(All spelling and phraseology is UK English)
We have established that there is a pattern to the tribulation and rapture in which the pressure to deny the Lord is followed by the "midnight moment" of crisis, thereafter leading to deliverance.
The important thing about the previous pages is that they took a new look at the scriptures and placed the "tribulation" in its proper context, as a shortened time of trouble for all, especially Christians and believing Jews, involving persecution, hated and threat but out of which the Lord delivers his people by the Rapture. Thereafter, God is able to deal with the world and its rebellion in a time of wrath that includes the reign of Antichrist and his forces.
We should not confuse these two phases.
Jesus tags the first part as the "beginning of sorrows", the word "sorrows" in this case referring to the increasing pressure and troubles of pregnancy, and more especially the final birthpangs that bring about the birth. But he called the winding up of this present age "the End" which the book of Revelation describes more fully - since Jesus was more concerned in teaching and comforting his disciples.
Being able to place the tribulation of the Church and Israel (because it particularly refers to Israel) in this proper context, we are able to do two important things: (1) become awake and aware of the signs around us because we are no longer either terrified or complacent, and (2) develop faith, endurance and ability in God, and set our lives right, as a preparation to pass through this time unscathed.
Two biblical types of the tribulation & rapture
Before going on, it might be useful to remember the way this time is described in the bible. Jesus of course spoke of it, and so did other New Testament writers. The two main examples are Lot and Noah.
Firstly, LOT - Luke 17:29
Lot was in a situation similar to ourselves, living in a place that offended his spirit, with pagan idolatry and immorality all around him. Nonetheless, he seemed to want to soldier on and wasn't too keen on escaping when the angels arrived with the message of doom. Perhaps he felt the need to justify the bad choice he'd made in separating from Abraham in the first place? (Gen 13:10-13) Or perhaps, like many Christians, he'd settled into a comfortable rut.
Sodom was extremely offensive to God. We are told that one of the major signs of the last days is that "wickedness will increase" and "dangerous times will come" (2 Tim 3:1-9) where selfishness, ungodliness and depravity will increase just as in Sodom. Lot was tormented by all these things but still he and his family hesitated to leave. He seems to have had some standing in the town since when the angels came, he was " sitting in the gate of Sodom" which was the place of the elders and authorities, the judges of the town. So - despite Sodom being a very depraved and ungodly area - Lot's friendships, family, influence, wealth, comfort made him reluctant to leave. (Gen 19:1-20) We need to make our hearts ready to forsake this earth immediately the Lord calls.
The sequence of events for Lot (Genesis 19) was very similar to what we have studied before, for Peter, and Jesus:
- (1) Last Supper: Just as the end for Jesus began with hospitality, friendship and a shared meal, so with Lot and the angels.
- (2) Night of Watching: Lot had to pass through his "night of watching" when his former friends demanded that he betray the angels. Lot tried reason, then compromise, but all to no avail.
- (3) Persecution and Threats: Lot would not participate in the citizens' wickedness, so they denounced him: "Then they said, "This one came in to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them." But God protected Lot and his family inside their house just like the Israelites in Egypt. This is the persecution that we will encounter and for the same reason. If we will not keep step with the world, it will denounce us. (The Tribulation)
- (4) Escape: When morning dawns, the angels take Lot and his family by the hand and lead them out to a city of refuge. One angel tells Lot "I cannot do anything until you arrive there." The events of the WRATH of God cannot begin until we escape! That very day Sodom was completely destroyed. (The Rapture)
Secondly, NOAH - Matt 24:37-40
Those familiar with the story of Noah (Genesis 6) will know that the world was just like Sodom in Lot's day. "The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence". God told Noah and his family to prepare, and BE READY. Noah did not idle around while watching the world sink lower into sin. He obeyed the Lord's command and began building for the day they'd be rescued, no matter how long it took.
Everyone else could enjoy the pleasures of the world, but Noah and his family endured mockery and sneering if not outright rejection. This was his "Gethsemane".
Then God gave instructions for escape, which Noah needed to obey perfectly, and this phase took seven days (verse 10). But after all this waiting and preparation, it was the very DAY that Noah and family entered the Ark that the rains and floods came. (verse 13) "and the Lord shut him in".
The bible makes a special point of saying that the Day of Escape is the VERY DAY that disaster strikes. I can see no other reason than for emphasising the correct timetable of events, ie, persecution and trials followed by a miraculous escape from a sudden disaster.
The events as seen in Revelation
As well as the testimony of Jesus just before his death, Peter in prison and Paul's summary of the sequence of events. we do of course have the book of Revelation to guide us.
As you might guess, I do not place the rapture at the very beginning of events and I believe the first seal opened is neither "the antichrist coming to earth" nor "Jesus riding out in triumph". Both these interpretations have problems that I will not go into here, but simply say we need to consider the first four seals as the same as the "beginning of sorrows/birthpangs" described by Jesus. Therefore, as he said,
"See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet". (Matt 24:6-7)
At the fourth seal, death is loosed on earth and we enter a time very similar to that of Noah's day, when violence filled the earth. This perhaps is the start of our Tribulation when the world becomes hateful and ungodly to such an extent that it is almost impossible to be a Christian - a bible-believing genuine Christian that is.
In particular, there will be a build-up to war in Israel. The Revelation concerns Israel more than the Church, even though both are involved in its events. This is in particular the day of JACOB'S trouble (Jer 30:4-7) and the woman of Revelation that we see in childbirth is plainly mirrored in the same passage of scripture.
Now these are the words that the LORD spoke concerning Israel and Judah. "For thus says the LORD: 'We have heard a voice of trembling,
of fear, and not of peace. Ask now, and see,
whether a man is ever in labor with child?
