The Rapture of the Church

Introduction

Bible prophecy is a fascinating subject to study, and sincere Christians have a variety of views concerning the end-times. I believe that when we try to be as prayerful, honest, thorough, and objective as possible, the weight of Scriptural evidence supports the pre-tribulational view of the Rapture (these terms will be explained in a moment).

Therefore, the intent of this series is to demonstrate that Jesus might return much sooner than any of us realize. My prayer is that this will challenge us to seek a much deeper, more intimate, and more obedient relationship with Jesus, and that it will give us a new zeal for sharing the Gospel in the short time that we might have left.

In this series, no offense or disrespect is meant towards anyone who holds a different view concerning end-times prophecy. The fact is, all Christians will be "raptured" at the appropriate time no matter what our personal views are concerning the Rapture. If we are caught up to be with Jesus before the seven-year Tribulation period begins, then praise the Lord! But if the Antichrist comes to power before Jesus returns for us then praise the Lord anyway, and let's work together to oppose the Antichrist.

Does It Really Matter?

Does it really matter whether or not we know anything about the Rapture or any other end-times events? Our salvation is not affected by our views of end-times prophecies, so what difference does it make if we study those prophecies or not?

Consider that 1 out of every 3 or 4 passages in the Bible is prophetic in nature, according to Bible scholars (as reported by many authors, e.g. these Google search results Offsite Link). This means that roughly one-third of the Bible deals with prophecy! Prophecy is obviously very important to God, and therefore it should be important to us as well. Notice what God says:

Revelation 1:3: "Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near"

Revelation 22:7: "Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book."

1 Thessalonians 5:20: "do not treat prophecies with contempt"

The book of Revelation is the only book in the entire Bible which pronounces a special blessing on those who read it and take it to heart, and we can see in the above passages that this blessing is given at the beginning and at the end of the book of Revelation. Again, prophecy is very important to God, and 1 Thessalonians 5:20 (above) says that we must not treat prophecies with contempt. Therefore, let's be careful not to dishonor God by considering Bible prophecy to be a waste of time or impossible to understand.

Definitions

Here are some Scriptural explanations for various terms which will be used throughout this series:

  1. "The Rapture"
  2. According to the Bible, Jesus will one day come down out of heaven and then He will "snatch up" all Christians (living and dead) off of the earth to meet Him in the clouds. This "snatching up" of Christians is often referred to as "the Rapture of the Church." Here are two of the main passages which describe the Rapture:

    "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. Therefore encourage each other with these words." (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)

    "I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep [die], but we will all be changed--in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality." (1 Corinthians 15:50-53)

    These passages tell us that Jesus will come down from heaven (with a loud command and the trumpet call of God), and then everyone who had died in Christ will be physically resurrected from the dead and will rise to meet the Lord in the air, and then all living Christians will rise to meet the Lord in the air. In "the twinkling of an eye" our mortal bodies will be transformed into immortal bodies, and we will be with the Lord forever.

    The Greek word harpazo means "catch (away, up), pluck, pull, take (by force)," according to Strong's Greek Dictionary, and it is translated as "caught up" in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:

    "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 [harpazo] 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)

    In the Latin Vulgate Bible, the Greek word harpazo is written as rapiemur. If you search the Internet for rapiemur, you'll find that the English word "Rapture" comes from the same Latin root word that rapiemur comes from.

    Some people don't believe in the Rapture because they say that the word "Rapture" does not appear anywhere in Scripture. However, the words "Trinity" and "Second Coming" (for example) never appear in the Bible either, yet all of these concepts are taught quite clearly in Scripture even if those specific terms are not used. Actually, the word "Rapture" does appear in the Bible, just not in any English translation. Again, the Latin word for "Rapture" is in the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible.

    Throughout this series we will discover when the Rapture will happen in relation to other end-times events.

  3. "The Second Coming"
  4. The Bible says that Jesus will one day physically return to the earth and set up a new government, and then He will reign on earth for one thousand years, as in this example:

    "They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years." (Revelation 20:4)

    Jesus' future return to the earth is often referred to as "the Second Coming of Christ."

    Here are the basic differences between the Rapture and the Second Coming, which will be explained throughout this series:

    • At the Rapture, Jesus will only come down as far as the clouds (but not all the way down to the earth), and then He will "snatch up" all Christians (living or dead). Our mortal bodies will be transformed into immortal bodies, and then Jesus will take us up into heaven where He will judge us according to our deeds. All saved mortals on the earth (i.e. all Christians) will be "taken up" in the Rapture to meet Jesus in the clouds, and all unsaved mortals on the earth will remain on the earth.
    • At the Second Coming, Jesus will return all the way down to the earth, and everyone who had been raptured will return to the earth with Him. No-one will be transformed from mortality to immortality at the Second Coming, and no-one will go up into heaven at the Second Coming. All unsaved mortals on the earth will be "taken" in judgment by being killed, and all saved mortals on the earth will remain on the earth.

    Notice that the events which will take place at the Rapture are the opposite of the events which will take place at the Second Coming. The Rapture and the Second Coming will occur at two different times.

