There are two stages or phases within the process of the Second Coming — the Rapture and the Revelation – and these are separated by a seven-year period of time.The Rapture is the next occurrence on God’s calendar and is the literal, visible, and bodily return of Christ in the heavenlies. He shall return as He left (Acts 1:9-11). One can easily know how He departed by studying Luke 24:39. He had a new resurrected body of flesh and bones — a body that could be seen, touched, and fed (vss. 41-43). When He returns in the heavenlies, all believers, dead and living, will also be taken bodily to meet Him in the clouds. We shall be changed as this mortal body puts on immortality and is transformed to be like Jesus’ body (1 Corinthians 15:51-54; Psalm 17:15; 1 John 3:2). This happens in a moment, in “the twinkling of an eye.”
This event ends the Church Age and ushers in the Tribulation period. The Rapture of the Church involves the resurrection of the Christian dead as well as the exit from earth of all believers living at that time (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Regarding the Christian dead, the Bible teaches that the body is asleep in one place (the grave) whereas the soul is alive in another place (heaven). To be “absent from the body” is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). When Christ returns at the Rapture, He brings those that sleep (are dead) with Him (1 Thessalonians 4:14). How can He bring the dead with Him and still come for the dead (1 Thessalonians 4:16)? The dead are in two places! The souls and spirits are with the Lord, but their bodies are in the grave. Hence Christ brings the dead (souls and spirits) with Him so they may be reunited with their bodies. That is why the dead in Christ rise first.
The return of Christ for His Church is a signless and always imminent event. Even the New Testament writers expected the Lord’s return at any moment (Philippians 3:20). All signs of the Lord’s return have to do with the coming of Christ to set up His kingdom. They are only indicators of the approaching Rapture because that event precedes the establishment of the kingdom by seven years … in fact; we must be raptured so as to return with Him. The moment the Antichrist signs the seven-year peace pact the Tribulation period will begin and a timetable will be evident. Date-setting will now be conclusive and Christ’s return will no longer be imminent. It will be exactly 84 months or 2,520 days until Christ returns to establish His kingdom. The Rapture must precede the Tribulation Hour.
The Church is not to be the recipient of wrath. When one considers God’s purpose for the Tribulation, it is difficult to place the Bride of Christ into such a horrendous scene. Why should Christ’s Bride suffer the judgments of the seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven vials found in Revelation 6,8,9,11,15,16, when the Church cannot be found beyond the third chapter of the Book of Revelation? No, the Tribulation Hour is primarily a time of judgment upon a Christ-rejecting, God-rejecting world — both Jew and Gentile (Ezekiel 20:37, 38; Micah 5:15). Paul assured the Thessalonian Christians that they would not go through the Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 5:9). Although the Church is not all it should be, the world is better because the Church is present. The Holy Spirit, working through Christians, holds back the tide of evil sweeping the world. When His influence in this manner is removed at the Rapture, think of the wickedness that shall follow!
During the Tribulation period on earth, the raptured Christians have an appointment with Christ at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:19; Romans 14:10, 12).
The word “rapture” does not appear in the Bible. It was coined from the Latin rapiemur to portray the experience of being “snatched away.” This is what is going to happen one day soon as the people of God disappear from the earth and immediately meet Christ to stand before the Judgment Seat.
JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST
The day is coming when every blood-bought believer must stand before a Holy God for a scrutinizing investigation (Romans 14:10, 11). The English term “judgment seat” has a Greek origin, bema seat. The runners’ track in Athens, Greece, contained thousands of seats. However, there was one seat differing from the rest in that it was elevated. The judge of the contest, who sat there, had no obstructions to mar his view. He could see every movement clearly.
This pictures the God of holiness elevated upon His throne watching the Christian’s race of life (2 Corinthians 16:9; Jeremiah 16:7; Hebrews 4:13). God is keeping records for the day when we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done (2 Corinthians 5:10). We cannot live for the flesh and self and hear Christ say in that day, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant?’
There must be a battle fought and won. Rewards must be earned and scars must be traded for crowns. Paul, who bore in his body the marks [scars] of the Lord Jesus (Galatians 6:17) was pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). Salvation was already his as a gift, but only works of self-denial, hardship, suffering, and perhaps death could bring him the prize or crown to lay at Jesus’ feet (Revelation 4:10,11).
