The book, Redemption Realized Through Christ, begins with the creation of Adam and Eve and the fall of man. It shows how God redeemed man from the consequence of his sins. Then it considered the call of Abraham and Israel and marveled at the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Next it dwelt on the apostles' interpretation of the redemption brought by Jesus. The story of redemption, however, did not stop at the end of the first century. There is more to follow.
After His resurrection, Jesus remained on this earth for forty days with His apostles, showing "himself alive . . . by many infallible proofs, being seen of them . . . and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3).
After this period of forty days, Jesus returned to His Father in heaven. Just before His departure, Jesus commissioned His disciples to witness
This message-"this same Jesus . . . shall so come" (Acts 1:11)-has been proclaimed repeatedly by the disciples. The return to earth of Jesus Christ stands at the very center of the New Testament message. This truth was not made up by the apostles but was proclaimed to them by Jesus Himself.
Jesus told His disciples about His second coming when He announced to them that He was going away to prepare a place for them. "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:2, 3). Later on He told them, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you" (vv. 27, 28).
The disciples quickly grasped the meaning of His promise. During Jesus' last days in Jerusalem, they asked Him more about this second coming: "Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" (Matthew 24:3; cf. Mark 13:4; Luke 21:7). In response to this question, Jesus gave the "Olivet Discourse," found in Matthew 24 and 25, Mark 13, and Luke 17 and 21. In it Jesus emphasized His coming: "The Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matthew 24:30). "As the days of Noe [Noah] were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (Matthew 24:37; cf. Luke 17:26). "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come" (Matthew 24:42; cf. v. 44; Luke 21:36). "The Son of man shall come in his glory" (Matthew 25:31). Jesus also mentioned His coming at His trial before the high priest. "Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven" (26:64). Jesus spoke often about His second coming, showing it is an important doctrine of the Christian faith.
The second coming of Jesus is proclaimed throughout the New Testament. It is found not only in the four Gospels but also in Acts 1:11; I Corinthians 1:7; 4:5; 11:26; 15:23; Colossians 3:4; I Thessalonians 1: 10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:15-17; 5:2; II Thessalonians 1:7, 10; 2:2, 8; I Timothy 6:14; Titus 2:13; James 5:7; I Peter 5:4; II Peter 1:16; 3:4, 8-12; I John 2:28; 3:2; and Revelation 1:7; 19:11ff.; 22:12, 20. Since the second coming receives such strong emphasis, Christians should study these teachings, especially in light of the promises at the end of the Book of Revelation.
Jesus Tells of His Coming
When Jesus spoke of His second coming in Matthew 24:2, His disciples pointed out to Him the splendor of the temple buildings. Since they had spent most of their time in Galilee and only occasionally visited Jerusalem, the buildings impressed them very much. Jesus took this opportunity to tell them of coming events. "See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down" (cf. Mark 13:2; Luke 21:6).
Later that day, when the group was at the Mount of Olives, these words of Jesus still puzzled them, causing them to ask Jesus a three-part question. "Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" (Matthew 24:3; cf. Mark 13:4; Luke 21:7). The first part of this question concerned the time of the destruction of the temple; the second and third parts concerned Jesus' second coming and the events of the end times. Jesus did not give clearly defined, separate answers to the various parts of this question. Apparently the prophecies Jesus gave were to be applied to both the sooner and the later events. This dual application of prophecy follows the general pattern of much Old Testament prophecy.
The first-century Christians took Jesus' words as applying to their times. They heard the words and were saved when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70.
We are here concerned about how the things Jesus mentioned apply to His second coming. Before we look at what He said, let us consider what other prophetic sources exist and how prophetic Scripture should be interpreted.
Latter-Day Events Foretold
The events Jesus described in His Olivet Discourse are explained in greater detail in both the Old and New Testament prophecies. The major prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, and one of the minor prophets, Zechariah, all gave prophecies that have not been fulfilled. Jesus stated, "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matthew 5:18). As many Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled to the minutest detail at His first coming, so will the remaining ones be fulfilled in the latter days and at His second coming. Not "one jot or one tittle," the smallest letter or stroke, "shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (v. 18).
The New Testament also contains many prophecies about Jesus' second coming. One book of the New Testament, Revelation, is given almost solely to this theme, and other books contain numerous prophecies. In the Book of Revelation, the apostle John was shown things concerning both current and coming events. He was commanded, "Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter" (Revelation 1:19). John wrote about "the things which are" in the first three chapters. He wrote about "the things which shall be hereafter" from chapter 4 to the end of the book.
Many have found prophecy hard to understand, especially that in the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation, because of their extensive use of symbolic language. But this need not be. Daniel gave pictures of these coming events in symbolic language, but he also gave their interpretation. These interpretations are not a matter of his own reasoning or guesswork but were divinely inspired. Revelation may be different from the other New Testament books because of its symbolic language, but the symbols were not given to obscure the message. This book is a revelation of latter-day events. It is "the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass" (Revelation 1:1). Thus the purpose of this book is to reveal, not to obscure. This book also contains a promise for the reader: "Blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book" (22:7; cf. 1:3). The reader must understand the book's sayings to keep them. It is not an apocryphal book with a hidden message obscured in symbolic language that is hard, if not impossible, to understand.
Interpretation of Prophecy
Since many of the prophecies related to the latter-day events and Jesus' second coming are presented in figurative and symbolic language, it is important to establish a sound principle of interpretation before a study of prophecy is begun.
The basic principle to follow is to interpret prophetic Scriptures by the same rules used to interpret other writings. The Bible is written in ordinary language as other books are. Therefore, it should be understood by the same common-sense process by which other writings are understood. The Christian also has additional help from God in interpreting Scripture. God has given us His Spirit to teach us the truths of His Word, and His Spirit certainly does not leave us when we read prophetic passages.
A common-sense principle used in interpreting any writing is to take the literal sense of a passage unless such an interpretation involves obvious absurdities or contradictions. Literal interpretation does not imply that symbolism cannot be used. If symbolism occurs, the reader should look for a divine interpretation of that symbolism. The interpretation may be found in the immediate context or elsewhere in the book or in other books. If a divine interpretation is not given, the symbolism may remain an unsolved mystery. In such a case we should simply acknowledge we do not presently know what it means. The reader must not interpret these according to his own reasoning or speculate as to their meaning.
To understand how this principle applies, read the book of Daniel to see how the divinely given dreams were interpreted by him. The application of this principle may also be seen in Revelation. Much of the symbolism used is explained right in the book. For example, the "seven stars" are explained to be "the angels of the seven churches"; the "seven golden candlesticks" are "the seven churches" (Revelation 1:20); "the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt," is Jerusalem, where "our Lord was crucified" (11:8); "a great red dragon" is "the Devil, and Satan" (12:3, 9); the "seven heads" are "seven kings" (12:3; 17:9, 10); the "ten horns" are "ten kings" (12:3; 17:3, 12); and the "seven heads are seven mountains" and kingdoms (17:9; Daniel 2:35, 44). These candid explanations of some of the symbols remove much of the confusion that would otherwise arise in trying to understand biblical prophecy.
In the following pages we will attempt to follow this principle of interpretation in order to give a clear picture of latter-day events. As the Old Testament "prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow" (I Peter 1:10, 11), we too must search. As they could not completely understand His first coming even though they prophesied of it, we may not understand everything about His second coming by reading the prophetic writings. We should freely admit this and say we do not understand some details instead of guessing and speculating as to their meaning.
The reader may not agree with everything presented in this chapter, especially if he disagrees with the basic principle of interpretation used. If he seeks to spiritualize the prophecies instead of taking them literally, he will end up with a quite different interpretation. Hopefully the reader will still study this material to see what these prophecies tell if they are interpreted literally. It is also hoped that the reader will be as the Bereans, who "received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, [to see] whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11).
The Jews Return to the Promised Land
One of the first events to occur in the latter days is the return of the Jews to the Promised Land. Jeremiah wrote about the return, "For, lo, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the LORD: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it" (Jeremiah 30:3). Later he wrote, "I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them, as at the first. And I will cleanse them. . . . I will pardon all their iniquities. . . . And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an honour before all the nations" (33:7-9).
Ezekiel also tells of this return. He relates a vision of a valley of dry bones, and how life came to the dry bones. He then was told the meaning of this vision:
This is a prediction that Israel's political life will be restored from an utterly hopeless situation.
Ezekiel then tells how "the word of the Lord" again came to him, and about being commanded to write on one stick Judah's name and on another stick Israel's, and to join the two sticks together. He was told, "They shall become one in thine hand" (Ezekiel 37:15, 17). When the people asked about the meaning of his action, he was told to say:
Ezekiel goes on to explain how "David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd; they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them" (Ezekiel 37:24). This must refer to Christ's rule since one king has not ruled Judah and Israel since the book of Ezekiel was written, nor have they observed God's statutes. Nor have the nations known "that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore" (v. 28).