  5. "The Antichrist"
  6. In the future there will be a world leader who will proclaim himself to be God and will carry out a horrific persecution against Christians and the nation of Israel. The Bible refers to him as "the man of lawlessness," "the antichrist," "the beast," and so on:

    "After the sixty-two 'sevens,' the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He [the future ruler] will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him." (Daniel 9:26-27)

    "The king [the future ruler] will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place. He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all." (Daniel 11:36-37)

    "Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour." (1 John 2:18)

    "Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God. Don't you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved." (2 Thessalonians 2:3-10)

    "And the dragon [the devil, see Revelation 20:2] stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast [the future ruler] coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, "Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?" The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 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. 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." (Revelation 13:1-8)

    In 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10 (above) and Revelation 13:1-8 (above) we can see that this future ruler will be controlled by the devil, and we usually refer to him as "the Antichrist." As we will see, the Antichrist will proclaim himself to be God, and he will rule the world for the final three and a half years before the Second Coming of Christ.

    There is some debate about whether the Antichrist will be a Jew or a Gentile, and whether he will be a Roman or an Assyrian. Here are some thoughts on these issues:

    • Some people assume that he will be a Jew because they don't believe that Israel will accept him as the Messiah if he is not Jewish. However, the Bible never says that Israel will consider him to be the Messiah. Instead, he will be a world leader with whom Israel will make a seven-year peace treaty.

    • Another argument is that the Antichrist will be a Jew because Daniel 11:36-37 says that the Antichrist will show no regard for "the God of his fathers" (KJV). Since the word "God" is in the singular in the KJV, this seems to imply that Daniel was referring to the God of the Jews rather than the many gods of the Gentiles. The argument is that if the Antichrist will show no regard for the Jewish God of his fathers, then the Antichrist must be a Jew.

    However, there are problems with this argument. For one thing, Daniel 11:37 uses the Hebrew word elohiym, which is plural. This Hebrew word is most often used for God (e.g. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" - Genesis 1:1), but it is also used for false gods in Genesis 31:30, 32, 35:2-4, Exodus 18:11, and so on (e.g. "I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt" - Exodus 12:12). So the question is, will the Antichrist show no regard for the "God" of his fathers (KJV), which might imply that he is a Jew, or will he show no regard for the "gods" of his fathers (NIV), which would imply that he is a Gentile?

    Apart from Daniel 11:37, the phrase, "God of his father(s)," occurs eight times in the NIV (Genesis 46:1, 2 Kings 21:22, 2 Chronicles 17:4, 21:10, 28:25, 30:19, 33:12, and 34:3), and in those verses it always refers to the God of the Jews. This might imply that Daniel 11:37 is also referring to the God of the Jews.

    On the other hand, in both the KJV and the NIV the context of Daniel 11:37 uses repetition to emphasize that the Antichrist will exalt and magnify himself above every god (i.e. above the plurality of false gods):

    "And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all." (Daniel 11:36-37, KJV)

    "The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place. He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all." (Daniel 11:36-37, NIV)

    This repeated emphasis on the plurality of Gentile gods might mean that the NIV is accurate in saying that the Antichrist will show no regard for the "gods" of his father, which would imply that the Antichrist is a Gentile.

    Another thing in favor of "gods" is that the Greek version of the Old Testament which the apostles used (called the "Septuagint Offsite Link" or the "LXX") has "gods of his father" in Daniel 11:37 (search the Internet for "Septuagint," or see Daniel 11:37 in the Septuagint Offsite Link, for example).

    In addition, the Jewish Publication Society Bible Offsite Link also has "gods of his father" in Daniel 11:37 (see Daniel 11:37 in the Jewish Publication Society Bible Offsite Link).

    So the evidence in Daniel 11:37 leans toward the view that the Antichrist will be a Gentile, but nothing can really be proven from this verse.

    • In Biblical symbolism, water often represents the Gentile nations. For example, the apostle John was told in Revelation 17:15 that the waters in his vision were "peoples, multitudes, nations and languages." This is a reference to the Gentile nations rather than the single nation of Israel. In addition, the prophet Daniel was given a vision in which four great beasts came up out of the sea (Daniel 7:3), and Daniel was told that the four beasts represent four kingdoms that will rise from the earth (Daniel 7:17). Again, this refers to four Gentile nations rather than the single nation of Israel. In Revelation 13:1-8 (above), notice in John's vision that the Antichrist will come out of the sea, which indicates that the Antichrist will be a Gentile.

    • In fact, the Scriptural evidence shows that not only will the Antichrist be a Gentile, but he will either be a Roman or an Assyrian. For some thoughts on the "Roman vs. Assyrian" debate, you might take a look at Does Daniel Debunk the Assyrian Antichrist? Offsite Link.

  7. "The Tribulation"
  8. Throughout this series we'll see that the Bible describes a future seven-year period of unprecedented suffering and distress during which God will pour out His wrath on the earth. It will begin when Israel signs a treaty with the Antichrist, and it will end at the Second Coming. This seven-year period of time is often referred to as "the Tribulation."

