Chapter Five - Bible Prophecy

 

Before beginning the study of this chapter five, a word of explanation is in order as to the possible time of fulfillment of the prophecies to be explored. As has been noted, there is no way to know at what time the Rapture of the church will occur and the Tribulation will begin. As will appear in the following discussion, however, the information presented in these key texts fits the world situation existent today remarkably well, suggesting that the time may be soon. This is true particularly in respect to the contemporary re-establishment of the nation Israel, the confederacy of some of the European countries (known as European Union) and the Israel-Arab conflict. It should be understood, however, that God's timetable may call for the matters predicted to be fulfilled at a time still further removed.

In chapter one, we have already studied the outline of future events in their chronological order. This chapter five is a detailed analysis of the leading prophetic events to come. It is divided into the following twenty one major divisions: 

  1. introduction;

  2. the signs of the second coming of Christ;

  3. God's dealings with Israel;

  4. the present Church Age;

  5. the Rapture of the saints in the church age;

  6. the Judgment Seat of Christ;

  7. the Marriage Supper (Feast) of the Lamb;

  8. introduction to the modern western calendar and ancient Jewish calendar;

  9. Israel's 490 prophetic years (Daniel's prophecy of seventy sevens);

  10. the Great Tribulation (the time of Jacob's trouble);

  11. the Anti-christ;

  12. the campaign of Armageddon;

  13. the fall of Babylon;

  14. the return of Christ with His church (the Revelation of Christ);

  15. the binding of Satan;

  16. the resurrections of Tribulation martyrs and Old Testament saints;

  17. the judgments at the second coming (Revelation) of Christ;

  18. the establishment of Christ's millennial kingdom;

  19. the loosing and doom of Satan;

  20. the judgment of unbelievers at the Great White Throne; and

  21. the eternal state (new heaven and new earth).

 

1. INTRODUCTION

No other century in the history of the world has seen such rapid development as the twentieth. Each year more scientific advances are occurring than formerly took place in an entire century. Rapid changes in the electronic transmission of knowledge have dominated life - with radios, televisions, and computers taking center stage. The development of nuclear weapons now holds the entire world hostage with the prospect of millions being killed if those weapons are unleashed. These drastic changes in the world have raised new questions about the destiny of human events.

Many questions about modern life came to a head when Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait in August 1990. Many people asked if this invasion triggered the end of the world. The secular press, though it questioned whether Bible prophecy was true, nevertheless during the Gulf War published major articles in leading newspapers on whether the Gulf War was a sign of the end of the age and the second coming of Christ.

Yet events following the Gulf War have left the world in an uncertain situation, with Syria, Iran and Iraq acquiring arms sufficient to destroy Israel completely. Deterring this is the fact that the United States has backed Israel with money and arms, thus enabling her to achieve a high level of military preparedness. Middle East countries do not want to risk facing such a major world power. Still this highlights the tense situation of the world today, with many nations having the power to destroy millions of people by nuclear means. The forecast for our present world is certainly a troubled one.

Though many teachers of prophecy make dire predictions about the destruction of the world, the fact is that Bible prophecy does not say the world will be completely destroyed by nuclear weapons. The destruction described in the Book of Revelation is largely supernatural, through earth quakes, disruption of the heavens, famine, pestilence, and so forth. Apparently God will control the evil in the world sufficiently so that the world will not destroy itself before the appointed prophetic climax.

This worldwide concern has again raised the often-asked question, Who is God? And is He in control? After all, the Bible is the only book that gives a detailed account of future events. Biblical prophetic revelation has demonstrated God's ability to predict hundreds of events that later were fulfilled literally. All this leads to the conclusion that other prophecies of future events will have similar literal fulfilment when they take place.

1.1 How Can God Know the Future Without Controlling It?

The Scriptures reveal that God has a plan in which He has determined what the future will hold. Having knowledge of all possible as well as all actual future events, God knows in advance any plans, regardless of how detailed they are, and He is able to predict with absolute accuracy not only what He Himself will do but also what will follow from natural law and human choices. But how can God know the future without controlling it? He can predict in advance the choices human beings will make because He has perfect knowledge of what each individual will know and experience. Two examples are given below:

  1. the death of Christ; and

  2. a timetable for trains.

1.1.1 Example one: the death of Christ

The supreme example of this is the death of Christ on which the whole plan of redemption hinged. God did not have to be on the sidelines and worry whether Pilate would order the execution of Christ or whether the soldiers would carry out the orders to crucify Him. God had absolute certainty from His omniscience that this would be the case. At the same time God is not responsible for the immoral acts of human beings, because they choose freely without any sense of compulsion from a higher being. Accordingly, every one of the hundreds of prophecies that have been fulfilled exactly as the Bible predicted are illustrations of the fact that God can view as certain all future events that are determined by humankind.

1.1.2 Example two: a timetable for trains

Another example is that a chief dispatcher of a railroad may publish a timetable. He may determine a schedule for freight times; he can also determine a schedule for passenger trains. The schedule is published, and the trains run as scheduled. If the dispatcher were omniscient, he would know in advance how many passengers would board each train. He would know whether the trains would run as scheduled. Yet he would not force anyone to board the trains. There would be certainty without compulsion. In a similar way, human choice from God's point of view can be determined without forcing anyone to do anything.

1.2 The Authority and Accuracy of Bible Prophecy

The concept of fulfilled prophecy, however, depends on accepting the Bible as a supernaturally inspired book in which God perfectly expressed what He wanted human beings to know. As a product from God, the Bible is without error and states the truth in absolute and eternal significance. The Bible also, however, is a human book written by human beings who obviously were limited in their knowledge and understanding. Sometimes even the writers, as God guided them, did not understand what they themselves wrote (see Daniel 12:8); the Bible, generally speaking, was not dictated. But God guided the human writers so that what they wrote is absolutely true and expresses what He wanted to communicate. In the writing of the Scriptures God combined divine will and foreknowledge.

 

2. THE SIGNS OF THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST

Will there be signs, warning and advance indications of our Lord’s coming? If so, what will they be? Two extremes must be avoided. On the one hand, we must not set dates for the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. No man knows the precise hour of the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 24:36, 42; Acts 1:6, 7). On the other hand, we are not to be dulled into spiritual lethargy. We are to watch and be ready for the Rapture (2 Timothy 4:8). Jesus wants His people to discern the signs of the times (Matthew 16:3; Luke 21:28; 1 Thessalonians 5:4). Genuine Christians who carefully observes current events and moral and religious trends must be deeply impressed by the cumulative evidence. Surely, we are in the last days, and Christ’s second coming is very near indeed. What are some of the general and specific signs which seem to herald our Lord’s return?

2.1 General Signs

The general signs of the second coming of Christ as as follows:

  1. a scoffing unbelief in Christ's coming;

  2. religious unconcern;

  3. an outward formalism;

  4. the increase of wickedness;

  5. the disturbances of nature;

  6. a falling away from the faith;

  7. the rise of Liberation Theology; and

  8. the New Age movement.

2.1.1 A scoffing unbelief in Christ's coming

"There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (2 Peter 3:3, 4). Some will flatly deny the doctrine of Jesus’ return as absurd or unreasonable. Others will interpret it to mean the death of the believer. Others will openly ridicule it as antiquated or superstitious. The very spread of incredulity indicates that the Lord’s coming draws near. For Peter tells us that scoffers will abound "in the last days" (2 Peter 3:3).

2.1.2 Religious unconcern

Callousness and carelessness with regard to the things of Christ have always been present. But they will increase in the last days and thus point unerringly toward the return of Christ. An Instructive Parallel - In Noah’s day, shortly before the destructive judgment of the Flood, men were concerned about two items: eating and drinking, and marrying and giving in marriage. The propagation and preservation of the race were their main topics of conversation in the very hour when the race was about to perish (Compare Genesis 6:5-9:19 with Matthew 24:32-39). The sinful race in Noah’s day cared little about his repeated warnings, was more interested in business as usual and the perpetuity of the human species. The inevitable result was that it was swept away by the Flood. So it will be at Christ’s coming. Mounting lack of concern about the things of God in general will precede His coming and indicate that it is near.

2.1.3 An outward formalism

This will be a strange phenomenon of the latter days. Inward unbelief will be cloaked in outward ritualism. Faithlessness will be concealed by ceremonialism. If faith is missing, they will concentrate on form, "having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away" (2 Timothy 3:5).

2.1.3.1 The value of ceremonies

If one's faith in the Lord Jesus is deep and genuine, of course he will wish to demonstrate it in visible, tangible ways. He will prove the purity of his religion by holiness and charity (James 1:27) and by the religious exercises in which, as a child of God, he engages.

2.1.3.2 The danger of ceremonies

But when the outward trappings of religion are a substitute for saving faith in Christ, they can lure a man to a Christless eternity! In the last days this will be the tragic state of affairs. Many a man who is outwardly religious but inwardly lost will be left being at Christ’s appearing. The very multiplication of religious, formal but unredeemed groups will be another indication of the Saviour’s approaching advent.

2.1.4 The increase of wickedness

Paul describes the last days as "perilous times" (2 Timothy 3:1-9). He then explains the nature of the peril. Study with care 2 Timothy 3:1-9. Essentially men will be "lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God" (2 Timothy 3:4).

2.1.4.1 The surprise

Popular fancy would have us believe that man’s moral status steadily improves; that education, and culture are adequate agents in ethical rehabilitation. The Bible teaches the opposite. Man is a sinner both by nature and in conduct. A sign that Christ's coming is near is not that human society is morally prepared for His return, but rather that it is thoroughly degraded apart from the gracious influence of the Gospel.

2.1.4.2 The challenge

Christians must do all they can to improve society. But their observation of contemporary moral deterioration (e.g. some highly educated men commit homosexual activities) and wrong-doing (e.g. a recent murder case was relating to a child who had killed a baby) must alert them to the nearness of Jesus’ Second Coming (Matthew 24:12).

2.1.5 The disturbances of nature

2.1.5.1 The ordinary course of nature

Earthquakes, famines and pestilences characterize human history. For since the Fall of man, nature has been under the divine curse (Romans 8:22).

2.1.5.2 Intensified confusion

Jesus implied (Luke 21:10, 11) that these things would increase in number and destructive effect toward the close of the age.

2.1.5.3 Present fulfilment

There have been more severe earthquakes in the last two hundred years than in the preceding one thousand years (Matthew 24:7; Luke 21:11). And the twentieth century has witnessed a lot of the worst pestilences in history (Matthew 24:21).

2.1.6 A falling away from the faith

God has given to us in His Word (i.e. Holy Bible) which is accurate and reliable. "Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21). People long have questioned, doubted and impugned the authority of the Bible. But the sacred Book has stood the test of time. In the last days the apostasy (falling away) will spread rapidly. And that is happening today!

2.1.6.1 Apostasy

The word "apostasy" means to stand away from where one used to stand. In Scriptural usage, this refers to a doctrinal shifting from formerly held Biblical teachings. It is clear from Colossians and Galatians that the two key doctrines subject to erosion are:

  1. the person of Jesus Christ; and

  2. the work of Jesus Christ (His deity and His substitutionary blood atonement).

It is significant that all the major deviations from Biblical Christianity err in one or both of these doctrines. This would include:

  1. Roman Catholicism, which teaches a works-oriented plan of salvation;

  2. Cults, such as the Jehovah Wituesses and Mormons, who deny both the deity of Christ and salvation by faith alone; and

  3. Liberalism, which finds both the deity of Jesus and His blood atonement intellectually untenable.

The New Testament also uses the word apostasy in a technical sense. In 2 Thessalonians 2:3 Paul says, "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away (i.e apostasy) first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition." This is not any old apostasy but rather the [ultimate] apostasy when the world abandons its native religions, opening the way for the new religion of the Anti-christ, which will eventuate in the earthdwellers worshiping his image (2 Thessalonians 2:4) and receiving his mark "by faith" believing the [ultimate] lie (Greek text of 2 Thessalonians 2:11). The goal is to unite the whole world into a common religious system. Obviously, in order to achieve a consensus, the lowest common denominator must be reached.

2.1.6.2 The testimony of the apostles

A sign which is surely more pronounced today than in any prior century, is that of apostasy within the so-called Christian church. Paul, writing to Timothy, said that "in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils" (1 Timothy 4:1-5). He said also that in the last days men would be "lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof" (2 Timothy 3:1-5). Paul stated the case perfectly. False cults abound today. The old-fashioned, saving gospel is widely rejected. The integrity of the Scriptures is denied far and wide. The growing apostasy proclaims the approach the Son of God (Matthew 24:11). Unbelievers will have "itching ears" and will seek after false teachers and false religions which will not provide the true way of Salvation.

Paul, Peter, John and Jude all provide warnings, even at the start of the church age, of the dangers of false teachers and apostasy. Matthew and Revelation indicate that the hallmark of Tribulational religious observance will be demon-influenced Judaism and Christendom (Matthew 12, 24; Revelation 9, 13, 16). A subtle, but equally significant warning is that false teachers boast of their power over Satan, claiming to be able to manipulate him and his demonic henchmen (Jude 8-23; 2 Peter 2:10-22). First Timothy 4:1 provides the succinct warning: "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils."

2.1.7 The rise of widely accepted false doctrines in theological schools and churches - Liberation Theology

(Reference: Countdown to Armageddon - The Final Battle and Beyond, Chapter 12, Word of Life Fellowship Inc., Harvest House Publishers, 1999 Edition, by David Breese and Thomas N. Davis)

Prior centuries have known some measure of apostasy, as people have turned from the true faith, but not to the degree existent today. This apostasy does not concern merely peripheral issues either, but the most central of all: the very supernaturalism of Christ and the Bible. This liberal form of theology started with the rise of rationalism in Germany, spread across to England, then to the United States, and finally throughout the world. Theological schools, individual churches, and even whole denominations have fallen before its onrushing tide. Never before in history has anything like it occurred in the area of theology. It is truly a mark of the imminence of last-day events.

In recent church history (A.D. 1870 - 1900) the philosophies of Europe crept into the universities and seminaries of the western world, undermining belief in the supernatural. As man's confidence in his ability to understand science increased, so did the tendency to explain all phenomena by merely natural processes. These philosophies are characterized by the words naturalism, materialism, evolution, and humanism. Their application to theology was devastating to traditional Christianity.

Orthodox Versus Liberation Theology

Supernaturalism (God-Centered)

Naturalism (Man-Centered)
Virgin Birth Human Christ Indwelt by God
Vicarious Atonement His Death was an Example
Bodily Resurrection No Resurrection
Inerrant Scripture Human Book with Errors
Divine Creation Evolution
Depraved Humanity Man Is Perfectible

2.1.7.1 Doctrinal characteristics of Liberation Theology

These "liberated" thinkers wanted to modernize Christian theology by appealing to the intellect and intuition. They wanted to replace the authority of the Bible with man's intellect. They wanted to apply the theory of evolution to religion, implying that "man is getting better." In regards to man's obvious sinful tendencies, they argued that before a child can run, he must first crawl, toddle, fall, and walk. Eventually man will learn to overcome his wickedness through a social and psychological evolution. As a result, the "theology" of liberal Christianity has apostatized into the following form:

  1. Bibliology: The Bible is not inspired by God but rather the product of man's flashes of insight into the spiritual realm.

  2. Sin: There is no original sin. Man will evolve into perfection. Sin is relative, therefore we have to consider Joseph Fletcher's Situation Ethics. We must emphasize the "dignity and worth of man," consider the "ascent of man," and comfort those who seem to fall short with the sentiment, "good football players don't lose games - they just run out of time."

  3. Christ: He was not divine. His death was an example of love, not an atonement.

  4. Salvation: Christians should follow Christ's example of good works and strive for social reform. Christians are challenged to "fix the open sores of society [the slums]" and "society must be Christianized" because "environment controls character." The famous "Social Gospel" is predicated on the mistaken idea that nurture is stronger than nature. Take the man out of the ghetto, and he will become a productive member of society, pulling himself up by his own boot straps.

  5. Future things (eschatology): Liberal theologians provide few details. They postulate that eventually "good" will banish "evil." Universalism is very appealing with the hope that eventually even Satan will be reconciled to God.

  6. Evangelism (missions): Missionaries should try to educate, not convert. People merely need to be informed that they are already acceptable to the creator. All religions are beneficial. Ecumenical harmony should be sought among all persons of faith.

  7. Conclusion: In the sentiments of liberal theologian H. Richard Niebuhr, "A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross."

2.1.7.2 A recent demon possessed case study - relating to Liberation Theology

It is worthwhile to quote a recent demon possessed case from Merrill F. Unger's book: What Demons Can Do to Saints, Chapter 10, pp. 150-152, Moody Press, 1991.

Pat was a student in a Bible college in the Philippines. He had accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour but he had not yielded his life completely to God's will. Suddenly one day he complained of a terrible headache and went to the director of the school to ask him to pray for him. While the director was praying, the student suddenly lost consciousness and went into the demonized state. He became so violent that it took several men to hold him down. Strange voices began to speak out of his mouth. One of the faculty members present addressed these voices:

"In the name of the Lord Jesus, tell us why you have invaded Pat?"

"Because he did not surrender his life completely," the voices responded.

"Why you have come to the Bible College?"

"To bring in modernism and liberalism," the voices boldly asserted.

After a long struggle, Pat was completely set free. This overwhelming experience caused all the Bible teachers and students present to join in repentance, prayer and rededication to God's will.

According to this example, it is clear that Liberation Theology is originated from evil spirits. All faithful Christians must not allow the spread of Liberation Theology into their churches and theological schools.

2.1.8 The New Age movement

Another recent wrinkle in religious development is the New Age movement. Practitioners claim to be in contact with "highly evolved extra-terrestrials" who will lead mankind out of the wilderness of despair into the age of Aquarius. As is usually the case, many of the New Age channelers of these so-called highly evolved life forms (read "demons") are making a financial fortune as they manipulate the gullible and desperate. They claim that the climax of human history is near. They even have two ready-made excuses for the Pretribulational Rapture of the Saints:

  1. those with "bad karma" will have to be removed for the golden age to descend; or

  2. they are removed from the earth by alien abduction.

The New Age movement does not have an authoritative center, spokesperson, or Scriptures. Therefore, it is best viewed as a loose association of mystical beliefs that borrow heavily on the metaphysical teachings of Oriental religions.

Buzz words and phrases associated with the New Age teachings would include "awakening," "centering," "cosmic energy," "the force," "the global village," "planetary vision," "yoga," "transcendental meditation," "inner space," "the third eye," "harmonic convergence, ""consciousness altering," and "channeling." They are fascinated by ancient cultures and customs, seeking to rediscover the herbal remedies, spirituality, and harmony with nature supposedly enjoyed by aboriginal Indians on the various continents. The supposed power of crystals and even investigation of "white magic" are powerful draws as they seek to "draw down the moon" and harness the energy that permeates the universe.

2.1.8.1 Doctrinal characteristics of the New Age movement

The teachings of the New Age priests and priestesses are eclectic and broad. The doctrinal characteristics of the New Age are as follows:

  1. Revelation is on-going and supercedes the Bible.

  2. God is considered to be an impersonal pantheistic force.

  3. Jesus was a great man upon whom the spirit of "the Christ" descended, as it has on other great men throughout human history, such as Hercules, Krishna, Buddha, and Mohammed.

  4. Man is primarily a spirit being ("subatomic energy force"). Matter is not important. Man is basically good, in fact, man is a divine being.

  5. The goal of religious expression (worship) is to get in touch with your self and thereby be "at-one-ment" with God (a perversion of what "atonement" means scripturally).

  6. "Evil" is just an imbalance, a lack of harmony in life, therefore there is no need for salvation in a theological sense.

  7. Meditation brings peace and peace opens the way for harmony.

  8. Reincarnation is the purifying process that leads to Nirvana ("blowing out," the Hindu and Buddhist idea of ultimate peace by being absorbed into the All-Soul).

  9. Satan brings wholeness to the receptive life. He is not to be viewed as an enemy of Christ but rather the necessary opposite, just as electricity requires both a negative and a positive pole to circulate.

2.1.8.2 Evaluation of the New Age movement

Some may ask what happens when a channeler receives a message from the unseen world. It is rather clear, in many cases, that the channeler is a fraud. Linguists have done studies on a number of these modern-day medicine men. Their "entities" claim to have lived in a particular period of human history, however, their accents, vocabulary, and practical knowledge of that time period is terribly inaccurate. If they were "real" or even a demon, then the language and knowledge would be accurate.

Scriptures indicate that demons are capable of impersonating humans. In fact, the Old Testament phrase "familiar spirit" is based on the idea that demons are assigned to become "familiar" with a person to then impersonate that individual after his death in order to deceive the living. This was the practice of the witch of Endor in 1 Samuel 28. Looking at what these different entities teach, their demonic origination should be apparent. One reporter writes: "The entities endlessly repeat the primal lie, the three-fold creed of error: "There is no death; man is God; knowledge of self is salvation and power."

It is interesting to note the impact of the theory of evolution on twentieth-century thought. It has destroyed supernaturalism, sending man alone into the cosmos with no creator to guide him. Now that man has been without God for more than half a century, and the world has gotten very dangerous (via man's scientific endeavors), there is suddenly a strong yearning for a touch from the spirit world. God has been defined out of existence, so what can evolution provide? It can suggest that there are other worlds where beings have evolved further than us. They have overcome their problems and are on their way to our planet to help us avoid the devastation of a nuclear holocaust. Some, in fact, have already visited - scouting parties to survey the layout of the land. An increasing number of "rational" people, including psychiatrists at noted universities, have documented alien abductions; UFO sightings are regularly reported; and millions of dollars are spent every year to search for intelligent life in the universe. New Age believers proclaim that all earthlings must open up their hearts and minds to these highly evolved extraterrestrials so that we can provide maximum help when the aliens arrive. This could be Satan's way of preparing mankind for the unleashing of demonic hordes in the planet's final conflict during the 7-year Tribulation period.

Lest it be argued that "kooks" have always been among us, let us be reminded of the great popularity of the New Age teachings as evidenced by the recurrence of these themes in TV and Hollywood productions, video games, and the printed page. Walk into any bookstore chain and note the size of the New Age section. Note the number of books published that promote the New Age movement, including: Reincarnation, Shamans, Stone lienge, Unicorns, Alternative Healing, Astrology and Polter geists. How very special that the Bible is banished from our society but non-Christian belief systems are openly investigated and sometimes even encouraged!

2.2 Unique Contemporary Signs

During the last few decades a series of events has been taking place, the converging impact of which would suggest that Christ’s second coming may be even nearer than many believers suppose. There are at least seven such contemporary events is overwhelming:

  1. the atomic age;

  2. promotion of cashless transactions system and computer records;

  3. preparation for the coming world church;

  4. political consolidation in the west;

  5. stirrings in the far east;

  6. fusion of peoples in the north; and

  7. the return of Israel to her land.

2.2.1 The atomic age

Our generation has now entered an age about which our predecessors knew nothing. Peter, in describing "the day of the Lord," writes that "the elements shall melt with fervant heat," and that "all these things shall be dissolved" (2 Peter 3:10-11). His words suggest just such an explosive era as the twentieth century. The destructive power of atomic bombs can evolve immense heat which can dissolve all materials in the world. Read also Matthew 24:6-8, 29; Revelation 6:1-8.

2.2.2 Promotion of cashless transactions system and computer records

The promotion of cashless system is providing a way for the Anti-christ to control the human rights of all people. Advancement of computer technology, internet banking, computerized personal and transaction records, credit cards, "Mondex" cards and the recent launched "compulsory implantation of a micro-chip into the skin surface of pets" will be used by the Anti-christ as effective means to control all people and force them to obey and worship him (Read Revelation 13:16-18).

2.2.3 Preparation for the coming world church

(Reference: Countdown to Armageddon - The Final Battle and Beyond, Chapter 12, Word of Life Fellowship Inc., Harvest House Publishers, 1999 Edition, by David Breese and Thomas N. Davis)

The vast ecclesiastica maneuvering observable today, the merging of church groups, the minimizing of theological distinctives which separate denominations, the greater "understanding" between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism - all this seems to be setting the stage for ecclesiastical apostate Babylon (Revelation 17:1-7). The harlot of Babylon represent a world-wide corrupt religious system (apostate Christianity) linked with Rome. In her final form she gathers up into her embrace all the false religious systems of earth. This Babylon will come into prominence on earth when the true Church of Christ has been caught up to Heaven.

Currently, the theme of that ecumenical body, the World Council of Churches, is: "The fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man." Even the current pope has made favorable statements concerning the eternal salvation and worthiness of other religions, despite the rather exclusive dogmas of Roman Catholicism. It should be noted that in all of these ecumenical discussions, the trend is "back to Rome as usually all the compromises are being made by the protestant denominations in the ecumenical process.

It is also stunningly significant that in the current controversy over the legal status of Jerusalem, the pope has offered, and the Israelis have entertained, the suggestion that Jerusalem become an international city under the care of Rome. It is hard to imagine Israel parting with their capital, but it would appear that, for at least some, Israel's internationalization would be preferable to division (East Jerusalem being given back to the Palestinians).