It is obvious these prophecies have never been fulfilled. Some of the people of Judah did return after the seventy years of Babylonian captivity. Ezra and Nehemiah describe this return, but this return did not involve the ten tribes of the northern kingdom. The New Testament also bears witness to the fact that the twelve tribes as a whole were still in dispersion many years later (James 1:1).
The Olivet Discourse Warnings
The Olivet Discourse, found in three of the four Gospels (Matthew 24, 25; Mark 13; Luke 17; 21), contains Jesus' major prophecies concerning His second coming. These prophecies must occupy a central place in any study of the second coming. It provides the chronological framework into which all other prophecies must fit and upon which they must be built.
Jesus began His answer to the disciples' questions by giving them a warning. "Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many" (Matthew 24:4, 5; cf. Mark 13:5, 6; Luke 21:8). Apparently, men will be expecting Christ's return because of conditions existing at the time. This will create a danger of false prophets misleading some of Jesus' disciples by claiming they are the Christ. Jesus warned His disciples of this danger so they can remain faithful throughout the trials they will face and the deception that will abound.
Jesus next pointed out: "Ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places" (Matthew 24:6, 7). Luke records that Jesus spoke here of "fearful sights and great signs . . . from heaven" (Luke 21:11). These conditions do not mean that the time of His coming has arrived. "All these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet." They are signs only of the beginning of end-time sufferings. "All these are the beginnings of sorrows" (Matthew 24:6, 8; cf. Mark 13:7, 8; Luke 21:9-11).
It is clear that many nations will be at war with one another in the latter days. We have seen that Jesus spoke of "wars and rumours of wars" (Matthew 24:6) and that "nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom" (v. 7).
There are several major prophecies about latter-day wars. The Old Testament prophets Daniel, Ezekiel, and Zechariah referred to these. The New Testament Book of Revelation also contains prophecies of coming wars. Our understanding of how these events fit together may not be complete, but where possible we will show how the Old Testament prophecies fit into the New Testament prophecies.
A Warning and an Encouragement
Jesus explained what the beginning of sorrows will mean for His disciples: "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake" (Matthew 24:9). Mark records additional words: "But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them" (Mark 13:9). When the disciples face these trials, they are not to be concerned about working out a defense beforehand. They are to speak "whatsoever shall be given you in that hour . . . for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost" (v. 11). Their "adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist" their words (Luke 21:15).
This persecution will be hard to avoid because many "shall betray one another, and shall hate one another" (Matthew 24:10). Brother will betray his brother, father his son, and children their parents, causing them to be put to death (Mark 13:12; Luke 21:16).
Jesus next repeated His warning about false prophets. He stated that "many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many" (Matthew 24:11). The reason many will be deceived is that "iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold" (v. 12). Not all, however, will be led astray or grow cold. Some will endure. Jesus encourages these by promising, "He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved" (v. 13; cf. Mark 13:13). One purpose of prophecy is to leave Christians with a knowledge of what the future holds, so they can have confidence in the outcome and remain faithful and be encouraged to endure to the end.
The Christian and the Tribulation
This period of sorrows and suffering on earth is called tribulation. Since the Book of Revelation and the Book of Daniel contain major prophecies about the Tribulation, it will be discussed in great detail. But before doing this, let us consider the questions; Will Christians go through the Tribulation? Will Jesus Christ come and remove them before it begins? The answer to these questions is important since it will affect our understanding of several prophecies.
Before we can answer this issue, we must consider when the Rapture occurs. The term rapture is not found in the Bible but is a Latin word meaning "to be caught up." The rapture idea is biblical. In I Thessalonians, Paul wrote concerning those Christians who had died:
This act of being caught up at Jesus' coming is what the word rapture refers to. The words caught up are used only in this passage, but this does not mean this event has not received emphasis elsewhere. Jesus promised, "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself" (John 14:3; cf. vv. 23, 27, 28; I Thessalonians 4:14-17; et al.).
Christians are divided as to when the Rapture will occur. There are two major views concerning the timing of the Rapture of the saints. The identification of the saints John wrote about in Revelation depends on which view one holds. The two views are a pretribulation and a posttribulation Rapture. The pretribulation view holds that the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation John wrote about in Revelation. The posttribulation view holds that it will occur after it. The author will give the stronger arguments for both positions. Those holding to the pretribulation view of the Rapture believe the following points support their view:
1. The term church or churches is not found in Revelation from chapters 4 through 21, a sharp contrast to its being found 18 times in the first three chapters. Something must have happened between chapters 3 and 4 to account for this difference. This change plus the fact that the vision of heaven found in chapters 4 and 5 tells of elders being present in heaven means that the Rapture of the church must have occurred between chapters 3 and 4, and thus before the tribulation period.
2. God promised the Philadelphia church that He would "keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth" (Revelation 3:10). This suggests the church is raptured before the tribulation begins.
3. Daniel's seventieth week, the seven-year tribulation period, follows the church age, which occurs between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week. This is the time of "Jacob's trouble" and not the church's troubles.
4. The Jews are seen as doing evangelization work in the tribulation period (Revelation 7:1-4). Evangelism was the responsibility given to the church in the Great Commission; thus a change must have occurred.
5. First Thessalonians 4:13-18 and Revelation 19:11-21 stand in sharp contrast to each other. Their wording and overall messages are different, and therefore must describe different events.
6. Jesus said, "Pray . . . that ye may . . . escape all these things" (Luke 21:36). Paul later adds concerning the time when "sudden destruction cometh" that Christians have "for an helmet, the hope of salvation [future]" because "God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Thessalonians 5:3, 9). These promises mean the Christian will be raptured before the Tribulation.
Those holding to the posttribulation view of the Rapture find support for their view in the following points:
1. Followers of Jesus Christ are found throughout the tribulation period (Revelation 6:9-11; 7:9, 14; 9:4; 12:17; 13:7; 14:9, 12; 17:6; 18:4), and there is no direct teaching in Revelation that a rapture occurred before the marriage of the Lamb described in Revelation 19.
2. In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus told His followers, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days . . . shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matthew 24:29-31; cf. Mark 13:24-27; Luke 21:25-28). There are no Scriptures that explicitly place the Rapture before the Tribulation. There is much similarity between the event Jesus described here and the one Paul described to the Thessalonians. This gathering together of the elect is the gathering together of the church since the term elect is used to describe the church (Romans 8:33; Colossians 3:12; II Timothy 2:10; Titus 1:1). The Matthew 24 passage, which gives a "time" relation between the Rapture and Tribulation, places the Rapture after the Tribulation.
3. "But as the days of Noe [Noah] were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (Matthew 24:37-39; cf. Luke 17:26-30). Noah was not saved until the day God's wrath went forth (Genesis 6:5-8; 7:6-23). In the last day the righteous in Christ will not be saved until God's judgment comes on the wicked.
4. In the parable of the wheat and the tares, the separation of the "children of the kingdom" and "the children of the wicked one" did not occur until "the end of this world" (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43).
5. The resurrection of the saints is "at the last day" (John 6:37-44).
6. Three times John places the "first resurrection" after the Tribulation in Revelation (20:4-6). There can be but one "first"; thus no resurrection or rapture can occur before this time.
7. The marriage of the Lamb occurs after the Tribulation. The words "the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready" (Revelation 19:7) occur at the end of the tribulation period when at His second coming Christ defeats the wicked and establishes His kingdom.
8. Jesus will "bring with him" those who died, to meet those living as they are "caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (I Thessalonians 4:17). As in the parable of the ten virgins, the time came when "the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him" (Matthew 25:6), so the five saved virgins went out to meet him and "went in with him to the marriage" (v. 10). Similarly, as the brethren heard of Paul's coming, they "came to meet" him and returned with him (Acts 28:15). So too those living in the last day will "meet the Lord in the air" and return with Him.
The preceding points represent the major and stronger arguments for these two views of the time of the Rapture. When one attempts to answer the question of the "when," one should avoid coming to a hard and inflexible position. It would be sad if one missed the benefit these prophecies can have for those living in the last days. Those holding to a pretribulation view should be especially careful. If the Rapture is posttribulational, they may face additional hardships during the Tribulation if they fail to realize what lies ahead. These hardships are not the result of God's wrath but of Satan's turning against Christians. God would never turn His wrath against His children.
Whichever view one holds, one must be careful that it is based solely on Scripture and not the result of superimposing a view on the Scriptures. Too many fall into this danger, especially when it comes to prophecy. It may sometimes be difficult to be objective, but it must be our goal. As mentioned at the beginning of this section, the question of when the Rapture will occur will affect our understanding of several prophecies. These areas will be pointed out in the following discussion of the tribulation period.
Daniel Tells of the Tribulation Period
After Jesus spoke of coming wars, He said, "The end is not yet. . . . All these are the beginnings of sorrows" (Matthew 24:6, 8). Daniel, an Old Testament prophet, wrote much about this period of sorrows or tribulation. He foretold of latter-day events through visions and interpretations he had of them. In Daniel 7 he told of his dream and vision of "four great beasts"-a lion, a bear, a leopard, and a fourth beast different from the first three. The latter was "dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly." It broke in pieces. "It had ten horns." From among these came a little horn, "before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up." This horn had "a mouth speaking great things" (vv. 1-8).