    In Part Three of this series we'll look at Revelation 6:9-11 (below), and we will see that it describes a persecution and martyrdom of Christians during the first half of the seven-year Tribulation:

    "When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed." (Revelation 6:9-11)

    This persecution of Christians during the first half of the Tribulation will be carried out by "Mystery Babylon," which will be a one-world religious system during the first half of the seven-year Tribulation period:

    "One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries." Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. This title was written on her forehead: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished." (Revelation 17:1-6)

    The above passage tells us that the kings of the earth will commit "spiritual adultery" with this "prostitute," which indicates that this will be a one-world religious system. This false religious system will be "drunk with the blood of the saints," which tells us that it will be responsible for a massive persecution of Christians. These Christians are people who were left behind at the Rapture (because they were unsaved at the time of the Rapture), and they received salvation at some point during the seven-year Tribulation.

    As we will see later, the Antichrist will break his treaty with Israel at the mid-point of the seven-year Tribulation period, and then he will begin a terrible persecution of the nation of Israel.

    According to the pre-tribulational view of the Rapture, the Rapture of the Church will happen before the seven-year Tribulation begins. According to the mid-tribulational view and the pre-wrath view and the mid-wrath view, the Rapture will happen during the seven-year Tribulation period. According to the post-tribulational view, the Rapture will happen at the end of the seven-year Tribulation period (as Jesus is returning to the earth at the Second Coming). In this series we'll see that the weight of Scriptural evidence supports the pre-trib view of the Rapture.

    Consider that all Christians will be "snatched up" to meet the Lord in the air when He comes for us at the Rapture, and therefore those who are left behind will all be unsaved. During the seven-year Tribulation there will be multitudes of people who will receive salvation, and they are all referred to as "saints" in the book of Revelation, just as Christians are referred to as "saints" (e.g. Ephesians 1:1), and just as all of the righteous people in Old Testament times are called "saints" (e.g. Psalm 30:4). Since there will be "a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language" (Revelation 7:9) who will receive salvation after the Rapture (according to the pre-trib view), this means that people will have a "second chance" to receive salvation after being left behind at the Rapture. However, those who are so hardened to the Gospel that they "refused to love the truth and so be saved" will be under a powerful delusion which will cause them to believe the Antichrist's lies (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11).

    Again, the Tribulation will be a seven-year period of time during which God will pour out His wrath on the earth. Multitudes of people will receive salvation during the Tribulation, but they will be persecuted by the "Mystery Babylon" religious system during the first half of the Tribulation. In addition, the Christians and the nation of Israel will be persecuted by the Antichrist during the second half of the Tribulation (as we will see).

  9. "The Great Tribulation"
    • What is the Great Tribulation?
    • The following prophecy describes a period of time which is called a "seven," and when we examine this prophecy in Part Two of this series we'll see that the "seven" is referring to the seven-year Tribulation period. According to this prophecy, the Antichrist will desecrate the Jewish temple at the mid-point of the seven-year Tribulation by setting up "an abomination that causes desolation":

      "He [the Antichrist] will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him." (Daniel 9:27)

      In the next passage, Jesus said that when this "abomination that causes desolation" (Daniel 9:27, above) is standing in the Jewish temple, this will signal the beginning of a time of great distress:

      "So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel--let the reader understand--then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now--and never to be equaled again." (Matthew 24:15-21)

      The words "great distress" in the above passage are translated as "great tribulation" in some versions of the Bible. Therefore, the mid-point of the seven-year Tribulation is often referred to as the beginning of "the Great Tribulation," which will be a time of unprecedented distress on the earth.

    • How long will the Great Tribulation last?
    • In order to determine how long the Great Tribulation will last, a little background information is needed. In Daniel 4:23-25, the prophet Daniel interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar's dream by saying that the king will live with the wild animals until "seven times" had passed by. Daniel 4:32-33 says that when this prophecy came true, King Nebuchadnezzar lived with the wild animals for "seven times," and his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his fingernails became like the claws of a bird. Notice that seven hours or seven days would not be enough time for the king's hair and nails to grow so long. The "seven times" refers to seven years, and in fact the NIV footnote for Daniel 4:16 says that "seven times" can be translated as "seven years." In addition, Strong's Hebrew Dictionary says that the Hebrew word for "times" in these verses means "a set time; techn. a year:--time."

      So depending on the context, this Hebrew word for "time" can have the meaning of "year." Three chapters later in the book of Daniel we see a prophecy concerning the Antichrist, and Daniel used that same Hebrew word again:

      "He [the Antichrist] 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 7:25)

      We will look at this prophecy in more detail later, but for now let's look at the expression "a time, times and half a time." In this context, "time" refers to one year, "times" refers to two years, and "half a time" refers to half a year, so the total time period here is three and a half years. For example, here are some things that Bible scholars say about this expression:

      "Or a year, two years and half a year" (alternate translation in the NIV footnote for Daniel 7:25, above)

      "In a prophetic style as used for a year (Rev. 12:14, three and one-half years [cf. Rev. 12:6 in allusion to Dan. 7:25, where kairoi, times, also stands for two years])." (The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament, Spiros Zodhiates, p.806, emphasis added)