2.2.4 Political consolidation in the west

2.2.4.1 Bible prophecies relating to the political consolidation in the west

According to the books of Daniel and Revelation, we know there will be ten major western nations surrounding Israel. The prophet Daniel spoke of the empires that would rise and fall upon the earth when he explained the wonderful image of Nebuchadnezzar's dream (Daniel 2). That image portrays the whole sweep of Gentile world history. In Daniel chapter 2, Daniel interprets a dream that King Nebuchadnezzar has in which he sees a statue with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, abdomen and thighs of bronze, and legs of iron and clay. Daniel explains that the head of gold is Nebuchadnezzar's empire, which will be supplanted in time by different empires represented by the other materials. Bible scholars agree that the fourth empire, of iron and clay, is Rome, which was at its zenith soon after the earthly life of Christ. Interest focuses especially on the feet and toes of the image, which we understand to illustrate a reappearance or continuation of that great power to the current time.

Referring to the feet and toes, it is clear that ten kingdoms make up this final Gentile power (Daniel 2:41-42; the number 'ten' is also mentioned in Daniel 7:7, 24 and Revelation 17:12, which support the previous passage). Until recent times no such empire had appeared in that part of the world. With the rise of the Common Market, all of that may have changed. Now there is the possibility of ten major nations with many associate nations.

The western confederacy will be powerful. Daniel said that it would "be partly strong" (Daniel 2:42) and "devour the whole earth" (Daniel 7:23). Up to now that prophecy has remained unfulfilled. No successor to the Roman Empire has ever achieved that kind of power. The empires of Napoleon and Hitler came close, but both proved to be short-term gasps.

The future Anti-christ will arise from this confederacy. One day the Anti-christ will make a covenant with Israel to guarantee that nation protection (Daniel 9:27). But after three and a half years, he will break that covenant and move into the Middle East, even into the land of Israel (Daniel 11:41). It is then that he will lead his confederacy in earth's final world war - the campaign leading to Armageddon. Many in Europe, tired of the long-standing factional disputes and conflicts among neighboring states, seem ready for such a leader who can unify the continent and bring lasting peace and prosperity to Europe.

The European Union, is the center of a new and rapidly rising world entity. Aside from its contemporary role, however, many see in this emerging edifice the shadowy form of a long-awaited structure, the last-days empire described by the prophet Daniel in ancient Babylonia some twenty-five hundred years ago. This is a power which prophecy declares will play a key role in events shortly preceding the second coming of Christ.

2.2.4.2 Recent development of the political consolidation in the west

The European Union (EU) or Common Market began as the European Economic Community (EEC) on 1st January 1958, when six nations - Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and Holland - banded together for economic purposes. Later, Britain, Ireland, Denmark, Greece, Portugal, and Spain were added to make twelve member nations. Currently there are fifteen member nations in the EU. The express goal of the EEC is the political union of Europe (Anthony Kerr, The Common Market and How it Works, New York: Pergamon, 1986). From its inception, people such as Jean Monnet, the spiritual father of the New Europe, have always thought in terms of a ten-nation federation. It is likely that several other nations will join, resulting in a twenty-five - or thirty - nation membership, but with 'ten' principle powers.

I) Population and Gross Domestic Product of the European Union

Already the total population (370 million EU citizens versus 290 million Americans) and gross domestic product of the EU nations ($9.46 trillion in 1997) exceeds that of the United States ($8.08 trillion in 1997) (1998 CIA World Factbook, Washington, D.C., GPO, 1999). The EU standard of living is expected to match America's soon also. Although there are problems, this new confederacy could become the most powerful union economically, politically, and militarily on the face of the earth. Already the EU nations represent the world's largest trading bloc. Their gross domestic product is growing. Their population is huge. They have negotiated commercial or association agreements with more than ninety countries. They have special trade and aid relationships with more than fifty former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific.

That is why, as the EU began, the National Security Council of the United States in a special report stressed its possible global effects.

"In the long run we could be confronted by an 'expanded Europe' comprising a Common Market of at least ten full members, associated memberships for the EFTA [European Free Trade Areal, neutrals, and referential trade arrangements with at least the Mediterranean and most of Africa. This bloc will account for about half of world trade, compared with our 15%; it will hold monetary reserves approaching twice our own; and it will even be able to outvote us consistently in the international economic organizations" (Henry Kissinger, White House Years (Boston: Little, Brown, 1979).

II) Political federation of the European Union

There are only two ways to gain power: one is to take it by force, the other is to be given it. The way this kingdom receives its power is by mutual consent. An interesting passage in the Book of Revelation points this out. Speaking of these nations as horns of power, or kings, it says, "The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast" (Revelation 17:12-13).

When we look at the New Europe, that is exactly what it purports to be -  a European federation of states. Each nation maintains its individual identity but has banded with the others for economic growth and protection. All the barriers to trade among member states have been torn down, whereas formerly each nation tried to post heavy tariffs on rival products and goods. A standard tariff is established on products coming into the EU from non-member countries outside of it.

Though the initial incentives to unity were economic, early leaders wanted much more. "'Political Union,"' said Professor Walter Hallstein, the first president of the Common Market, "is identical in meaning with the 'political unity of Europe,' which the existing Community is designed to bring about and which its founders had in view as their ultimate goal" (Walter Hallstein, Europe in the Making, trans. Charles Roetter, New York: Norton, 1973).

The landmark Treaty of Maastricht, signed by the twelve member nations in 1991, brought about substantial unifying regulations while abolishing or minimizing many national codes in each country (Phillipe Barbour, Ed., European Union Handbook, Fitzroy Dearborn, 1996). Already there is the free movement of workers between countries. Workers may seek employment anywhere in the Community, though governments retain the right, in some cases, to restrict free movement of labor. Uniform European Community passports have been introduced. The passports bear the title "European Community" above the national designation. There is also the free movement of capital anywhere in the Community.

III) A common currency of the European Union

One important goal of European integration was to have a common currency that would show political unity and make trade much easier. Such a European Monetary Union was first proposed in 1969, but enactment was slow. The biggest move was taken in January 1999, when eleven European countries (Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Nether lands, Portugal, and Spain) began using a common currency, the euro. Beginning with stock, bond, and bank transactions, it spread to the circulation of coins and notes. With a common currency, many of the impediments of political union will be removed. The euro is scheduled to become the standardized currency of member nations on 1 January 2002.

Not surprisingly, the introduction of the euro and its more centralized monetary management policies are likely to bring about reduced democratic freedoms and civil rights. EU citizens will be forced to relinquish current national democratic involvement in favor of more distant EU monetary (and thus political) leadership and decision making (Andrew Martin and George Ross, Europe's Monetary Union, Current History April 1999).

IV) A military arm of the European Union

Operating through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the principle European countries have been seeking to maintain and enforce peace in the region. In the aftermath of the Cold War, when NATO's energies were directed at containing Soviet expansionist efforts, NATO is now seeking to redefine itself as a regional security agency. The recent war in Kosovo and Serbia has demonstrated NATO'S willingness to use force to bring feuding nations in line, even those not belonging to the EU or NATO (Lally Weymouth, Stopping the Catastrophe, Newsweek, 26 April 1999).

Although the US still maintains a critical leadership role in the alliance, the Kosovo crisis showed that European members are taking a greater role in determining and carrying out policies. Evidence of this came during the Kosovo crisis in April 1999 when the German government made German troops available for operations in the region, the first time German troops have gone into combat since World War II (Speech by German Defense Minister Manfred Woerner, 17 April 1999).

Speaking at the annual meeting in Washington, D.C., Secretary General Javier Solana said, "Even as NATO is adapting, so is Europe. The European Union has adopted a common currency and a Common Foreign and Security Policy. It is only natural that NATO reflects and helps support this evolution. That's why I foresee an alliance with a stronger European identity... (The Washington Summit: NATO Steps Boldly Into the 21st Century, NATO Review, Spring 1999).

2.2.4.3 Comments

The books of Daniel and Revelation long ago predicted that there would one day come upon the earth a ten-nation federation in the approximate territory of the old Roman Empire. That confederacy would play a strategic part in end-time events. A world empire would turn against Israel and be involved in earth's final world war.

Is what we see developing in Europe the fulfillment of the prophet's oracle? Is it mere coincidence that a long-fragmented continent, separated by different languages, cultures, histories, and traditions, should see the rise of a new federation? But if what is happening in the European Union today is the formation of this western confederacy, we could well be standing in the starting gate of end-time world events!

It is possible there may be changes in boundaries and nations in that confederacy before the return of Christ. But the fact is that the European federation bears a striking resemblance to the approximate boundaries of the Roman Empire. It is interesting how much of this prophecy has been fulfilled.

How close is all of this to the return of Christ? Although we are warned against setting specific dates, Scripture points out a most significant fact: The western confederacy will be in existence when Christ returns to the earth. Daniel wrote, "In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed" (Daniel 2:44). The Lord of heaven will crush that confederacy and set up His own righteous kingdom upon this earth.

2.2.5 Stirrings in the far east

2.2.5.1 Bible prophecies relating to the stirrings in the far east

During the end times, there will be a group of eastern confederacy of nations surrounding Israel. It is the one that, when it invades the Middle East, will culminate in the world's greatest battle as God destroys His enemies at Armageddon (Revelation 16:12-16).

It is during the Tribulation that the Anti-christ will move into the Holy Land and set himself up as the world ruler. He will then go down to Egypt to take treasures of gold and silver. The kings of the east will allow the Anti-christ to do so either because they are aligned with him or because of their own independence and internal problems. But finally, at the end of the Tribulation, they will amass a huge army. They then will invade the Middle East, make war with the Anti-christ, and be destroyed when Christ Himself returns (Daniel 11:44; Revelation 9:16; 16:12; 19:11-21).

From what direction will these eastern nations enter the Middle East? They will come from the east across the Euphrates River. The river is somehow dried up supernaturally, which will enable them to cross it (Revelation 16:12).

Who are the kings of the east? Although exact nations are not mentioned, we are told they are nations from the east (literally, "from the rising of the sun"). They also are beyond the Euphrates River (Revelation 16:12). Since the Euphrates River runs across Syria and Iraq and marks the eastern boundary of nations surrounding Israel, this must be a group of Asian nations.

2.2.5.2 Recent development of the stirrings in the far east

It is possible that the kings of the east may include the following Asian nations:

  1. China;

  2. Japan; and

  3. India.

I) China

Some believe China is mentioned in Scripture סִינִים as "Sinim" or "Aswan" (Isaiah 49:12), one of the places from which Jews are gathered to inhabit their land. However, the major reference to China and other Asian nations who will march against Israel is the passage that calls them the "kings from the East" (Revelation 16:12).

Nowadays, the People’s Republic of China is under the sovereignty of Communist Party (CCP) is a great country. Her population size is 1.4 billion people. CCP is beginning to dramatically influence world affairs. Her military capability is growing. Already she has the world's largest military (approx. 3 million troops) and an increasingly sophisticated nuclear arsenal. CCP seems intent on absorbing Taiwan by military force. Through a sympathetic company she even controls the east and west ports of the Panama Canal.

The CCP have invigorated their military by copying the modern weaponry of countries such as Sweden, France, England, and the United States, seeking to offset the obsolescent Soviet models that still comprise the bulk of their inventory (Frank Gibney Jr.Birth of a Superpower, Time, 7 June 1999). The government received nuclear secrets from some of these countries, most notably, the United States. The recent disclosures about Chinese complicity in obtaining United States nuclear secrets through contacts in the Department of Energy may enable the CCP to produce a neutron bomb, a more advanced nuclear bomb, designed to kill personnel while destroying the least amount of property (Sam CohenCheck Your Facts: Cox Report Bombs, Insight on the News, 9 August 1999). CCP has an estimated 3,000 "front companies" in the U.S. currently, many of whom seek to acquire sensitive and secret military technology (Tim HealyStormy Passage, Asia Week Magazine, 11 June 1999).

In 2013, the CCP initiated the “One Belt One Road” project, “belt” refers to the overland routes for road and rail transportation, called “the silk Road Economic Belt”, whereas “road” refers to the sea routes, or the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. This project includes constructing roads and railways connecting China with the Middle East and Europe.

In 2015, the CCP constructed its first biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) Microbiology Laboratory at Wuhan in order to develop biological weapons.

In 2018, the CCP established the Thousand Talents Plan (TTP) in 2018 to recruit leading international experts in order to steal secret high end technologies from the other advanced countries.

To steal advanced technologies from the United States and European countries, the CCP sponsored thousands of Chinese students study overseas.

Through the above measures, the CCP continues to make many advances as she seeks to attain superpower status.

II) Japan

As we observe the Bible phrase "kings from the East," we notice that the word 'kings' is plural. This must mean that more than one nation is involved in this confederacy. Could it be that a second nation is Japan?

When we look at Japan, we see that its economic advances are legion. All of us know of its steel production, semi-conductor development, television sets, computers, telecommunication equipment, and automobiles. It is a major economic powerhouse. And all of this for a country that imports most of its raw materials and close to 100% of its oil.

Under its constitution, Japan cannot maintain armed forces for purposes of aggression. It maintains a national Japanese Self Defense Force and has ships, aircraft, and armored vehicles. Most of its weapons, however, come from the United States. The recent development is that Japan is going to re-interpret this constitution in order to allow the conversion of the Self Defense Force into a formal Armed Force.

Because the United States is involved in many world conflicts, some in Japan echo the sentiments of former Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira. He said, "The U.S. has become one of the powers and not a superpower any more. The days are gone when we were able to rely on America's (nuclear) deterrent" (Business Week, 19 May 1989). As a result, some in Japan are calling for a defense buildup. Others suggest re-establishing the military draft and increasing military expenditures. Still others urge a review of the country's ban on arms exports. Others want an independent Japan that is not dependent militarily on the United States. To assert its own presence internationally, Japan is now making a concerted effort to establish its own sphere of influence in Africa and the Middle East (Peter J. Schraeder, Japan's Quest for Influence in Africa, Current History, May 1999).

In the midst of these moves for military independence, Japan signed peace and friendship treaties as well as trade agreements with China. Japan exports steel and other goods to China in exchange for Chinese oil. It is possible we may be seeing an eastern confederacy forming in that part of the world.

III) India

A third nation that may be part of this confederacy is India. Many believe India is a backward and poverty-stricken nation. However, a careful study shows that this republic possesses great economic and military strength. For instance, India has the tenth largest economy in the world (India, 1998 CIA World Factbook, Washington, D.C., GPO, 1999). It is self-reliant in the manufacture of plants and equipment in major industrial sectors. It has a large pool of scientific and technical manpower. Many countries, including those in the Middle East, rely on India's engineering industry. It has the second largest army in the world with approx. 1.2 million troops.

All of this greatly enhances India's military capabilities. It produces small arms, ammunition, tanks, aircraft, rockets, and warships. It has the third largest army in the world and an air force that has undergone a billion-dollar modernization program (India, 1998 CIA World Factbook, Washington, D.C., GPO, 1999). Perhaps the most impressive development is India's nuclear research program. That nation detonated its first nuclear explosion in May 1974; improvements in the electronics and missile industries allowed it to acquire advanced nuclear capability by the mid-1980s (Pratep Bhanu Mehta, India: The Nuclear Politics of Self-Esteem, Current History, December 1998). Mutual tests of nuclear weapons by rivals India and Pakistan threaten to bring about a new nuclear arms race (Nayan Chandra, Waking the Devil, Far Eastern Economic Review, 11 June 1998). The United States and other countries played roles in India's nuclear assistance.

2.2.5.3 Comments

You and I are living through a time when the nations of Asia are becoming more independent and sleeping China is stirring from her state of slumber. As she awakens, eastern nations are coming together. Is it possible that we are witnessing the formation of "the kings from the East," an eastern confederacy that will have a devatating effect upon the nations of the earth?

Certainly China, Japan and India fit such a description. They are major powers in Asia as well as the rest of the world. With their current awakening, they stand ready to play an active role in eastern and world politics. As we witness the expansion of China, Japan and India's influence, we also may be witnessing the formation of a Biblical eastern confederacy.

Although these nations have military capabilities and may use them to protect their borders, how would they ever threaten the entire world? Are their resources and capabilities sufficient enough?

The world is an ever-changing place and sometimes small nations have their day in the sun. However, these countries are not small and they are moving onto the world stage. For instance, China has the largest number of people on earth and the largest army. In a day when nations rely on their military technology and have reduced personnel manning levels, the Chinese army is maintaining its personnel strength while simultaneously trying to upgrade the technical sophistication of its hardware. Then, too, it is important to observe that the eastern confederacy has its greatest impact on the world right before Christ returns to the earth, some seven years after the Tribulation begins. A great deal of military development can occur in seven years. When we look at the picture from this perspective, there is no question that the stage is set.

Why will these nations come together in a major world confederacy? One reason is economic necessity. Competition with the advanced western markets will stifle the internal development of Asian markets, notably China and India, unless these markets assert a degree of independence from western investors. Already there are signed peace and friendship pacts between some of the countries. Also, these nations have similar religious systems. Atheism, Buddhism, and Hinduism are common threads that run through them.

There is also a common concern of Russia. Although these nations sometimes agree with Russia when it serves their interests, China's fear of the Soviets was the major reason she opened her doors to the rest of the world. Russian political instability may result in a more belligerent position with the Asian countries, particularly if they threaten Russia's economic position.

If we look carefully at a globe, we notice these three countries - China, Japan and India - are in a straight line headed right toward the Middle East. These nations, along with others, could form a great eastern confederacy that one day moves against Israel.

Some may ask, "Why do we not see a political union of nations in Asia as we do with the New Europe?" The fact is we do not see it; nor do we necessarily expect it. Scripture points out that the western confederacy will be a federation of states, completely united to gether (Daniel 2:42; 7:24; Revelation 17:13). On the other hand, the eastern confederacy is made up of independent nations. They are "kings." Their independence may be the reason they do not appear in end-time events until right before the return of Christ to the earth.

The Euphrates River is 1,700 miles in length and is the largest river of western Asia. It rises in eastern Turkey and flows across Syria and Iraq to the Persian Gulf. It is one of four rivers in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:10-14) and is part of the land boundary promised to Israel (Genesis 15:18). The Asian armies move across the Euphrates because that area forms a natural land bridge from Asia to the Middle East.

They also could not come in ships, for the Babel Mandeb Straits at the mouth of the Red Sea are too small for the many ships required.  The recent “One Belt One Road” project initiates by China will make it possible for the “kings from the East” to travel from the far east to the land of Israel.

How large an army will these nations have? There is a Bible passage that gives the exact number in this army - 200 million (Revelation 9:16). Although that is hard to believe, it is possible that these nations could quickly assemble that many troops. For instance, in addition to having the world's largest standing army, China has the People's Militia, whose members receive military training in their spare time. This military force is claimed to number 200 million, of which 75 million are women (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th Edition, 4:294). When you think about it, that is not surprising when nearly 40% of the Chinese people - 500 million of them - are under eighteen years of age.

When the Asian army meets the Anti-christ and his army, the greatest war this world will ever see will break out. The nations of the earth will use all of their plans and weapons to try to destroy each other. It is then that Christ Himself will come from heaven and put all His enemies under His feet. He, the King of all kings, will rule the nations with a rod of iron. In contrast to the war of nations, He will establish peace and righteousness on the earth.

As we see the formation of an eastern confederacy, we need to ask ourselves some important questions. Are we making full use of our opportunities for God while we can? And, are we involved in ministering to the wonderful peoples of Asia while we have time? Soon it will be too late!

2.2.6 Fusion of peoples in the north

2.2.6.1 Bible prophecies relating to the fusion of peoples in the north

(Reference: Basic Theology, Section XIII, Chapter 84, p. 469-470, ChariotVictor Publishing, 1999 Edition, by Charles C. Ryrie)

Before Christ returns to the earth to set up His kingdom and rule the nations, four confederacies will surround the land of Palestine. One of those will be a great northern confederacy that will come down against the land of Israel and there be destroyed by God (Ezekiel 38-39). What are the countries of the northern confederacy? Their names are that of 'Gog' and 'Magog' and they will have the following allies (Ezekiel 38:5-6):

  1. Put (modern Libya);

  2. Cush (modern Ethiopia);

  3. Persia (modern Iran);

  4. Gomer (the eastern part of Turkey and the Ukraine); and

  5. Togarmah (the part of Turkey near the Syrian border).

This invading army from the north will cover Israel like a cloud (Ezekiel 38:16). These soldiers will go to rob and plunder the nation Israel which thought it was safe under the protection of the western confederacy. At this point God will step in and utterly destroy the forces of Russia and her allies (Ezekiel 38:21-39:7). The seemingly invincible troops will be supernaturally defeated and completely routed. The Russian army be buried in Israel (Ezekiel 39:11), and only then will Russian influence in the Middle East be ended by the direct intervention of God.

2.2.6.2 Recent development of the fusion of peoples in the north

I) Russia

What are the countries of the northern confederacy? Russia is a major one. Confirming evidence is that this confederacy will come from the "far north" (Ezekiel 38:6, 15; 39:2). A careful look at a globe shows that the city of Moscow is almost on the same longitude as the city of Jerusalem. Since the known world of the first century A.D. did not include much beyond the coastal settlements along the northern shore of the Black Sea, a logical conclusion to the reference "far north" suggests the present-day lands of Ukraine or Russia.

Where is the land of Magog? In the vision of the prophet Ezekiel, God told him to set his face against "Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh" (Ezekiel 38:2). Although those names seem strange to us, Hebrew scholars such as Gesenius, Keil, and Lowth point out that the name 'Rosh' (sometimes translated "chief") stands for the people of the modern nation of Russia. The names listed in Ezekiel 38-39 are identified in Genesis 10:2 as sons of Japheth (i.e. Gomer and Magog). The Japhethites migrated, after the Flood, from Asia Minor to the north, beyond the Caspian and Black Seas. They settled in the area we know today as modern Russia. "Gog" and "Magog," therefore, may refer to the people who live north of Palestine in Russia. Bishop Lowth wrote, "Rosh, taken as a proper name, in Ezekiel, signifies the inhabitants of Scythia, from whom the modern Russians derive their name" (John Cumming, The Destiny of Nations, London: Hurst & Blackett, 1864). The message then describes Gog, the symbolic leader of the land of Magog, that is, the prince of Rosh, or nation of Russia.

Since the end of the Cold War, Russia has changed its whole social structure. Some insiders, who obtained state-run oil, energy, and mineral businesses, profited handsomely. Many, however, lost their jobs, health, and wealth. Adult Russian men witnessed their life expectancy drop from sixty-four to fifty-nine in just eight years. They saw their life's savings evaporate through runaway inflation, an inflation that sometimes approached 3,000%. They observed their government leaders argue, revolt, and the government change hands. But in spite of all the problems, however, the Russian nation continues to survive.

Now the question is: Will the new Russia ever regain the glory of its former days? Without question, events have stifled Russian efforts to be a leading player in world affairs. There have been diplomatic pushes here and there, but world opinion, European democratization, and their own economic problems have held the Russians in check. However, the Russians are not remaining idle in asserting their presence. As if to remind the west that their strategic reach and military potential is not dormant, in June 1999 Moscow sent four nuclear-capable bombers on a duel-flight mission around Iceland and a long the Norwegian coastline (Richard J. Newman, The Russians Are Coming, US News and World Report, 12 July 1999).

The IMF (International Monetary Fund) gave the Russian government billions of dollars to get her house in order. As a result, the Russian leadership has tried to move the country toward a more free market policy. But gigantic deficits and inefficiencies continue and many wish for the good old days of the Communist state. The ultranationalist Vadimir Zhirinovsky concluded, "The conditions in Russia are now as ripe for a revolution as they were in October 1917" (U.S.News and World Report, 8 February 1999).

Recent world events remind us of the shakiness of this age and the constant turmoil of governments. Continued economic and political strife in Russia, as well as any movement back toward strains of communism would be a major problem (Russia's Puppet Master, Time, 23 August 1999). Russia's large inventory of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons gives it a devastating war-making potential that few other nations possess.

Some Bible scholars believe this is significant, for Russia still possesses a latent capability to wage war against its neighbors or move into the Middle East. While Russia no longer fears Israel in the way it once did under the Soviet regime, it is deeply concerned about the disruptive spread of Islamic fundamentalism into Russia's southern border regions. For that reason, and its desire to restore economic ties to former Arab client states like Iraq and Syria, Russia is profoundly interested in the Middle East.

Given the historic volatility of Middle Eastern politics and Russia's need to placate or eliminate Islamic fervor along its southern borders, an alliance of Arab states with Russia against Israel again is possible (A New Cold War?, Time, 23 August 1999). Such a conflict might trigger the Battle of Armageddon in fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Are we close to such a possible scenario today? We can only wait and see.

II) Other nations which will be aligned with Russia

What other nations will be aligning themselves with Russia? The prophet Ezekiel does say that other countries will join with Russia, including:

  1. Libya, an African state far removed from Russia geographically but united with her in foreign policy ("Put," Ezekiel 38:5).

  2. Ethiopia, also an African state, precariously balanced between chaos and stability, which has maintained good relations with the Russians in the past and which has persecuted Christian converts and missionaries ("Cush," Ezekiel 38:5).