So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins
like a woman in labor,
and all faces turned pale? Alas! For that day is great,
So that none is like it;
And it is the time of Jacob's trouble,
But he shall be saved out of it."
What could bring the Godly Jews in Israel to such a state of fear and panic, if not for the events Jesus described as happening at the same moment as the Rapture - that is, Israel surrounded on all sides and seemingly unable to escape. Indeed, so pivotal was that event that Jesus pointed to it as THE preeminent sign of his coming! "But when you see Israel surrounded by armies....THEN....." Jesus described that time for Israel as the Great Tribulation; when the Woman is in labour, crying out for deliverance, with the Dragon eager to kill her.
So in Revelation the attack on Israel just beginning to happen is the start of the three and a half years of Antichrist's earthly reign and the Wrath of God. This is all described (by Jesus as well as John in Revelation) at the Sixth Seal. After which, unsurprisingly, we see multitudes who have "come out of the Great Tribulation". (Rev 7:14-15).
Some indeed have come out by martyrdom but many more by the Rapture which is fully described in the parallel passages in Revelation 6, Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21; also 1Thess 4.
Rev 6:12-14 I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.
And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.
Matt 24:29-31 Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
Mark 13:24-27 But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Luke 21:25-28 And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars...
Acts 2:20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD....
(15) And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!
For the great day of His WRATH has come, and who is able to stand?"
...and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken....
Matt 24:30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, 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.
Acts 2:21 ...And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.
Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness
Rom 2:5-11 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each one according to his deeds: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness -- indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil.
1 Thess 1:10 wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
1 Thess 5:8-10 For God did not appoint us to wrath , but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.
Acts 1:9-11 He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, "...This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven."
Rev 1:7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him.
Mark 14:62 Jesus said, "You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven."
Luke 21:27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.
Mark 13:26-27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.
And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
1 Thess 4:16-18 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
One seemingly insignificant point about the timing of the Rapture is the WHITE ROBES that in scripture refer to righteousness - which of course can only be attained in Jesus. Therefore, the martyrs impatiently waiting vengeance in seal five need to be "given" white robes and told to rest quiet until the work of persecution is completed, Rev 6:9-11, whereas those who suddenly appear after seal six (Rev 7:9-15) already have their white robes because they "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
Pinpointing the biblical Second Coming
I have no qualms about questioning centuries of received teaching in which the event in Revelation chapter 19 is tagged "The Second Coming". Why am I unashamed to do this? Because I love the bible more than church teachers, and believe we should establish truth from the words of inspired scripture rather than man.
Nobody seems to stop and rethink this! Every single scripture relating to THE Coming of Jesus (which we see above at Seal Six, "immediately after the tribulation") speaks of the coming IN THE CLOUDS with power and glory, to take the Kingship of the earth. THIS is the Second Coming!
At that precise moment in Revelation, it's "all over bar the shouting". Jesus HAS taken the kingdom and his kingly reign over it HAS begun. Just look at these scriptures that refer to the pivotal moment at the midway point, just on the eve of the 3 1/2 year reign of the Beasts. It is also the moment after the Rapture:
Rev 11:15-18 Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying,"The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!" And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: "We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty,
The one who is and who was and who is to come, Because You have taken Your great power and reigned. The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come,
And the time of the dead, that they should be judged,
And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints,
And those who fear Your name, small and great,
And should destroy those who destroy the earth."
Rev 12:10-12 And I heard 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, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. 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.
As Paul explained in 1 Cor 15:21-25 "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet".
After the Coming - seen above - Jesus REIGNS in his KINGDOM until every enemy is vanquished, during the time Paul calls "the END".
What therefore is the event in Revelation 19? It is the culmination of the three-and-a-half-year failed campaign by the devil to rule the world, and the final judgement on him and his followers.
Read the passage. The description is of Jesus riding a HORSE, with ARMIES of angels, with a SWORD and coming to WAR with the forces of Antichrist. This is clearly not what the angels promised the disciples about Jesus returning "in like manner" to the way he ascended, in the clouds and as a loving Saviour to his people.
Those who have separated the Rapture from the "Second Coming" in Revelation 19 rightly do so, because they are two distinct comings, BUT, they have not gone far enough. We also need to see that - as far as Christians and believing Israel is concerned - there is only ONE "coming"; on the clouds, in the air, and just at the onset of the devil's earthly reign.
This at a stroke unites two large sections of the Church: those who are pre-trib (because of the belief in two distinct comings) and those who are post trib (because there is only one coming, after the tribulation - yet not after seven years as I have said throughout this study.)
Truth should UNITE Christians, not divide them. The Church has too long been divided on eschatology and harsh words have been spoken on all sides. Could we not agree on the truth of scripture and unite on this central point, that Jesus comes for his own, in the clouds, after the tribulation of believers but before the wrath of God? And that Revelation 19 describes the final victory battle of Jesus in that time the Apostle Paul called "the END" when he puts all enemies under his feet.
Finally I present a pictorial outline of all that I've said, in the hopes it will make things more clear. Click on the image below to see the full graphic.
The chart is pretty self-explanatory. One thing I find fascinating is that the feasts of Israel also confirm the endtimes timetable since the central pivot is Pentecost. This feast "Feast of Weeks" commemorates the descent of God on the mount after the Exodus, and the giving of the Law. We also know that at Pentecost in the New Testament God descended on the Church as the Holy Spirit. How fitting then that Jesus Christ descend to rescue his people at this same point! (I'm not suggesting Jesus will come on the literal Day of Pentecost however, although that is not beyond the bounds of reason.)
This chart tallies with ones that I created for the companion study on Daniel. They show the same pivotal point. See them here.
I pray you have found this study useful and that it will spur you to further study in scripture. I make no claim to perfection or infallibility, but I believe I have reached a point of accuracy that is helpful in this current confusion.