      "a time, times, and half a time. This refers to the three and one-half years of the Great Tribulation with "a time" equaling one year, "times" equaling two years, and "half a time" indicating 6 months (cf. Dan. 7:25; 12:7 with the 42 months referred to in Rev. 11:2; 13:5). References to these specific time periods show that the Great Tribulation is not the entire present Age but the three and one-half years preceding the second coming of Christ." (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Walvoord and Zuck, Dallas Theological Seminary, p.959, emphasis added)

      Now, in order to determine how long the Great Tribulation will last, another useful piece of background information is the identity of the "woman" in Revelation 12:1-6:

      "A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon [the devil] with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days." (Revelation 12:1-6)

      In the above passage, the "dragon" is the devil (see Revelation 20:2), and the "woman" is the nation of Israel. For example, notice that Israel was sometimes described as a woman in the Old Testament:

      "For your Maker is your husband-- the LORD Almighty is his name-- the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit-- a wife who married young, only to be rejected," says your God." (Isaiah 54:5-6)

      "During the reign of King Josiah, the LORD said to me, "Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there. I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me but she did not, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it. I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery."" (Jeremiah 3:6-8)

      "I made you grow like a plant of the field. You grew up and developed and became the most beautiful of jewels. Your breasts were formed and your hair grew, you who were naked and bare. Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine. I bathed you with water and washed the blood from you and put ointments on you. I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put leather sandals on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments. I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace around your neck, and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. So you were adorned with gold and silver; your clothes were of fine linen and costly fabric and embroidered cloth. Your food was fine flour, honey and olive oil. You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen. And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign LORD." (Ezekiel 16:7-14)

      In addition, the imagery of the sun and moon and twelve stars in Revelation 12:1-6 (above) is described in a dream that Joseph had:

      "Then he [Joseph] had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. "Listen," he said, "I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me." When he told his father [Jacob] as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, "What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?"" (Genesis 37:9-10)

      To recognize the imagery here, recall that Jacob's name was changed to "Israel" in Genesis 32:28. Jacob (Israel) had twelve sons, who became the twelve patriarchs of Israel (Acts 7:8). One of Jacob's sons was Joseph, who had the dream in the above passage (the dream describes Joseph's brothers as "eleven stars," and Joseph is the "twelfth star"). There are no other symbolic descriptions of a sun, moon, and twelve stars anywhere else in the Bible, so the "woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head" in Revelation 12:1-6 (above) is usually taken to be a reference to the nation of Israel. This is further confirmed by the fact that the "woman" (Israel) gave birth to a male child who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter, and who was snatched up to God and to his throne (Revelation 12:1-6, above). This male child is a reference to Jesus, because Jesus was birthed out of Israel (see Isaiah 9:1-7 for an example of Israel travailing and crying out under oppression and saying that it will be the mother of a male child (Jesus), and see Isaiah 66:8-11 for a precedent of Israel being pictured as a nursing mother), and Jesus was snatched up to God's throne (at His Ascension in Acts 1:6-11), and Jesus will rule the nations with an iron scepter (Psalms 2:7-9).

      All of this evidence indicates that the "woman" in Revelation 12:1-6 (above) refers to the nation of Israel.

      Now, one more useful piece of background information is the fact that the Jews used a lunar calendar (30 days per month, based on the moon's cycles) rather than a solar calendar like many of us use today (based on the sun). For example, notice that some of the Jewish religious festivals were based on the lunar cycle:

      "Also at your times of rejoicing--your appointed feasts and New Moon festivals--you are to sound the trumpets over your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, and they will be a memorial for you before your God. I am the LORD your God." (Numbers 10:10)

      "With each bull there is to be a drink offering of half a hin of wine; with the ram, a third of a hin; and with each lamb, a quarter of a hin. This is the monthly burnt offering to be made at each new moon during the year." (Numbers 28:14)

      "From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me," says the LORD." (Isaiah 66:23)

      So the Jews had a lunar calendar with 30 days per month (360 days per year) based on the movement of the moon. This can also be seen in the description of the Flood:

      Genesis 7:11: "In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, on the seventeenth day of the second month--on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened."
      ...
      Genesis 7:24: "The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days."
      ...
      Genesis 8:4: "[as the flood waters were receding] and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat."

      The above verses tell us that the waters flooded the earth for 5 months, and notice that those 5 months are equivalent to 150 days. This further confirms that there were 30 days per month.

      Now that we have gathered some background information, we can determine how long the Great Tribulation will last by examining the following passages (recall that the Great Tribulation will be characterized by intense persecution of the saints and the nation of Israel):

      "He [the Antichrist] 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 7:25)

      "The woman [the nation of Israel] was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent's [the devil's] reach." (Revelation 12:14)

      "I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, "Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there. But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles [the Antichrist and his forces]. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months."" (Revelation 11:1-2)

      "The beast [the Antichrist] was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months." (Revelation 13:5)

      "She [the nation of Israel] gave birth to a son [Jesus], a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days." (Revelation 12:5-6)

      The above passages all take place in the context of the Antichrist's persecution during the seven-year Tribulation, and we have already seen that "a time, times and half a time" refers to three and a half years (Daniel 7:25 and Revelation 12:14, above). In addition, forty-two months is also three and a half years (Revelation 11:1-2 and 13:5, above). And based on the lunar calendar (which has 30 days per month), 1,260 days is also three and a half years (Revelation 12:5-6, above).