Daniel was not left to wonder about the meaning of this vision but was given an interpretation of it. "These great beasts, which are four, are four kings" (Daniel 7:17). The fourth one, the only one not identified, "shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces" (v. 23). From this one kingdom came l
This king will not keep his kingdom. (Earlier, Daniel wrote that "the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever," v. 18). Daniel then told how this was to occur:
In chapter 8 Daniel told of another vision he received two years later. In this one he learned more about the king that spoke "great words against the most High" and who wore "out the saints of the most High" (Daniel 7:25).
This event is described in more detail later. Daniel spoke of "seventy weeks" of years, divided into periods of 7 weeks, 62 weeks, and 1 week (Daniel 9:24-27). The first two time periods have occurred. The 7 weeks concerned the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the return from the Babylonian captivity. The 62 weeks of years is the time from then to the time when the Messiah was cut off (crucified). The last week of years does not occur immediately following the first sixty-nine weeks, but it is interrupted by the church age, which forms a parenthesis between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks.
The seventieth week is very important, for it gives the time frame of some latter-day events. Daniel writes that while he was praying and confessing the people's sins, he had a vision of Gabriel who informed him that a leader will make a
This coming king, who came from the people who earlier destroyed the city (Jerusalem), will make a covenant with the remaining Jewish people.1 Apparently, the covenant is a treaty that will guarantee Israel's existence and protection from foreign interference. This covenant will allow the sacrifices and offerings of the Law of Moses to be reinstated. When this covenant is signed, a week of years, or a seven-year period of time, will begin. In the middle of the week the king will break the covenant, causing abominations and desolation to occur (Daniel 12:1; Matthew 24:21; Mark 13:19). This time period is also found in the Book of Revelation (11:2, 3; 12:6; 13:5). It is the time of tribulation.*
[*Note: Daniel 9:26 describes a prince that "shall destroy the city and the sanctuary." This refers to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70. The next verse begins, "And he shall confirm the covenant." Apparently there is a time interval between these two verses, although the wording does not make it evident. Many prophecies of earlier and later events appear next to one another, without an obvious separation. The prince of verse 26 is not the same person who makes the covenant in verse 27. 2 In the Old Testament, Daniel spoke of "a time of troubles, such as never was since there was a nation even to that time" (Daniel 12:1 ASV), and Jeremiah spoke of "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:7). Both of these state that God's people will not go through this. "At that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book" (Daniel 12:1), "but he shall be saved out of it" (Jeremiah 30:7). This "time of trouble" may be the tribulation period or come at the end of the tribulation period and be the events related to Revelation 19.]
The Temple Rebuilt
Historically the temple held a central place in the Jewish religion. After the children of Israel settled in the Promised Land, they built a temple to replace the tabernacle. There have been three temples, and all three have been destroyed. Solomon built the first one (I Kings 6; II Chronicles 3-5.). His father David wanted to build it. God forbade him to do so, however, because he was a man of war; so his son built it (I Chronicles 22:3). The second temple was built by Zerubbabel after the return from the Babylonian exile (Ezra 3(6). The third one was built by Herod the Great. It was started sometime before Jesus' birth and completed only a few years before it was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. During His last week on earth, Jesus predicted its destruction (Matthew 24:2; Mark 13:2; Luke 21:6).
There has not been a Jewish temple in Jerusalem for over 1900 years, but a temple will play a part in latter-day events. It apparently will be rebuilt and sacrifices will be reestablished. There are several Old Testament and New Testament Scriptures predicting this.
In Daniel's prophecies we have seen that a coming king would cause sacrifices to cease (Daniel 9:27). Daniel also wrote that some "shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate" (11:31). The length of time of this is "a thousand two hundred and ninety days," or the last half of the seventieth week of years (12:11).
Jesus spoke of this period of desolation: "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand)" (Matthew 24:15). Paul also wrote of this period and the temple. "The son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God" (II Thessalonians 2:3, 4). John also wrote about the temple. In a vision he was told to measure the temple except for the court. The court was not included in the temple measurements since at that time it was "given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months" (Revelation 11:2). Notice that this time period is the same as that given by Daniel (Daniel 12:11).
The Tribulation Period in Revelation
Let us now turn our attention to Revelation 63/419, which prophesies of the sorrow and tribulation referred to by both Jesus and Daniel.
The second part of Revelation, which tells of "the things which shall be hereafter" (1:19), opens with a prologue (chaps. 4 and 5). In this section John is told, "Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter" (4:1). Beginning with chapter 4, the following things are revealed.
The first thing John saw and described in heaven was the throne of God (Revelation 4). Then he saw a book "sealed with seven seals" (5:1). An angel called out, "Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?" (v. 2). No one was found worthy to open it except the Root of David, the Lamb. A song was then sung to Him: "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; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth" (vv. 9, 10). And then the angels said, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength and honour, and glory, and blessing" (v. 12).
The Lamb next took the book and opened the seals one after another, until all seven were broken. These seven seals revealed events closely following the chronological order of the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24). They revealed a period of Great Tribulation coming to the earth, with divine judgment being poured out on an ungodly world (Revelation 6(8). This period of Great Tribulation is the seventieth week of years, a seven-year period, spoken of by Daniel (Daniel 12:1; cf. 9:24-27) and other Old Testament prophets (Isaiah 24(28; Ezekiel 39:24; Zechariah 12ff.). These chapters contain symbolism. We can only understand this symbolism if the symbols are explained in the Scriptures. We should not try to guess the meaning of unexplained symbols, for we can never know if we are right.
The first four seals concerned visions of horses and their riders. The first was a white horse with a rider who "went forth conquering, and to conquer" (Revelation 6:2). The second was a red horse whose rider was given power "to take peace from the earth" (v. 4); he was given power to wage war (cf. Matthew 24:6, 7). The third was a black horse carrying a rider with "a pair of balances in his hand" (v. 5). A voice "in the midst of the four beasts" (v. 6) told of the high price of wheat and barley, showing that famine followed the warfare. The fourth seal was a pale horse carrying a rider named "Death and Hell" (v. 8) who had power over a fourth of the earth, "to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth," showing the presence of pestilence. Jesus spoke of famines and pestilence in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24:7b).
This tribulation period is not only a time of suffering, when war, famine, and great loss of human life occur among sinful men, but it is also a time when saints are killed. The fifth seal pictures "the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" (Revelation 6:9, 10). These were told "that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled" (v. 11).
The sixth seal pictures great earthquakes and falling stars (i.e., meteors). These bring physical change to the earth and cause such fear among evil men that they wish they were dead when they realize that the "wrath of the Lamb" is coming (Revelation 6:16).
Then John saw four angels holding "the four winds" and another angel saying to them, "Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads" (Revelation 7:1, 3). The number of those sealed from each tribe of the sons of Israel was twelve thousand, "an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel" (v. 4).
After this John said, "I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands" (Revelation 7:9). Later John asked who these were. He was told, "These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (v. 14). These are the many saints that the fifth seal revealed would be killed by ungodly men.
The seventh seal reveals seven angels and seven trumpets and more tribulation to follow as the judgment of God continues to fall on the ungodly. The first trumpet reveals that about a third of the world will be burnt up (Revelation 8:7); the second reveals that a third of the sea will become blood, a third of living creatures in the sea will die, and a third of the ships will be destroyed (vv. 8, 9). The third trumpet reveals that a "great star" will fall on a third of the rivers and fountains, making their water bitter and fatal to all who drink it (vv. 10, 11). The fourth trumpet reveals that a third of the light from the sun and the moon will be darkened (v. 12). The fifth trumpet reveals locusts will torture men for five months (9:1-11), and the sixth reveals that a third of mankind will be killed (vv. 13-19).
With the death of this last third of mankind, a total of 50 percent of the world's population will have been killed during the first half of the tribulation period (25 percent were killed earlier, Revelation 6:8). These judgments do not affect all men. Those who have "the seal of God in their foreheads" will escape (9:4). But even after this terrible tribulation period, "the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols" (v. 20).
After these events an angel will come down to earth with a little book and reveal seven thunders, but John was told not to write down what was said (Revelation 10:1-4). Since their messages were not recorded, we assume the Lord will reveal them again if needed.
John was then told by an angel "that there should be time no longer," that is, there shall be no delay (Revelation 10:6). The mystery of God will now be completely revealed. John was then given a little book to eat. Although we are not told the meaning of this act, John was then told, "Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings" (v. 11).
Then John was given a measuring rod and told, "Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein" (Revelation 11:1). He was told not to measure the outside court since "it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months" (v. 2). This forty-two month period starts in the middle of the seven-year tribulation and was foretold by Daniel (9:27). The one who made the covenant with the Jewish people at the beginning of the tribulation period will break it and bring abomination and desolation to the temple and the land.
