The Case for a Post-tribulation Rapture

The Second Coming of Christ is the culmination of salvation history and will mark the beginning of the completion of the plan of God and the end of this present age. That Jesus Christ will come again is certain. “This same Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven“ (Acts 1:10-11).  According to this passage, His second coming will be personal (“This Jesus”), physical (the same way he departed), and visible (the disciples watched as Jesus ascended).  See also the following scriptures:

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:29-31). 

“For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18). 

“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). 

At his first coming, Jesus conquered death and won the “decisive battle“ over Satan. At his second coming Jesus will destroy “those who destroy the earth“ (Revelation 11:18) and force the enemy to lay down his arms (20:1-3).  Thus Christ will begin his kingly reign (11:17;  20:6).

The scripture does not teach that everyone on Earth will be destroyed at the battle of Armageddon. Those who are left alive at this point are not Christians, and they will enter the millennial kingdom of Christ to be ruled by and judged by him and his elect.  Particularly relevant to this transition between the tribulation, Armageddon, the Second Coming of Christ and his millennial kingdom can be found in Zechariah chapters 12-14.  

“For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. And the Lord will be king over all the earth. … On that day the Lord will be one and his name one. … Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths. And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. … And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, ‘Holy to the Lord.’  And the pots in the house of the Lord shall be as the bowls before the altar” (Zechariah 14:2-5,9,16-17,20).

It has become clear to me that God intends for his people to go through the tribulation, but he will protect Christians through the very midst of this great time of trouble, just as he protected the children of Israel during the plagues of Egypt and Noah during the great flood.  Believers will receive the “seal of God on their foreheads” (Revelation 7:3) to protect them from God’s wrath upon the earth. Indeed, believers are not “destined for wrath” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).  While we will not experience the wrath of God, we have never been promised protection from persecution or the wrath of man which is a major factor during the tribulation. In Revelation 13  the beast (antichrist) is given power and authority and the throne of the dragon (Satan) for 42 months, so that everyone who would not worship the beast will be slain.  He will even be allowed to martyr the saints.  “If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints” (v. 7-10).  

In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, the Apostle Paul clarifies the timing of the rapture and Christ’s return:

“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.”  

From this passage we see that “the coming of Jesus and our being gathered together to him” will not come until after “the man of lawlessness” (antichrist) is revealed; and from Revelation 13 we see that the antichrist will be given authority for 3-1/2 years to demand worship of himself and to persecute and kill the saints after he is revealed.  Therefore, a post-tribulation gathering of the saints appears to be in view. 

Additionally, before the antichrist can be revealed, a restraining power must be removed.  In 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 it says, “And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed….”  Some would suggest that the restraining power is the Church. However, the power is referred to as “he” and is masculine in the Greek.  A reference to the Church would need to be feminine. 

So, who is this “he”?  In verse six, Paul says, “you know what is restraining him now.”  The Thessalonians knew who this restrainer was.  A look in the prophetic book of Daniel gives us a clue:  “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time” (Daniel 12:1).  The great prince, Michael, is an archangel charged with protecting Israel.  If he is the restrainer, this would resolve the perceived need for the Church to be removed before the tribulation.

Revelation 10:7 says, “… in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.”  Could this be the “last trumpet” referred to in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 (quoted above)?  And the “mystery of God” that would “be fulfilled”—could that be the Church?  If so, these would be a definite indication of the Church’s presence throughout the tribulation. In Ephesians 3:8-12 Paul writes:

“To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.” 

Why is the pre-tribulation rapture so foundational to the evangelical community? Perhaps the Left Behind and Rapture movies and novels have done believers a great disservice by altering Christendom’s expectations of the future.  Accepting Jesus and escaping the tribulation has almost become a gospel cry unto itself. All around the world Christians are being persecuted and martyred for their faith in Christ.  For them, their tribulation is now.  Only God knows if and when we may be called upon to suffer because of our Savior, but trials and suffering are the biblical expectation for believers.  “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29).  Jesus was so concerned for his followers that he alerted them in advance:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. … I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me” (John 15:18-20,16:1-3).