  3. Persia, the modern country of Iran (Ezekiel 38:5). Iran has recently moved closer into the Russian camp by signing new arms deals to upgrade the Iranian military. Russia has long been suspected of providing nuclear technology assistance to the Iranians following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Iranians may even possess some former Soviet nuclear weapons as a result of clandestine government sales or the Russian black market.

The current alignment of nations is almost the same as Ezekiel predicted.

III) Why will the northern confederacy come against Israel?

It is because of greed - to take the wealth of Israel, the "spoil" from the land (Ezekiel 38:12-13). Throughout history great powers have known that the land of Israel was essential as they sought to expand their empires. The region is the nerve center of communication among three continents, a land bridge between Asia, Africa, and Europe. Alexander the Great made conquering Israel the goal of his Grecian empire. The caesars of Rome made Israel part of their empire. Is it any wonder that Russia and her allies should also want this "golden jewel"?

Russia also needs the area for its economy to flourish. Russian access to sea trade has historically been restricted. Murmansk on the Arctic Ocean and St. Petersburg on the Baltic Sea are frozen over for parts of the year. Russia's limited seaports on the Black Sea are further restricted by the need to have her ships pass through the choke point of the Turkish-owned Dardanelles, a route easily closed in the event of hostilities. Russia needs access to the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean seaports year-round for trade to improve her flagging economy.

Ezekiel says that Russia's coming against Israel is because Russia wants to plunder gold and silver, livestock and goods. Throughout the centuries great wealth has gathered in the Middle East, wealth such as agriculture in Egypt, dates in Saudi Arabia, and cedars in Lebanon. Why would a nation with the vast natural resources of Russia want such spoil?

That was the question until the discovery of oil. Suddenly, the Middle East took on an entirely new significance. Today the riches of the world are flowing into the Middle East because of the value and necessity of that precious commodity. In a day when the need for energy is so great and energy is so unevenly distributed, the nations that control oil control the world.

Until recently, one of the largest oil-producing nations in the world was the Soviet Union. But the breakup of the Soviet Union placed much of Russia's oil production in the newly independent southern states of Kazakhstan, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Russia's own oil is running out. New reserves are not being discovered, and the wells presently being drilled lie in western Siberia, which, because of weather and hazards of terrain, are difficult and expensive to drill.

If Russia's oil is running out, where is she going to get more? The obvious answer is the Middle East. Russia directly borders Iran, and an alliance with the Iranians would grant them access to the wealth of the Persian Gulf oil fields. Russia might also threaten Kuwait and Saudi Arabia directly, or support the claims both Iran and Iraq have shown in these two oil-rich countries. From here, the Russians might threaten Israel.

Israel? Why would a world power be interested in a country smaller than the state of New Jersey? There are many reasons:

  1. Israel may have oil. Although only small amounts of petroleum have been discovered in the present land, some experts believe there may be oil in the marine shelf off Israel's Mediterranean shore. It is also possible that Israel's boundaries may change and encompass some oil fields. One day, during the Millennium, the tribe of Asher will "bathe his feet in oil" (Deuteronomy 33:24).

  2. Israel's Dead Sea:

    (a)    This body of water is one of the richest chemical beds in the world. It contains immense quantities of potash, bromine, magnesium, and other treasures. Potash is a nourishing fertilizer, essential for a nation such as Russia, which, at this time, needs to import much grain. Bromine is important in pharmaceuticals and gasoline, and Russia could use a good deal of that. Magnesium is used in aluminum alloys, important in aircraft construction. It is also used in the making of explosives.

    (b)    But the Dead Sea offers something else. Israeli scientists have discovered in the water and salt flats the halophilic alga dunaliella, which can be converted into petroleum. It is possible that huge "oil farms" may develop in areas south of the Dead Sea where the water could be channeled into saltwater ponds for the growing of dunaliella.

    (c)    The Dead Sea also may produce huge amounts of electricity. In recent years, the water has been dropping due to the diversion of the Jordan's headwaters for farming. Experts envision a channel and tunnel arrangement that would pour the Mediterranean water into the Dead Sea (Harvey Arden, The Living Dead Sea, National Geographic, February 1978). That could become a major source of hydroelectric power, attractive to other nations.

  3. Israel's strategic location. Ezekiel says that Israel is the "center of the land," or literally, "the navel of the earth" (Ezekiel 38:12). The control of Israel would provide Russia with important military bases and allow it to dominate the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It would further provide the land bridge between the Middle East and Africa.

  4. Israel's relationship to a great western confederacy. During that future time, Israel will be under the protection of a western bloc of nations, nations that will be controlled by the Anti-christ. A covenant will be made with Israel by this world-domineering confederacy, which will give religious sanctions to Israel for a short time (Daniel 9:27). Could it be that Russia would try to threaten such a great superpower by attacking its strategic protectorate, Israel?

Whatever the possibility of Russia's ambition and greed, few recognized the economic wealth of the Middle East and Israel until recently. Few, that is, except Ezekiel!

2.2.6.3 Comments

Twenty-five centuries ago a Bible prophet, Ezekiel, spoke of a day when a great northern confederacy would march into the Middle East. He told how that would happen in Israel's "future years," the time when Israel would exist as a nation and under world protection so that she could dwell in "unwalled villages" (Ezekiel 38:11). Although the peace process in Israel is a continuing concern, the United States and western European nations have consistently supported the inviolability of the Israeli nation against foreign threats. With such conditions presently existing in Israel as the prophet described, it could be that we should soon expect the coming together of a northern confederacy. Perhaps what we are witnessing with Russia and her foreign policy endeavors is the assembling of a northern bloc of nations that will eventually result in a Middle East move.

What will happen when Russia moves against Israel? When the northern confederacy comes down against Israel in the latter days before the return of Christ to the earth, a strange thing will happen. Instead of Israel fighting and defending herself against Russia, God will utterly destroy that northern confederacy on the mountains of Palestine. God will shower upon Russia "torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur" (Ezekiel 38:22). There will be a shaking in the land so great that even the mountains will be overturned, the cliffs will crumble, and walls will fall to the ground (Ezekiel 38:20). Civil war will break out, for "every man's sword will be against his brother" (Ezekiel 38:21).

This judgment will come directly from God. The Lord Himself will destroy Russia because of her greed and selfishness and because she came against His chosen people. Although He is a God of love, He is also a God of holiness, justice, and righteousness. God must judge all who come against Him.

God will destroy this confederacy because He also wants to magnify His name. It is so "they will know that I am the Lord" (Ezekiel 38:23). God's purpose then as now is to glorify Himself. It is to make Himself known throughout the world. And what God is going to do through the nations of the earth, He wants to do through us today. Even though Christ's return may be very close, we should make every minute count for God.

Recently, God has given Christians a window of opportunity to invade Russia and former Soviet countries with the gospel. Many have responded to this call. They have established Christian schools and orphanages and started Bible studies. The ministry has not been easy, however, and governments have clamped down on some areas of service. However, we must continue to pray and minister while there is opportunity to convey the message to these wonderful people.

2.2.7 The return of Israel to her land

The clearest sign of Christ's return is the modern state of Israel. In the book of Deuteronomy, God spoke through Moses to warn the Jewish people that if they did not obey God's commands, He would disperse them to the four corners of the earth. In A.D. 70, General Titus and the Roman army conquered Jerusalem, destroying the temple, devastating the city, and dispersing the Jewish people into all the countries of the world. However, God also promised in Deuteronomy 30:1-10 that He would bring them back into their own land one day.

Isaiah foretold that in the last days Jews would return to their land in large numbers, with a resultant re-establishment of their sovereign state. For instance, Isaiah states:

"And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people, which shall be left ... And He shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth" (Isaiah 11:11-12).

The first return implied in this passage, was from Babylon in 538-537 B.C., when the people of Judah came back to Palestine from one direction, the east. But the second return, says the prophet, will be from the "four corners," or the four directions. No instance of such a return occurred until the twentieth century, which means that the one witnessed now must be the one predicted. And Jews have indeed been returning in this day from each of the four directions. They have come from as many as one hundred different countries.

Amos also stated that, having returned to the land, the people would not be forced to leave again:

"And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God" (Amos 9:14-15).

Since the Jews were forced to leave Palestine again after the first return, the return Amos predicted must be the present return, the one foretold by Isaiah. It is very probable, therefore, that the nation of Israel now existing will remain, and that this return is indeed the lasting one which the Scriptures say will immediately precede the beginning of last-day events.

After many centuries of wandering, the Jews are now making their way back to Palestine. Nowadays, Israel is a duly recognized republic. The vanguard of Hebrews already back on the soil of their fathers will be followed by many more of their countrymen (Isaiah 11:11; Jeremiah 23:3; Amos 9:13-15). All this paves the way for the return of Christ for His own; and then for the treacherous conduct of Anti-christ, who will make a deadly agreement with Israel back in her land (Daniel 9:24-27).

The specific signs of the second coming of Christ in relation to Israel are summarized as follows:

  1. the re-establishment of the nation Israel in 1948;

  2. a mass immigration of the Jewish people to Israel;

  3. an alignment of nations against Israel;

  4. an anticipation for peace among the nations of the Middle East; and

  5. the arrangements for the building of the next Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

2.2.7.1 The re-establishment of the nation Israel in 1948

The fulfillment of these promises concerning Israel began to occur at the close of the nineteenth century when Great Britain's General Allenby conquered Palestine during the World War I. At the time of Allenby's victory, the Great Britain government agreed to establish a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. Turkey had held the land since the days of its great Ottoman empire, and was adverse to the idea of Palestine becoming a homeland for Jews.

Beginning in 1897, a series of Zionist congresses was held to explore ways to create a homeland for Jews in Palestine. In 1882, there had been approximately 24,000 Jews in Palestine, out of a total population of 624,000. In 1927 it reached 150,000 and in 1948, when the modern state was born 650,000. This growth was not without opposition from the Arab populace. Strife between the two groups increased as the years passed.

After the close of World War II, many Jews, desiring to flee from Germany following the Nazi atrocities, wanted to enter Palestine. Strife was severe within the land. Finally the United Nations attempted to solve the problem by a plan of partition. Areas of greatest Jewish population were identified and designated as belonging to the Jews, with the remainder of Palestine assigned to Jordan. The United Nations voted on 29 November 1947 in favor of the plan. The Jews were pleased, but the Arabs, who wanted the Jews to receive no land at all, were not. Finally, Great Britain withdrew from the scene on 14 May 1948, at which time the Jews declared themselves a sovereign state, in accordance with the United Nations vote.

With this declaration of independence, fighting became even more intense. Though troops from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq entered formally into the fray, the Jews were able to withstand the attack and gradually begin to win on the various fronts. Israel seized control of large areas of Arab land during the Six Day War of 1967. The most important prize of the Six Day War was the possession of all Jerusalem, with access to the sacred site, the Wailing Wall, as well as control over the Temple area. This brought the realization of the promised rebuilding of the Temple a definite step closer.

2.2.7.2 A mass immigration of the Jewish people

Aliyah ("to go up") is the Hebrew word עלה (Genesis 50:7) Israelis use to describe Jewish immigration to Israel, their homeland. Since January of 1989, more than 800,000 Jews have "made Aliya," immigrating from many countries to Israel. This is the crowning touch to a number of immigrations over the last hundred years from countries such as Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, the United States, and throughout Europe.

On Friday afternoon May 24, 1991, 42 numbers of 747s took off from Ben Gurion Airport, just outside of Tel Aviv, Israel. On this particular Friday, however, these aircraft took off heading for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; the planes made their way across Israel, the Red Sea, and then on to Addis Ababa. As the 747s landed in Ethiopia, the people were quickly boarded onto the planes. The next day, Saturday, they arrived in Israel, where they were taken to different absorption centers injerusalem and Tel Aviv. These absorption centers were to help the new immigrants assimilate into Israeli society. These Ethiopian Jews had returned "home" after almost two thousand years.

The prophet Zephaniah said that in the time of the end, in conjunction with the return of Jesus Christ, there would be an aliya out of Ethiopia:

"From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, even the daughter of my dispersed, shall bring mine offering" (Zephaniah 3:10).

The word "suppliant" is translated in Isaiah 18:7, as "a host of worshipers." The prophecy states that the children of those who had been dispersed will return to Israel as a multitude of worshipers. They will be brought back to Israel as an offering to God. Isaiah 66:20 tells that the Ethiopians will return to Israel upon horses and a variety of other conveyances. The prophecies of Jewish immigration continue to unfold even unto this day in Israel.

2.2.7.3 Alignment of the nations

Another trend of the end times, which we have noticed from our vantage point in Jerusalem, is an alignment of nations against Israel. During the Gulf War, in 1991, there were a number of nations that wanted to join forces with Iraq to destroy Israel but were kept at bay by the American-led coalition. The book of Jeremiah prophesies that throughout history, nations would come against the people of Israel. Ezekiel 38:1-12 and Daniel 11:40-45 both explain that in the end times, a major coalition of nations will arise and try to crush Israel. This partnership of states, according to the prophetic Scriptures, will consist of such countries as Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Ethiopia, Libya, Russia, Turkey, and Iran. Any observer of current events can testify to the forming of this "last days" coalition of nations eager for confrontation with Israel.

2.2.7.4 Anticipation for peace

There has been, in the Mideast region, talk about peace for many years. In fact, the anticipation for peace has spread from the Middle East to the entire world.

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter, President Anwar Sadat, and Prime Minister Menachem begin met at the presidential retreat center in Maryland. Taking the name from the retreat center, they called this first peace agreement the "Camp David Accords." This was the first peace treaty signed between the Israelis and one of their Arab neighbors. The Camp David Accords was followed in 1993 by the Oslo Accords, the peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. This agreement was only in outline form, which placed the two parties at odds with each other as they endeavored to hammer out the final details. In October 1994, a signing ceremony of the peace agreement between Israel and Jordan was held in Israel.

The fact is, none of these peace agreements are actually working as they were designed. There have actually been more Jewish people killed in Israel since the peace agreements were signed than since the founding of the nation in 1948, before these peace accords. The failure of these treaties has set the scene for the need of someone to help bring these agreements into some kind of workable order. The interesting thing about these peace agreements, which are already on the table, not working, is that they fit the Biblical scenario of Daniel 9:27.

The prophet Daniel wrote that the Anti-christ, the "one-world ruler," will confirm a peace accord with the Jewish people, not sign a peace agreement. The Hebrew word for "confirm," gabar, which is used in the Bible, is not the same word as to "sign." Gabar also means to "strengthen." In order to strengthen, or confirm something, it must already be on the table, which is where these three "peace treaties" are now located.

2.2.7.5 The arrangements for the building of the next Jewish Temple in Jerusalem

The most exciting evidence that the Lord's return may well be very close at hand is the activity surrounding preparations for the rebuilding of the next Jewish Temple (i.e. the third Temple) on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. There is one problem, however, the spot where the Temple is to stand in Jerusalem. This piece of real estate is already occupied by the gold-domed shrine, the Dome of the Rock. Those preparing for the Temple have said that the Lord will take care of the problem with the Dome of the Rock, in His time.

Christians view the rebuilding of the Temple as an important sign of the return of the Messiah. In Matthew 24:2, Jesus accurately predicted that Herod's Temple would be destroyed. When He was asked by His Disciples what would be the sign of His return and the end of the age, Jesus responded that when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of by the prophet Daniel standing in the Holy place (Temple). This could not take place in Herod's Temple (i.e. the second Temple) because it was destroyed in 70 A.D.. One cannot have a desolation of the Temple without a Temple.

Daniel 9:27 states that there will be a temple in Jerusalem during the 7-year Tribulation period, when the sacrifices will be stopped:

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

The third Temple will be built with the permission of the Anti-christ who will seat on the throne in the temple and force the Jews to worship him (Matthew 24:15, 24; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Revelation 11:1-2; 13:1-5).

There is evidence that all of the items needed to build and operate a third Temple are already set in place, including:

  1. The men qualified to be priests in the coming temple are now in Jerusalem studying priestly duties. Even the priestly garments for these priests have been made and are in storage.

  2. According to a spokesman of the Temple Institute, most of the vessels for the sacrificial activities and the worship at the temple have been made.

  3. The supply of Red Heifers for the purification of Jewish priests.

  4. According to Rabbi Yehuda Getz, he discovered the Ark of the Covenant in 1982.

  5. US President Donald Trump recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Jerusalem.

2.2.7.5.1 The supply of Red Heifers

According to an article in The Mid-East Dispatch, issue 237, the 16th of March 1997, the birth of a Red Heifer on 15th April 1997 in Israel is being hailed by religious Jews as a sign from God that work can soon begin on building the Third temple in Jerusalem. The report stated that a team of Rabbinical experts confirmed that the animal, born six months ago on a religious kibbutz, Kfar Hassidim, near the northern Israeli port of Haifa, meets the Biblical criteria for the Red Heifer needed for purification of those who wish to rebuild the Temple.

As stated in Numbers Chapter 19, an unblemished Red Heifer in which there is no defect and on which a yoke has never been placed, is to be slaughtered and burned and its ashes made into a liquid paste used in the ceremony for purification from sin so that the priests can purify themselves for the duties of the Temple.

Since Herod's Temple was destroyed by the Roman emperor Titus in 70 A.D. no flawless Red Heifer has been born within the Biblical land of Israel according to Rabbinical sources. The birth of the animal to a black and white mother and a dun colored bull is being hailed as a miracle by Jews who want to rebuild the Temple and prepare the way for the Jewish Messiah's entry into Jerusalem.

In the history of Israel, only nine Red Heifers have been sacrificed and none in the last nineteen hundred years. The rabbis teach that the tenth Red Heifers is the one of the Messiah. The Red Heifer is another piece in the prophetic timetable which is moving closer to the end of the age and the return of Messiah.

In 1998, a Red Heifer born on 15th April 1997, has been declared unfit. A spot of white was found on the animal and accordingly the rabbis have declared it unfit for the sanctification of the Priesthood. They still wait in the hope that another would be born soon and that it would be pure.

After this, Israeli government has a plan to purchase Red Heifers from western countries in preparation for resumption of Old Testament sacrifices. Clyde Lott from Mississippi has been making plans for some time with the Israeli government to supply these Red Heifers. Through genetic engineering, they hope to produce some flawless Red Heifers suitable for Old Testament sacrifices.

The latest news is that a red heifer was born in Israel on March 2002! The source of the information was originated from (IsraelNN.com) on 20:20 Apr-09-02, 27 Nisan 5762. The original information can be seen from the website: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/news.php3?id=21491

After the heifer's owner contacted the Temple Institute, on Friday, April 5th, 2001, Rabbi Menachem Makover and Rabbi Chaim Richman traveled to the farm where the heifer is located, to inspect and validate her status. The rabbis found her to be kosher and were satisfied that this heifer could indeed be a candidate to be used in the process of purification described in the book of Numbers, chapter 19.

The birth of the animal to a black and white mother and a dun colored bull is being hailed as a miracle by Jews who want to rebuild the Temple and prepare the way for the Jewish Messiah's entry into Jerusalem.

"We have been waiting for 2000 years for a sign from God", one of them said. "and now he has provided us with a Red Heifer."

This is a prerequisite for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple. Tradition records that a red heifer in our generation is a herald of the Messianic era. It is certainly an important development towards the rebuilding of the Holy Temple.

All these things show us that the prophesied renewal of Jewish animal sacrifice is very near!

2.2.7.5.2 The discovery of the Ark of the Covenant

According to Rabbi Getz, he discovered the Ark of the Covenant in 1982. If the Ark does still exist, however, and it were somehow discovered, it would certainly give rise to a strong movement in Israel to rebuild the Temple in order to house the Ark properly.

The Ark of the Covenant disappeared off of the pages of history by the time of the Babylonian Captivity. The Babylonians destroyed the first Temple (the Temple built by the King Solomon) and carried away many of the vessels and implements to their capital city a thousand miles away (2 Kings 24:10-25:17). No mention is made in the Scriptures of the Babylonians taking the Ark or other key Temple items.

Nothing in the Bible is said about the Ark in the Old Testament after the return from Babylon, but the Apocrypha (2 Maccabites 2:4-8) states that the Ark could not be found when the Jewish people rebuilt the Temple at the time of Ezra and Zechariah. The explanation in the Apocrypha was that Jeremiah hid the Ark in a cave in Mt. Nebo before the Babylonian invasion, and that its location would not be revealed until God was ready for it to be found.

Why didn't Israel use the Ark in the second Temple? If the Ark and the other implements were hidden under the Temple, why weren't they recovered and used after the Captivity? It's hard to imagine that the priests would have knowingly left the Ark out of the Holy of Holies if they could have utilized it during the 500 years of the Second Temple. The explanation offered is that they felt that as long as Jerusalem was subject to domination by the succeeding powers of Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome, the Ark and other treasures could be desecrated and captured by the Gentile armies. Thus, the sacred items would remain in seclusion until it was considered safe to bring them out to be placed in the Temple.

No Ark in the second Temple. The Holy of Holies in the Second Temple was an empty chamber, without the Ark of the Covenant. When the Roman General Pompey conquered Jerusalem around 63 B.C., he demanded the privilege of entering the Holy of Holies. When he did, he came out saying that he could not understand what all the interest was about the sanctuary, when it was only an empty room. The fact that the Ark of the Covenant was not used in the Second Temple has led to the speculation of where the Ark is, or if it still exists on the earth. It seems remarkable that nothing is said of it in the Bible after the Babylonian Captivity, until the Letter to the Hebrews (Hebrews 9:4, 24) and the Book of Revelation (Revelation 11:19) in the New Testament.

Is the Ark needed for the future Tribulation Temple? One question that arises is, can the Temple be rebuilt if it does not contain the Ark? We have already seen, though, that the absence of the Ark of the Covenant did not keep the Temple from being rebuilt at the end of the Babylonian Captivity. The second Temple stood for over 500 years without containing an Ark. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself declared the second Temple to be His Father's House (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46). So it would not be unthinkable to build the Tribulation Temple, even if the Ark is not discovered.

Is the Ark hidden in the Temple Mount? There persists a legend that the Ark does exist on earth, but is hidden. A recently published book by Randall Price, entitled In Search of Temple Treasures, presents the various views on what has happened to the Ark. Some of the traditions place the Ark outside of Israel, such as at Mt. Nebo, Egypt and even far-off Ethiopia. But all of these traditions have problems and seem unlikely, since there is a lack of any Scriptural evidence for them. A view that has predominated in rabbinic circles is that the Ark was hidden in a cave beneath the Temple Mount in the very heart of Israel. The theory goes that the priests hid the Ark beneath the Temple Mount, perhaps as early as during the time of King Josiah, since the coming prophesied invasion by the Babylonians was only a matter of time. By hiding the Ark and other Temple treasures, the priests felt that the priceless sacred articles could be protected from desecration by the pagan invaders.

The Rabbinical attempt to find the Ark. Rabbi Shlomo Goren and Rabbi Yehuda Getz, the rabbis in charge of the Western Wall area, are convinced that the Ark has been hidden in a cave in the Temple Mount directly under the site of the Holy of Holies, since the time of King Josiah. They probably represent the majority of Orthodox rabbis in their views. The evidence for all of these suppositions about the location of the Ark, as Rabbi Getz concedes, comes more from the Talmud than the Bible. Rabbi Yehuda Getz believes that in 1982 he was very close, within 40 feet, to finding the cave in which the Ark resides. He was conducting a search in an old tunnel that had been filled with the debris of centuries, which runs perpendicular to the Western Wall and under the Temple Mount. However, when the Moslems discovered that there were diggings being conducted under the Dome of the Rock, they threatened a general riot and the diggings were stopped. The rabbi explains that, for the sake of maintaining peace with their Moslem neighbors, the Israelis had to reseal the entrance to the tunnel, and it remains blocked up to this day.

2.2.7.5.3 US President Donald Trump recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Jerusalem

In gratitude to US President Donald Trump (on 6 December 2017), for recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Jerusalem, the nascent Sanhedrin and the Mikdash (Temple) Educational Center are minting a replica of the silver half-shekel Biblically mandated to be donated by every Jewish male to the Temple. An image of President Trump will be engraved alongside an image of the ancient Persian King Cyrus, who facilitated the building of the Second Temple that ended the Babylonian Exile in 538 B.C. (2 Chronicles 36:22-23)

On the other side it has the image of the third temple yet to be built. It is the hope of the Orthodox Jews who minted this coin that this coin will be actually used to pay that offering again for the upkeep of the third temple.

2.3 Comments

Satan doesn't want us to pay attention to the signs of the second coming of Christ because he wants us to choose the way to eternal death. Most human beings are deceived by Satan to pay more attention to their daily entertainments, money making, UFOs, aliens, false religions, etc.

The above signs of the second coming of Christ were actually mentioned by the ancient Jewish prophets, up to 2,500 years ago. But remember, these trends are pointing to the "Second Coming of Christ," not the "Rapture of the Church," which takes place seven years before the Second Coming. Therefore, if these trends give evidence of the closeness of the "Second Coming" how close must the "Rapture" be? Before the cataclysmic forces strike, the people of the Lord Jesus Christ will be with their Saviour (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 5:1-6). Surely His coming will not be delayed much longer! Are we ready to meet Him in the air?