As seen earlier, the Jews will rebuild the temple and will reinstitute sacrifices. This must occur before the middle of the tribulation period. This temple will not be built at the command of God to show the way man can approach Him as were the Old Testament temples. It will be rebuilt because the Jews have rejected the Way, Jesus Christ (Revelation 11:1, 2; cf. John 14:6).
Preaching the Gospel During the Tribulation
Although there will be a time of tribulation before Jesus returns to the earth to set up His kingdom, Jesus said, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matthew 24:14). This preaching will occur during the tribulation period, after "the beginning of sorrows" (v. 8). While the preaching of the Gospel will surely occur throughout the tribulation period, in the middle of the period, two special witnesses will spread the message.
Following these remarks about preaching the Gospel to the whole world, Jesus tells of an event that will occur in Jerusalem during the tribulation period. He said, "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains" (Matthew 24:15, 16; cf. Mark 13:14; Luke 21:20, 21). Jesus here is referring to Daniel's prophecy about one who for a half of the week of years (31/2 years) "shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate" (Daniel 9:27). Daniel later wrote that "they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate" (11:31).
During this time, when the temple is under the control of the nations, or the Gentiles, God will empower two witnesses to prophesy for 1260 days, the second 31/2 years of the Tribulation. These two will witness in Jerusalem. No one can harm them during this time. But after the 1260 days are past, "the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them" (Revelation 11:7). The people will rejoice at their death and will come to see their dead bodies in Jerusalem. "And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth" (v. 10). Their message will be hard for the ungodly to listen to, so they will be glad when the prophets are dead. "After three days and an half the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them" (v. 11). They then ascended into heaven. Their enemies saw what happened to them. Then when a great earthquake occurred, destroying a tenth of the city and seven thousand people, "the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven" (v. 13).
Christ Establishes His Kingdom
Next the seventh trumpet sounds, and voices in heaven are saying, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever" (Revelation 11:15). This trumpet signifies the first step in Christ's taking charge of His kingdom. It brings a reaction from the nations, "because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth" (vv. 17, 18). The events related to Christ establishing His kingdom are unfolded in chapters 12 through 19. The events in this section are revealed in highly symbolic language, yet they can be understood because the symbols are interpreted. Some aspects of these events are foretold in Daniel 11:36-45 and Zechariah 12(14.
These events show a conflict between God and the forces of evil empowered by Satan. This conflict is introduced by a great sign that reveals a conflict of the past. This sign is a woman who signifies Israel. "She being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered" (Revelation 12:2). Another sign followed this one. "A great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads" (v. 3), threw a third of the stars (symbolizing his angels), to the earth. This "dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born" (v. 4).This refers to Satan's influence on Herod that caused him to try to destroy all the boys under two years of age at Bethlehem at the time of Jesus' birth (Matthew 2:12-18).
Jesus' birth is next mentioned, including the fact that He "was to rule all nations with a rod of iron" (Revelation 12:5). This further rule was told to Mary at Jesus' birth. "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:32, 33).
The passage in Revelation does not go into the details of this Child's life and ministry but jumps over them and mentions only that He "was caught up unto God, and to his throne" (Revelation 12:5). This clearly refers to Jesus' ascension.
With this review of the past conflict, apparently Revelation jumps beyond the church age and the first half of the seven-year tribulation to events that will happen to Israel during the last half of the tribulation period. "And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days" (Revelation 12:6).
Israel had to flee to safety because "there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon" (Revelation 12:7). Because of this war there was no longer any room for Satan and his angels in heaven. "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (v. 9). After Satan's first rebellion, when he was thrown out of the presence of God, his operation was limited to the first heaven and the earth. He became "the prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 2:2), the head of the "spiritual wickedness in high places [heavenly places]" (6:12). The "air" and "heavenly places" refer to the sky surrounding the earth. But now we see that Satan lost this sphere of influence, and his activities are limited to the earth.
This limitation of Satan's power brought "a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down" (Revelation 12:10). This proclamation is given because the last steps leading to the establishment of the kingdom were now ready to begin. "Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time" (v. 12).
Those in heaven can rejoice, but sorrow faces the inhabitants of the earth. "When the dragon saw he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child" (Revelation 12:13). Satan's first act is to try to destroy Israel, but God intervenes to protect her. She is taken to "the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent" (v. 14). When Satan sees her fleeing, he tries to destroy her with a flood, but God again acts and saves her. This draws a strong reaction from Satan. "The dragon was wroth [enraged] with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (v. 17). This is the second time God's people undergo great suffering. The first is described in 6:9-11.
The Wars of the Beast
Satan does not directly make war against "the remnant of her [Israel's] seed," but gives power to a beast to make the war. This beast is referred to in symbolic language as having "seven heads and ten horns" (Revelation 13:1). This expression is used later in the book, where these two terms are explained. The seven heads are seven mountains and seven kings. In prophecy mountain is a symbolic term that refers to a kingdom (notice Daniel 2:35, 44). The ten horns are explained as ten kings who receive power for only a very short time (Revelation 17:9-12).
The beast is also referred to as a king (Revelation 17:10, 11). The Bible often refers to a government or state as either a kingdom or a king. This beast is said to rise "out of the sea" (13:1). John explained this later: "The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues" (17:15). Thus the sea is a mass of people.
Daniel was given a vision and was troubled as to the meaning of one part of it, so he asked for an interpretation. The part that troubled him dealt with the fourth kingdom. This kingdom would occur in the distant future, as can be seen in the interpretation given him. "I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom" (Daniel 7:21, 22; cf. 18).
Daniel wrote more about this future kingdom.
Many believe this unidentified fourth kingdom is the Roman Empire. If so, it is a future revived empire, at least encompassing the geographical areas of the old Roman Empire, as the following events indicate. Judgment will come against it, and "the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him" (Daniel 7:27). This has not happened, so this prophecy is yet to be fulfilled. John was given more details of these events, and as we continue our study in Revelation these will unfold.
This beast is described in more detail later by Daniel.
Daniel next described some events that will occur at "the time of the end" (Daniel 11:40ff.). These will be discussed later.
The first beast is also described by Paul. He wrote, "That Wicked [will] be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved" (II Thessalonians 2:8-10).
The beast John spoke of in Revelation had one of its heads, a king, "wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed" (Revelation 13:3a). This miraculous healing gave this king new power. "All the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?" (vv. 3b, 4).
Satan gave this beast the authority to do his work for forty-two months. During this time he spoke against God and waged war against the saints. He spoke "great things and blasphemies; . . . he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations" (Revelation 13:5-7).
All people will worship the beast except those whose names are written in the book of life. The saints are warned not to resist him. "If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints" (Revelation 13:9, 10).
A second beast, "coming up out of the earth" (Revelation 13:11), arose during the reign of this first one. The purpose of this second beast is similar to that of the first one. He too is a tool of Satan, yet he comes from a different place. His coming out of the earth contrasts to the beast that rose out of the sea. Many believe "the earth" refers to Israel since the sea represents the multitudes and nations (see "waters" or sea interpretation in 13:1; 17:15).
The second beast will be a deceptive one. He appears as a lamb but will speak as a dragon. This is because he obtains his authority from the first beast. And he will use it to make "the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast" (Revelation 13:12). To do this he will perform great signs, such as to make "fire come down from heaven" (v. 13). This sign will deceive the people to follow his wishes. One is to make an image to the beast. He will give power to this image so it can "speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed" (v. 15).
This second beast will cause all to receive a mark on "their right hand, or in their foreheads," in order to buy or sell (Revelation 13:16). "No man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name" (v. 17). This mark will show that one gives his allegiance to the beast. God's people are later warned not to receive it. Here they are told how to identify it. "Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred three score and six" (v. 18).
Today we do not know who this number 666 identifies. Many have come up with various suggestions. Their confusing interpretations only show that man cannot identify this mysterious number at this time. Apparently we do not know with certainty what this number means before the "beasts" arrive on the world scene. When they arrive, and there is a need for the followers of Jesus Christ to identify them, the meaning of the number 666 will be clear, and it will play an important part in identifying these "beasts."
Those who do not worship the beast will be slain (Revelation 13:15). These will number 144,000 (cf. 7:4). They will have had the "Father's name written in their foreheads" (v. 14:1). They will not bear the mark of the beast but rather the seal of God. "These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God" (14:4, 5).
These believers are described as "virgins." This term probably does not mean they never married but that they abstained from spiritual fornication and adultery by remaining separate from the beast. Jesus, in the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), and Paul, in II Corinthians 11:2, used the term virgins to describe true believers. The Old Testament also frequently uses the term to describe the faithful (Isaiah 37:22; Jeremiah 31:4, 21; Lamentations 2:13; Amos 5:2). These firstfruits are the first of mankind to suffer martyrdom during the 31/2 years of the tribulation. This is Old Testament terminology that describes the first of the ripe fruit or grain that was offered to God.
Following this three angels will proclaim that the time of judgment has arrived. The first one will proclaim to all men, "Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters" (Revelation 14:7). The second angel will proclaim that "Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city" (v. 8) because of the evil she brought to the nations. The third one warns, "If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb" (vv. 9, 10).