In 1 Peter 1:3-7, the Apostle Peter gives us the big picture for the purpose of suffering: 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 

The Apostle Paul gives us the greater view, as well, in 2 Corinthians 4:6-10,16-18:

“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies…. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

To believers today Jesus Christ still says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness… For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).  Should we be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus will provide us with abundant grace to endure to the end.  That is his promise. Maranatha! 

©️1994, 2021 by C. A. Harris, MA Theological Studies

Eschatology and Global Events

Earth from Space

 

xx

“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging. …
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

       ~ Psalm 46:1-3, 6, 7

xxx

It is good to begin a discussion of eschatology with some words of hope: no matter what we may face on this earth, if we belong to God, He is always with us. We know that even if our life should end, we have an indescribable eternity awaiting us, where we will be in the presence of God forever!

Background

Eschatology means the study of last things. In relation to the Bible, we generally think of the following future events, to name just a few: end times, end of the world, tribulation, Armageddon, second coming of Christ. Most mainline Christian churches believe that Jesus Christ is coming again to gather His people, judge the world, establish His kingdom, and usher in eternity.

There is not full agreement, however, on how we should interpret many of these things. Concerning the book of Revelation, for example, interpretation generally falls into four groups:

Preterists: understand the book exclusively in terms of its first-century setting, claiming that most of its events have already taken place.

Historicists: take it as describing the long chain of events from Patmos [the island to which the author, John, was exiled] to the end of history.

Futurists: place the book primarily in the end times.

Idealists: view it as symbolic pictures of such timeless truths as the victory of good over evil.

The title “Revelation” comes from the Greek word apocalypse, which means “unveiling” or “disclosure.” Revelation 1:3 says, “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” By its own admission, this book is a prophecy of things to come. Jerusalem’s destruction in AD 70 could not have been the focus of the book of Revelation, because it was written about AD 95 while John was in exile.

I believe the Historicist and Futurist positions combined is the best way to understand the pages of Revelation. The reference “last days” can legitimately apply to the whole period between the resurrection of Christ and His second coming (see Acts 2:16-17; 2 Timothy 3:1). This is also called the “Church age” and the “Messianic era.” The “last days” can also apply to those final days shortly before the return of Christ; we must discern which is in view by the context of the surrounding passage. In 2 Peter 3:3-4 we read, “First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come . . . . They will say, ‘Where is this “coming” he promised?’” Then Peter explains:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. (2 Peter 3:8-13)

This lengthy passage was quoted for two reasons. First, it uses “the last days,” “the day of the Lord,” “the day of God,” and the “coming” of Christ, all in the same context. Second, God’s judgment is described in common sense, regular speech—not in symbolic references as are found in the apocalyptic literary style. 2 Peter is a letter that was circulated for the purpose of teaching and encouraging the Church. It is written in common narrative speech.

The writers of the Holy Bible used various literary styles to communicate their messages. This fact must be taken into account for valid interpretation to take place. The apocalyptic literary style is found in Revelation, Daniel (chapters 7-12), parts of Zechariah, and in other books of the Bible. Apocalyptic (revelatory) material “may be defined as symbolic, visionary, prophetic literature, usually composed during oppressive conditions and being chiefly eschatological in theological content.” It is “primarily a literature of encouragement to the people of God,” to give them strength to endure their circumstances and hope beyond the grave. This literary style was used many times in the accounts of visions of the future that God gave His prophets. Though there is much symbolism involved, some of the unusual descriptions could be the result of the tremendous differences between ancient and modern culture and technology. For example, how would a man from AD 95 describe a vision of 20th century warfare? The vision may have been as realistic as you or I would see it today, but look completely foreign to the ancient observer.