 

3. GOD'S DEALINGS WITH ISRAEL

An amazing proof that God is directing the course of prophetic fulfillment is seen in His choice of the Jewish people and in the working out of their national history. Step by step the eternal purposes of the Almighty for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are being marvelously accomplished. No divine promise will ever fail, whether it relates to Israel or to any individual of any nation.

3.1 The Selection of Israel (Genesis 12:1-3; Psalm 33:12)

3.1.1 The background

When the human race, tested in the days of Adam and Eve and the generations which followed, dismally failed to obey the Lord and instead lifted up its heart in revolt against Him, God stepped into a tragic situation and chose one people to whom He would peculiarly reveal Himself and who in turn would be a blessing to the world.

3.1.2 The reason

The Hebrews proved to be a nation of unusual religious sensitivity. Their country, Palestine, is a geographical centre. But God chose Israel, not primarily because of their worth or national or cultural or geographical characteristics, but because in His sovereign love and wisdom He desired that the nation belong peculiarly to Him (Deuteronomy 7:6-8).

3.1.3 The purpose

Why did God choose Israel? In the main, there is a threefold answer to this question:

  1. to proclaim the unity of the Godhead and to demonstrate the importance of knowing and serving Him;

  2. to receive, preserve and transmit the Scriptures; and

  3. to produce the Messiah.

3.1.3.1 To proclaim the unity of the Godhead and to demonstrate the importance of knowing and serving Him

"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might" (Deuteronomy 6:4, 5). "Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour. I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God" (Isaiah 43:10-12). Israel was a little island of monotheism in a vast sea of polytheism. The revelation of the unity of God was given to this people only, and they were to scrupulously maintain and give witness to this truth to all people.

3.1.3.2 To receive, preserve and transmit the Scriptures

"What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God" (Romans 3:1, 2). These "oracles" were the Old Testament Scriptures (compare Acts 7:38; Hebrews 5:12). "Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments...Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations...(Deuteronomy 4:5, 6). The marvelous revelation of truth was given to no other people.

3.1.3.3 To produce the Messiah

To Abraham came the promise, "In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (Genesis 12:3). The first verse of our New Testament is the beginning of the fulfillment of this word. Romans 9:5, as well as 15:8, also confirms the fact that Israel was to be the vessel through whom the earth-blessing Messiah (i.e. the Lord Jesus Christ) was to come.

3.2 The Privileges of Israel

The apostle Paul had a deep concern for Israel's salvation (Romans 9:1-3; 10:1). Remember that the gospel is "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first..." (Romans 1:16). Paul lists some of Israel's priceless, unique blessings (Romans 9:4, 5). Let us look at them very briefly:

  1. The Adoption - This is really Israel's national position of nearness to God. Nationally, they were God's sons (Exodus 4:22; Hosea 11:1; Jeremiah 31:9).

  2. The Glory - This refers to the visible symbol of Jehovah's presence, above the mercy seat in the Tabernacle and later over the Jewish Temple, and is sometimes called the "Shekinah" (Exodus 25:22; 40:34; Leviticus 16:2; 1 Kings 8:10).

  3. The Covenants - These were solemn agreements made between God and Israel. Some were unconditional, while others were conditional.

  4. The Giving of the Law - This was the Decalogue given by God through Moses at Mt. Sinai for Israel's obedience.

  5. The Service of the God - This refers to the divine instructions regarding the ritual of the Tabernacle and the Temple. Priests, Levites and common people all had their specific obligations in connection with certain sacrifices, feasts, etc.

  6. The Promises - These were chiefly concerning the Messiah and their own national future. The Old Testament is filled with them. Innumerable blessings were guaranteed to Israel as long as she remained faithful to the God (Deuteronomy 28:1-14).

  7. The Fathers - These were the illustrious men of faith, whose names shine so brightly in Hebrews 11 and other parts of Scripture.

  8. The Messiah - This One was the climax of Israel's blessing. Notice His twofold nature here - in His manhood He was of Israel; but as divine He was "over all, God blessed for ever. Amen." " As concerning the flesh Christ came..." (Romans 9:5). The Lord Jesus was Himself an Israelite.

3.3 God's Covenants with Israel

It is important that you know these four agreements:

  1. the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12:1-3; 13:14-17; 15:1-21; 17:1-14);

  2. the Palestinian covenant (Deuteronomy 30:1-10);

  3. the Davidic covenant (2 Samuel 7:12-16); and

  4. the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

They indicate how closely God had bound the nation Israel to Himself.

3.3.1 The Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12:1-3; 13:14-17; 15:1-21; 17:1-14)

Abraham was promised not only a seed, but also a land in which he dwelt and a vast number of descendants who would form a great nation. The boundaries of the promised land were to extend far beyond the little strip of country known as Canaan. The unconditional promises of this are found in such passages as Genesis 12:7; 13:14-17; 15:7, 18-21; 22:17, 18; and Exodus 32:13. Notice especially the word "forever." This promise was confirmed to Isaac (Genesis 26:3, 4) and to Jacob (Genesis 28:13-15). The boundaries are expressly described in Genesis 15:18-21; Exodus 23:31; Deuteronomy 1:7, 8; and Joshua 1:4.

God brought Israel into the land in fulfillment of His Word, but their tenure of was conditional (see Deuteronomy 28:63-68; 30:19, 20; Leviticus 26:27-33). The people never actually occupied all the promised land, even at the zenith of their glory under Solomon. While it is true that Solomon reigned over certain kingdom, yet "Judah and Israel dwelt...from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon" (1 Kings 4:21-25).

3.3.2 The Palestinian covenant (Deuteronomy 30:1-10)

The nation is told that she would be removed from the land for disobedience; that she would some day repent (Deuteronomy 28:63-68; 30:1-3); that her Messiah would return (Deuteronomy 30:3-6); that she would be re-established in her land (Deuteronomy 30:5); that she would be nationally converted (Deuteronomy 30:4-8); and her enemies would be cursed (Deuteronomy 30:7); and that then she would enter into the blessings of prosperity (Deuteronomy 30:9).

3.3.3 The Davidic covenant (2 Samuel 7:12-16)

This guarantees the establishment of the throne of David forever.

3.3.4 The new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

This promises a renewed heart and mind to rejected Israel, her regeneration and restoration to divine favor, and everlasting blessing.

3.4 The Disobedience of Israel

In spite of the fact that God had showered His loving favor upon the nation, she grossly disobeyed Him and rushed down the pathway of rebellion, idolatry and sin. Illustrations of her sins:

3.4.1 In the days of Moses

Even when this servant of God was receiving the law in Mt. Sinai the people were sinning at the foot of the mountain (Exodus 32:1-6). Later, in the wilderness, they repeatedly revolted against the Lord (Numbers 11:1, 4-6; 14:1-4; compare 1 Corinthians 10:1-10).

3.4.2 In the days of the Kingdom

Wicked kings often led their fickle people into idolatry and iniquity (1 Kings 13:33, 34;16:30-33).

3.4.3 In the days of the Prophets

God often sent men of God to His recalcitrant people to warn them and to bring them back to Himself. Their refusal to heed these noble men is graphically portrayed in such passages as 2 Kings 17:7-17 and 2 Chronicles 36:15, 16.

3.4.4 Killing of their Messiah, Jesus Christ

When we hear her leaders avowing to Pilate at the time of the crucifixion, "His blood be on us, and our children (read Matthew 27:11-26)," we may look for some terrible national disaster to overtake them. Jehovah chose Israel to be the depository of His testimony to the world, and that because of their failure in this, plus their consummating sin of crucifying their Messiah, this people has been set aside during the present age.

3.5 The Setting Aside oF Israel

3.5.1 The reason

God had clearly and painstakingly warned Israel that disobedience would end in disaster (Deuteronomy 28:15-68). But she rejected the Word of God. The predicted tragedy overtook her.

3.5.2 The historical evidence

3.5.2.1 The captivities

In 722 BC the ten northern tribes were taken into exile by the Assyrians. During the period 606-582 BC the two southern tribes, Judah and Benjamin, were led into captivity to Babylon. Later a remnant returned to Jerusalem. But their descendants in Palestine were overthrown by the Roman general Titus in AD 70. The Jews were scattered and for many centuries had no national homeland.

3.5.2.2 The persecutions

Many nations have abused and defamed the Jews. In the seventh century Spain forced tens of thousands to accept baptism. She burned thousands more during the days of her Inquisition. And in 1492 she banised the Jews from her realm. King Canute of England exiled Jews from his shores in AD 1020. Many returned to England under William the Conqueror. The Czars of Russia had thousands of Jews massacred. The liquidation of six million Jews in Hilter's day was probably the most cruel tragedy of them all.

3.6 The Biblical Description of Israel's Plight

She has been blinded, has stumbled and fallen, but has not been cast away, as the result of her rejection of God (Romans 9:31, 32; 11:11, 12, 15, 25). The "times of the Gentiles," during which Jerusalem is "trodden down of the Gentiles," are under way (Luke 21:24). The natural branches (Israel) of God's olive tree have been broken off. Branches of a wild olive tree (the Gentiles) have been grafted into the good olive tree (Romans 11:16-21).

3.7 The Miracle of Her Preservation

The Jews have been vilely treated and slandered. They have had no national home, army or navy for centuries. They have been scattered among the nations of the world. The somber warnings of Deuteronomy 28:63-68 have been fulfilled. Any other nation subjected to the abuse which has been showered upon Israel would long since have perished. Where are the Canaanites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Moabites, Edomites, or Ammonites today? They have been absorbed by other peoples and have lost their identity. But Israel still persists as a nation. Why? Because God has protected and shielded her. He established His covenants with her progenitors. He has not forgotten His pledges. Israel still has a magnificent future. Hitler might try to wipe her out. But Hitler is dead and Israel still survives. The purpose of God on her behalf will not fail.

3.8 Israel's Present Condition

There are three New Testament words which aptly describe her national plight. We must remember that what Israel is politically is always the result of what she is religiously. In this connection, the Holy Spirit describes the plight of this people by the words "fallen," "desolate," and "blinded."

3.8.1 Fallen

Jesus said, "Whosoever shall fall on this stone (meaning Himself shall be broken" (Matthew 21:44). Romans 9:32 and 1 Peter 2:8 make it clear that the nation trippped and fell over the Messiah who had come in lowly grace to deliver them. They had looked for deliverance from their Roman conquerors rather than from the enslavement of their sins, and this had blinded them to the claims of their true Messiah. They rejected Him and were consequently broken. (Read Romans 11:11, 12, however, how God has overruled this.)

3.8.2 Desolate

"Behold, your house is left unto you desolate" (Matthew 23:37-39). During the past two thousand years, Israel has been nationally fallen and religiously desolate. Their temple has been completely destroyed and even its very site was for centuries in the hands of the infidel, which accords exactly with Hosea 3:4. True, the orthodox party has clung to the empty shell of ritualism, but any spiritual life has long since fled. In heaven's reckoning, they are desolate religiously.

3.8.3 Blinded

"Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded....that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in" (Romans 11:7, 25). The story of Elymas (Acts 13:6-12) perfectly illustrates this condition. Notice, however, that the blindness was, and is, temporary and not permanent.

3.9 The Restoration of Israel

No amount of human or diabolical effort to destroy the nation, or keep her from Palestine will permanently succeed. God's Word is sure.

3.9.1 The repeated prophetic assurances

The Old Testament abounds in predictions that some day Israel will return to her land. God declared, "And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away...and to break my covenant with them...(Leviticus 26:44). In Isaiah it is written: "The Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left..." (Isaiah 11:11; 43:5, 6). To Jeremiah the same revelation is given: "I will...have compassion on them, and will bring them again, every man to his heritage, and every man to his land" (Jeremiah 12:15; 23:3; 24:6; 30:3, 18; 31:8; 32:37-41). Other passages dealing with the same theme are Ezekiel 20:42; 28:25, 26; 36:24-27; Hosea 3:4, 5; Joel 3:1; Amos 9:11-15; Micah 4:6; Zephaniah 3:20; Zechariah 8:7, 8; 10:10).

3.9.2 The great "until" passages

The Lord Jesus made it clear that "the times of the Gentiles" would come to an end. They would last until they were fulfilled. Then of course "the times" of Israel would commence. "Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in" (Romans 11:25). Israel, long despised and spurned, will yet have her day.

3.9.3 The testimony of Paul

The apostle Paul is explicit. "I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid...God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew" (Romans 11:1, 2). On the contrary the Hebrew olive branches which have been broken off from the tree, "if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again" (Romans 11:23).

3.9.4 The beginnings of prophetic fulfillment

God has miraculously preserved Israel even in spite of her century-long persecutions. During this long period from the Cross to the present, Israel has been scattered among the Gentiles (Luke 21:24). Only in recent times has this people been re-established as an independent nation in part of their ancient land. This startling development, initiated in May 1948. Israel was recognized as a republic in the family of nations. Never forget: the promises of God stand forever.

3.10 Her Preliminary Trials (The Time of Jacob's Trouble-Seven Years Tribulation Period)

After the Church has been caught up to meet her Lord, the Hebrew people will first pass through a period of intense suffering. Then at long last they will enter into the glorious era of their history promised to the patriarchs, held in abeyance because of Israel's disobedience, but certain to be their ultimate portion.

The great tribulation will prove to be "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:7). Israel will acclaim the world's greatest religious imposter-the anti-christ-as their messiah and king (John 5:43; 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4). This is the greatest apostasy of their history. This will bring down upon them the heavy hand of God in judicial anger (Matthew 24:15-25), and will serve to separate the godly remnant from the mass of apostates. Israel will be tested and tried in the days of Anti-Christ. She will be compelled to "pass under the rod" (Ezekiel 20:37) of judgment. In the morning she will cry out, "Would God it were even! and at even...would God it were morning!" (Deuteronomy 28:67) - so fearful will her afflications be.

The reader should read carefully the Lord Jesus Christ's Olivet Discourse, as found in Matthew 24. Let us not read into this passage what is obviously not there. The company addressed are believing Jews who know almost nothing about the Church and Christianity as revealed in the Pauline Epistles. Such terms as "the holy place" (v. 15), "Judaea" (v. 16), "sabbath" (v. 20), etc., all serve to confirm the Jewish character of the prophecy. In verse 21 our Lord predicts a great tribulation, of such intensity that it will exceed anything known in either the past or the future of this people's history. As we study such passages as Deuteronomy 4:26-31; Isaiah 13:6-13; Jeremiah 30:4-9; Ezekiel 20:33-38; Daniel 9:20-27; 12:1-4; Joel 2; Zechariah 14, it is very clear that the nation of Israel, because of its rejection of the true Messiah and its acceptance of the antichrist, will undergo a terrible baptism of divine judgment in the end-times.

3.11 Her Deliverance

The calamities of the great tribulation will beget in the soul of the Israelitish remnant a fierce longing for their Messiah. And suddenly, "There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer" (Romans 11:26), the Son of God (Second coming of Jesus Christ!) returning in power to punish the mustered armies of the world after the end of the 7 years tribulation period (Revelation 19:11-20:6). Israel will behold her Messiah. "They shall look upon" Him "whom they have pierced" (Zechariah 12:10). The scales of unbelief will fall from her eyes in the presence of her Lord.

During the throes of this period of suffering and anguish, there will be a remnant, or minority, of Jewry who will penitently turn to the Lord their God in self-judgment. These will pray, in a new sense, "Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth" and again, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." It is important that we distinguish carefully between the Jewish masses, who are thoroughly devoted to the man of sin, who is the devil's messiah, and that godly remnant, who will see through his hollow pretensions and will resist his claims and suffer, some even martyrdom, because of their faith in Christ (Joel 2:12-17; Zechariah 12:9, 10, 13:1, 2; Jeremiah 16:14, 15; Ezekiel 37; Romans 11:26; Revelation 7-19).

3.12 Her Conversion

"In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness" (Zechariah 13). The Lord will wash away "the filth of the daughters of Zion" (Isaiah 4:4). He will put His "law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts" (Jeremiah 31:33). Their iniquity will be forgiven (Jeremiah 31:34). God will put a "new spirit" within them (Ezekiel 11:19). He will "sprinkle clean water" upon them (Ezekiel 36:25). The Deliverer "shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob..." (Romans 11:26).

3.13 Her Resurrection

At the end of the great tribulation many Jews who have perished during its tragic days will be raised from the dead to meet their Messiah. This seems to be the teaching of Isaiah 26:19 and Daniel 12:1, 2.

3.14 Her Millennial Blessings

Reunited as a nation with true peace (Jeremiah 3:18; 33:14), Israel will be subject to Messiah during His beneficent thousand-year reign. She will apparently be favored above the Gentiles (Isaiah 14:1, 2; 61:6, 7). She will witness on behalf of the Lord (Isaiah 44:8; Micah 5:7). And she will be the recipient of many favors freely bestowed on her by her God (Hosea 14:5, 6; Zephaniah 3:16, 17; Zechariah 9:16).

 

4. THE PRESENT CHURCH AGE

So far in this course we have been learning that, while national Israel has had a great past and is also destined to have a great future, her present position is one of divine rejection and, hence, spiritual degeneracy. But God foresaw all of this and, therefore, formulated "the eternal purpose" (Ephesians 3:11) - to gather out the Church during this period.

The Old Testament prophets foresaw two great future events which concerned the Messiah, namely, the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow (Read 1 Peter 1:10-12). Their view of things-to-come seemed to be contradictory, for, while on the one hand they envisioned a Messiah Who would be rejected and ultimately crucified, they also saw that same Messiah enthroned in supreme glory as earth's last Monarch. (Contrast Psalms 22 and 69 with Psalms 72 and 45, or contrast Isaiah 53 with Isaiah 35.) How could both views be reconciled? How could He be both rejected and yet reign? Just one word solved the problem - resurrection! The Messiah Who died must rise from the dead, in order to make good the second part of the program.

4.1 The Old Testament Prophets Did Not Foresee The Church Period

But the prophets did not foresee the great interval between these two events. These have been likened to a man standing on a level plain and viewing two distant mountain peaks. From his viewpoint the two peaks seem to blend on a common horizon. But actually there is a great valley between, which the viewer does not, and cannot, see. This valley suggests the present Church age. The believer today looks back to the one peak and forward to the other.

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Let us turn to Isaiah 61 and read carefully the first two verses; then read Luke 4:16-21. It will be noticed that our Lord closed the book in the middle of the second verse of Isaiah 61. Why did He not complete the passage? The answer is found in the fact that "the day of vengeance of our God" is future, and lies entirely beyond this present period, which is described as "the acceptable year of the Lord." In other words, right in the middle of Isaiah 61:2 there is a break of about 2,000 years which was not foreseen by Isaiah at all!

Another example of this break is found in Zechariah 9:9, 10. The ninth verse was fulfilled at our Lord's first coming (Matthew 21:1-9). Verse 10 had never yet been fulfilled, and will be realized only when our Lord Jesus returns to the earth in glory. If, therefore, verse 9 is past and verse 10 is future, then it is obvious that the Church age must be inserted between the two. This dispensation was unknown to these Old Testament prophets, for it was a secret locked up in the counsels of God and not revealed until after the Cross and resurrection by the Holy Spirit. A careful study of Ephesians 3:1-11 and Colossians 1:24-27 makes this clear.

4.2 The Present Church Age (Grace Period)

We have learned that the Old Testament prophets did not foresee this present age that lies like a great valley between the two mountain peaks of the first and second coming of Christ. Remembering that the first peak indicates His sufferings and the Cross, while the second peak His glories and the crown, we shall now consider God's present purpose.

4.2.1 It is a mystery

Throughout Paul's writings are repeated references to what he terms "the mystery." This was a special secret made known to him by the Holy Spirit, and explained as the present purpose of God to take out from the Gentiles a people for His name (Acts 15:13-18). The clock of prophecy having stopped when Jesus died, and remaining silent until God's present work among the Gentiles is completed, it is clear that the present outcalling is not the subject of Old Testament prophecy at all. In Romans 16:25, 26 Paul writes, "Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel...according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets...made known to all nations for the obedience of faith." We must not assume that "the scriptures of the prophets" refers to Old Testament prophets, for such a conclusion would contradict the very thing Paul is saying that the mystery had been kept undeclared until now. The expression is more accurately "by prophetic scriptures," and refers to the current writings of Paul himself.

Just what is "the mystery"? The answer is that, consequent upon Israel's rejection of her Messiah, the grace of God has overflowed to the Gentiles. By means of His gospel of salvation to "whosoever believeth in him," an entirely new society has come into being. Paul explains "how that by revelation he (God) made known unto me the mystery...which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel; whereof I was made a minister" (Ephesians 3:3-7).

4.2.2 Its charater 

The first mention of the Church is found in Matthew 16:13-18. It was not until the Lord had presented His claims as King to the nation of Israel and had heard those claims officially repudiated (Matthew 11:16-24; 12:24) that He mentioned the Church. The word "church" comes from a Greek word which means "a called-out assembly." It is a selection; it is an out-calling from the masses. Notice also that it was future at this time; "I will build my church." Hence it was unknown in Old Testament times.

4.2.3 Its commencement 

The Church begin at the Day of Pentecost. This Church is described as "Christ's body" (Ephesians 1:23). A body demands a head! But Christ did not take His place as Head until He ascended to the Father's right hand (Colossians 1:18). The birthday of the Church, therefore, was the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit, sent by the risen Christ, formed all believers into that organism known as the body of Christ.

4.2.4 Its composition 

"For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 2:11-18). The Church is composed of all regenerated Jews and Gentiles. The moment a Jew or a Gentile receives Christ as Savior, the Holy Spirit unites him to the body of Christ, where all national distinctions disappear (Colossians 3:11).

4.2.5 Its characteristics 

The stones for Solomon's Temple were taken out from those dark subterranean quarries and, after being prepared, were placed in Jehovah's dwelling. Even so, God is quarrying out "living stones" by means of the gospel and these stones are being "built up a spiritual house," even the spiritual temple of the Lord (Ephesians 2:21, 22).

4.2.6 Its consummation 

The glorious destiny of the Church is to be with and like Christ forever. At His second coming, as Bridegroom, He will present this redeemed company to Himself. The Lamb's wife (Revelation 21:9) will share Christ's glory as she reigns with Him over the redeemed creation, just as Eve shared Adam's reign before sin made its entrance into this world.

 

5. THE RAPTURE OF THE SAINTS IN THE CHURCH AGE

The first in the series of last-day events is the "Rapture" of the faithful (i.e. genuine) Christians in the church age. There is no way to know when it will occur, but, when it does, the other events can be expected to follow in a predictable schedule. As noted in the above Section two, numerous indications signify that it could well be in the near future.

The Grand experience of being Raptured at the time of Christ's coming is obviously a major aspect of a believer's expectation of future events. The transformation that will take place as believers exchange our present bodies for bodies suited for heaven and leave our present abode on earth for the glories of being in the presence of Christ in heaven is completely beyond description. Unfortunately many believers know little about the Rapture, or else are not living in anticipation of its fulfilment.

This section is a detailed analysis of the doctrine of the Rapture of the church. It is divided into the following thirteen major divisions: 

  1. the definition of the word "Rapture";

  2. the purpose of the Rapture;

  3. the precedent cases of Rapture in the Old Testament Era;

  4. the implication of the Rapture in John 11:25-26;

  5. the first revelation of the Rapture in John 14:1-3;

  6. the description of Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18;

  7. the reference to the Rapture in 1 Corinthians 15:51-58;

  8. the participants of the Rapture;

  9. the time of the Rapture is distinguished from the revelation of Christ;

  10. the Rapture will be sudden, unannounced and happened before the Tribulation period;

  11. the resurrection of saints; 

  12. the glorified bodies; and

  13. the application of the Rapture for Christians.

5.1 The Definition of the Word "Rapture"

Professing Christians, false teachers and corrupted church leaders have asserted that the Rapture is not a Biblical doctrine because, they argue, the word "Rapture" is not mentioned in the Bible. However, the word "Rapture" comes from the Latin translation (rapio) of the Greek verb  ἁρπάζω for "caught up" in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. It means "a catching away" (compare John 10:28 - "pluck"; Jude 23 - "pulling").

It usually refers both to the resurrection of the corrupted bodies of dead church saints to heavenly incorruption and to the translation of living church saints from earthly mortality to heavenly immortality prior to the 7-year Tribulation period. In other words, Christians will be caught up, "snatched" away from the earth scene, to meet their adorable Saviour - the Lord Jesus Christ.

5.2 The Purpose of the Rapture

The primary purpose of the Rapture is to remove the church from the earth to avoid the horrors of the judgments of the 7-year Tribulation (Revelation 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10). By contrast, the purpose of the Second Coming of Christ (or called the Revelation of Christ or the Second Advent) is plainly stated as a time of judgment on the sinful world (Deuteronomy 4:26-31; Isaiah 13:6-13; 17:4-11; 24:20-21; Jeremiah 30:3-9; Ezekiel 20:33-38; Daniel 12:1-4; Joel 3; Zephaniah 1:15-18; Zechariah 14:1-20; Matthew 23:22-39; 24:6-30; Mark 13:4-32; Luke 21:9-27; 1 Thessalonians 5:2-11; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; Revelation 6:16-17; 11:18; 14:19; 15:1, 7; 16:1, 19) and a preparation for the millennial kingdom (Revelation 19:11-16).