Not all of mankind will worship the beast. Some persevere and keep "the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus" (Revelation 14:12). They are to be patient and endure. Some of the Christians will suffer and die because Satan will continue to make war against the saints (cf. 12:17). John was told of those who died because of their faithfulness, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them" (14:13). Later we will learn that they will receive a particular blessing.
Then John saw "a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle" (Revelation 14:14). An angel told Him, "Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe" (v. 15). This Son of man is the Lamb, Jesus Christ, who now comes as the Judge. The Father "committed all judgment unto the Son. . . . because he is the Son of man" (John 5:22, 27). The Son of man was mentioned being in the midst of the seven candlesticks, the seven churches discussed in chapters 2 and 3 (Revelation 1:13; cf. 1:20).
Then came another angel with a sharp sickle. He was told by yet another angel, "Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe" (Revelation 14:18). This he did, "and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God" (v. 19). Isaiah used the term winepress in relation to God's day of vengeance (Isaiah 63:3; cf. Jeremiah 25:30, 31). This was a time of great judgment.
In the next three chapters these events are described in fuller detail. They begin with "the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God" (Revelation 15:1). The seven plagues are described in chapter 16. Between the sixth and seventh plagues is inserted the announcement of a message from the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet "unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty" (16:14). The place of this war is "called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon" (v. 16). This war occurs later and ends with the beast and the false prophet being thrown into the lake of fire (19:11-20).
After the description of the first six plagues or bowls of wrath (Revelation 16), the angel that revealed the seventh and last one told John, "Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication" (17:1, 2). John then saw "a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns" (v. 3). On "her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH" (v. 5). She was "drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus" (v. 6).
This description is in mysterious terms, and John wondered what it meant. The "woman . . . full of names of blasphemy . . . Babylon the Great" is a "great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth" (Revelation 17:3, 5, 18). The angel told him, "Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns" (v. 7). The interpretation of this picture is given in the rest of the chapter.
The beast John saw "was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition" (Revelation 17:8). He is a king that "was" but has lost power; he "is not" (v. 11). He was mentioned earlier, in chapter 13. He again receives power and becomes the eighth king to reign.
"The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth" (Revelation 17:9, 10). Associated with them are seven kings. "Five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come" (v. 10).
"The ten horns . . . are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast" (Revelation 17:12). These ten kings come to power later, and together with the beast that will come forth from the abyss, they will form a confederation with one purpose. "These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings" (v. 14). This ten-nation confederation is also described by Daniel (see Daniel 2:41ff.; 7:7, 24).
"The waters . . . are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues" over which the woman reigns (Revelation 17:15).
These ten kings and the beast will go against the woman, Babylon the Great, and destroy her (Revelation 17:16). This will be done because God desires it: "For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled" (v. 17). God uses them only to destroy Babylon, and later they are destroyed.
The destruction of Babylon is described in great detail in chapter 18. "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen" (v. 2). She is "the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird." She is described as misleading the kings and making the merchants rich (v. 3). Although Babylon misled many, there were still some faithful ones living in her. These were warned, "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. . . . Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her" (Revelation 18:4, 5, 8).
Babylon's destruction is mourned by many. "The kings . . . shall bewail her, and lament for her. . . . Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come. . . . The merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her" (Revelation 18:9-11). They lost their trade of luxurious and splendid things. "Every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors . . . cried when they saw the smoke of her burning" (vv. 17, 18).
But not all will mourn. "Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her" (Revelation 18:20). After Babylon's destruction, John heard, "Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand" (19:1, 2).
The Marriage Feast
Next John saw a great marriage feast. "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready" (Revelation 19:7). The wife, His bride, is the church. She is clothed "in fine linen, clean and white" (v. 8). This dress is defined as "the righteousness of saints." It is not Christ's imputed righteousness since John wrote it was "the righteousness of saints." The New American Standard translates it as "the righteous acts of the saints" (cf. RSV). Saints can have righteousness, as Paul wrote, "Yield yourselves unto God . . . your members as instruments of righteousness unto God" (Romans 6:13); that men servants, "to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness" (v. 16); "became the servants of righteousness. . . . yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness" (vv. 18, 19).
The marriage of the Lamb fulfills the promise Jesus made: "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:23). The "righteous acts" glorify the Father, as Jesus stated, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit, so shall ye be my disciples" (15:8). Paul too, as mentioned above, associated righteousness with the believers.
Jesus expects the church to be ready for His coming and clothed in "the righteousness of saints." This is why He gave His life. Paul, when he wrote of the husband-wife relationship, stated that "Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:25-27).
John was next told, "Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Revelation 19:9). Who are these blessed? They are not the church since the church is the bride. These guests may be the Old Testament saints. John the Baptist called himself "the friend of the bridegroom" (John 3:29). John was a "friend" since he served before Jesus brought in the church age. Since John called himself a "friend," the term is taken to apply to other Old Testament saints.
Those holding to a pretribulation rapture could identify these "friends" as those who were told to be "glad and rejoice" earlier in the chapter (Revelation 19:7). These are seen as those who suffered earlier during the tribulation period(those who wore "white robes" (6:11; 7:13-17) and whom John heard: "The voice of harpers harping with their harps [who] . . . sung as it were a new song before the throne . . . redeemed from the earth" (14:2-4). According to the pretribulation view, these are not a part of the church but persons who were converted and suffered death during the tribulation period-tribulation saints.
The events surrounding the marriage feast are also mentioned elsewhere. Jesus in His Olivet Discourse said,
The trumpet will sound, and His elect will be gathered from all over the earth. "The four winds" describe the four directions: north, south, east, and west. "From one end of heaven to the other" emphasizes the same point, the gathering of the elect from all the earth to be together with Jesus. Since this gathering of the elect occurs after the Tribulation, it must relate to the marriage feast. The final judgment occurs later. Those who do not share in this gathering will mourn when they see His sign and the gathering together of the elect. They will mourn out of fear of what will happen to them. They will realize who Jesus is, and that they rejected Him. It will then be too late for the Gentiles to take up their crosses and follow Him. The time of the Gentiles will be over. It will not be too late for many Jews. They will finally see that Jesus is the Christ, their long-awaited Messiah.
Let us now turn to other passages relating to the Rapture. This may or may not be the proper place for this consideration, depending on one's view of when the Rapture occurs. Those holding to a pretribulation rapture would place these events before the Scriptures describing the beginning of the Tribulation. Those holding to the posttribulation view believe this to be the natural place for these Scriptures since they believe the Rapture and the marriage feast occur at the same time.
Thessalonian Christians were concerned about the Rapture since they feared their dead brethren or sisters in Christ had missed His coming. Paul wrote,
Paul had more to say about the order of these events when he wrote to the Corinthian Christians concerning the resurrection.
A little later Paul explained further the miraculous raising of the dead:
A new spiritual body is needed to enter heaven since our natural bodies are corrupted. Paul continues:
Earlier it was mentioned that many will mourn when they see the sign of the Son of man. The time of the Gentiles will be past, but many Jews will finally see that Jesus is the Messiah. This mourning and conversion of the Jews was prophesied by Zechariah in the Old Testament. He said that God would
This mourning will begin when the Jews see their Christ returning to the earth with His saints. This mourning will turn into a blessing when they accept Him as their Messiah, and they repent and are cleansed from their sins and uncleanness. When this happens, their idols and false prophets will be removed from the land. Zechariah speaks of the coming reaction of the people toward the false prophets. The prophets themselves will be ashamed of what they have done in misleading the people and will try to hide the fact that they were prophets (Zechariah 13:2-6).
The Gathering of the Nations Against Jerusalem
There are several prophecies predicting that the latter-day events will end with the nations gathered against Jerusalem. These events will now be described, although chronologically some may begin before the Rapture.
Earlier in our discussion we saw that the antichrist king came to power halfway through the tribulation period. "At the time of the end" this king will come under attack from the south, then the north, and then from the other directions.
A southern nation will first attack Israel and the antichrist king. But their success will be short because "the king from the north" (Daniel 11:40) will launch a full scale attack against Israel. This king will crush Israel and go on to crush the southern powers. "Tens of thousands will fall," but some will escape (v. 41 RSV).
Who is this northern king? The nations lying directly north of Israel in order are Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, and Russia. Which of these is this power? Ezekiel speaks about "Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal" (Ezekiel 38:2). Some think Meshech refers to Moscow and Tubal to Tobolsk, a Siberian city. If this is true, this power would likely be Russia and her friends. The Book of Ezekiel states that the Lord said of them, "I am against thee, . . . I will turn thee back and put hooks into thy jaws" (vv. 3, 4). These terms describe destruction. This will come about because the nations will attack Israel. Speaking of them, the Lord said,
Later the Lord said,
Daniel wrote that after this northern invasion, "tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble" these powers (Daniel 11:44). These unidentified nations become concerned over the northern king's success. The Book of Ezekiel gives light on the others: "Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee [the northern powers], Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?" (Ezekiel 38:13). These nations that are concerned that others are receiving great spoils may be the ten confederate nations of Revelation 17. Tarshish is an ancient name of Great Britain. The other names also are ancient and are hard to identify today. The children of Tarshish may mean the English-speaking nations. They will come against the northern powers that overran Israel, and "he shall come to his end, and none shall help him" (Daniel 11:45). Ezekiel wrote, "Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel" (Ezekiel 38:19), and all creatures and men
Zechariah also prophesied of latter day events connected with Jerusalem.