Frequently, the key to the interpretation of a passage is found somewhere within the context. For example, in Revelation 1:19-20, Jesus Christ explains to John the meaning of the introductory prophecies:

Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

Also, it is wise to bear in mind that prophecy has an interesting characteristic: the closer we get to its fulfillment, the more it begins to make sense. Sometimes it is only in retrospect that we can confidently confirm that a prophecy came true. Psalm 22 is a “Messianic Psalm,” and is the most quoted Psalm in the New Testament. We read here about the insults hurled at Christ, the piercing of His hands and feet, the casting of lots for His clothing, and much more. There are so many details of the crucifixion contained in its verses, that we can only marvel!

There is a general “rule of thumb” we were taught in seminary: “If the common sense makes sense, seek no other sense.” In other words, we need to avoid the extreme of symbolizing every prophecy we encounter. One other important point to consider: God does not offer His people warnings and encouragement based on myth or falsehood. Whichever way we decide to interpret these end time prophecies, we must remember that they represent the truth!

The Signs of the End of the Age

 Turning to the consideration of prophecies connected with the second coming of Christ and the “end of the age,” we look at Jesus’ words in Matthew 24. His disciples had just come to Him and asked, “Tell us, when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3) Christ’s answer reveals a series of events that will precede His coming back to earth again. The main points are found in verses 4-35. It is apparent that Jesus is describing a chronological progression of events, some of which may be coinciding and/or overlapping.  Please note the chronological transitions are rendered in blue:

4Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.8All these are the beginning of birth pains. 
9
Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. 
15“So 
when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel–let the reader understand– 16then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. 18Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. 19How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now–and never to be equaled again. 22If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect–if that were possible. 25See, I have told you ahead of time. 
26“So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.
29
Immediately after the distress of those days
” ‘the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
30
At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. 31And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

So ends the progression of events to the end of this age. Jesus offers some final words to help those living in the final days:

Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. (Matthew 24:32-25)

Prophecies concerning many of the same events that Jesus revealed to His disciples that day are also found in Scripture in other places. The focus may be narrower or broader, and the descriptions may be more or less detailed, but Jesus gives us the general framework in which to understand these things.

Revelation is written in the apocalyptic literary style, as already discussed. This book also uses a literary device by which the author switches between heavenly scenes and earthly scenes as the prophecy unfolds. Understanding this phenomenon will help in the interpretation of the Revelation.

The Wars of Revelation

In Matthew 24, Jesus indicates there will be “wars and rumors of wars” leading up to His second coming. “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these things are the beginning of birth pains” (vs. 6-8).

There appear to be several references to wars leading to mass destruction in the book of Revelation. With the opening of the second seal (Revelation 6:4), a fiery red horse is released and “its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other.” This becomes the general atmosphere of unrest which exists and grows worse until the final battle of Armageddon and Christ returns to the earth.

Revelation 6:7-8 records what will happen when the fourth seal is opened. A pale horse emerges and its rider’s name is Death. “They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” This does not specifically indicate that one-fourth of the earth’s population is killed; rather, it could mean that one fourth of the earth’s area, geographically speaking, will be affected by Death. That would be the size of one-half of a hemisphere! One can only make educated guesses about the cause of such wide spread devastation—perhaps biological or chemical warfare. Whatever the cause, a large number of the earth’s people will perish at this time.

Death comes to many more people during this time. Some are martyred for their faith and more die from ecological disasters that come upon the earth. The planet is now reaping the consequences of many of years of abuse by humankind; and the people of the earth are reaping the consequences of thousands of years of sin, hatred and strife against one another and against God.

The next specific reference to war is found in Revelation 9:13-21—and tremendous loss of life is involved. The sixth trumpet sounds and “the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates” are released to kill one-third of mankind. These could be demonic fallen angels who are now allowed to influence one or more countries to go into battle. The Euphrates is the longest river in western Asia, about 1700 miles long, and is the historic boundary between Israel and her enemies. This passage does not indicate who the aggressors are or what their target is, but we are given the specific number of troops in the army: two-hundred million! The author, John, made a point of saying, “I heard their number.” At the present time in earth’s history, there are probably only one or two countries that can muster such a huge army—one being China, and the other possibly India. It is also possible that the army is multi-national, such as through the United Nations.