It is significant that there is neither a translation of saints nor a catching away of saints from the earth to the heaven at the time of the Second Coming, although there must be a resurrection of the martyred dead, apparently a few days after the Second Coming (Revelation 20:4-6), to fulfill the promise to the martyrs in Revelation 6:9-11.

5.3 The Precedent Cases of Rapture in the Old Testament Era

Professing Christians, false teachers and corrupted church leaders have asserted that the Rapture is not a Biblical doctrine as there is no precedent cases in the Bible, it is merely a recently invented false doctrine. However, the concept of Rapture is nothing new in the Bible, it is already mentioned in the Old Testament. Enoch (Genesis 5:21-24)and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11) who are the faithful servants of God, are raptured in the Old testament era:

  1.  21 Enoch lived sixty-five years, and begot Methuselah. 22 After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters. 23 So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. 24 And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him (Genesis 5:21-24). By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God (Hebrews 11:5).

  2. Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven (2 Kings 2:11).

In the following sections, we will look at the following New Testament passages which refer to this event:

  1. John 11:25-26;
  2. John 14:1-3;
  3. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; and
  4. 1 Corinthians 15:51-58.

5.4 The Implication of the Rapture in John 11:25-26

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

Jesus tells Martha that he is the resurrection and the life. Then there follows what I believe is the first reference ever made to the Rapture. The words, "Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live," refer of course to resurrection from the dead, but the words, "and whoever lives and believes in me will never die," pertain to the Rapture. More often the words "whoever lives and believes in me" are interpreted to mean whoever believes and lives the Christian life will never die. This would require the words "lives ... in me" to be evidence of the believing, and "shall never die" mean never die permanently, which, in my estimation make much less sense than seeing "never die" as a reference to Rapture. Jesus simply knew that a whole generation of future Christians would be alive at the time of the Rapture according to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

5.5 The First Revelation of the Rapture in John 14:1-3

On His last night with the disciples before His crucifixion, Christ revealed for the first time that His purpose in coming back would be to take the disciples, who were still alive, to be with Him in heaven (John 14:1-3). The scene was the upper room, with the Lord's Supper having just been instituted.

5.5.1 Background

The disciples were deeply troubled because Christ, after more than three and a half years of kingdom teaching, was not bringing in the prophesied kingdom as they had expected. They were further confused when He announced that He was going to leave them (John 13:36-37). It did not fit their thinking at all that He would leave them before the kingdom was brought down to earth as prophesied in the Old Testament. Since the disciples did not understand the difference between the coming of Christ at the Rapture and the Second Coming.

5.5.2 Christ's explanations

1“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also (John 14:1-3).

The disciples were greatly concerned when Jesus said He was about to leave them (John 13:36-37). Then Christ told the disciples not to worry for:

  1. He is going to prepare a place for them (John 14:2).
  2. He would come to get them that they might be with Him in that place so prepared (John 14:3).

The words, "will come again and will take you to be with me (John 14:3)," refer to the Rapture and coincide with 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

5.5.3 Facts regarding the Rapture

The passage reveals several things regarding the Rapture:

  1. It is a planned event, at the time of His departure Christ anticipated returning for the disciples.
  2. It concerns Christ's own, His followers. Christ was speaking only to the disciples when He gave the promise.
  3. Christ's return for His own will be personal. He Himself will come for them, not sending some angel.
  4. The Rapture results in the end of the church age. Jesus said that He would come back and "take" the disciples, that there where He had made the preparations. The true church (i.e. consists of all the faithful Christians) will not remain here on earth, then, merely in some improved status, but will be taken away from the earth to heaven.

Although the promise was given by Christ in John's gospel, the full revelation of the Rapture of the church was given to the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-58.

5.6 The Description of the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 provides the most complete description of the Rapture. This passage calls for special attention. God does not want Christians to be ignorant concerning the Rapture. The reason God gives us is that He does not want them to grieve when Christians die, because they have the certain hope that Christ might come at any time and take them all to heaven.

5.6.1 Background

According to Acts 17:1-9, Paul encountered opposition while preaching in the synagogue at Thessalonica and was forced to leave after only a few weeks of ministry. He left behind a small band of believers who had the wonderful joy of Salvation as well as the hope of Christ's return. They were under terrible persecution, however, and because Paul could not go back to Thessalonica, he sent Timothy to see how they were getting along (1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:5). Timothy visited them, encouraged them, and then reported back to Paul. He told the apostle Paul that the Thessalonians were standing firm in spite of persecution (1 Thessalonians 3:6-9) and were looking for the Lord's return. But they had many theological questions; this was understandable in view of the short time they were under Paul's instruction. One of these questions was occasioned by the fact that some of their church members had died, due to the continuing persecution within the city, since Paul had left.

Their question concerned the status of these at the time of Christ's coming. They seem to have been at ease regarding their own prospect of being taken to heaven at the time but they wondered what would happen to the believers who had already died. They apparently had the idea that somehow they would have to wait for something after the Rapture before their resurrection. In other words, they worried that the dead believers may miss the Rapture.

Regarding their particular question, Paul gave them a chronological account of what will happen at the time of the Rapture. He assured them that they would not have to wait for their dead loved ones to be resurrected later because their loved ones will be resurrected before they themselves are caught up with the Lord Jesus.

5.6.2 Paul's explanations

13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 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. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Paul sets forth the answer in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. He begins by assuring them that they have no need to be anxious (v. 13). All those "who have fallen asleep in Jesus" will be caught up to meet the Lord at the Rapture. This will involve their resurrection from the dead, an event which will be similar to the resurrection of the Lord Himself (v. 14). Paul then gives the assurance, which is "by the word of the Lord," that those still living at the time will not even "precede" them which are asleep (v. 15). Rather, "the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first" (v. 16). Then those "who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air" (v. 17).

In other words, Christ returns with a shout, including the “voice of an archangel” and “sound of the trumpet" and all believers are gathered together to meet him in the air. Christ brings "with him" those who have died and they are the first to receive new bodies by way of resurrection. Believers who are alive at that moment in history are "caught up" next to meet him.

5.6.3 Facts regarding the Rapture

Facts regarding the Rapture should be noticed:

  1. A resurrection will be involved, a time when those who have previously died in Christ will be raised.

  2. Those resurrected will be caught up to meet Christ prior to those still living.

  3. Both the raised dead and the living will meet Christ in the air and not somewhere on the earth's surface.

  4. This coming of Christ will be accompanied by audible signs, namely, "a shout," "the voice of the archangel," and "the trump of God."

The Greek word κέλευσμα translated "shout," is used only here in the New Testament, and it means a "word of command," it refers to Christ's command for the Rapture of saints. Since only Michael is called by the term "archangel" in Scripture (Jude 9), he is probably the one who accompanies Christ. The "trump of God" is best identified with "the last trump" mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:52, both expressions likely referring to a trumpet sound of deliverance.

Sometimes Bible scholars use the designation "secret Rapture." The term is somewhat misleading, however, for, though the time is unknown beforehand, these audible signs will occur. Certainly, all saints will hear them, and it is likely that the unsaved will, as well. The signs would let the unsaved know of the significant occurrence and that they have indeed been left out (Matthew 24:40-41).

5.7 The Reference to the Rapture in 1 Corinthians 15:51-58

One of the two main passages on the doctrine of the Rapture in the New Testament is found in 1 Corinthians 15:51-58. In many respects, this passage complements the other major passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, the question was whether those who had died in Christ would have the same benefits and experience as those who were translated. In 1 Corinthians 15:51-58, the question is whether those who are translated will have the same experience and benefits as those who have died and who are resurrected. The two passages together give a complete answer to the basic questions concerning the Rapture as an important prophetic event.

5.7.1 Background

The Corinthians' denial of the resurrection for believers was behind Paul's discussion of Rapture and resurrection. What precisely they believed is not clear, but in all likelihood they were influenced by the Greek concept of the immortality of the soul, and possibly a pre-Gnostic idea of the evil of physical matter. It is implied in 1 Corinthians 15:12-16 that they preached, or at least believed that Jesus rose from the dead, perhaps realizing that a triumph over death must be demonstrated by a bodily rising from the dead. In other words, they must have viewed Jesus' resurrection as a unique, one-time event merely to establish His deity and triumph. Paul's approach, then, starts with Jesus' resurrection and works his way to the relationship which it has with the believer's Rapture and resurrection.  

5.7.2 Paul's explanations

51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 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. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

      “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

55    “O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:51-58).

Paul explained, "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.". The fact that we will not all sleep shows that an entire generation of believers will never see death. In other words, believers alive when the Lord Jesus Christ returns will never die (1 Corinthians 15:51; John 11:26). Instead, the Lord Jesus will take them directly to Heaven.

The “dead in Christ” will be “imperishable,” and we shall be “changed.” Those “changed” are those caught up and translated. Paul uses the first personal plural, “we,” to refer to those changed, which implies that he expected to be included in that group (1 Corinthians 15:52). This is the idea of the imminency of the event. Here also a reference is made to a trumpet as in 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

5.7.3 Facts regarding the Rapture

Facts regarding the Rapture should be noticed:

  1. One generation of believers will never die by translation (Rapture) of living believers.
  2. All believers will be given bodies that will last forever.
  3. The Rapture will be happened at any time.
  4. Death will be overcome by either translation of living believers or resurrection of dead believers.
  5. The Rapture will be signaled by "the last trumpet."

The Rapture will be signaled by "the last trumpet" (1 Corinthians 15:52). This reference to the last trumpet confuses some people because they try to link it with the seven trumpet judgments in the Book of Revelation.

In Bible times, trumpets were blown as a signaling device. In Israel, a trumpet sounded when the nation began its marches in the wilderness. Another trumpet sounded when they stopped marching. Each series would have a first trumpet and a last trumpet. But the last trumpet for one event would not be the last trumpet for another. So here, the last trumpet at the Rapture is not the last trumpet ever to be sounded in history, because seven trumpets blown by angels will signal great catastrophes God will pour out in judgment on the earth (Revelation 8:6-9:21; 11:15-19). Later the "loud trumpet call" in Matthew 24:31 will signal the gathering of all the saints to enter the millennial kingdom (Revelation 19:11-20:6).

The last trumpet at the Rapture may be analogous to the last trumpet used in the Roman army. Soldiers were awakened by a first trumpet blast early in the morning, which served as their alarm clock. A second trumpet assembled them for instructions for the day. At the third and last trumpet they marched off to their assignments. Similarly, receiving salvation is like hearing a trumpet call. Then God's call to service is like hearing a second trumpet. And the last trumpet believers will be raptured to heaven.

5.8 The Participants of the Rapture

Strictly speaking, only the "church age saints" and the "two witnesses" (Revelation 11:3-12) will participate in the Rapture. The Rapture will consist of three phases:

  1. The resurrection of the dead saints in the church age before the Tribulation period (pre-tribulational Rapture).

  2. The translation of the living saints in the church age before the Tribulation period (pre-tribulational Rapture).

  3. The resurrection of the two witnesses during the Tribulation period (mid-tribulational Rapture).

Please note that some Bible scholars do not include the two witnesses as the participants of the Rapture due to the fact that they are not church age saints.

5.8.1 The resurrection of the dead saints in the church age before the Tribulation period (pre-tribulational Rapture)

The "dead in Christ shall rise first" (1 Thessalonians 4:16) to meet their Saviour. Their spirits will already be with Christ; for when a saint dies, his spirit goes at once to be with the Lord (Philippians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 5:8). When Jesus returns, the bodies of believers will be transformed, made like unto the body of His glory (Philippians 3:20, 21; 1 Corinthians 15:49, 50, 52, 53), and caught up to be with Him. This is "the redemption of our body" (Romans 8:23). It is called "the resurrection of the just" (Luke 14:14), and "the resurrection of life" (John 5:29).

At this time those raised will be the church saints, that is, all who have been saved during the period of the church, from its beginning on the day of Pentecost until the moment of Rapture. The number of people involved will be very large, much larger, for instance, than the number of living saints at the time, who will be translated without dying. The latter group will include only the one generation then alive, while the resurrected saints will include all the many generations since the early first century.

5.8.2 The translation of the living saints in the church age before the Tribulation period (pre-tribulational Rapture)

Then "we which are alive and remain" (1 Thessalonians 4:17), that is the generation of Christians living on earth at Jesus' return, will be transformed (1 Corinthians 15:52) and will rise to meet our Lord. Then they shall see their Lord face to face. They shall be reunited with their believing loved ones whose spirits have gone ahead to be with Christ.

5.8.3 The resurrection of the two witnesses during the Tribulation period (mid-tribulational Rapture)

The other occasion of Rapture will yet occur, namely that of the "two witnesses" who will live and die during the Tribulation period (Revelation 11:3-12). These two people will witness for God in Israel for 1,260 days and then will be killed by "the beast" (the Antichrist) at the close of that time. Their bodies will lie openly on the streets of Jerusalem for three-and-a-half days, since no one will dare or be willing to bury them. At the close of these days, they will suddenly be brought to life, after which they will ascend directly to heaven.

5.9 The Time of the Rapture Is Distinguished From the Revelation of Christ

Christ's coming at the Rapture must be distinguished from His coming at what is commonly called His revelation (or called the Second Advent). The latter appearance will not occur until after the 7-year Tribulation period, and will be for a different reason. The revelation appearance will be discussed more fully in Section 11 of this Chapter 5. There is value here, however, in listing some basic distinctions between the two comings:

  1. The revelation does not occur until after the 7-year Tribulation period, rather than before as does the Rapture. This is indicated in Matthew 24:29-30. This means that the two appearances are separated by no less than seven years.

  2. The revelation is described as a coming "in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God" (2 Thessalonians 1:8). This presents an entirely different picture from His coming graciously to receive His church unto Himself.

  3. He comes in the revelation with His saints, rather than for them, as at the Rapture. Jude 14 states, "Behold, the Lord come with ten thousands of his saints."

  4. At the revelation, Christ descends fully to the earth, coming to the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4) from which He ascended when He went back to glory. At the Rapture, however, He descends only far enough to meet the saints in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

The distinctions between Christ's coming at the Rapture and the Second Advent (Revelation of Christ) are summarized in below table:

Distinctions Between Christ's Coming at the Rapture and the Second Advent

No.

Rapture

Second Advent

1 removal of all believers appearing of the Son of God
2 saints are caught up into the air Christ returns to the earth
3 Christ comes to claim a bride Christ returns with the bride
4 removal of the church and the inception of the tribulation period establishment of the millennial kingdom
5 imminent preceded by a multitude of signs
6 a message of comfort a message of judgment
7 related to the program for the church related to the program for Israel and the unbelieving world
8 a mystery predicted in both Old and New Testaments
9 believers are judged and rewarded Gentiles and Israel are judged and punished
10 leaves creation unchanged the change in creation
11 Gentiles are unaffected Gentiles are judged
12 Israel's covenants are unfulfilled Israel's covenants are fulfilled
13 no relation to the judgment of evils evil is judged
14 take place before the day of wrath follows the day of wrath
15 for believers only has its effect on all men
16 expectation is "Lord at hand" expectation is "the kingdom is at hand"
17 expectation is "to be taken into the Lord's presence" expectation is "to be taken into the kingdom"

5.10 The Rapture Will be Sudden, and Unannounced and happened before the Tribulation period

36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. 37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. 42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect (Matthew 24:36-44).

Both Christ and Paul teach that Christ's coming for His church will be sudden and unannounced (Matthew 24:36-44; 25:1-13; Mark 13:32-37; Luke 12:36-40; 17:26-36). No advance warning will be given. Christians will not be able to make up for lost time in their service or become occupied at the last moment with spiritual interests.

36 and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. 38 And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 40 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Luke 12:36-40).

Christ's return will catch people doing normal things in normal ways. This is made clear in Jesus' account of servants waiting for the return of their lord who was away at a wedding (Luke 12:36-38). Jesus says, "Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. ..." whether "he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch." Jesus follows this story with that of a thief coming to break and enter a house. He says, "if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into" (v. 39). Thieves do not give advance notice. The householder needs to be prepared at all times. Jesus admonishes, "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect" (v. 40).

Jesus was saying pointedly that all men need to be ready for Christ's coming beforehand, so that last-minute preparations will not have to be made. The unsaved need to be saved, while they have the opportunity; and Christians need to be busy for the Lord, truly living for Him at all times, so that they will not be ashamed when they see Him.

In 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, Paul announces that "we will be changed." Those "changed" are those caught up and translated. Paul uses the first personal plural, "we," to refer to those changed, which implies that he expected to be included in that group. This is the idea of the imminency of the Rapture.

5.10.1 No signs of the Rapture

The Bible never gives a sign of the Rapture but instead instructs us to be looking for His coming (Titus 2:13). We are never encouraged to look for the Day of the LORD. We are never encouraged to look for the Anti-christ or any of the other events that lead up to the Second Coming. Instead, the Rapture is pictured as the next major event that will take us from earth to heaven. Conversely, there are signs of the Second Coming, such as the Anti-christ erecting the abomination of desolation in temple three and one-half years before the Second Coming (Matthew 24:15), but no Rapture is associated with the Second Coming. There are signs for the Second Coming, but none for the Rapture.

5.10.2 No Rapture in any Second Coming passage

Posttribulationists deny the doctrine of the imminency of the Rapture. If the Rapture is posttribulational, then there will be certain signs of the Rapture (e.g. the rise of the Anti-christ) and therefore it cannot be sudden and unannounced. Posttribulationists believe that the Rapture and the Second Coming are the same event. In order to deny the imminency of the Rapture, they often appeal to Matthew 24:36-42 and Revelation 20:4-6 as proof that there will be a Rapture at the end of the Tribulation.

However, a close examination of Matthew 24 reveals no indication of either resurrection or Rapture, and this idea has been read into the passage without justification or support. Many interpreters confidently refer to the disciples as knowing all about the Rapture, but there is no proof of this whatsoever. In fact, the disciples were so focused on the establishment of a physical kingdom here on the earth that they demonstrate no understanding of a difference between the Rapture and the Second Coming as would be necessary in the posttribulational view.

It is worthwhile to examine the New Testament to see whether or not the Rapture is really mentioned in any Second Coming passage.

5.10.2.1 Matthew 24:36-42

Appeal is sometimes made to Matthew 24:36-42 where the Second Coming is likened to the days of Noah when the flood came and took away those who were not in the ark, as though this is a reference to the Rapture. To do this, however, completely reverses the illustration of the flood because at the flood the ones "taken away" were "taken" in judgment and put to death as Matthew 25 indicates will happen to the goats. Further, in Luke 17:34-37, a parallel passage, the disciples asked the Lord where those taken are to be found. When they asked this question, He replied in v. 37, "Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together." In other words, those taken are put to death and their bodies will be eaten by the vultures. It is clear that this passage in Matthew is just the reverse of the Rapture where the one taken is taken in salvation and the one left is left for the Tribulation. In contrast here, the one taken, is taken in judgment, and the one who is left, is the saint who is going to enter into the millennial kingdom.

5.10.2.2 Matthew 25:31-46

In Matthew 25:31-46, where the sheep and the goats are still intermingled several days after the Second Coming. If the Rapture takes place at the Second Coming or immediately before, the sheep would have already been taken out of the world, leaving only the goats for judgment at the Second Coming. The fact that they are intermingled some time after the Second Coming demonstrates that there will have been no Rapture at the time. As a matter of fact, these flesh and blood believers cannot be Raptured because they are the ones who populate the millennial earth. This natural continuance of human biological life is pictured in Isaiah 65, wherein millennial saints plant crops, build house, bear children, live, die, and even sin.

5.10.2.3 John 14:1-4

Posttribulationists usually neglect John 14:1-4, in which Christ specifically said He is coming back to take the disciples to heaven. This is a prediction of the Rapture, not of the Second Coming. Nor does it refer to death, as some have held. Jesus' words about His return were totally new to the disciples, who did not understand them at the time.

5.10.2.4 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Further study of 1 and 2 Thessalonians reveals support for an imminent pretribulational Rapture. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, where it is clear that the Thessalonian believers, on the basis of Paul's revelation, were expecting the Rapture at any time. This is part of the problem they had in facing the deaths of some of their fellow believers; their deaths had raised the question of when the dead would be resurrected if the living church was already Raptured.

5.10.2.5 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10        

In 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10, immediately after the Rapture passage, Paul wrote that the Day of the LORD will follow the Rapture. The Day of the LORD is identified in the Old Testament as the period of time that includes the end-time Tribulation. The Day of the LORD is a day of "darkness" (1 Thessalonians 5:4), but believers "belong to the day" (1 Thessalonians 5:8), that is, the light.

5.10.2.6 2 Thessalonians 2:1-10

In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-10, false teachers came into the Thessalonian church and told them that their sufferings meant they were already in the Day of the LORD. This alarmed them because Paul had taught them they would be Raptured before the Day of the LORD would occur. So they wondered if they had missed the Rapture. When Paul heard this he wrote 2 Thessalonians to refute the rumor that they were already in the Day of the LORD. Paul gave them two arguments to show that the Day of the LORD has not begun and will not until the lawless (i.e. the Anti-christ) is revealed:

  1. He pointed out that the man of lawlessness had not been revealed (2 Thessalonians 2:3). Since he will not be revealed before the Rapture, the Rapture had not yet occurred. This man of lawlessness, also referred to as "a man of sin", is the leading character of the end times, the Anti-christ, the world ruler. He will be revealed in the sequence of important prophetic events that occur at the end time in the Tribulation, including the revival of the Roman Empire, his conquering ten countries, and then his making a covenant with Israel that will supposedly bring peace to the Middle East for seven years (Daniel 9:27). He obviously will be identifiable once he conquers ten countries, which will occur at least seven years before the Second Coming of Christ. If the Rapture were to occur in the middle, second half, or end of the seven-year period before the Second Coming, then it would occur after the Anti-christ is revealed. And that would contradict 2 Thessalonians 2.

  2. Paul called attention to the fact that the one who was restraining sin had not been taken away; he was presently holding back evil in the world (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7). There has been much dispute on the identity of this "restrainer"; views include the gospel, the Roman Empire, human government, Satan, and others. But the only power that really holds back evil is the Holy Spirit, and the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church is God's present method of reaching the world with truth and righteousness. The fact that the Holy Spirit has not been taken out of the church is evidence that the Day of the LORD has not begun. His removal, however, will mean that the Holy Spirit will be with believers but not in them (John 14:17). The Holy Spirit, who indwells the church, could not be removed unless the church itself is taken out. In other words, the Rapture will have to occur first.

5.10.2.7 Revelation 19:1-10

Immediately preceding the Second Coming of Christ (Revelation 19:11-21) is the announcement of the marriage feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19:1-10). If posttribulationism is correct, then the Second Coming of Christ should precede the announcement of the marriage feast of the Lamb. Why? If Christ has not come to Rapture the Church (i.e. the bride of Christ), then how can He announce the marriage feast?

5.10.2.8 Revelation 19:11-16

In the description of the Second Coming of Christ in Revelation 19:11-16, there is no indication whatever that the procession will be met by the Raptured church rising from the earth to meet the Lord in the air. There is no indication of either resurrection or translation occurring in the process of Christ's descent to the earth. The implication clearly is that the Tribulation saints will be raised after Christ has come and started to establish His kingdom on earth, not while He is descending from heaven to the earth.

Even a casual reading of the revelation concerning the Second Coming (Revelation 19:11-16) demonstrates how dramatically different the Second Coming is from the Rapture. The Rapture apparently is not a public demonstration watched by the entire world as it happens suddenly and is quickly accomplished. On the other hand, the Second Coming will be a dramatic procession of Christ, saints, and angels from heaven to earth. This triumphant march will be seen by all earthdwellers, probably taking many hours, as Revelation 19:19 indicates that the armies of the world have time to set their strategy as they watch the Lord descending.

5.10.2.9 Revelation 20:4-6

Posttribulationists believe that Revelation 20:4-6 shows that the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ are a single event. They call attention to the expression "first resurrection." They argue, how could a resurrection (to be occurred at the end of the Tribulation) be "first" if a Rapture had actually taken place before the Tribulation?

The Rapture is pictured as the church's meeting the Lord Jesus in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17), therefore this must be inserted before Christ actually reaches the earth. If the Rapture and Second Coming of Christ are a single event, then the chronological order of events at the Second Coming of Christ are as follows:

  1. the dead in Christ will rise first (1 Thessalonians 4:16);

  2. who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17);

  3. as the procession proceeds to the earth, the Church joins with the coming King in extending His kingdom over the earth; and

  4. the judgment of the wicked (Matthew 25:31-46).

Posttribulationists overlook that Christ was raised from the dead first. The actual meaning of the word "first" is to designate the resurrection which is "before" the resurrection of the Great White Throne, not in the sense of the first resurrection to take place in history.

A most important fact all posttribulationists ignore is that the resurrection at the Second Coming is after the descent to the earth, not during the event, as Revelation 19:11-20:6 makes clear. If the Rapture had taken place these would have already been resurrected, and the fact that they had not been raised shows that the Rapture will not occur at the Second Coming. This contradicts the posttribulational order of events.