      We will look at the details of the above passages later in this series, but what these passages indicate is that the Antichrist will persecute the Christians and the nation of Israel for three and a half years. Since the Antichrist will desecrate the Jewish temple and exalt himself as God and begin this terrible persecution at the mid-point of the seven-year Tribulation (as we saw earlier), and since this persecution will last for three and a half years (according to the above passages), this means that the Great Tribulation is equivalent to the last half of the seven-year Tribulation period.

      When Jesus returns to the earth at the Second Coming, He will kill the Antichrist (and his armies) and rescue the persecuted people, which will bring the Tribulation and the Great Tribulation to an end.

    • Will the Great Tribulation be cut short?
    • When Jesus described the Great Tribulation, notice that He said, "If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive":

      "When you see 'the abomination that causes desolation' standing where it does not belong--let the reader understand--then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down or enter the house to take anything out. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that this will not take place in winter, because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now--and never to be equaled again. 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." (Mark 13:14-20)

      According to this passage, the Great Tribulation (the final three and a half years of the Tribulation) will be so terrible that no-one would survive it if God had not "cut short" the days of the Great Tribulation. Some people interpret the above passage to mean that God will shorten the Great Tribulation so that it will be less than three and a half years, but there are several problems with that view. For one thing, a moment ago we saw that the Great Tribulation will last for 1,260 days, which is a very exact timeframe. Notice that if God shortens that timeframe then the Great Tribulation will not last for 1,260 days, which would contradict Revelation 12:5-6 (above). This makes it unlikely that God will shorten the length of the Great Tribulation. For further evidence, notice what an angel did when the prophet Daniel was given some end-times prophecies:

      ""At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people--everyone whose name is found written in the book--will be delivered." ... Then I, Daniel, looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank. One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river [i.e. an angel], "How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?" 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. From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days."" (Daniel 12:1,5-7,11)

      In the above passage we see a description of the time of unparalleled distress (just as Jesus described it in Mark 13:14-20, above), and we see "the abomination that causes desolation" (just as Jesus described it in Mark 13:14-20, above). Notice that in this context concerning the Great Tribulation, an angel lifted both of his hands and swore an oath by Him who lives forever that "It will be for a time, times and half a time." We have already seen that "a time, times and half a time" is three and a half years, and the angel swore a solemn oath with both hands lifted up to heaven that the Great Tribulation will last for three and a half years. It will not last longer than that, nor will it end sooner than that.

      In order to understand what it means for the Great Tribulation to be "cut short," let's look at Mark 13:20 again:

      "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." (Mark 13:20)

      This indicates that instead of allowing the Great Tribulation to continue until no-one is left alive, God has already shortened those days by decreeing that they will last for three and a half years (exactly 1,260 days). Remember, God's plans and purposes were established long before the earth was created, and the plans of the Lord stand firm forever. His purposes will be carried out exactly as He had planned them:

      "But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations." (Psalms 33:11)

      "The LORD Almighty has sworn, "Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand. ... For the LORD Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?" (Isaiah 14:24, 27)

      "Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do." (Isaiah 46:9-11)

      God knows "the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come" (Isaiah 46:9-11, above), and long ago He "cut short" the length of the Great Tribulation by decreeing that it will last for exactly 1,260 days.

      The Great Tribulation will begin at the mid-point of the seven-year Tribulation period when the Antichrist breaks his treaty with Israel and desecrates the Jewish temple, and it will last for the final three and a half years of the Tribulation until Jesus returns to the earth at the Second Coming.

  10. "The Millennium"
  11. When Jesus returns to the earth (at the Second Coming) He will set up a new government, and then He will physically reign on earth for one thousand years. This thousand-year reign of Christ on earth is often referred to as "the Millennium."

    However, some people feel that this view takes the book of Revelation too literally when it talks about the "thousand years." In order to determine whether the "thousand years" is meant to be literal or symbolic in the book of Revelation, let's first look at all of the occurrences of the Greek word chilia ("thousand") throughout Revelation:

    "And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days [literally "one thousand two hundred sixty days"], clothed in sackcloth." (Revelation 11:3)

    "The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days [literally "one thousand two hundred sixty days"]." (Revelation 12:6)

    "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 [literally "one thousand six hundred stadia"]." (Revelation 14:20)

    "He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years." (Revelation 20:2)

    "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." (Revelation 20:3)

    "They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years." (Revelation 20:4)

    "(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection." (Revelation 20:5)

    "they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years." (Revelation 20:6)

    "When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison" (Revelation 20:7)

    These are all of the places where the apostle John used the Greek word chilia ("thousand") in the book of Revelation. In the above passages, if we set aside the "thousand years" for a moment and we focus on the other uses of the Greek word chilia, Bible scholars point out that the apostle John always used chilia in a literal way in those verses. Therefore, it is reasonable to interpret the "thousand years" as being a literal period of time based on John's normal usage of the Greek word chilia.