Judah along with all nations will be gathered against Jerusalem in the last days. The Lord will strike those coming against Jerusalem, even Judah. This will result in Judah recognizing the Lord is with Jerusalem, and she will turn against the other nations and "devour all the people" (v. 6).
The Lord will come to the aid of Jerusalem, and the nations will find she is a strong fighter because of this help. The Lord will first give victory to Judah so Jerusalem will not be exulted above Judah.
Jesus' first coming was to save the lost, but His second coming will be to judge the world. During His first time on the earth He stated,
Paul told the Athenians about these last days. "He [God] hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead" (Acts 17:31). Jesus spoke of Himself as being the one to judge. "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son" (John 5:22).
Let us now return to our study in Revelation. The next major event in God's program is the coming of the Lord with His armies to destroy the nations gathered against Jerusalem. John wrote that he "saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war" (Revelation 19:11). He then described His appearance. "The armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God" (vv. 14, 15). On His robe and thigh will be written the name "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS" (v. 16), making His identity clear to all.
The gathering of the nations against Jerusalem will be a time of trouble, but apparently the people of God will not go through it. Daniel prophesied:
Jesus' return will not be welcomed by the kings and armies of the world, who will gather to challenge His authority: "The beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army" (Revelation 19:19). The coming of this battle was mentioned earlier. The dragon, the beast, and the false prophet will turn the kings and their military forces against the new invader. They will go out "unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. . . . And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon" (16:14, 16), but their war efforts will quickly fail. "The beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone" (19:20). Their armies will also be destroyed. This battle will have so many dead that the birds are called to come to the battlefield for a "great supper," and "the fowls were filled with their flesh" (v. 21).
Ezekiel prophesied of this event: "I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of every sort" (Ezekiel 39:4), and "Speak unto every feathered fowl, . . . that ye may eat flesh" (v. 17). Gog and Magog will be destroyed. Israel will "go forth, and shall set on fire and burn the weapons, . . . and they shall burn them with fire seven years" (v. 9). For seven months they will search for Magog's dead and bury them (v. 12).
The result of this judgment was foretold by God. The supernatural destruction of the invading armies will cause the Jews to see who God and the Messiah are. Ezekiel recorded: "Thus saith the Lord God. . . . I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the Lord" (Ezekiel 38:14, 23).
This message was repeated in the prophecy against Magog. Ezekiel continued to record the Lord's words: "They shall know that I am the LORD. So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel" (Ezekiel 39:6-8; cf. vv. 13, 21, 22, 25). The fuller conversion of the Jews will occur when God will "have gathered them unto their own land" and "poured out [His] spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord God" (vv. 28, 29).
Throughout history God has allowed man to accept or reject Him. But this freedom to choose will come to an end. Man will not be able to reject God. God will make Himself clearly known, and men will know that He is the Lord. God will stand visible over His creation.
The Thousand-Year Reign
Jesus' reign on earth will begin after the Battle of Armageddon. While on earth, Satan caused nothing but trouble for the saints. Not only will the armies Satan motivated be destroyed, but the power behind them will be put in bondage. An angel
Many Old Testament prophets foretold of a kingdom ruled by the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS" (Revelation 19:16). These prophets predicted the return of Israel and Judah from their worldwide dispersion to the Promised Land and the restoration of the Davidic kingdom. God promised David that his "kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever" (II Samuel 7:16; cf. Psalm 89:35-37). This promise was given to David's successor, Solomon, but was made dependent on his faithfulness (II Samuel 7:14, 15, 17; I Kings 2:3, 4; 9:4-9). Since Solomon and his successors proved unfaithful, the perpetuity of David's throne did not continue through them (Jeremiah 13:13, 14; 22:2-5, 18, 24-30; 29:16-19; 36:3-8). Their unfaithfulness however did not nullify the promise given to David. It remained in effect. But David's kingdom was taken from his descendants and held in reserve "until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him" (Ezekiel 21:27).
The Coming One who will reign on David's throne is foretold by the Old Testament prophets. Isaiah wrote, "The LORD of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem" (Isaiah 24:23; see also 9:6ff.; 32:1ff.), and "He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth" (42:4). Jeremiah wrote, "Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth" (Jeremiah 23:5; cf. 33:15ff.). Ezekiel wrote, "I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd" (Ezekiel 34:23).
Daniel wrote, "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people. . . . It shall stand for ever" (Daniel 2:44; cf. 7:27).
Hosea wrote, "For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince. . . . Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days" (Hosea 3:4, 5).
The first part of this prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:7-10; Luke 19:35-38; John 12:12-16). The latter part is yet to be fulfilled. The extent of this King's rule was described later: "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth" (Zechariah 14:9).
The expectancy of this kingdom ruled by the Messiah is also found in the New Testament. When Mary, the mother of Jesus, was told of being the "highly favoured" by the angel Gabriel, the angel told her of one part of Jesus' ministry: "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:32, 33).
Later Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, spoke:
Thus Jesus' ministry is linked to the deliverance set forth in the Old Testament prophecies.
Later Jesus said, "I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Luke 22:29, 30; cf. Matthew 19:28ff.). These statements caused the apostles to ask Jesus at His ascension, "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6). When Jesus answered this question, He did not rebuke them for their fundamental assumption but only told them, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power," and then He commissioned them to be His witnesses (v. 7). Jesus accepted the apostles' concept of His future rule over a kingdom and explained to the apostles that the time of its fulfillment was not for them to know.
In his second sermon, Peter spoke of "Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:20, 21). Peter was referring to the Old Testament prophets speaking of a restored kingdom on earth, when Satan's power would be limited and righteousness would be established on earth.
The fulfillment of these promises will occur when Jesus Christ returns to earth as "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS" (Revelation 19:16), reigning with "a rod of iron" (v. 15) for a thousand years (20:4). Jesus Christ brought a spiritual kingdom during His first coming, and a glorious, earthly kingdom will be established at His second coming.
Prophets described the future kingdom's character. Isaiah's prophecies give the most complete description of the earthly character of the thousand-year reign.
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the suckling child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. Isaiah 11:6-9
For other Old Testament prophecies, see Jeremiah 30; 31; 33; Ezekiel 36; and Micah 4 and 5.
During this thousand-year reign, Jerusalem will be the center of the kingdom. "Every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles" (Zechariah 14:16).
In Revelation 21 John described two visions of holy cities. There is considerable difference of opinions about what cities he saw. Are these two visions of the same city? Or is one of the millennial Jerusalem and the other of the eternal city?
In the first vision John wrote, "I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Revelation 21:1, 2). This is apparently a vision of heaven since "the first heaven and the first earth were passed away," and there were no seas and death. This vision will be discussed later.
Following the above vision an angel asked John to come and see a city. This seems to be a different city than the one John saw in the first part of the chapter. One reason is that the angel said, "I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife" (Revelation 21:9), indicating John would see something different than he just saw. Another reason is John's statement that "kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it" (v. 24). John also wrote that "there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie; but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life" (v. 27). This statement implies this city is on the present earth since evil would not exist near the eternal "holy city, the new Jerusalem." Thus these Scriptures indicate that John described the millennial Jerusalem, the same city Zechariah wrote of (Zechariah 14:16, 17).
The angel showed John "the bride, the Lamb's wife" (Revelation 21:9), which refers to the church. He was shown "that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God" (v. 10). John gave a description of this city, including details of its gates, walls, and size. He used terms such as jasper, pure gold, sapphire, agate, emerald, and onyx to describe it. These terms indicate that it will be a magnificent city, unlike anything that has ever been (vv. 9-21). This description gives Christians the hope of a glorious future with Jesus Christ here on the earth.
Satan's Final Defeat
After the thousand years have passed, "Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle" (Revelation 20:7, 8). Apparently not all who live under Christ's rule will be strong believers. When Satan is loosened for a short period of time after the thousand-year reign, he will find many people who are ready to rebel against the kingdom of God, "the number of whom is as the sand of the sea" (v. 8).
In John's vision these rebels gather in a great army to come against and surround "the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city" (Revelation 20:9). But their efforts come to a quick end. "Fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them." Not only are their armies destroyed, but "the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (v. 10). The one who deceived man in the garden and throughout history meets his end and will never deceive man again.
The Final Judgment
John next tells of seeing "a great white throne, and him that sat on it" (Revelation 20:11), and the dead standing before it. These dead are the dead not raised in the first resurrection. Earlier John told about them, "The rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished" (v. 5). These who did not share in the thousand-year reign and those who followed Satan's rebellion stand together before the throne to be judged (v. 11). None of "the dead, small and great" (v. 12), will miss this final judgment. John saw them all standing before the throne. The sea, death, and Hades "delivered up the dead which were in them" (v. 13).