Posttribulationists usually neglect John 14:1-4, in which Christ specifically said He is coming back to take the disciples from the earth to heaven (i.e. Father's house) instead of establishing His kingdom over the earth. At the Rapture, the movement is from earth to heaven, not heaven to earth.

If a Rapture takes place in the sequence of the Second Coming, it would be the first event and would automatically separate all the saved from the wicked before Christ's feet ever touch the Mount of Olives and before His kingdom was instituted. However, in Matthew 25:31-46, which refers to sheep and goats, representing the saved and unsaved, still being mingled some time after the Second Coming. This would not be true if the Rapture had occurred at the Second Coming and the saved had been taken out.

5.10.3 The Rapture Will be happened before the Tribulation period

There are certain passages of Scripture which promise the group of faithful Christians will be exempted from the Tribulation period:

  1. Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth (Revelation 3:10). Lord Jesus is promising the faithful Christians will have a full exemption from the Tribulation.

  2. 1Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne (Revelation 12:1-5). The woman is the virgin Mary, and her child is the Lord Jesus Christ. Satan desired to destroy Him at birth (Matthew 2), but God protected Him and finally took Him back to heaven. In group sense, the woman also typifies the nation of Israel (Genesis 37:9; Micah 4:8-10), and her child also typifies the group of faithful Christians (i.e. the body of Christ) who will rule nations with a rod of iron (Revelation 2:27). Satan desired to persecute them at the Tribulation, but God will protect them by the Rapture.

  3. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10). Paul clearly teaches that the expectation of Christians is not God’s wrath, but “we should live together with the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Furthermore, there is the pattern of the types:

  1. Was Enoch raptured before or after the flood? It was before (Genesis 5:21-24).

  2. Was Noah and his family entering the Ark of Noah before or after the Flood? It was before (Genesis 6:1-8:19).

  3. Was Lot delivered from Sodom before or after the doom of the city? It was before (Genesis 18:20-19:29).

  4. Was Israel delivered from Egypt before or after the destruction of their enemies at the Red Sea? It was before (Exodus 14:1-31).

No serious Bible scholar will question that Enoch, Noah, Lot and Israel illustrate the faithful believers.

5.10.4 Conclusion

All evidence in the Scriptures points to the conclusion that the Rapture is imminent, even though it has already been delayed for almost two thousand years, continues to be the hope of the church today. Obviously whatever date God has set for this future event, each day brings us closer to it.

5.11 The Resurrection of Saints

When the Lord comes at the Rapture, all church-age believers will be introduced to new experiences far different from the present life. Each believer will receive a resurrection body, a body without sin, aging or death.

5.11.1 Misconception about the resurrection of the just and the unjust

The idea of resurrection in the last days is frequently mentioned in the Scriptures. A few passages refer to the resurrection of both the just and the unjust in a way seeming to suggest that both groups will be raised at the same time. For example, Jesus states, "Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:28-29; cf. Acts 24:15).

5.11.2 The just and the unjust will be resurrected at different times

Other passages, however, where the context calls for more detail, refer only to one or the other group being raised at a particular time. That is the case in the passage just studied, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, where the reference is only to the "dead in Christ" with no mention of the unsaved dead. It is the case also in Revelation 20:13, where reference is to the other group, the unsaved. This passage states, "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works." This resurrection clearly follows Christ's millennial reign, because a description of that great time immediately precedes these words. Also, this occasion of resurrection is connected with what is called the "second death" (Revelation 20:14), which earlier in the chapter (Revelation 20:6) is said to have no power over those of the first resurrection. The two groups, then, are raised at different times.

5.11.3 Different groups of saints will be resurrected at different times

The idea of such a sequence of resurrections is set forth in 1 Corinthians 15:20-24:

20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 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 (1 Corinthians 15:20-24).

Paul speaks of Christ's own resurrection and then states that in the same pattern "all shall be made alive." He immediately explains that this will be according to a schedule: "each one in his own order." That is, all will not be made alive at the same time. For example:

Christ is the "firstfruits," the pattern for the rest, and others will follow in a planned sequence. Actually, two other resurrections of righteous follow Christ's resurrection (Matthew 27:52-53):

52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many (Matthew 27:52-53).

The purpose of this resurrection was apparently to provide a further credential in support of Christ's resurrection. Those raised likely were people who had died not long before and were well known by acquaintances still living. Bible scholars commonly believed that these people did not die again. They probably were raptured directly to heaven after performing the mission intended in their resurrection.

According to the above Scriptures, different groups of saints will be resurrected at different times, including:

  1. The two resurrections of righteous follow Christ's resurrection (Matthew 27:52-53);
  2. When Christ return, the church age believers will be raptured to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58); and
  3. At the end of the Tribulation, when Christ return with the heavenly armies to establish the earthly Millennial Kingdom (Revelation 19:11-21), the Tribulation martyrs will be resurrected (Revelation 20:4-6).

5.11.4 The two distinct resurrections

The Bible teaches two distinct resurrections:

  1. the first of which affects all the righteous (i.e. believers); and

  2. the second of which affects all the unrighteous (i.e. unbelievers).

5.11.4.1 The first resurrection

The first is of "life" and embraces "the just"; the second, of "damnation," and embraces "the unjust" (John 5:28-29). And there are at least one thousand years between them (Revelation 20:4-6). They differ both in character and time, therefore they must be clearly distinguished. The first resurrection actually includes three major stages:

  1. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus;
  2. The resurrection of the saints at the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18;1 Corinthians 15:51-58); and
  3. The raising of the Tribulation martyrs (Revelation 20:4-6) and Jewish believers from Old Testament era (Daniel 12:2) at the end of the Tribulation period.

These are not three resurrections, but one, though experienced in three stages. This is illustrated in Israel's crop-harvest of old:

  1. The farmer first cut the sheaf of firstfruits and presented it before the LORD (Leviticus 23:9-14);
  2. After which he reaped his main harvest; and
  3. This was followed by the gathering of the gleanings by the stranger and the poor (Leviticus 23:22; Deuteronomy 24:19).

The firstfruits answers to the personal resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23), while the harvest corresponds to the great ingathering at the Rapture of church age saints. The subsequent raising of the believing martyrs (Revelation 20:4-5) and Jewish believers from Old Testament era (Daniel 12:2) at the end of the Tribulation period answers to the gleanings.

5.11.4.2 The second resurrection

The last group to be resurrected will include the unredeemed dead of all time, and they will be raised at the end of the millennial kingdom to stand before the Great White Throne in a judgment that will sentence them to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-14).

5.11.5 The order of resurrections

The Bible carefully outlines the order of resurrections. "Every man in his own order" (1 Corinthians 15:23): this is a fundamental Biblical principle. The sequence of events of the resurrection of the just and unjust are listed in the following chronological order:

  1. the resurrection of the dead saints in the church age before the Tribulation period;

  2. the translation of the living saints in the church age before the Tribulation period;

  3. the resurrection of the two witnesses during the Tribulation period;

  4. the resurrection of the Tribulation martyrs at the end of the Tribulation period;

  5. the resurrection of the saints in the Old Testament era at the end of the Tribulation period;

  6. the resurrection of the saints who die during the Millennium period;

  7. the translation of the saints who survive the Millennium at the end of the Millennium period; and

  8. the resurrection of all unbelievers at the end of the Millennium period.

Strictly speaking, only the church age saints and the two witnesses (i.e. the above items 1 to 3) will participate in the Rapture. The Rapture will include two actions:

  1. the saints will be resurrected or translated; and

  2. the saints will be taken up to the heaven by Christ.

The rest of the saints (i.e. the above items 4 to 7) will be resurrected but will not be Raptured (i.e. taken up) to the heaven. The resurrection at the Rapture, then, is one aspect in this series of resurrections.

5.12 The Glorified Bodies

Nothing is said in the Scriptures regarding raised bodies of the unsaved, but much is said regarding bodies of the righteous. In 1 Corinthians 15:35-54:

35 But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” 36 Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. 37 And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. 39 All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds. 40 There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory. 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. 50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:35-54).

Paul states that:

  1. the righteous dead will receive glorified bodies at the time of their resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:35-44); and
  2. those yet living will receive glorified bodies, but through sudden change, “in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body (Romans 8:23).

Paul refers to the change of body for the righteous. Saints whose spirits have experienced renewal, anticipate eagerly the time when their bodies will also be made anew (Romans 8:23). In this life, the existing old body still acts as a hindrance to the redeemed spirit. It needs the change which the resurrection will provide.

5.12.1 Three parables from nature to describe the glorified bodies

Paul makes use of three parables from nature to describe the glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35-54):

  1. One from the vegetable;

  2. One from the animal; and

  3. One from the celestial kingdom.

5.12.1.1 The vegetable kingdom (1 Corinthians 15:35-38)

35 But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” 36 Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. 37 And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body (1 Corinthians 15:35-38).

The sprouting of the planted seed that "dies" in the earth is a phenomenon that cannot be duplicated by man because of the inexplicable life-principle that the seed contains. In dying, the seed does not cease to exist but rather relives in a body that is the same, and yet different, from that which is the parent kernel. Thus there is both identity and distinction. It is man that dies, and it is as man that he will be raised. But his new body will be as different as is the flower from the seed that produced it. In fact, it will be exactly like the body of the risen Lord Jesus (Philippians 3:21; 1 John 3:2).

5.12.1.2 The animal kingdom (1 Corinthians 15:39)

All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds (1 Corinthians 15:39).

Here are four types of bodies, all distinct, there is:

  1. the human;

  2. the bestial;

  3. the marine; and

  4. the feathery body of the fowl.

Each one can only adapted to its unique environment. Obviously, our present material flesh-and-blood body is suited to earthly life only, for even when our astronauts go aloft into space they have to take with them all the necessary supplies, such as atmosphere, clothing, etc., to maintain them. When the believer receives his resurrection body it will be the perfectly adapted clothing for his received Holy Spirit and the environment of the New Heaven and New Earth (Revelation 21:1-27).

5.12.1.3 The celestial kingdom (1 Corinthians 15:40-41)

40 There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory. 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:40-44).

Heavenly bodies differ as do earthly ones in their composition, function, and glory. Each member of the solar system plays the special part assigned to it by its Creator. There is no monotonous uniformity; each is distinctive. Each believer will receive a real body-clothing that is incorruptible, glorious, powerful, and spiritual.

5.12.2 The glorified bodies of believers will be like Christ's glorified body

Several Scriptures state that the resurrection body of believers will be like Christ's glorified body (1 Corinthians 15:49; Philippians 3:21; 1 John 3:2). The details of the glorified bodies are summarized below:

  1. It will be a real body, for it could be touched (John 20:27) and is capable of speaking (Luke 24:17-32).

  2. It will not need food for sustenance, though being capable of eating on occasion (Luke 24:30; John 21:12-15).

  3. It will not be composed of flesh and blood (1 Corinthians 15:50f). Christ took on him flesh and blood (Hebrews 2:14), but after His resurrection He speaks of His body as composed of flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). Thus, He was not pure spirit, and neither shall we be pure spirit at the resurrection.

  4. It will neither marry nor is given in marriage (Matthew 22:30; Mark 12:25; Luke 20:35).

  5. It will be incorruptible, or imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:42, 53f). It is not subject to sickness, death or decay.

  6. It will be a heavenly body (1 Corinthians 15:47-49). In 2 Corinthians 5:1f, Paul speaks of a "building from God" and "our dwelling from heaven." It will be heavenly as contrasted with the present, which is earthly.

  7. It will be a glorious body (1 Corinthians 15:43). We may get some idea of what that means by thinking of the transfiguration of Christ (Matthew 17:2), and of the description of the glorified Christ in heaven (Revelation 1:13-16).

  8. It will not be limited by either ordinary physical matter or natural laws. In that body, Christ could enter a room when the door was shut (John 20:19, 26); vanish from sight while talking with others (Luke 24:30, 31); remain unknown to others until special perception was granted (Luke 24:15, 16, 31; John 20:15, 16); appear at will and to defy gravity for upward movement from the earth to the heaven (Acts 1:9).

  9. It will be powerful (1 Corinthians 15:43). It will not become weary, but will be able to perform mighty feats in the service of Christ (Revelation 22:3-5).

  10. It will be recognizable (John 20:16). This body will have a relationship to the present body, at least in terms of identification. When Jesus replied to Mary by simply calling her name, she immediately recognized His voice and responded, "Rabboni!"

  11. It will be a spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:44). It is meant that its life is that of the spirit.

5.13 The Application of the Rapture for Christians

The Rapture not only confronts individuals with the challenge to receive Christ before it is too late; it also challenges Christians to live with eternal values in view. Since the Rapture can occur at any moment, and believers' lives on earth will thus be cut short, we need to maximize our commitment to Christ, doing all we can for the Lord in upright living and service to Him and others.

The Rapture is important both theologically and practically. Those who understand and believe this great truth will be energized and transformed by the expectation of Christ's glorious return. While many prophetic truths are of great importance, the Rapture is the most important for believers in Christ.

The resurrection and translation of Christians at the Rapture will be a tremendous event, an event worthy of our constant expectation. Knowledge of our future life helps to cast light on our present life goals, encouraging us to consider how our actions will be seen from the viewpoint of eternity.

 

6. THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST

Following the Rapture, God will reward those who have served Him faithfully. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10).

This section is a detailed analysis of the doctrine of the Judgment Seat of Christ. It is divided into the following ten major divisions: 

  1. definition of the term "the Judgment Seat of Christ";

  2. the purpose of "the Judgment Seat of Christ";

  3. the necessity of "the Judgment Seat of Christ";

  4. the time of "the Judgment Seat of Christ";

  5. the participants of "the Judgment Seat of Christ";

  6. the criteria of "the Judgment Seat of Christ";

  7. the results of "the Judgment Seat of Christ";

  8. the rewards of "the Judgment Seat of Christ";

  9. the application of "the Judgment Seat of Christ" for Christians; and

  10. the other judgments mentioned in the Bible.

6.1 Definition of the Term "the Judgment Seat of Christ"

This term, "the Judgment Seat" (Greek, bema), found in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 and 2 Corinthians 5:10, is borrowed from the Greek Olympic games where it was used of the time of rewards for the winning athletes. According to Paul, all believers must appear to be judged for their works, so that this judgment is strictly one of rewards, not punishment, since believers' sins are judged at the Cross.

6.2 The Purpose of "the Judgment Seat of Christ"

"The judgment seat of Christ," a time of judgment for Raptured saints, will take place shortly after the initial meeting with the Savior. The issue will not concern the saved or lost state of those being judged, for only those already belonging to the church will be judged at this time. No one will be present who does not trust Christ as personal Savior and who has not been justified by the Father. The issue will concern, rather, the life-conduct of each person since he became a Christian.

6.3 The Necessity of "the Judgment Seat of Christ"

The Scriptures are clear that all men, whether saved or lost, are accountable to God. Jesus says that "every idle word that men shall speak" shall be called into account; this is a general statement probably referring to both saved and lost people (Matthew 12:36). This means that there must be a time of judgment for every person. The Judgment Seat of Christ is where this will occur for the saved. Several passages indicate the need for this time of judgment:

  1. In Colossians 3:24-25, Paul speaks particularly of Christians when he says that those who serve the Lord well will "receive the reward of the inheritance," but those who do wrong will receive for the wrong they have done.

  2. In Romans 14:10-12, Paul says that "every one of us shall give account of himself to God," referring clearly to Christians. This indicates that no one will be excepted in this matter.

  3. In 2 Corinthians 5:10, Paul expresses the same thought with the words: "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 has done, whether it be good or bad."

6.4 The Time of "the Judgment Seat of Christ"

The time of this judgment of Christians is best placed shortly after the Rapture and certainly sometime within the seven-year period of the Tribulation. This is supported by the following reasons:

  1. If Christians are to be judged for works done prior to the Rapture, it is reasonable to believe that such a judgment would follow the Rapture as soon as possible. It seems logical to let those judged know the results of their judgment sooner rather than later.

  2. In Luke 14:14, Jesus states that Christians will be "recompensed at the resurrection of the just," and this occasion occurs, as has been seen, at the time of the Rapture.

  3. Both 1 Corinthians 4:5 and Revelation 22:12 indicate that Christ will bestow rewards at the time of His coming for His own, with the implication that this will happen at a moment very near that time.

  4. If the twenty-four elders in heaven are representatives of the Church Age (Revelation 4:4-10), they are seen in heaven with their crowns already in place.

  5. The Church as the Bride of Christ is pictured as already clothed when she accompanies the Lord at His Second Coming to the earth (Revelation 19:7-9). The return to the earth is for the wedding banquet. It seems evident then that when Christ returns in judgment, the marriage and rewarding of the Church will have already taken place. The rewarding of believers and the wedding between Christ and His Bride are heavenly events before the throne. The marriage feast with all the invited guests is described by Jesus as taking place on earth (Matthew 25:1-13). The imagery of the earthly kingdom as a wedding feast is therefore entirely appropriate.

6.5 The Participants of "the Judgment Seat of Christ"

6.5.1 Jesus will be the judge

God has committed all judgment to the Son (John 5:27). In Revelation 4-5 Jesus is seen to have the right of judgment because He is both the Sovereign and Savior. The Bible says that Jesus is the "righteous judge" and therefore all judgments will be fair and final (2 Timothy 4:8).

6.5.2 Only the Church Age believers will participate 

Only the Church Age believers will appear before the "Judgment Seat of Christ."

6.6 The Criteria of "the Judgment Seat of Christ"

The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) and the parable of the pounds (Luke 19:13-27) illustrate an important and balancing set of principles in God's reward program. The talents illustrate that each believer is delegated an unequal entrustment proportionately assigned according to ability. Not all believers enjoy the same natural talents, spiritual giftedness, intellect, educational opportunities, or sovereignly designed opportunities. They may, however, receive equal commendations and rewards from the Lord for their faithfulness.

On the other hand, the parable of the pounds (Luke 19:13-27) illustrates that in certain ways all believers share an equal entrustment before the Lord. Each one has one life to live and give to God, the Scriptures, a common faith, and the gospel message. Differing delegations of rule in God's kingdom are awarded according to proportionate faithfulness. Therefore both God's grace as well as human faithfulness are factors to be remembered as one anticipates rewards.

6.7 The Results of "the Judgment Seat of Christ"

The results of the judgment will be either a reward for works approved or a sense of loss for those not approved. This is made clear especially by Paul's treatment of the subject in 1 Corinthians 3:9-15. Here he talks about building materials of two classes:

  1. "gold, silver, precious stones," which are not subject to destruction by fire; and

  2. "wood, hay, stubble," which are.

He states that the "labourers together with God" may build with materials from either class in their work for Him; but the fire of judgment will reveal of which class they are. Those whose works are of the first class "shall receive a reward," but those whose works prove to be of the second by burning in the fire of judgment "shall suffer loss." The major principle for judging will be the good pleasure of God. Those labors which please Him, the works which make a proper contribution to "God's building," will be declared "gold, silver, precious stones"; but those which displease Him, which do not so contribute, will be judged "wood, hay, stubble."

The loss experienced by those whose labors are burned does not concern the person's salvation. Paul makes this clear in the passage discussed, as he adds the words, "But he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire" (1 Corinthians 3:15). Rather, the loss concerns rewards. The person will not receive a crown, and this will result in a sense of shame and loss that he did not better use his time on earth. Paul seems to have foreseen such a possibility for himself and strongly wished to avoid it, when he wrote, "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway" (1 Corinthians 9:27). He was not speaking of losing his salvation, for this cannot be lost, but of losing his usefulness in the construction of "God's building" and, as a result, losing his reward. Every Christian should consider carefully the fact of this coming time of judgment. A wasted life will seem very foolish when one stands before Christ in that day.

6.8 The Rewards of "the Judgment Seat of Christ"

The nature of the rewards given for the approved works is not described in this passage, but parallel passages suggest that the rewards will be in the form of "crowns." Five distinct "crowns" are distinguished in various texts:

  1. an "incorruptible crown" for those who keep the old nature in subjection (1 Corinthians 9:25);

  2. a "crown of rejoicing" for those who bring others to Christ (1 Thessalonians 2:19);

  3. a "crown of righteousness" for those who love Christ's appearing (2 Timothy 4:8);

  4. a "crown of life" for those who maintain their love for the Lord in the midst of trials (James 1:12); and

  5. a "crown of glory" for those who are good shepherds of God's flock (1 Peter 5:4).

Whether these are all the types of crowns that will be rewarded or whether they are only representative is not revealed. It is certain, of course, that God will reward equitably, according to what each person deserves.

6.9 The Application of "the Judgment Seat of Christ" for Christians

Study Mattew 5:12; 6:1; 10:41, 42; 1 Corinthians 3:8, 14; Colossians 2:18; 3:24; Hebrews 11:26; 2 John 8; Revelation 11:18. The expectation of rewards should move us to greater zeal in Christian service, stewardship and testimony.

The Scriptures say very little about what we will do in heaven. But the Bible does say that Christians will reign with Christ in the administration of the millennial kingdom (Revelation 20:6). It also speaks of Christians reigning with Christ in eternity (Revelation 22:5). Apparently Christians will be given spheres of authority in God's government both in the Millennium and in the Eternal State. These spheres of service will relate to how well we have served Christ in this life.

In athletics a person often makes the first team if he has practiced well. So the Christian who in this life serves God faithfully will be recognized in eternity and will be given larger spheres of service. The fact of the Judgment Seat of Christ encourages believers to consider what is genuinely important in life. On earth it encourages believers to follow God's standards of eternal values, which transcend all human systems of worth despite our falling short of what God would have us be and do. It is possible to receive the Lord's commendation, "Well done" (Matthew 25:21). The truth of the Judgment Seat of Christ is a reminder to evaluate our lives to be sure we are not simply avoiding evil but are also incorporating into our lives the things that will make a difference in eternity from God's point of view.

In light of the Lord's return and the coming judgment, the Scriptures are replete with applicational challenges. The following are suggested as a place to begin:

  1. Be faithful with your God-given stewardships (1 Corinthians 4:2).

  2. Make it the aim of your life to be pleasing to the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:9).

  3. Do all works heartily as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23).

  4. Be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless (2 Peter 3:14).

  5. Never try to evaluate another believer's production (Matthew 7:1-2; Romans 4:4).

  6. Stay humble by realizing you are unworthy even to be a servant (Luke 10:7-10).

  7. Maintain a steadfast and unmovable commitment to serving the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).

  8. Avoid prejudging others who must answer for themselves to the Lord as their Master (Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 4:5).

  9. Stop comparing yourself with others (2 Corinthians 10:12).

  10. Cleanse yourself from all spiritual defilements and deceptions that would keep you from proper preparation for your marriage to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2).

6.10 The Other Judgments Mentioned in the Bible

In the program of God there are several judgments yet in the future. Apart from "the Judgment Seat of Christ" for Christians, the following future judgments will occur at different times:

  1. judgment of Tribulation martyrs;

  2. judgment of Old Testament saints;

  3. judgment of Jewish survivors of the Tribulation period;

  4. judgment of Gentile survivors of the Tribulation period;

  5. judgment of Millennial saints;

  6. judgment of Satan and fallen angels; and

  7. judgment of the unsaved dead.

6.10.1 Judgment of saints of Tribulation martyrs

Revelation 20:4-6 relates the resurrection of saints of the Tribulation period who died during that time. Because of their opposition to Anti-christ's program, they were martyred, but God raises them from the dead just before the Millennium begins. No specific mention is made of a judging and rewarding; it can only be assumed to take place at the time of resurrection. (The phrase "judgment was given to them" in v. 4 refers not to being judged but to the activity of saints judging people in the millennial government.)

6.10.2 Judgment of Old Testament saints

Daniel 12:1-3 speaks of the Tribulation period (v. 1), resurrections of the righteous and the wicked (v. 2), and rewards for the righteous (v. 3). Many understand the resurrection and reward of the righteous to refer to the resurrection and judgment of believers of the Old Testament at the conclusion of the Tribulation.

6.10.3 Judgment of Jewish survivors of the Tribulation period

Before the inauguration of the millennial kingdom, the survivors of the Tribulation, both Jewish and Gentile, must be judged in order to insure that only believers will enter the kingdom.

The judgment of Jewish survivors is described in Ezekiel 20:34-38 and illustrated in Matthew 25:1-30. Ezekiel states that it will occur after all surviving Israelites have been regathered from the ends of the earth to the land of Palestine. Christ will cause them to "pass under the rod" (see Leviticus 27:32) to purge out the rebels. As a result, those rebels (unsaved) will not enter the land of Israel (Ezekiel 20:38) but will be cast into the outer darkness (Matthew 25:30). In contrast, those who successfully pass through this judgment will enter the millennial kingdom to enjoy the blessings of the New Covenant (Ezekiel 20:37). This group will not be given resurrection bodies at this time, but will go into the kingdom in their earthly bodies and will become the parents of the first millennial Jewish babies.

6.10.4 Judgment of Gentile survivors of the Tribulation period

Also at the Second Coming of Christ, Gentile survivors of the Tribulation will be judged by Him. Matthew 25:31-46 describes this in detail. Joel predicted that it would take place in the "valley of Jehoshaphat" (Joel 3:2) which may refer to the Kidron Valley on the east side of Jerusalem. Jehoshaphat simply means "Yahweh judges."