God will also investigate the motives behind one’s works. If there is an iota of self-glorification behind any act of service, the rewards will be sparse . . . if any (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-19; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 4:5).
Scriptural facts concerning the Bema Seat:
- This judgment is only for the people of God . . . those who have erected service or works upon the foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- All of God’s people present some form of “works” to Christ at the Bema Seat.
- Though all worked to some degree, a difference in quantity and quality is observed … gold, silver, and precious stones versus wood, hay, and stubble.
- The difference is tested by purging fires.
- The disintegrated ashes of wood, hay, and stubble bring sorrow and loss (1 Corinthians 3:15). While eternal life is freely bestowed upon all who believe as a gift apart from works (Romans 6:23) and cannot be forfeited, rewards and crowns can be earned and lost, accumulated and liquidated. A day of addition and subtraction is coming at the Rapture.
- Quality works, performed for the glory of God to win the souls of men — gold, silver, precious stones —will earn crowns for all eternity. These crowns will then be placed at the feet of Christ as an eternal memorial of one’s lifetime of service (Revelation 4:10, 11).
Some will be ashamed before Him at His coming (1 John 2:28; 2 Peter 1:11). They will have nothing but ashes to lay at Christ’s feet. Thank God one can confess failure, rededicate his life, and make a new start immediately. Then such will hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
The Tribulation lasts seven years and is undoubtedly the worst bombardment of tragedy the earth will ever experience. God has a three-fold purpose for this period:
- To save and allow many Jews who will enter the Millennium to experience the fulfillment of the kingdom promises to Israel made by God in the covenants
- To save a multitude of Gentiles who will then populate the millennial kingdom
- To pour out judgment on unbelieving mankind and nations. The final 42 months or three-and-one-half year period is so terrifying that it is called the Great Tribulation (Revelation 7:14).
There is a reason the first half is more peaceful. Because Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, is soon to return, Satan, the great counterfeiter and super deceiver called Antichrist will present himself as the Messiah and be accepted! Satan will enter the body of a man and proclaim himself as God (2 Thessalonians 2:4). This Antichrist will come into prominence and power by presenting a “peace program” to the nations. The contracts are signed and confirmed (Daniel 9:27). However, in the middle of the seven-year period, the Antichrist dishonors his treaties and makes the last 42 months the bloodiest in world history. The Great Tribulation is a time of incomparable judgment from God (Daniel 12:1; Joel 2:2; Matthew 24:21). A total of 21 judgments fall upon the earth. They constitute three series of seven each and are described as the seal, trumpet, and vial (or bowl) judgments. This is the Time of Jacob’s Trouble (Revelation 6, 8, 9, 15, 16) (see Judgments).Revelation 8:7 and 9:18 clearly reveal a judgment of fire during the Tribulation. This coincides with Psalm 97:3; Isaiah 66:15; Ezekiel 20:47; Zephaniah 1:18; Malachi 4:1 and numerous other passages of Scripture. Both Old and New Testaments are in agreement concerning what seems to be a fiery, nuclear holocaust (Zechariah 14:12; Revelation 8:7; 9:18) (see Day of the Lord; Daniel’s Seventieth Week).
I remain firmly convinced that the Church will be evacuated before the Tribulation judgment begins (see Rapture, Views of).
TRIBULATION … ORDER OF POLITICAL EVENTS
- Rise of Antichrist as leader of a confederacy of ten Western nations (Revelation 13:1)
- Antichrist signs a seven-year peace contract with Israel (Daniel 9:27)
- After 42 months, Antichrist breaks the contract (Daniel 9:27)
- Russia invades Israel from the North (Ezekiel 38:15, 16) at a time when Israel is at rest or peace (Ezekiel 38:11). (So this will not happen before the peace contract is in effect.)
- Antichrist attempts to destroy God’s people, the Jews (Revelation 12)
- He destroys the world church that helped bring him to power (Revelation 17:16,17)
- He proclaims himself as God (2 Thessalonians 2:411)
- He himself is defeated at Armageddon (Revelation 19) and cast into the Lake of Fire (vg. 20)
The Tribulation period will end with the Battle of Armageddon and the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to earth (Revelation 19:11-16).
