. These people, without doubt, are in permanent rebellion against God. They received the mark of the beast and are condemned.

Rejoicing in Heaven

While men on earth cursed God, the saints in heaven, watching God’s wrath as it is poured out on the earth rejoice:

Revelation 19:1 After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: ‘‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2 for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” 3 And again they shouted: ‘‘Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”

Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ

At the sixth bowl of wrath, God prepared the way for the showdown at Armageddon by drying up the great river Euphrates to prepare the way for the kings from the East. At that time we are told:

Revelation 16:13 Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14 They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.

While Satan and his demons will be summoning the kings of the earth for a battle against the Holy City, preparations will also be underway in heaven. In a magnificent description of Christ Jesus as King and Warrior, the Apostle John tells us what he saw:

Revelation 19:11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, ‘‘Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.”

Note that as Jesus and his army go into battle, “He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.” This battle concludes the wrath of God poured out on the earth and it brings the Lord Jesus to earth in his second coming.

John next describes the battle itself. The beast and his false prophet are both captured and thrown into the lake of burning sulfur. All the rest are killed!

Revelation 19:19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. 20 But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. 21 The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.

The number killed is enormous, perhaps two hundred million. Read the prophecy of Revelation 14:

Revelation 14:19 The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. 20 They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.

In the above scripture we see the symbolic result of the battle at Armageddon. The Lord Jesus Christ has won. His enemies are vanquished and he begins his 1000 year reign on the earth.

Armageddon and Christ’s Second Coming and Reign Prophesied in Zechariah

In the following passage, the Lord is speaking.

Zechariah 14:3 Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle. 4 On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south . . . 5 Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. . . .
9 The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name.

Once again it is demonstrated that Holy Scripture is a single message system from the one God who has a consistent message delivered by forty different writers in sixty-six books over thousands of years. Zechariah’s message fits perfectly with the message God gave John in The Revelation.

Satan is Bound for a Thousand Years

After the battle at Armageddon, we read:

Revelation 20:1 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3 He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.

During the millennial reign of Christ, Satan is out of commission, locked up in the Abyss.

 The Millennial Reign of Christ and the First Resurrection

Revelation 20:4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

Many in Christendom today preach that all believers will come and reign with Christ for a thousand years. Is that what the passage above says? Not at all. Only those who have died because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God will be resurrected and reign with him. I do not venture to say whether the death must be by beheading; it may be a figure of speech to specify those persons who were killed for Christ, however they were martyred.

Likely during the time of Christ’s reign the earth will enjoy the blessings God intended for earth from the beginning. Isaiah described the harmony the earth will experience during the reign of Christ:

Isaiah 11:6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,
and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

Isn’t that a beautiful picture? That’s what man lost when our parents (Adam and Eve) were seduced by Satan into sin.

For a thousand years, Jesus will rule. Isaiah describes that rule:

Isaiah 11:3 He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. 5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

Oh, to have leaders who would rule in righteousness! And that is the blessing the world will experience for 1000 years.

The Final Battle and Satan’s Doom

Revelation 20:7 When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. 9 They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Who are these people who will again rebel against God and against the Lord Jesus Christ after he has ruled over them for 1000 years? They are the descendants of those who survived the outpouring of God’s wrath on the earth. Incredibly, even after the rule of Christ on earth, man’s heart is still bent toward evil and many will gather with Satan to battle against the Lord. The entire army will be destroyed supernaturally by fire from heaven which will devour them.

The Final Judgment

Revelation 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Revelation 21:8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

Those who live for the flesh – glorying in the litany of sin listed above – will be thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, the second death.

Heaven (and eternal life) is for those who have purified themselves, who are holy, who are conformed to the likeness of the Son of God, and for whom Jesus Christ is Lord!

Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, ‘‘I am making everything new!” Then he said, ‘‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6 He said to me: ‘‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”

Conclusion

Let’s conclude with a short summary of what we have learned:

  • There will be a period of great tribulation – great distress – which will be a time of persecution and death of the saints – the true believers in Jesus Christ as Lord.
  • At the end of the period of tribulation signs will appear in the heavens – the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.
  • At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.
  • The rapture occurs! Christ will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
  • Unbelievers will be terrified. God’s wrath will be poured out on the earth, ending with the battle of Armageddon. The anti-christ and false prophet will be thrown into the lake of fire and the armies of the anti-christ destroyed by the sword coming from the mouth of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Christ’s millenial reign will begin. Those believers who were beheaded for Jesus and because of the word of God will reign with him for a thousand years.
  • At the end of Christ’s 1000 year reign, Satan will cause a final rebellion and gather the nations in battle against Jerusalem but they will be devoured by fire that comes down from heaven.
  • There will be a white throne judgment in which the dead, great and small, are judged. All those whose names are not written in the book of life will be thrown into the lake of fire. Each person will be judged according to what he has done.
  • Believers will enter into the New Jerusalem – heaven – to be in the presence of the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb forever and ever.

We conclude this study as the Apostle John concluded the book of Revelation (at 22:20-21):

He who testifies to these things says, ‘‘Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.