The teaching concerning the resurrection of the dead to face judgment is not unique to the Book of Revelation. Jesus spoke of it during His earthly ministry:
At another place Jesus spoke of this coming judgment in a parable and explained:
He explained this further: "At the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just" (v. 49).
In the Gospel of John, Jesus spoke of the coming resurrection, but in terms of the believers only. He will "lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. . . . Every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:39, 40). This resurrection of the last day was spoken of at several other places (vv. 44, 54; 11:24).
In the Olivet Discourse Jesus spoke of a coming judgment, but there is disagreement as to when this will occur. Some view it as being the "great white throne" judgment. Others see it as a judgment associated with the Rapture since He comes "in his glory, and all the holy angels with him" (Matthew 25:31), and other details appear different from those of the great white throne judgment.
Perhaps we need not know when this judgment occurs. Since it occurs in our future, we can learn about a judgment many will face, no matter if it occurs at the time of the Rapture or if it is the same as the great white throne judgment. In this judgment, "before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left" (Matthew 25:32, 33). This great separation will be based on how the individuals treat those who are "the least of these my brethren" (v. 40) who are hungry, thirsty, sick, and in prison.
The Bases of Judgment
The great white throne judgment will be based on what is found in the "books" or "the book of life" (Revelation 20:12). "The dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. . . . and they were judged every man according to their works. . . . Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." (vv. 12, 13, 15).
It is a fact that only one book is required to name the righteous and books to name the wicked. This was implied in Jesus teaching, "wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction . . . strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:13, 14). The basis of judgment given here is works. This basis is mentioned in other Scriptures.
The Son of man . . . shall reward every man according to his works. Matthew 16:27
Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation, and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil. Romans 2:6-9
We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. II Corinthians 5:10
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. Galatians 6:7, 8
He that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons. Colossians 3:25
To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. Jude 15
All the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. Revelation 2:23
The Scripture not only speaks of works as being a basis of judgment, but tells us that man will also be judged according to how he responds to Jesus Christ and His Gospel.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. John 5:24
I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. . . . He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. John 12:46, 48
The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. II Thessalonians 1:7, 8
Are these two bases of judgment in conflict? How can one be judged according to works and also according to his response to Jesus Christ and the Gospel? The answer to this question is that good works follow when one responds and believes the Gospel. When one repents and believes the Gospel and has faith in Jesus Christ, he is born anew and from then on seeks to do God's will. This doing of God's will results in the good works that are the basis of judgment. There is no conflict between looking for these works or one's response to Jesus Christ, since these works are the result of a positive response to the Gospel.
Christ, at the end of the parable on service, told what the Christian's response should be at judgment. He said, "When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do" (Luke 17:10). The Christian did not earn anything but only did what the grace of God and the Holy Spirit worked in his life.
The Eternal Punishment
"Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15). Fire is frequently used to describe the place where the wicked are punished. The term Gehenna is commonly used in the New Testament to describe this place of punishment. Gehenna is one of the Greek words translated "hell" in our English Bibles. Another Greek term, Hades, is also translated "hell," especially in the King James Version.
The Valley of Gehenna, just south of the city, was where Jerusalem's garbage and the dead bodies of criminals were burnt. Because of wickedness associated with the valley, its name was used for the place of final punishment of the wicked. Hell is often associated with fire, as the following Scriptures show: "He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Matthew 3:12); "hell fire" (5:22); "shall cast them into a furnace of fire" (13:42; cf. v. 50); "to be cast into hell fire" (18:9); "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (25:41); "hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched" (Mark 9:43; cf. v. 48); "and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments. . . . I am tormented in this flame" (Luke 16:23, 24); "if a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned" (John 15:6); and "the vengeance of eternal fire" (Jude 7).
One of the most awful aspects of the punishment of the wicked is their eternal separation from God the Father and Jesus Christ. On judgment day many will hear the words, "Depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matthew 7:23; cf. Luke 13:27), and "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41). On that day there will be a great separation: "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment" (v. 46); "Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed" (Luke 16:26); "Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" (II Thessalonians 1:9).
Other passages describe this separation in terms of being cast into darkness. Since God is described as light, darkness would describe a complete and total separation from Him. Scriptures using the term darkness are: "shall be cast out into the outer darkness" (Matthew 8:12; cf. 22:13; 25:30); "God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment" (II Peter 2:4); "mist of darkness" (II Peter 2:17); "blackness of darkness for ever" (Jude 13).
Those in the lake of fire will remember for eternity their banishment from the presence of God. They will have seen the Judge, Jesus Christ, whom they rejected at their judgment. They will be haunted by the memory that they rejected Jesus Christ as their Savior. Perhaps too the thought of the glories of God and heaven that they will be missing will haunt them for eternity. They will remember the opportunities they had to respond to the truth, but they will realize they turned from their opportunities to follow their own sinful desires.
Other Scriptures show hell will be a place of great suffering. Scriptures showing this are: "to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not" (Mark 9:45, 46), and "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 8:12; cf. 13:42; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28). The fire conveys the idea of external suffering, and the worm the idea of internal suffering. The weeping is due to the sorrow, grief, and anguish of being in hell. Those in hell will experience a complete loss of happiness and will weep bitterly when they think of their condition. The gnashing of teeth and the grinding of the teeth together suggest mental anguish.
These terms darkness, fire, worm, weeping, gnashing of teeth, etc., used to express the great suffering in hell, should not be tampered with. No interpretation of them should take away from the awfulness of hell. Hell is a dreadful place, and these words describe its awfulness only in part.
Those in hell will not all suffer the same; there are degrees of punishment in hell. The punishment the wicked suffer depends on the opportunities they had to know the truth and how they responded. When Jesus sent out His disciples to preach the good news, He said, concerning those who rejected them, "It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city" (Matthew 10:15). A little later Jesus condemned the Jewish leaders' unbelief: "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes" (Matthew 11:21, 22; cf. Luke 10:13, 14).
Jesus warned the scribes and Pharisees that the results of their missionary efforts were not what they expected. "Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves" (Matthew 23:15). In a parable Jesus told about a faithful steward and an unfaithful steward and said, "That servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more" (Luke 12:47, 48).
These Scriptures all show there will be degrees of punishment in hell. God is just, and even unbelievers will be treated justly. Those who had little opportunity will receive lighter punishment than those who had great opportunity to accept redemption but refused.
The Eternal Reward
Following the scene of the great white throne, John described a vision of "a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea" (Revelation 21:1). God will dwell with His people, and they will be together. John saw the coming of God to dwell with His people. "I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God" (vv. 2, 3). This city was mentioned near the beginning of this book, "the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God" (3:12).
John wrote that he "heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God" (Revelation 21:3). Being with God is incomprehensible to us, but we know His dwelling with His children will bring righteousness and joy to man. "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain" (v. 4). These things are part of the fallen world, and since "the former things are passed away" (v. 4), they will not be in heaven. God promised that He would "make all things new" (v. 5). We have this hope because "he [God] that sat upon throne" told John, "Write: for these words are true and faithful" (v. 5).
God promised to "give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely" (Revelation 21:6). Not everyone will drink from this fountain. Unbelievers, murderers, whoremongers, sorcerers, idolaters, and liars "shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death" (v. 8).
The present heaven and earth were corrupted by Satan, sin, and evil. It is an unfit place for the eternal kingdom of God. The old heaven and earth will pass away, and a new heaven and earth without sin and evil will replace it. The passing of the present creation is found in several Scriptures (Psalm 102:25, 26; Matthew 5:18; Mark 13:31; II Peter 3:12). The statement that there will be "no more sea" (Revelation 21:1) shows the new earth is drastically different from the present one. We are not told why there is no sea. Because the sea is symbolic of the nations in turmoil and unsettledness, perhaps its absence shows in the new earth there will be no disunity or ethnic distinctions.
This new heaven and earth are described by the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. Speaking for the Lord God, Isaiah wrote, "For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying" (Isaiah 65:17-19). Later he wrote, "For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain" (66:22). God's children in heaven will live in joy and have no recollection of the present evil world.
In the New Testament Peter wrote about the coming of the Lord. He wrote that after the Lord's delay to give time for men to repent:
What will this new heaven and earth be like? We do not have a complete picture but are given glimpses of it. Paul, although not writing about heaven, told of our incomplete view: "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know" (I Corinthians 13:12). John gives a similar view: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (I John 3:2, 3).
The Scriptures quoted from Peter's writing about the new heaven and earth reveal one aspect of heaven. Righteousness dwells there. The sin and evil so prevalent in our present world will be replaced by an atmosphere of righteousness. Thus God will no longer need to be separated from His people but can again dwell with them as He did in the beginning. This explains creation's waiting for "the times of restitution of all things" (Acts 3:21). Paul had this in mind when he wrote, "The creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" (Romans 8:21, 22). This deliverance will mean that "the righteous [shall] shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matthew 13:43).