REMNANT (JEWISH), 144,000
The existence of a remnant of Jews is tied to the covenants God made with the nation Israel. The unconditional covenants must have a people to carry out their fulfillment. Even though Israel has often strayed far from the Lord, He has always had a believing remnant. In New Testament times there were always a believing, expectant nucleus to whom the promises were reaffirmed. Presently a remnant of Israel are turning to Messiah, Jesus and receiving His salvation.
Shortly after the Rapture, there will be another remnant of Jews who turn to Christ. These converted Jews are called “servants of God” and they are extremely successful in ministering to others. Not long after this elect group is announced by John, he describes a great multitude from all nations who have been converted to Christ as a result of their labor and who are willing to prove their faith through martyrdom.
Two powerful prophets will appear in Jerusalem during the Tribulation period, guaranteeing the truth of the kingdom message of the 144,000 servants of God, adding to the irritation of the Antichrist. The message of Christ’s return will be preached throughout the world. All will be made aware of the timetable of the end, the eventual fall of Antichrist, and the coming kingdom of Christ.
These two witnesses will be miraculously protected for three and one-half years. Their power to bring plagues will draw the attention of the world (Revelation 11:6). They will likely repeat Old Testament prophecies concerning the kingdom of Christ (Daniel 2:44, 45).
When they have concluded their work, they will be slain and television will beam the sight of their dead bodies lying in the streets of Jerusalem to the world. After three and one-half days of the earth’s rejoicing (Revelation 11:10), they will be resurrected and ascend to heaven in a cloud while their enemies watch, paralyzed with fear.
In determining who the two witnesses mentioned in Revelation 11:3 are, most biblical scholars have narrowed the choice down to either Elijah, Moses, or Enoch.
Malachi 3:2, 3 and 4:5, 6 predict that Elijah will come as one of those witnesses. It is corroborated by the fact that Elijah did not die a physical death but was taken up into heaven by a whirlwind and chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:9-11).
Moses appeared with Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:3) which was a picture of future events. Many of the plagues of the Time of Jacob’s Trouble are similar to those brought by Moses in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. The Bible also tells us that Moses’ body was preserved by God (Deuteronomy 34:5, 6; Jude 9).
Like Elijah, Enoch did not die (Hebrews 11:5), and some think that his exemption from death was in view of his coming martyrdom during the Great Tribulation. His message must also be considered. Evidently this prophet had been given a revelation of the Second Coming of Christ and had announced it to his generation (Jude 14, 15).
During the Tribulation, a mighty revival will result when 144,000 Jewish evangelists cover the earth with their testimony of faith in Christ. Multitudes will be saved from all nations. The reaction of the world dictator, Antichrist, to those who publicly proclaim the end of his reign and announce the coming kingdom of Christ will be an angry explosion of persecution. Millions will be martyred, sealing their testimonies with blood.
These persecuted saints are not part of the Church, the body of Christ, the Bride of the Saviour already in glory (Revelation 4:1). Revelation 6:9 finds their souls under the altar. In the Old Testament, the altar always referred to the place where blood had been sacrificed. Souls will be saved during the Tribulation Hour the same way souls are saved today…. through the precious shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because the believers of the Tribulation Hour proclaim Christ crucified, they lose their lives for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
The spirits of the martyred Tribulation saints cry. They also wear white robes. Spirits cannot cry or wear white robes, so apparently the spirit has a temporary covering (2 Corinthians 5:1). We may not understand everything about the spirit world, but one thing is certain, being in spirit form does not mean unconsciousness. Spirits move, talk, cry, and even wear white robes!
Their cry is one of vengeance for blood. They are not under grace as martyred Stephen was (Acts 7:60). This is a different dispensation, the fulfillment of the hour that David spoke of (Psalm 9:12).
There will be a 75-day interval between Christ’s return and the Millennium (Daniel 12:11, 12). One of the events that takes place during this time is the resurrection of the Old Testament saints and the Tribulation saints (Job 19:25,26; Isaiah 25:8 26:29; Daniel 12:2; Revelation 11:16-18; 20:4,5) so they might be rewarded, as well as be participants in the Millennium on earth (Daniel 12:2). They are also guests at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. During the Millennium, the Tribulation martyrs will reign with Christ and the Bride (the Church) (Revelation 20:6).