    For further evidence, notice that John used the expressions, "the thousand years," and, "a short time," in the same verse:

    "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." (Revelation 20:3)

    Some people believe that the "thousand years" in Revelation 20:3 (above) is meant to be a symbolic way of saying "a long time," but notice that "a short time" is being used in a literal way (not a symbolic way) in that same verse. Since John did not use a symbolic way of saying "a short time" (above), it is inconsistent for us to claim that John used a symbolic way of saying "a long time" in the very same verse. Therefore, the grammatical evidence leads many scholars to the conclusion that John was speaking of a literal thousand-year period of time.

    Another reason for taking the "thousand years" literally is that John emphasized this phrase by using it 6 times in the space of 6 verses (as we can see in Revelation 20:2-7 above). This form of repetition in the Bible is always significant because it was a method of teaching which was used by Jewish Rabbis throughout history, and it is used periodically throughout Scripture. For example, in Genesis 2:4-9 there is a repeated emphasis on "the LORD God" (5 times in 6 verses), and this repeated emphasis on "the LORD God" is also found a few verses later in Genesis 2:15-22 (6 times in 8 verses). So the fact that John repeatedly emphasized the "thousand years" (6 times in 6 verses), plus the fact that those verses describe specific events which will happen before and after the thousand years, all support the conclusion that the Millennium will be a literal thousand-year period of time.

    Furthermore, notice that this period is sometimes called "the" thousand years, and notice the specific events which will happen before and after the thousand years:

    • "...and bound him [satan] for a thousand years." (Revelation 20:2)
    • "... until the thousand years were ended. After that, he [satan] must be set free for a short time." (Revelation 20:3)
    • "...They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years." (Revelation 20:4)
    • "(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.)..." (Revelation 20:5)
    • "...and will reign with him for a thousand years." (Revelation 20:6)
    • "When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison." (Revelation 20:7)

    This is unmistakably a specific block of time which has a definite beginning point and a definite ending point, and this block of time is specifically called "the" thousand years.

    Bible scholars also point out that the events in chapter 20 of the book of Revelation (including the Millennium) all follow sequentially after the events described in chapter 19 (which ends with the Second Coming). This indicates that the Millennium is a specific period of time which will come after the Second Coming. For example, The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Walvoord and Zuck, Dallas Theological Seminary, p.978) says, "There is thus no linguistic or grammatical suggestion that these events are anything other than events following the second coming of Christ and occurring in sequence."

    People who do not believe in this literal, future thousand-year period of time sometimes say that we are in the "Millennium" now, and that the devil was "bound" at the cross in fulfillment of Revelation 20:2-3:

    "He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 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." (Revelation 20:2-3)

    However, this view (which says that the devil was "bound" at the cross) contradicts the New Testament passages which describe the devil as a prowling lion who is actively engaged in combat against Christians, as in these examples:

    "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." (1 Peter 5:8-9)

    "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. ... In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." (Ephesians 6:11-12,16)

    "I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes." (2 Corinthians 2:10-11)

    The devil was certainly defeated at the cross, but he is still free and active. He has not yet been locked away and sealed in the Abyss. Since the devil will be "bound" in the Abyss at the beginning of the thousand years (Revelation 20:2-7, above), and since the devil is not "bound" yet (according to the above passages), this indicates that the Millennium is a future period of time.

    For all of these reasons, the weight of Scriptural evidence supports the literal interpretation of the "thousand years" in the book of Revelation. This thousand-year reign of Christ on earth is often referred to as "the Millennium," and my article called Beyond the Second Coming provides numerous Scriptural descriptions of what life and government will be like during the Millennium.

  12. "The Church"
    • What is the Church?
    • A basic definition of "the Church" is that it's a group of people, all of whom have faith in Jesus Christ as their living Savior. In other words, every person from the first century until the Rapture who (during his or her lifetime) believes in the resurrected Jesus as his or her Savior (i.e. every person who has received salvation) is a member of the Church. Every person who does not have salvation is therefore outside of the Church. When a person receives salvation through faith in Jesus, at that exact moment he or she automatically becomes a member of the Church. Notice that this has nothing to do with church attendance. There are many people who go to church but who have not yet received salvation, and they are not members of the Church.

    • Scriptural descriptions of the Church
      • The members of the Church have the indwelling Holy Spirit in their hearts:
      • "Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you." (Romans 8:8-11)

        "Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)

        "And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1:13-14)

        "What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you--guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us." (2 Timothy 1:13-14)
      • The members of the Church are "in Christ":
      • "Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was." (Romans 16:7)

        "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)

        "And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1:13-14)

        "Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:" (Philippians 1:1)
      • The members of the Church "belong to Christ":
      • "Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ." (Romans 1:5-6)

        "If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord." (Romans 14:8)

        "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him." (1 Corinthians 15:22-23)

        "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires." (Galatians 5:24)
      • The Church is "the bride of Christ" (as we'll see in Part Seven).
      • The Church is "the body of Christ":
      • "And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way." (Ephesians 1:22-23)

        "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." (Ephesians 4:15-16)

        "And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy." (Colossians 1:18)
    • When was the Church created on the earth?