Both passages say that these Gentiles will be judged for their treatment of Israel during the Tribulation period. Christ is the Judge; the Gentiles are being judged; by all Rapture schemes the church has already been Raptured to heaven; the "brethren," the treatment of whom becomes the basis for the judgment can only refer to Christ's natural brethren, other Jewish people (Romans 9:3). For a Gentile to treat any Jewish person with kindness during the Tribulation will place his life in jeopardy. No one will do this merely out of a beneficent attitude, but only out of a redeemed heart. Therefore, this is not a judgment of works, but of genuine faith which produced such selfless works (or the lack of it which produced no such works).

Those who lack saving faith and demonstrate that lack by not doing good works will be sent to the lake of fire. Those whose good deeds prove the presence of saving faith will enter the millennial kingdom. Like the Jewish survivors of the preceding judgment they will enter in earthly bodies and become parents of the first millennial Gentile babies.

6.10.5 Judgment of Millennial saints

The Scriptures are silent on how God will deal with saints living on earth at the end of the Millennium or saints who have died in the Millennium. Like many other questions the Bible leaves unanswered, people living to day do not need to know the answer because they themselves are not involved. It is probable that the righteous who die in the Millennium will be resurrected, much as the church will be at the Rapture, and that living saints will be given bodies suited for eternity like those living church saints will receive. It is clear that the millennial saints will not be involved in the judgment of the Great White Throne, however, because this judgment relates to the wicked dead.

6.10.6 Judgment of Satan amd fallen angels

Satan and his angels will also be judged, evidently at the conclusion of the millennial kingdom. To be sure Satan has had other sentences passed on him, but this will be his final one that confines him forever in the lake of fire (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10). The angels who are judged at this time also will experience the same fate (Jude 6-7). Believers will apparently be associated with the Lord in judging (1 Corinthians 6:3).

6.10.7 Judgment of the unsaved dead

The judgment of all unbelievers will take place at the Great White Throne judgment described in Revelation 20:15. This judgment takes place after the millennial reign of Christ and is described as that final judgment prior to eternity future. Their Judge is the Lord Jesus Christ (see John 5:22, 27).

 

7. THE MARRIAGE SUPPER (FEAST) OF THE LAMB

There is a second event which occurs for church saints shortly after the Rapture. In Revelation 17:7-9 this is referred to as "the marriage supper of the Lamb." At this supper Christ will be the Bridegroom and the Church will be His bride.

This section is a detailed analysis of the doctrine of "the Marriage Supper of the Lamb." It is divided into the following three major divisions: 

  1. definition of the term "the Marriage Supper of the Lamb";

  2. the custom of marriage during the time of Christ; and

  3. the purpose of "the Marriage Supper of the Lamb".

7.1 Definition of the term "the Marriage Supper of the Lamb"

A "feast," a "wedding," a "marriage feast," and a "marriage supper," are all terms used throughout the New Testament that relate to a wedding event we call the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

In the Gospels and in particular, our Lord's parables, Christ makes references to these terms in order to teach truth concerning the prophetic program. Also, in many other New Testament passages we are shown the relationship between Christ and the Church using the figures of the bridegroom and the bride (John 3:29; Romans 7:4; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-33; Revelation 19:7-8).

It is at the event known as the Rapture of the church that Christ appears as a Bridegroom to take His Bride (the Church) unto Himself. The Marriage Supper will celebrate the formal union of Christ and His church in an eternal relationship. Until this time they will have been separated, the One in heaven and the other on earth, but from this moment on they will always be together.

7.2 The Custom of Marriage during the Time of Christ

The Scriptures have a good deal to say concerning this marriage, which will be consummated in heaven. If we try to interpret this marriage in light of our modern marriage customs, however, we will miss most of the meaning. In order to picture the relationship we will have with Christ we must leave our twentieth-century culture and go back to the time when Christ lived.

During the time of Christ and in some Oriental countries today, there were three separate parts of a marriage:

  1. The first stage was called "the betrothal."

  2. The second stage was called "the presentation."

  3. The third stage was called "the marriage supper."

7.2.1 The first stage: betrothal

The first stage was called the betrothal. Marriage was by contract. There was no ceremony as we see today in our western civilization. Most often the arrangements were made by the parents in the absence of the bride and the bridegroom. There were times when parents might enter into the contract when asked to do so by a son, who saw a young woman, thought she was lovely, and expressed an interest in her as a wife, as in the case of Samson (Judges 14). More frequently though, the contract was drawn up by the fathers while the future bride and groom were still small children. Some records cite instances when a contract was drawn up before the couple was even born. This contract, called the betrothal, was a legal enactment, duly signed before judges, which bound the parties to each other and could be broken only by a bill of divorcement.

The word used to describe the legal relationship of a young man and woman is also used to describe our relationship to Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul, putting himself in the position of a spiritual father to the Corinthians, wrote, "for I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:2). The word espoused here is translated elsewhere in the New Testament as "betrothed." To Paul, the Corinthian believers were daughters in the faith, and Jesus Christ was a Bridegroom (i.e. a husband-to-be). Like a father, Paul had been instrumental in enacting a legal betrothal contract between his spiritual daughters and the Lord Jesus Christ. An indissoluble relationship had been instituted, and the apostle did not want the Corinthians to be drawn aside by false teachings. He feared they would be found unfaithful to their betrothed. Paul had betrothed, or espoused, them and he wanted them to continue in faithfulness until they were presented to the Groom.

The figure of betrothal appears in Scripture to represent the spiritual reality of Christ and His Church. For example, before we were born physically, we were betrothed by the Father to the Son. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love" (Ephesians 1:3). In this passage, Paul pictures God the Father as choosing those whom He will betroth to His Son. When we look at this teaching, we see that the individual who has accepted Christ as Savior is part of what we refer to as the Bride of Christ. Those who are blood-bought and blood-washed are brought together into a relationship with one another, which we call the Church, which is the Bride of Christ. As it is natural for a bride to anticipate her wedding day, it is natural for the Church to anticipate the day her Groom will come and take her into His presence.

7.2.2 The second stage: presentation

The second part of the wedding was called the presentation. When a couple reached marriageable ages, the young man would say, "Father, you have made legal arrangements for my marriage. Now it is time to send for my bride so that this contract might be fulfilled." The father then would send a retinue of servants to the house of the bride. They would carry the legal contracts with them, present them to the father of the bride, and demand that he fulfill the terms of the contract and send his daughter to meet her groom. The groom's friends would accompany the bride in a procession to the groom's home.

At the presentation ceremony, the bride's father would take the bride's hand and put it into the hand of the groom's father to signify that he had fulfilled his contract - he had delivered his daughter to the father of the groom. Then the father of the groom would place the bride's hand into the hand of his son to signify that he had fulfilled his part of the contract - he had delivered the bride to his son. At that point the couple was legally married. Immediately after the ceremony - which came months or even years after the betrothal - they began their life together as husband and wife.

The Church, which is made perfect by the grace of God, will be delivered from the earthly scene and presented to the Bridegroom (the Lord Jesus Christ). We often refer to this event as the Rapture of the church - when believers are removed from this earth, when the graves of believers are opened, death is overcome, and we leave this mortal sphere to go into the presence of the Father. But when we speak of the presentation of the Bride to the Bridegroom, we are speaking of the moment the saints enter the Father's house, where the Father presents them as His gift of love to the Son.

When the Father presents the bride to the Son she will not have a single blemish (Ephesians 5:27). This confirms the perfection of the work of Christ. If we look at ourselves, we know that not one of us would make an acceptable bride for the eternal and infinite Son of God. We all have moral blemishes and the marks of sin's decay. Yet the work of God is such that when the Father presents us to the Son, we will be perfect.

7.2.3 The third stage: marriage supper

The third part of the wedding was called the marriage supper. It was what we would call the marriage banquet or wedding reception or wedding feast. It is at this reception, or marriage supper, that the bridegroom would gather together all his friends and introduce his bride. The length of the marriage supper was determined by the financial and social status of the bridegroom. It might last one or two days or as long as a week.

God's Word includes many references to the marriage supper. In Matthew 22:1-2, "Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son." The word marriage here refers to the marriage feast. The king had prepared a banquet so his son could introduce the bride to his friends. However, not all who were invited chose to attend. So the invitation was extended in order that the banquet hall might be filled with guests.

We find a similar story in Matthew 25:1-13 in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins describes a bridegroom claiming his bride. "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish" (verses 1-2). This passage focuses on the bride's attendants (i.e. the wise virgins) being ready for the wedding. This refers to those who after the Rapture and before the Second Coming of Christ will become believers. They will not be part of the bride of Christ, the Church, but nevertheless they will be saved, as illustrated by the wise virgins awaiting the wedding feast that will take place following the Second Coming. When Christ delivered the "Olivet Discourse" recorded in Matthew 24-25, the Rapture had not yet been revealed. Matthew 25, then, does not deal with the Rapture but rather with the preparation of believers on earth for the wedding feast that follows Christ's claiming His bride at His Second Coming. Actually in Matthew 25 the bride is not mentioned, because here the emphasis is on others preparing for the coming of the bridegroom in connection with the wedding feast, as we have seen. After the customary betrothal period, the bridegroom would come for his bride. The groom's male friends would lead a procession through the city at midnight, carrying torches on the way to the bride's home. The bride would know the bridegroom was coming and would be ready with her maiden attendants. They would join the procession from her home to the bridegroom's home. This would begin a new relationship as the bride and bridegroom assumed the responsibilities of marriage and prepared for the wedding feast (Revelation 19:7-9), attended by the wise virgins (Matthew 25:1-13).

Of the ten virgins only five had enough oil to keep their lamps burning until the groom came. The other five had to go buy more oil, and while they were gone the groom came and opened the door for the wise virgins to enter. The wise virgins (i.e. the Tribulation saints and faithful Jewish remnants) will act as guests at the later wedding feast. Those who were unprepared (i.e. unbelievers during the Tribulation period) were excluded. This illustration of the marriage supper speaks of the future consummation of Christ's program in the Millennium.

The relationship between the end-time events and the parable of the ten virgins are illustrated as follows:  

  1. Christ - Bridegroom

  2. Church Age Believers - Bride

  3. Church Age - Betrothal

  4. Rapture - Presentation

  5. Tribulation Saints and faithful Jewish Remnants - Wise Virgins

  6. Unbelievers during the Tribulation period - Foolish Virgins

  7. Marriage Supper of the Lamb - Wedding Feast

7.3 The Purpose of "the Marriage Supper of the Lamb"

The purpose of the marriage feast is found in Revelation 19:7 which states, "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." According to this passage, the purpose of this marriage feast is not to congratulate the bride nor to tell her how beautiful she looks. In the Oriental wedding the bride had little place. The bridegroom was in the place of prominence. They gathered, therefore, to honor him, not her. And the reason they honor Him is because "the marriage of the Lamb is come and his wife hath made herself ready."

During the age in which we live, the Holy Spirit has been calling out a bride; we have been betrothed to Him. In Revelation 19, the Rapture has already taken place and the bride has already been presented to the Bridegroom. But one important part of the marriage picture is still missing - the wedding feast, when the bride is introduced.

After speaking about the presentation of the bride, John moved to the subject of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb and said that "his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints" (Revelation 19:7-8). We know that at the Judgment Seat of Christ the believer's works will be examined. After this examination the Lord will remove anything that would not bring glory to the Groom. Then the Bridegroom will tell His bride to put on the garment prepared for the occasion.

Revelation 19:8 calls this garment "the righteousness of saints." This is not speaking of the righteousness of Christ, in which we will always be clothed but of that which we will put on after the Judgment Seat of Christ, to bring honor and glory to Christ. Imagine how a bride would feel if she spent years planning and preparing her wedding garments and discovered on her wedding day that a mouse had gnawed everything to shreds. That scenario would be similar to what will happen at the Judgment Seat of Christ. We will appear there, thinking we have prepared many beautiful things to present to the Lord. But because we did them with our own energy or for our own glory, they will be unacceptable to Him. Much that we thought would bring glory to our Bridegroom will be destroyed.

"Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Revelation 19:9). "The armies [of saints] which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean" (Revelation 19:14). When we put these two verses together, we discover that the wedding supper will be served on earth following the Second Advent of Christ. The wedding supper is picture of the millennial reign of Christ.

A wealthy man in Bible times might have a banquet lasting a week. God's feast will last 1,000 years. Christ will appear as a judge to separate the saved from the unsaved. He will appear as a king to reign. But to the bride for that thousand years He will be the Bridegroom. The Son of God will bring His bride, the Church, back to earth when He comes so that He might be honored, adored, and glorified through her. The perfect bride will demonstrate what His grace does for sinners. And for the thousand years of the Millennium the Son will do what any bridegroom does - adore His bride and be adored by her.

On almost every wedding invitation there is printed. We are expected to respond to an invitation. The Bridegroom is inviting us to participate in that wedding in heaven. Whether we participate or not depends upon our response to Him. God invites us to come - not by paying a price, but by accepting His gift - His Son, the Bridegroom.

 

8. INTRODUCTION TO THE MODERN WESTERN CALENDAR AND ANCIENT JEWISH CALENDAR

Unless we have basic knowledge of the ancient Jewish calendar, our modern western calendars and the correlation between them, we are unable to understand the chronology of Biblical prophetic events. This section is designed to help the readers to understand the correlation between the ancient Jewish calendar and our modern western calendars. It is divided into the following five major divisions, they are: 

  1. the definition of terms;

  2. the history of our modern western calendar;

  3. the ancient Jewish calendar;

  4. the important Jewish religious festivals; and

  5. the correlation between modern western calendar and ancient Jewish calendar.

8.1 The Definition of Terms

Calendars are normally based on astronomical events, and the two most important astronomical objects are the sun and the moon. Their cycles are very important in the construction and understanding of calendars.

8.1.1 What is a year?

Our modern concept of a year is based on the earth's motion around the sun. The time from one fixed point, such as a solstice or equinox, to the next is called a tropical year (or called solar year). Its length is currently 365.242190 days, but it varies. Around 1900 its length was 365.242196 days, and around 2100 it will be 365.242184 days. The actual length of a particular year may vary by several minutes due to the influence of the gravitational force from other planets.

8.1.2 What is a month?

Our modern concept of a month is based on the moon's motion around the earth. The time from one new moon to the next is called a synodic month, and its length is currently 29.5305889 days, but it varies. Around 1900 A.D. its length was 29.5305886 days, and around 2100 A.D. it will be 29.5305891 days. The time between two new moons may vary by several hours due to a number of factors, including changes in the gravitational force from the sun, and the moon's orbital inclination. 

8.1.3 What is a "metonic" cycle?

It is unfortunate that the length of the tropical year is not a multiple of the length of the synodic month. This means that with 12 months per year, the relationship between our month and the moon cannot be maintained. However, 19 tropical years is 234.997 synodic months, which is very close to an integer. So every 19 years the phases of the moon fall on the same dates (if it were not for the skewness introduced by leap years). 19 years is called a Metonic cycle (after Meton, an astronomer from Athens in the 5th century B.C.).

8.1.4 What is a solar calendar?

A solar calendar is based on the motion of the earth around the sun, while the months have no connection with the motion of the moon. The length of one solar year is 365.242190 days.

8.1.5 What is a lunar calendar?

A lunar calendar is based on the motion of the moon around the earth, while the year has no connection with the motion of the earth around the sun. The length of one lunar year consisted of 12 lunar months which is 12 x 29.5305889 = approx. 354 days.

8.2 The History of Our Modern Western Calendar

This section provides a brief survey of the development of our modern western calendar. It is divided into the following six major divisions, they are: 

  1. the ancient Roman Calendar;

  2. the system of numbering years A.D. and B.C.;

  3. the Julian Calendar;

  4. the discrepancy of the Julian Calendar;

  5. the Gregorian Calendar; and

  6. the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar.

8.2.1 The ancient Roman Calendar

Our modern western calendar is originated from the ancient Roman Calendar. The original Roman Calendar had 10 months with 304 days in a year that began with 1st March. Two more months, January and February, were added later in the 7th century B.C., but because the months were only 29 or 30 days long, an extra month intercalated approximately every second year. The Roman calendar became hopelessly confused when officials to whom the addition of days and months was entrusted abused their authority to prolong their terms of office or to hasten or delay elections.

Originally the Romans numbered years ab urbe condita (abbreviation a.u.c.), that is, "from the founding of the city" (of Rome, where much of the character of the modern world had its beginnings). Had this old calendar remained in use, 14th January 2000 A.D. would have been New Year's Day in the year 2753 a.u.c.

8.2.2 The system of numbering years A.D. and B.C.

The abbreviation A.D. is short for "Anni Domini Nostri Jesu Christi", i.e., "in the year of Our Lord Jesus Christ". The abbreviation B.C. is short for "Before Christ." The system of numbering years A.D. was instituted in about the year 527 A.D. by the Roman abbot Dionysius Exiguus, who reckoned that the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ had occurred on 25th March in the year 754 a.u.c., with the birth of Jesus occurring nine months later. Thus the year 754 a.u.c. was designated by him as the year 1 A.D. It is generally thought that his estimate of the time of this event was off by a few years (and there is even uncertainty as to whether he identified 1 A.D. with 754 a.u.c. or 753 a.u.c.).

In reckoning years from B.C. to A.D., one year must always be omitted, for it is obvious that from 1 B.C. to 1 A.D. was not two years, but one year. 1 B.C. ought to be described as 0 B.C., and it is so reckoned by astronomers, who would describe the historical date 445 B.C. as 444 B.C..

The question has been raised as to whether the first Christian millennium should be counted from 1 A.D. or from the year preceding it. According to Dionysius, the Incarnation occurred on 25th March of the year preceding 1 A.D. (with the birth of Jesus occurring nine months later on 25th December), so it is reasonable to regard that year, rather than 1 A.D. as the first year of the Christian Era. In that case 1 A.D. is the second year, and 999 A.D. is the 1000th year, of the first Christian millennium, implying that 1999 A.D. is the final year of the second Christian millennium and 2000 A.D. the first year of the third.

8.2.3 The Julian Calendar

Following his conquest of Egypt in 48 B.C., Julius Caesar consulted the Alexandrian astronomer Sosigenes about calendar reform (since the a.u.c. calendar then used by the Romans was completely inadequate to the needs of the emerging empire, which Caesar was poised to command, briefly as it turned out).

The calendar which Julius Caesar adopted in the year 709 a.u.c. (what we now call 46 B.C.) was consisted of a pure solar year of twelve months and of 365 days with an extra day every fourth year. In the Julian calendar, the solar year (i.e. 365.242190 days) is approximated as 365 1/4 days = 365.25 days. The approximation 365 1/4 is achieved by having 1 leap year every 4 years.

Subsequently the Julian calendar became widespread as a result of its use throughout the Roman Empire and later by various Christian countries.

8.2.4 The discrepancy of the Julian Calendar

The average length of a year in the Julian Calendar is 365.25 days. This is slightly different from the real length of the solar year (i.e. 365.242190 days). The Julian year was 11 minutes and 14 seconds longer than the solar year.

(365.25 - 365.242190) x 24 hr. x 60 min. = 11 minutes 14 seconds.

Or, this gives an error of 1 day in approx. 128 years.

(365.25 - 365.242190) x 128 = approx. 1 day

Thus as the centuries passed the Julian Calendar became increasingly inaccurate with respect to the seasons. This discrepancy accumulated until by 1582 A.D. the solar year occurred 10 days earlier than it had on 21st March 325 A.D., the year of the First Church Council of Nicea (now Iznik, Turkey), and church holidays did not occur in the appropriate seasons. This was especially troubling to the Roman Catholic Church because it affected the determination of the date of Easter which was well on the way to slipping into Summer.

Why has it to do with the First Church Council of Nicea in the year 325 A.D.? In the First Church Council of Nicea in the year 325 A.D., one of the matters settled by this council was the method for determining the date of Easter (which should occur around the beginning of a solar year), so as to make it independent of the Jewish Calendar. From the year 325 to the year 1582, the calendar diverged 10 days. See below calculation:

(365.25 - 365.242190) x (1582 - 325) = approx. 10 days

8.2.5 The Gregorian Calendar

Pope Paul III recruited several astronomers, principally the Jesuit Christopher Clavius (1537 - 1612 A.D.), to come up with a solution. When Pope Gregory XIII was elected, he found various proposals for calendar reform before him, and decided in favor of that of Clavius. On 1582 A.D. he issued a papal bull, Inter Gravissimas, establishing what is now called the Gregorian Calendar reform.

The Gregorian reform consisted of the following:

  1. 10 days were omitted from the calendar in order to make the solar year occur on 21st March, as it had in 325 A.D., the year of the First Council of Nicea. It was decreed that the day following 4th October 1582 Thursday (which is 5th October 1582, in the old Julian calendar) would thenceforth be known as 15th October 1582 Friday.

  2. The rule for leap years was changed in order to prevent further displacement of seasons. In the Julian Calendar, a year is a leap year if it is divisible by 4. In the Gregorian Calendar, a year is a leap year if it is divisible by 400. All other century years should be common years. Thus the years 1600 and 2000 are leap years, but 1700, 1800, 1900 and 2100 are common years.

  3. The first day of the year (New Year's Day) was set at 1st January.

8.2.6 The adoption of the Gregorian Calendar

The Gregorian Calendar, or New Style Calendar, was slowly adopted throughout Europe. It is used today throughout most of the Western world and in parts of Asia. When the Gregorian Calendar was adopted in Great Britain in 1752, another correction of an 11 day discrepancy was made; the day after 2nd September 1752, became 14th September. The British also adopted 1st January as the day when a new year begins. The Soviet Union adopted the Gregorian Calendar in 1918, and Greece adopted it in 1923 for civil purposes, but many countries affiliated with the Greek church (i.e. the Eastern Orthodox Church) retain the Julian, or Old Style, Calendar for the celebration of church feasts.

In many countries the Julian Calendar was used by the general population long after the official introduction of the Gregorian Calendar. Thus events were recorded in the 16th to 18th Centuries with various dates, depending on which calendar was used. Dates recorded in the Julian Calendar were marked "O.S." for "Old Style", and those in the Gregorian Calendar were marked "N.S." for "New Style".

8.3 The Ancient Jewish Calendar

This section provides a brief description of the ancient Jewish Calendar and its important religious festivals. It is divided into the following six major divisions, they are: 

  1. the nature of the ancient Jewish Calendar;

  2. the system of numbering years A.M.;

  3. the first month of the Jewish year;

  4. the last day of the Jewish week;

  5. the beginning of the Jewish day; and

  6. the beginning of the Jewish lunar month.

8.3.1 The nature of the ancient Jewish Calendar

The ancient Jewish Calendar is a combined solar / lunar calendar (i.e. lunisolar), in that its years are linked to the motion of the earth around the sun, and its months are linked to the motion of the moon. In other words, it strives to have its years coincide with the tropical year and its months coincide with the synodic months. A Jewish lunar month consisted of either 29 days or 30 days. A Jewish year consisted of 12 lunar months (approx. 360 days per year), with an intercalary month added to the calendar whenever it was needed to equate the lunar year with the solar year.

8.3.2 The system of numbering years A.M.

Years are counted since the creation of the world, which is assumed to have taken place in 3761 B.C. (i.e. just before midnight on Julian date 6th October 3761 B.C.). In that year, A.M. 1 started. The abbreviation A.M. is short for "Anno Mundi", i.e., "year of the world". For example, 2000 A.D. is equivalent to the Jewish year 3761 + 2000 = A.M. 5759.

8.3.3 The first month of the Jewish year

The civil year commenced with the seventh month "Tishri," corresponding roughly to October on the modern western calendar. The religious year began with the first month "Nisan," in which occurred the Passover, the first great feast of the Jewish cycle (see Exodus 12:2). Originally, the first month of a Jewish year was called by its Canaanite name "Abib" (cf. Exodus 13:4), meaning "ear" (because the grain was in the ear), though it was later called by the Babylonian name "Nisan" (cf. Nehemiah 2:1).

8.3.4 The last day of the Jewish week

The first pages of the Bible explain how God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh (Genesis 1:1-31). This seventh day became the Jewish day of rest, the "Sabbath" (Genesis 2:3; Exodus 20:8-11; 31:17). The Bible clearly makes the Sabbath the last day of the week, but does not share how that corresponds to our modern 7 day week. Yet through extra-Biblical sources it is possible to determine that the Sabbath at the time of Christ corresponds to our current "Saturday." Therefore it is common Jewish and Christian practice to regard "Sunday" as the first day of the week. Christians have made Sunday their day of rest, because Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday.

8.3.5 The beginning of the Jewish day

A Jewish calendar day does not begin at midnight, but at either sunset (approx. 6 p.m.) or when three medium-sized stars should be visible, depending on the religious circumstance. Sunset marks the start of the 12 night hours, whereas sunrise marks the start of the 12 day hours. For example, Friday afternoon was followed by Saturday evening. This is why in Genesis 1:1 the days of creation are described as an evening and a morning. The order in which the evening and morning are listed would indicate that days began with the sunset (cf. Genesis 1:1; Deuteronomy 1:33; 28:66; 1 Samuel 25:16; 1 Kings 8:29; Esther 4:16; Mark 4:27; 5:5; Luke 2:37).