The Book of Revelation gives us another glimpse of heavenit will be a place of joy. "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Revelation 21:4). Isaiah wrote similarly that death shall be swallowed up in victory and that "the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it" (Isaiah 25:8). Later he said to be "glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying" (65:18, 19). The psalmist wrote, "In thy presence is fulness of joy" (Psalm 16:11).
In heaven the saved will not exist in bodies like our present ones but will have new and glorious bodies. It is not known completely what these bodies will be like. But as mentioned earlier, "we shall be like him" (I John 3:2). There obviously will be a drastic change in our bodies since our present ones have been affected by sin, and our new ones shall be like His.
Paul drew a similar contrast between our present bodies and our heavenly ones. "As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." The reason saints will bear a new image is that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption" (I Corinthians 15:49, 50).
In I Corinthians 15 Paul established the doctrine of the resurrection. In doing so he answered the objections some might raise by questioning, "How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?" (v.35). In the answer he gave to these questions, we learn that our resurrected bodies will be different from our present bodies.
We see these differences illustrated in our present experiences. When a person plants a seed, the seed dies (ceases to be a seed) and sprouts into a new plant. That which is sown is "not that body that shall be, but bare grain. . . . But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body" (I Corinthians 15:37, 38). Just as each seed sprouts into its own form of life, this variety in bodies is found in other areas of our experiences. There is variety in animal life. "All flesh is not the same flesh" (v. 39). Men, beasts, fishes, and birds all have different kinds of bodies. There is also variety among heavenly and earthly bodies (vv. 40, 41).
"There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body" (I Corinthians 15:44). The first comes from the first man, Adam. The second is brought about by the last Adam, Jesus Christ. He is the quickening Spirit, the One from whom Christians get their new spiritual bodies. "As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" (v. 49). Our present bodies bear the marks of the first Adam, but the dead in Christ shall be raised in His image.
Jesus mentioned one important difference these new bodies will have. He said they shall "neither marry, nor [be] given in marriage; but [be] as the angels which are in heaven" (Mark 12:25; cf. Matthew 22:30; Luke 20:35). In heaven there will be no need for reproduction and child bearing; therefore sex and marriage will not be needed.
Christians will be rewarded for their obedience to God's will and service. Jesus said that Christians who are reviled, persecuted, and falsely spoken against will receive a "reward in heaven" (Matthew 5:12). He also said that those who give false alms will receive "no reward of your father" (6:1) and referred to a "righteous man's reward" (10:41) and to those who love their enemies and lend, that their "reward shall be great" (Luke 6:35).
When Is the Second Coming?
We have discussed the prophecies concerning the events leading to the second coming of Christ and judgment. After Jesus told His disciples of these events in the Olivet Discourse (see Matthew 24 and 25, Mark 13, and Luke 21), He spoke to them about the time of His coming and about the need to be ready for it.
Jesus bade the disciples to "learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh; So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors" (Matthew 24:32, 33; cf. Mark 13:28, 29; Luke 21:29-31). Man has learned to read natural signs. He can tell that summer is near when the fig tree sends its sap up through the branches, to soften them and cause them to send forth leaves. The disciple should also be ready to read the signs of the times. "When ye shall see all these things" (Matthew 24:33), Christ's disciples will know His second coming and the end are near.
Jesus goes on and clarifies the nearness of His coming to the appearance of the signs. "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Matthew 24:34, 35; cf. Mark 13:30, 31; Luke 21:32, 33). The generation that sees the things Jesus described in the Olivet Discourse will also see Jesus' return. The coming will be that near to these events, within one generation, a period of thirty years.
The Day and Hour of His Coming
It is only natural for Christians to think beyond this general identification of the time of the second coming and wonder about the exact day and hour this will happen. These events point to the general time. Jesus knew many would want a specific date. Because of this Jesus went on to explain that no one knows the day and the hour of His coming. It will be sudden and unexpected, "for as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (Matthew 24:27; cf. Luke 17:24). "As the days of Noe [Noah] were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (Matthew 24:37-39; cf. Luke 17:26-30; see also Genesis 6:5; 7:6-23). The people in Noah's day heard Noah's message of a coming judgment but did not know the exact time. They did not prepare themselves for the coming judgment and let life go on as usual. This resulted in unexpected events overtaking them and all being lost (Genesis 7:21-23).
Christians know that Jesus' coming will occur suddenly and unexpectedly. Jesus told us to keep this in mind. "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh" (Matthew 24:42-44).
Following this admonition Jesus told His disciples three parables to warn them of the importance of being ready when He comes. The first one told them they should be as "the faithful and wise servant" (Matthew 25:45) who was put in charge of the household by his master. "Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing" (v. 46). The faithful servant will be rewarded. But if he says in his heart, "My lord delayeth his coming" (v. 48) and is unfaithful, "The Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (vv. 50-51; see also Luke 12:39, 40; 21:34-36). This parable emphasizes that one should be ready for His coming at all times. Much is at stake. Because he does not know the hour Jesus is coming, the Christian should be motivated to be faithful at all times. He should not think he can indulge in sin for a time and repent just before his Master comes. When He comes, the time for repentance will be over. It will be a time for judgment.
The second of Jesus' three parables concerns the need to be watchful. This parable describes ten virgins who wait for a marriage festival. In first-century Jewish tradition, when two people were betrothed or engaged, they were considered man and wife, but they continued to live separately with their parents for a while. After a period of time, the bridegroom, accompanied by his friends, went to the bride's home and brought her with her maiden friends to their new home. Together they would observe a marriage festival.
Each of the bride's maiden friends had to have a lamp burning with oil when the group went to meet the bridegroom, if she was to enter the marriage festival with the bridegroom and bride. In this parable the bridegroom was delayed. "At midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him" (Matthew 25:6). The maidens who were sleeping arose and trimmed their lamps. Five of the ten brought extra oil with them and filled their lamps. The other five, "the foolish [ones] said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out" (v. 8). But the wise ones told them, "Not so, lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves" (v. 9). The five foolish ones left and went to buy oil. While they were gone, "the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut" (v.10). When the five foolish ones returned with their oil and were ready to enter, they cried to the bridegroom, "Lord, Lord, open to us" (v. 11). He did not open but told them, "Verily I say unto you, I know you not" (v. 12).
From this parable Jesus drew this lesson: "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh" (Matthew 25:13). The Christian must be prepared when Jesus returns. There will be no time to get ready for His coming at the last minute.
The third parable (Matthew 25:14-28) concerns a man who, just before he went on a journey, entrusted his possessions to his slaves. "And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability" (v. 15). The first two slaves put their possessions to work and doubled their worth. "But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money" (v. 18).
After a time the master returned and called in the slaves to settle the accounts. To the first two, who made a good gain, he said,
This Message Told Elsewhere
The message Jesus gave above was told to others. Just before His ascension the disciples asked Jesus, "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power" (Acts 1:6, 7). The time of these further events is not for us to know.
Paul wrote to the Thessalonians,
Christians are not to be in the dark about the second coming and the judgment. They know about it and have been admonished to stay alert and sober so they will not be destroyed with those in darkness.
Elsewhere Christians are told they are "waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 1:7). Peter wrote,
The church at Sardis was told, "Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee" (Revelation 3:3). Thus we see that the message Jesus gave on the Mount of Olives was repeated many times. It is an important one Christians must not forget.
In the beginning God created man in His own image and gave him a perfect world to live in. "God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good" (Genesis 1:31).
Man was placed in a garden. In this garden there were two special trees"the tree of life" and "the tree of knowledge of good and evil" (Genesis 2:9). Man was told by God not to partake of the latter tree. By simple faith he could live in the presence of good alone and avoid knowing good and evil together. But man chose to disobey God's direction. He listened to Satan's advice and took of "the tree of knowledge of good and evil."
This act of disobedience placed a sin barrier between God and man. But God did not leave and forget man. He told Satan, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman . . . it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Genesis 3:15).
In this book we have shown how this promise was fulfilled. We have followed the path of events leading to redemption brought by Jesus Christ. We have traced God's actions throughout history in destroying the sin barrier and making it possible for man again to walk and talk with God.
We live in an age of fast-growing technology and knowledge of God's physical universe. But this does not change the simple truths revealed by God in His Word about the redemption brought by Jesus Christ. This knowledge of redemption is of prime importance to each of us.
The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. . . . The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. Revelation 22:17, 21
This is Chapter 7 of Redemption Realized Through Christ, © copyright 1997 by Leland M. Haines, Northville, MI.
We highly recommend you read this book. It may be ordered from:
This is Chapter 7 of Redemption Realized Through Christ, © copyright 1997 by Leland M. Haines, Northville, MI.
We highly recommend you read this book. It may be ordered from:
Biblical Viewpoints Publications 63100 County Road 111 Goshen, IN 46526 Phone: 574-875-8007 To E-mail Webmaster click hereCost for this 256 page perfect bound book is only $10.00. This includes postage.
Read this short reviewed by David A. Burkey, a minister and Christian Day School teacher:
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