    • Notice what Jesus said concerning the Church:

      "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." (Matthew 16:18)

      Jesus said that He will build His Church, which indicates that there was no such thing as "the Church" when Jesus made this statement. At that point the Church was a new thing which will be created in the future.

      Jesus used the Greek word ekklesia in the above verse, which means "assembly, church" (Strong's Greek Dictionary). There were other ekklesias ("assemblies") in the Bible, such as "the assembly in the desert" (Acts 7:38), and public assemblies of citizens (as in Acts 19:29-41), and so on. However, in Matthew 16:18 (above), Jesus described a unique form of ekklesia which would be directly related to Him ("my church").

      Notice that the Church had come into existence by the time of Acts 2:47, and new members were being added to it daily:

      "...And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." (Acts 2:47, KJV)

      Therefore, the Church was created sometime after Matthew 16:18 (above) and before Acts 2:47 (above).

      In order to determine when the Church was created, notice that John the Baptist had said that the Holy Spirit will one day be experienced by people in a new and different way through a "Spirit baptism" administered by Jesus:

      "John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."" (Luke 3:16)

      The Holy Spirit was active in certain people's lives during Old Testament times (as in Exodus 35:30-33 and Numbers 11:25-26), but in the above passage John the Baptist described a new experience of the Holy Spirit (a "baptism" of the Holy Spirit which will be administered by Jesus). After Jesus was resurrected, He reminded the disciples of this new Spirit baptism, and then He said that it will happen to them in just a few days:

      "On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight." (Acts 1:4-9)

      Some people believe that the "baptism" of the Holy Spirit happens automatically for everyone at the moment when they receive salvation, and other people believe that it is a voluntary second experience of the Holy Spirit which we can receive after salvation (for spiritual empowerment). Either way, this spirit baptism was a new thing which no-one ever experienced before the cross. It is only experienced by Christians, which means that it is directly related to the Church. In Acts 1:4-9 (above), the Church did not yet exist because this new experience of the Holy Spirit had not yet been received by anyone. Several days later, the disciples received this new experience of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost:

      "When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them." (Acts 2:1-4)

      On the day of Pentecost (above), this new experience of the Holy Spirit was first received by believers, and this is the moment which Bible scholars tend to consider as being the birth of the Church.

      For further evidence that the birth of the Church was on the day of Pentecost, notice what the apostle Peter said:

      "As I [Peter] began to speak [to the Gentiles in Cornelius' household], the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?"" (Acts 11:15-17)

      In the above passage, Peter said that Cornelius and his household received the same new experience of the Holy Spirit that the original disciples had received on the day of Pentecost. Again, this experience is only for those who have received salvation through faith in the resurrected Jesus, which means that it was not available to anyone before the cross. In the above passage, Peter reminded his listeners that Jesus had said, "John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit," so Peter was specifically referring to the new experience of the Holy Spirit which first happened on the day of Pentecost. Notice that Peter was talking about the baptism of the Holy Spirit when he said, "the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning." Therefore, Peter was referring to Pentecost as "the beginning." As we have seen, the Church was created sometime between Acts 1:4-9 and Acts 2:47, and this "beginning" which Peter mentioned (Pentecost) happened in Acts 2:1-4.

      The beginning of the Church was on the day of Pentecost when this new experience of the Holy Spirit was first received by believers. Therefore, we usually refer to the period from Pentecost to the Rapture as "the Church Age." The Bible doesn't use this term, but it's a useful expression for describing the period of time in which the Church will be active on the earth.

    • The relationship between the Rapture and the Church
    • At the Rapture, Jesus will be returning specifically for the Church:

      "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him." (1 Corinthians 15:22-23)

      "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. Therefore encourage each other with these words." (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)

      Notice in these passages that Jesus will resurrect "those who belong to Him" and those who are "in Christ." As we saw in section 7b (above), all of the members of the Church "belong to Christ" and are "in Christ." For example, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, etc., all died before the cross and before the Church was born, and therefore they were not Christians (also see Romans 10:9). They were not "in Christ," which means that they will not meet the Lord in the air at the Rapture (look closely at the above two passages). In addition, 1 Corinthians 15:22-23 (above) indicates that Christ will only resurrect those who belong to Him when He comes. Therefore, if anyone receives salvation after Jesus comes then they will not take part in the Rapture because they didn't belong to Him when He came. The only people who will take part in the Rapture are those who already belong to Jesus at the time of the Rapture, which is specifically the Church.

    • The Church has not "replaced" Israel
    • Some people believe that the Church has "replaced" Israel, or that the Church is the "new" Israel, or that the Church is the "true" Israel, or that the Church is the "spiritual" Israel, or that the Church is "the Israel of God," or that Gentile Christians are "spiritual Jews." However, there is a great amount of evidence in Scripture which disproves all of those views. If you hold any of those views, or if you are not sure, then I would highly recommend that you prayerfully read my article called Are Gentile Christians All "Spiritual Jews"? before you continue with this study of end-times prophecy. The reason is because if we have an inaccurate view concerning Israel and the Church then we will also form inaccurate views concerning end-times prophecy. Israel and the Church are two separate and distinct entities, and God has separate programs for them (as we'll see in Part Two).