Perhaps some clues can be found in the verses describing the army and its weaponry. Verses 17-19 read:

The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulfur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur. A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths. The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury.

Could the “breastplate” be a banner or flag of sorts? Could the “horses” be a first-century prophet’s description of a twentieth-century armored tank with its guns pointing both forward and to the rear? Could the “three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur” refer to the type of weapons being used (e.g., biological, chemical, or nuclear)? What type of weaponry could cause such massive destruction of life?

The earth’s population today is almost six billion people. One-third would be two billion—an almost unfathomable loss of life! Undoubtedly, the population of the earth will have been significantly reduced by the time this war begins, so it is possible that only one-half or less of today’s population still remains by the end of this war. It is sobering when we consider that a major focus of the world’s tension and conflict today exists in the very region where this battle will be waged. And there is still more to come!

Like a woman in labor, her pains get closer and closer together and more intense as the time of birth draws near. This analogy is used to describe the upheavals the earth and its people will go through before the final battle of Armageddon and the second coming of Christ. Many more people die during this time of great tribulation when God’s judgment is poured out upon the earth.

In Revelation 16:12-16, with the “sixth bowl of God’s wrath,” the great river Euphrates is “dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East.” Then three evil spirits coming from the dragon (Satan), the beast (Antichrist), and the false prophet emerge: “They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.” Then Christ says, “Behold, I come like a thief!” and admonishes His people to stay alert and be ready. Next the Scripture says the demonic spirits “gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” This is believed to stand for “Har Mageddon,” meaning “the mountain of Megiddo.” There is a large valley in this region which could easily be the staging ground for a military buildup.

There is a break in the narrative here, while God deals with the judgment of Babylon the Great (most likely Rome). The second coming of Christ and battle of Armageddon continue in Revelation 19:11-21. John writes, “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. … The armies of heaven were following him …” This is the glorious return of Christ! John continues, “Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet … The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” The rest of the armies of the earth who were gathered at Armageddon were killed by Christ Himself. And so begins the earthly reign of Jesus Christ.

We will remember that in Matthew 24:3 the disciples had asked Jesus what would be the “sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” The book of Revelation has now brought us to this point—the second coming of Christ and the destruction of His enemies. Matthew 24:30-31 speaks of this time, as well:

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

There are other passages that speak of this pivotal point in God’s salvation history. See, for example:  1 Corinthians 15:50-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13 – 5:11; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, 2:1-12 (Antichrist); 2 Peter 3:1-13.

Revelation 20 reveals that there is still one more battle yet to come. After Christ’s second coming, the Scripture indicates that He will reign on the earth with those who have believed in Him for salvation. They (we!) will rule the nations with justice, and there appears to be some form of judgment taking place at this time. This reign will be for one thousand years—called the Millennium—during which time the dragon (Satan) is bound and thrown into the Abyss. At the end of the thousand years, Satan is released and the final showdown takes place:

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

At this time, the Great White Throne Judgment takes place—the final judgment of humankind. “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). After this time, there will be no more war!

Eternity in View

Now that sin and death have been forever conquered, we are given a glimpse into the future prepared for those who have placed their trust in God and in Jesus Christ our Savior. Revelation chapters 21 – 22 describe this beautiful eternity with its new heaven and new earth; the Holy City, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God; the glorious temple and the river of life. God’s ultimate purpose for human beings, the greatest mystery of all, comes clearly into focus:

Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21:3-4)

Amen!

It has been several years since this article was originally written, and the prophecies in the book of Revelation have more clarity now than at any other time in history!  Have we prepared ourselves for Christ’s return?

© 1999, 2003, 2019 by Cindy A. Harris, MA Theological Studies.  All rights reserved.