An Overview of End-Times Prophecies

Here's an overview of the end-times prophecies in the Bible:

  1. At any moment, Jesus will come down from heaven as far as the clouds, and He will "snatch up" all Christians (alive or dead) off of the earth to meet Him in the air and take them up into heaven. This is the pre-trib Rapture, and it will only affect those who (during their lifetime) believed in Jesus as their Savior. The dead Christians will be resurrected and their spirits will be re-united with their physical bodies, then all of the raptured Christians will instantly be transformed from mortality to immortality.
  2. At some point after the Rapture, Israel will sign a seven-year treaty with a world leader who will turn out to be the Antichrist. This will be the beginning of the seven-year Tribulation. The Tribulation does not begin at the moment when the Rapture takes place.
  3. While the events of the Tribulation are taking place on earth, the raptured Christians will go through "the judgment seat of Christ" where they will receive the rewards that they earned based on their actions of faith and obedience while they were on the earth.
  4. The raptured Christians are "the bride of Christ," and the wedding of Christ and His bride will take place in heaven while the Tribulation is raging on earth.
  5. At the mid-point of the seven-year Tribulation, the Antichrist will break his treaty with Israel, and he will desecrate the Jewish temple. He and the False Prophet will institute the "mark of the beast" economic system (which requires everyone to worship him as God), and he will begin a terrible persecution of Christians and Jews. When the Antichrist desecrates the Jewish temple, the Great Tribulation has begun and there are now 1,260 days remaining until the Second Coming.
  6. At the end of the seven-year Tribulation, all surviving Jews will receive salvation and then Christ and His bride will return to the earth (at the Second Coming), where Jesus will slaughter all of the armies of the Antichrist and all unbelievers. These things are explained in my article called The Second Coming.
  7. At this point (on the day of the Second Coming), every mortal on earth is saved through faith in Jesus. All of the unrighteous people (i.e. the wicked or non-believing people) throughout history are dead and are locked up in Hades until Judgment Day.
  8. Then the thousand-year government of Christ on earth (the Millennium) will begin. All of the survivors of the seven-year Tribulation will be blessed by being allowed to enter into the Millennial Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and prosperity.
  9. During the Millennium, babies will be born. Some of them will eventually receive salvation, and some won't.
  10. After the thousand years are over, all unbelievers will be dead and in Hades along with the rest of the unrighteous people throughout history. There will be no resurrection of the righteous dead after the Millennium because no righteous people will die during the Millennium. It appears that death during the Millennium will only happen to Gentiles who don't receive salvation by their 100th birthday, and no Jews will ever die during the Millennium.
  11. Judgment Day will take place after the Millennium, and all of the unrighteous people throughout history will then be cast into the Lake of Fire. None of the righteous people throughout history will go through Judgment Day.
  12. God's future plans will come to pass throughout eternity.

These things will all be explained throughout this series on the Rapture, and in my series called Beyond the Second Coming(with the exception of point #6).

Conclusion

Recall that roughly one-third of the Bible deals with prophecy. Prophecy is obviously very important to God, and therefore it should be important to us as well. Notice what God says:

Revelation 1:3: "Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near"

Revelation 22:7: "Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps [tereo] the words of the prophecy in this book."

1 Thessalonians 5:20: "do not treat prophecies with contempt"

The above passages mention a special blessing which is only available through the study of the book of Revelation, for those who "read" it and "hear" what it says and "take to heart" what is written in that book. In Revelation 22:7 (above), the Greek word for "keeps" (tereo) means:

"Particularly to watch, observe attentively, keep the eyes fixed upon, with the acc. (Rev.1:3, keeping for the fulfillment of the prophecy; 22:7, 9...)" (The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament, Spiros Zodhiates, p.1380)

Therefore, it's important to keep watching for these end-times prophecies to come to pass (for example, see my article called Signs of the Times in End-Times Bible Prophecy).

Again, prophecy is very important to God, and 1 Thessalonians 5:20 (above) says that we must not treat prophecies with contempt. Therefore, let's be careful not to dishonor God by considering Bible prophecy to be a waste of time or impossible to understand.

Final Note

Sincere Christians have different views concerning the timing of the Rapture, but we should keep in mind that all Christians will be raptured at the appropriate time no matter what our personal views are concerning the Rapture. If we are caught up to be with Jesus before the seven-year Tribulation period begins, then praise the Lord! But if the Antichrist comes to power before Jesus returns for us then praise the Lord anyway, and let's work together to oppose the Antichrist.

All for Your glory, Lord Jesus!

Modification History

  • 08/10/2009 - Added some thoughts concerning whether or not the Antichrist will be a Jew or a Gentile, and whether or not he will be a Roman or an Assyrian. Slightly modified the section called "The Church." Added a section heading called, "An Overview of End-Times Prophecies." Modified the "Conclusion" section.
  • 06/08/2004 - Added an overview of what we're going to see in this series on the Rapture, as well as in the other articles in this End-Times Prophecy series.
  • 03/01/2004 - Completely re-wrote this article and added a lot of new information. It is now an eight-part series.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (R). NIV (R). Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. (Emphasis added.)

This material is not copyrighted. Please feel free to use it in any way which will glorify the Lord Jesus Christ!