However, there are references of the day listed before night. The night belongs to the first day and not the beginning of a new day (Matthew 28:1; Acts 4:3; 20:7-11; 23:32). The one passage in the New Testament that may more explicitly indicate a sunrise to sunrise reckoning is Matthew 28:1 where it states that the women came to the tomb "late on the Sabbath as it began to dawn towards the first day of the week." Thus the new day began with sunrise. Regarding the Passover, one can also see a sunrise to sunrise reckoning in Deuteronomy 16:4 where it states "nothing which is sacrificed on the evening of the first day shall remain overnight until morning." According to Josephus, who was a Pharisee living in Jesus' day, and also the Mishnah, would seem to indicate that the new day began at sunrise (6 a.m.).

In other words, in Jesus' day there were two systems of reckoning the day. The Galileans (possibly Jesus and His disciples) and Pharisees used the sunrise to sunrise reckoning whereas the Judeans and Sadducees used the sunset to sunset reckoning. 

8.3.6 The beginning of the Jewish lunar month (i.e. "new moon")

(References: The New Unger's Bible Dictionary, p. 409, Moody Press: Chicago, 1988 Revised and Updated Edition, by Merrill F. Unger; The Coming Prince, p. 102, Kregel Classics: Grand Rapids, 10th Edition, 1957 Reprint, by Sir Robert Anderson)

As every lunar month starts (approximately) on the day of a new moon, it was necessary to fix the commencement of the month. This was determined by the appearance of the new moon; for the new moon was reckoned not by precise astronomical calculation, but by actual personal observation. According to Rosh Hashanah of the Mishna, on the 13th day of the month, two competent watchmen were placed on commanding heights around Jerusalem to watch the sky. As soon as each of them detected the moon he hastened to a house in the city kept for this purpose and was there examined by the president of the Sanhedrin. When the evidence of the appearance was deemed satisfactory, the president stood up and formally announced it. The information was immediately sent throughout the land from the Mount of Olives by beacon fires on the tops of the hills.

The proclamation by the Sanhedrin, therefore, may have been sometimes delayed till a day or even two after the phases so that the 1st Nisan may have fallen several days later than the true new moon. Possibly, moreover, it may have been still further delayed by the operation of rules for preventing certain festivals from falling on incompatible days. For example, the religious leaders would determine the date for Passover each spring by seeing if the roads were dry enough for the pilgrims and if the lambs were ready for slaughter. If not, they would add one more month. In this connection, it is very difficult to determine in what years the Passover fell on Friday.

8.4 The Important Jewish Religious Festivals

(References: The New Unger's Bible Dictionary, pp. 406-423, Moody Press: Chicago, 1988 Revised and Updated Edition, by Merrill F. Unger; The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times, pp. 354-361, Moody Press: Chicago, 1987 Updated and Rewritten Version, 1997 Reprint, by Ralph Gower; Ancient Israel - Its Life and Institutions, pp. 475-517, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids, 1997 Edition, by Roland de Vaux, O.P., translated by John McHugh)

This section provides a brief description of some of the important Jewish religious festivals which are closely related to the chronology of Biblical prophetic events, they are: 

  1. the Sabbath and the Day of Preparation; and

  2. the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread.

8.4.1 The Sabbath and the Day of Preparation

The "Sabbath" is a holy day of rest, celebrating God's rest after creation (Genesis 2:3; Exodus 20:8-11; 31:17). At the sunset on the Friday evening  (approx. 6 p.m.), the Sabbath was commenced and people were not allowed to do any works (note: even cooking or light a fire were not allowed!). At the sunset on the Saturday evening, the Sabbath was over and people were free to go about their normal tasks.

The "Day of Preparation" was the common name for the day before the Sabbath (John 19:31, 42). It was the time of the preparation for the Sabbath. The day of Preparation was commenced at the sunset on the Thursday evening and was ended at the sunset on the Friday evening. Jewish People utilized the Day of Preparation to prepare their food and to purchase their necessities before the Sabbath was commenced.

By the time of Jesus, the Sabbath had become a burden. It was still a time for the wearing of one's best clothes and for going to synagogue in the evening to return to the best meal of the week, but there were detailed laws in operation that legislated for every aspect of the day. They determined how far a person could walk (a "Sabbath day's journey" was 2,000 paces) and what a person could do. If a house fell on someone, for example, the unfortunate person could be left inside if he could live through the ordeal until the next day; a scribe could not carry his pen in his belt.

Jesus perceived that the whole purpose of the Sabbath, which should be a joy for man, had been changed (Matthew 12:1-4; Mark 2:23-26; Luke 6:1-11). Jesus taught that He was Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28), and because His resurrection took place on the first day of the week, Christians began to keep this day as a day of rest rather than the seventh day (Acts 20:7).

8.4.2 The Passover and feast of Unleavened Bread

The Passover was instituted in memory of Israel's preservation from the last plague visited upon Egypt (the death of the first born) and their deliverance from bondage (Exodus 12:1-28).

It was indifferently called the feast of the Passover and the feast of Unleavened Bread. The paschal meal was on the evening of the 14th Nisan, and the seven days following are called the feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:5-6). The whole feast, including the paschal eve, is called the festival of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 23:15; Leviticus 23:6; Ezra 6:22; Luke 22:1, 7; Acts 12:3; 20:6); but the simple name "Passover" is the one commonly used by the Jews to the present day for the festival of Unleavened Bread (2 Chronicles 30:15; 35:1, 11; Mark 14:1).

In fact, the Bible speaks of two successive feasts, the feast of the Passover and the feast of the Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:1-28; Leviticus 23:5-8; Numbers 28:16-25; Deuteronomy 16:1-8). The Passover was to be celebrated at the full moon in the first month of a year beginning in spring (i.e. 14th Nisan). On the following day, the 15th Nisan, the feast of Unleavened Bread began. All the leavened bread was destroyed, and for seven days, from the 15th to the 21st Nisan; the first and the seventh day were days of rest from work, and a religious meeting was held.

Observances connected with the Passover are in three categories:

  1. before the Exodus;

  2. after the Exodus; and

  3. post-exilic.

8.4.2.1 Before the Exodus

At its first institution, just before the Exodus, the keeping of the Passover was as follows: Every head of a family chose a male of the first year without blemish from the sheep or goats, on the 10th Nisan (Exodus 12:3). On the 14th Nisan the animal was slain "at twilight" (Exodus 12:6); according to the Karaite Jews between actual sunset and complete darkness (from 6:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.) but understood by the Pharisees and rabbis as the time when the sun begins to descend to its real setting (from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.). A bunch of hyssop was dipped in the blood of the animal and applied to the two posts and the lintel of the house where the meal was to be eaten. Then the whole animal, without a broken bone, was roasted and eaten by each family. It was eaten that same night with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. All who partook having their loins girded, shoes on their feet, and a staff in hand, ready to march out of Egypt. What of the lamb could not be eaten was to be burned the next morning, and nothing of it was to be carried out of the house (Exodus 12:1-13, 21-23, 43-51).

The paschal lamb was a sacrifice, it shadowed reconciliation as well as glad fellowship with God; the lamb suffered instead of the partakers. There being no fixed sanctuary, the houses were converted into such places of grace or altars, and the blood put on the posts and lintel of the door was the sign that the house was to be spared. The unleavened bread symbolized the spiritual purity after which Israel in covenant with the Lord is to strive, and the bitter herbs were intended to call to mind the bitter experiences that the Israelites had suffered in Egypt.

8.4.2.2 After the Exodus

The following supplementary enactments were introduced after the Exodus: All male members of the congregation were to appear before the Lord with "the choice first fruits" (Exodus 23:14-19), the first sheaf of the harvest (or called the feast of First Fruits) to be offered on "the day after the sabbath" (Leviticus 23:10-14); those prevented from keeping the Passover on the 14th Nisan were to observe it on the 14th of the following month (Numbers 9:6-14); the paschal animals were to be slain in the national sanctuary and the blood sprinkled on the altar instead of the door-posts and lintels of the homes (Deuteronomy 16:1-8).

8.4.2.3 Post-exilic

After the return of the Jews from captivity, the celebration of the Passover became more systematic. These were the same as those in the time of Christ and are, therefore, of the utmost importance and interest to us in understanding the New Testament. By New Testament times the Passover had become a major spring festival time. Before the festival itself, roads were repaired and tombs whitened so that people might avoid accidental defilement that occurred when a place of the dead was touched (Matthew 23:27). In homes, too, there was busy preparation. All cooking utensils had to be thoroughly cleansed or new ones purchased.

I give the various practices in connection with the days of the festival on which they were respectively observed. Note: I assume that all the days began at sunset, i.e. evening (approx. 6 p.m.).

(a) The Great Sabbath (10th Nisan and Sabbath happened at the same time)

The Sabbath immediately preceding the Passover, it is so called because, according to tradition, the 10th of Nisan, when the paschal lamb was to be selected, originally fell on the Sabbath. In later legislation the animal was not required to be set aside four days beforehand, yet the Sabbath was used for the instruction of the people in the duties of this great festival.

(b) The High Sabbath (15th Nisan and Sabbath happened at the same time)

The "High Sabbath" was the first day of the feast of Unleavened Bread fell that year on a Sabbath, making it a "high" or "special" festival. This is likely the Sabbath referred to in John 19:31.

(c) The Preparation for the Passover (13th Nisan evening to 14th Nisan sunset)

On the evening of the 13th Nisan, which, until that of the sunset of 14th Nisan (i.e. the end of 14th Nisan), was called the "preparation for the Passover" (John 19:14). Every head of a family searched for and collected by the light of a candle all the leaven, because leaven (i.e. yeast) was a symbol of corruption and evil. Homes in Jerusalem were prepared for visitors, because each household was expected to take in guests.

(d) The Passover (14th Nisan morning to 15th Nisan evening)

This day, called until the evening of 15th Nisan "the preparation for the Passover," was also known as the "first day" of Passover (Leviticus 23:5-7). Handicraftsmen were obliged to cease from work, either from morning or from noon. No leaven was allowed to be eaten after noon. On the 14th Nisan every Israelite who was physically able, not in a state of Levitical uncleanness, or further distant from Jerusalem than fifteen miles, was to appear before the Lord with an offering proportionate to his means (Exodus 23:15; Deuteronomy 16:16-17).

The Passover was consisted of the following three major activities:

  1. release of prisoners;

  2. offering of the paschal lamb at the Temple; and

  3. the paschal supper.

(i) Release of Prisoners (14th Nisan morning, approx. 6:00 - 9:00 a.m.)

It is not certain whether the release of a prisoner at the Passover (Matthew 27:15; Mark 15:6; Luke 23:17; John 18:39) was a custom of Roman origin, or whether it was an old Jewish custom that Pilate allowed them to retain.

(ii) Offering of the Paschal Lamb (14th Nisan afternoon, approx. 1:30 - 2:30 p.m.)

The lamb was to be free from all blemish and about one year old. Each paschal lamb was killed as a daily sacrifice in the Temple at 1:30 p.m. and offered at 2:30 p.m.. And if the 14th of Nisan happened on a Friday, it was killed at 12:30 p.m. and offered at 1:30 p.m., two hours earlier than usual, so as to avoid any needless breach of the Sabbath.

The Old Testament observance of the Passover not only looked back to a previous redemption from Egyptian bondage but also looked forward to the coming of the Lamb of God (Christ) who would deliver Israel from bondage to sin. On 14th Nisan, Christ was sacrificed as the paschal lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7).

(iii) The Paschal Supper (14th Nisan sunset to 15th Nisan evening, approx. 6:00 - 9:00 p.m.)

As the guests gathered around the paschal table they were arrayed in their best festive garments, joyous and at rest, as became the children of a king. To express this idea the rabbis insisted that at least a part of the feast should be partaken in a recumbent position. The left elbow was placed on the table, the head resting on the hand, with sufficient room between each guest for the free movement of the right hand. This explains in what sense John "was reclining on Jesus' breast," and afterward "leaning back thus on Jesus' breast," when he leaned back to speak to Him (John 13:23, 25; Luke 22:14). The father, or other person presiding, took the place of honor at the table, probably somewhat raised above the rest.

The paschal supper commenced by the head of the "company" pronouncing a benediction over the first cup of wine, which had been filled for each person. It was then drunk, and a basin of water and a towel were handed around or the guests got up to wash their hands (John 13:4-5, 12), after which the appropriate blessing was pronounced. These preliminaries ended, a table was brought in, upon which was the paschal meal. The president of the feast first took some of the herbs, dipped them in the sauce, ate some, and gave to the others (Matthew 26:23; John 13:26). This, in all probability, was the "dipped morsel" which, in answer to John's inquiry about the betrayer, the Lord "gave" to Judas (John 13:25-30; cf. Mark 14:22; Luke 22:21).

Note: As mentioned in the above Section 8.3.6, in Jesus' day there were two systems of reckoning the day. Jesus had eaten the Paschal Supper when His enemies, who had not as yet had the Supper, arrested Him.

(e) The feast of Unleavened Bread (15th Nisan)

On this day there was a holy convocation, and it was one of the six days on which, as on the Sabbath, no manner of work was allowed, with this exception: whereas on the Sabbath the preparation of necessary food was not allowed (Exodus 16:5, 23, 29; 35:2-3), on holy convocation it was permitted (Exodus 12:16; Leviticus 23:7; Numbers 28:18).

A careful search was made through the house to purge out any trace of the corrupting leaven before 15th Nisan. Paul uses this as an analogy of the Christian life (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). Once we have accepted Christ as our sacrifice for sin, we are to carefully search our lives to purge out the corrupting sin that is there.

(f) The feast of Firstfruits or Cutting the Barley Sheaf (16th Nisan) 

The Feast of Firstfruits involved presenting to the Lord a sheaf of the barley harvest on the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (16th of Nisan). This was accompanied by burnt, grain and drink offerings (cf. Exodus 29:40; Leviticus 23:10-14). This day was also called "the day after the Sabbath" (Leviticus 23:9-14; Numbers 28:26-31; Deuteronomy 16:9-12). The first products of the harvest were to be brought and offered before God. The sheaf of grain was taken by the priest and waved before God. This sheaf was the first token of new life and was an indication of more to come.

Paul uses it in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 as a type of the resurrection of Christ. Christ is the firstfruits of a great harvest. He is the first one to be resurrected. Just as the first sheaf was a token of many more that would follow, in the same way Christ's resurrection is a pledge of a multitude of others who will likewise be resurrected (see also Romans 8:23; 11:16; 1 Corinthians 16:15; James 1:18; Revelation 14:4). The offering of the firstfruits took place the "morrow after the Sabbath" (Leviticus 23:11), i.e. Sunday (16th Nisan). This, of course, is the day Christ was resurrected.

(g) The 21st Nisan, or the Last Day of the Passover

The last day of the Passover was observed by a holy convocation and was celebrated in all respects like the first day, except that it did not commence with the paschal meal.

A summary of the ancient Jewish religious festivals is given in below table:

Ancient Jewish Religious Festivals

Jewish Month Day Jewish Festival Commemoration Scriptural Reference
Abib, Nisan

(1st Month of Religious Year)

14 Passover of the Lord Celebrating God's preservation of Israel from the last plague visited upon Egypt (the death of the firstborn) Exodus 12:1-14; Leviticus 23:5; Numbers 28:16; Deuteronomy 16:1-3a
15 Feast of Unleavened Bread Celebrating God's deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt and their adoption as the nation of Jehovah Exodus 12:15-28; Leviticus 23:6-8; Numbers 28:17-25; Deuteronomy 16:3b-8
16 Feast of Firstfruits Dedicating to God the first portion of the earliest crop and was a pledge of the full harvest yet to be gathered Leviticus 23:9-14; Numbers 28:26-31; Deuteronomy 16:9-12
21 Close of Passover - Exodus 12:18
Iyyar, Ziv - - - -
Sivan 6 Feast of Pentecost Anniversary of the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai and Celebrating the harvest Leviticus 23:15-22; Deuteronomy 16:9-12
Tammuz - - - -
Ab - - - -
Elul - - - -
Tishri, Ethanim

(1st Month of Civil Year)

1 & 2 Feast of Trumpets Celebrating the beginning of the civil new year Leviticus 23:23-25; Numbers 29:1-6
10 Day of Atonement Atonement for the sins of the entire nation Leviticus 23:26-32; Numbers 29:7-11
15-21 Feast of Tabernacles Celebrating God's provisions throughout the wilderness wanderings Leviticus 23:33-44; Numbers 29:12-40; Deuteronomy 16:13-17
Marchesvan, Bul - - - -
Kislev 25 Feast of Lights or Dedication Celebrating the restoration of temple in 164 B.C. John 10:22
Tebeth - - - -
Shebat - - - -
Adar 14 Feast of Purim or Lots Celebrating the failure of plot against Jews by Haman Esther 9:1-32
Ve-Adar - - - -

8.5 The Correlation between Modern Western Calendar and Ancient Jewish Calendar

(References: New Testament Survey, Chapter 4, p. 92-93, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids, 1985 Revised Edition, 1996 Reprint, by Merrill C. Tenney; Chronological and Background Charts of the Old Testament, p. 19-20, Zondervan Publishing House: Grand Rapids, 1994 Revised and Expanded Edition, by John H. Walton; Ryrie Study Bible, pp. 105-106; 186-187, Moody Press: Chicago, 1994 Expanded Edition, NIV, by Charles Caldwell Ryrie; The Coming Prince, p. 250, Kregel Classics: Grand Rapids, 10th Edition, 1957 Reprint, by Sir Robert Anderson)

The correlation between the modern western calendar and the ancient Jewish religious calendar is shown in below table:

Correlation between Western Calendar and Jewish Religious Calendar

Unit Western Correlation Jewish Religious
Year 3761 B.C. A.M. 1
Month March - April 1st Abib, Nisan
April - May 2nd Iyyar, Ziv
May - June 3rd Sivan
June - July 4th Tammuz
July - August 5th Ab
August - September 6th Elul
September - October 7th Tishri, Ethanim
October - November 8th Marchesvan, Bul
November - December 9th Cislev
December - January 10th Tebeth
January - February 11th Shebat
February - March 12th Adar
- 13th Ve-Adar, Intercalary
Week Sunday 1st Day
Monday 2nd Day
Tuesday 3rd Day
Wednesday 4th Day
Thursday 5th Day
Friday 6th (Preparation)
Saturday 7th (Sabbath)
Hour 12:00 p.m. (noon) 6th hour

Correlation between Western Calendar and Jewish Civil Calendar

Unit Western Correlation Jewish Civil
Month September - October 1st Tishri, Ethanim
October - November 2nd Marchesvan, Bul
November - December 3rd Cislev
December - January 4th Tebeth
January - February 5th Shebat
February - March 6th Adar
- 7th Ve-Adar, Intercalary
March - April 8th Abib, Nisan
April - May 9th Iyyar, Ziv
May - June 10th Sivan
June - July 11th Tammuz
July - August 12th Ab
August - September 13th Elul

 

9. ISRAEL'S 490 PROPHETIC YEARS (DANIEL'S PROPHECY OF SEVENTY SEVENS)

(References: End Times - Understanding Today's World Events in Biblical Prophecy, Chapter 9, Swindoll Leadership Library, Word Publishing, 1998 Edition, by John F. Walvoord; The Coming Prince, Kregel Classics: Grand Rapids, 10th Edition, 1957 Reprint, by Sir Robert Anderson; Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977 Edition, by Harold Hoehner)

The prophecy of the "seventy sevens" of Israel is one of the most significant prophetic passages in the Old Testament.

"Seventy 'sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens,' and sixty-two 'sevens.' It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two 'sevens,' the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And one who causes desolation will place abominations on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him" (Daniel 9:24-27).

This section is a detailed analysis of the Daniel's prophecy of seventy sevens. It is divided into the following eight major divisions: 

  1. interpretation methods;

  2. the 490 years of Israel's future;

  3. the six major prophetic accomplishments;

  4. the beginning of the 490 years (the beginning of the seventy sevens);

  5. the second period of 434 years (the sixty-two sevens);

  6. events after the 483 years (the gap between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth seven);

  7. events in the final 7 years (the seventieth seven); and

  8. Israel's glorious future to begin after the 490 years (after the seventieth seven).

9.1 Interpretation Methods

This passage has unfortunately been the source of many confusing interpretations. Three major divisions can be considered:

  1. Jewish. The Jewish view says the seventy "sevens" concluded with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. This does not fit with Daniel's prophecy.

  2. Amillennial. Amillenarians take the Tribulation in a nonliteral sense, and this also does not fit with Daniel's prophecy. While most conservative thinkers accept the time units as representing years, others disagree because they do not interpret the passage literally. The fact that years are intended in this prophecy is confirmed by the fact that the seventy years of Israel's captivity were literal. There is no uniformity in the amillennial view, and it is confusing to an interpreter who wants to find out what this passage actually means.

  3. Christological or literal. The Christological interpretation on the whole attempts to be more literal. Those who interpret this passage Christologically and literally generally agree that a prophetic year is 360 days. This is able to fit with Daniel's prophecy. Therefore, it is the best interpretation method.

9.2 The 490 Years of Israel's Future

9.2.1 Related People and city

Gabriel informs Daniel that a period of time is designated for "[your] people and [your] holy city" (Daniel 9:24). At the outset it should be understood that the phrase "your people and your holy city" (Daniel 9:24; see 10:14; 11:14) clearly refers to Israel, and not to the church or world history. One of the most destructive ideas in interpreting prophecy has been the thought that the church is the new Israel and that the church fulfills Israel's promises. Nowhere is this stated in the Bible, and the hundreds of verses that mention Israel clearly refer to the twelve tribes descended from Jacob's twelve sons. There can be no question that Daniel's "people" was the nation of Israel (the Jews) and that his "holy city" was Jerusalem. No city would have been considered "holy" by Daniel other than Jerusalem. Therefore, the intent of the prophetic revelation here in chapter 9 is directed toward Israel herself and her capital city, Jerusalem.

9.2.2 Duration

It is pointed out that this period will be "seventy sevens" in length. The translation "seventy sevens" in the New International Version is more accurate than the King James Version and other versions that have "seventy weeks." The Hebrew text literally says "seventy sevens" (heptads). Americans are oriented to the number ten because of our country's monetary system and the metric system. The people of Daniel's time were, in that same way, oriented toward the number seven. Any event of seven was a heptad, which has been brought over in the translation of the text as "weeks."

Obviously the events that are prophesied in this passage could not possibly be fulfilled in seventy weeks of days - that is, 490 days or about sixteen months. Had he meant seventy "sevens" of days (i.e., 490 weeks or 3,430 days or a little more than nine years), he would no doubt have added "of days." That the "sevens" were heptads of years, totaling 490 years (not 490 days or weeks), is suggested by the fact that:

  1. In Israel heptads pertained not only to days (a week) but also to years (Leviticus 25:1-9).

  2. Daniel was already thinking in terms of years (Daniel 9:2; see Jeremiah 25:11-12).

  3. Daniel 9:2 is an explanation of the seventy years of captivity as God's just punishment on Israel because of her violation of the Sabbath for the land over a period of 490 years (compare 2 Chronicles 36:21; Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10; Leviticus 26:32-39), a land-sabbath coming every seven years (Exodus 23:10-11; Leviticus 25:2-7; Deuteronomy 15:1-10; 31:10-13), thus seventy of them during that period.

  4. Only a 490 year period of time makes any sense chronologically if taken literally.

9.2.3 Three major time periods

The prophecy of the 490 years is divided into three time periods:

  1. seven "sevens," or 7 x 7 = 49 years;

  2. sixty-two "sevens" or 62 x 7 = 434 years; and

  3. the last seven years (Daniel 9:25-27).

The first two sections of these prophecies totaling 49 + 434 = 483 years have already been fulfilled.

9.3 The Six Major Prophetic Accomplishments

The first thing that Gabriel clarified for Daniel was the purpose for this coming period of time. According to Gabriel (Daniel 9:24), during the seventy weeks the six things to be accomplished would be:

  1. "To finish transgression." The most obvious meaning is that Israel's course of apostasy and sin and wandering over the face of the earth will be brought to completion within the seventy sevens. It refers to the fact that at the Second Coming of Christ Israel's wandering will end. She will be brought back to the land, the rebels will be purged, and the godly remnant will be brought into the millennial kingdom. This will "put an end to sin" (see Ezekiel 37:23; Romans 11:20-27). Jeremiah had prophesied that after seventy years of captivity in Babylon Israel would be restored to her land. Daniel's prophecy of 490 years, however, addresses the final restoration of Israel. Perhaps another idea relative to this expression could relate to the Day of Atonement, which did not finally and completely deal with sin. All that the trespass offering on the Day of Atonement could do was to cover the sin of the nation for another year. The only thing that would finally finish the transgression and bring it to its completion would be Messiah's death. His perfect sacrifice would, for all time, bring to an end the need for the trespass offering on that most holy day.

  2. "To put an end to sin." This has in view the Old Testament ritual of the scapegoat, which also occurred on the Day of Atonement. The high priest would pray over the scapegoat, confessing the sins of the nation. Then it would be led away into the wilderness, where it would be lost. This act pictured the bearing away of Israel's sins for another year. Again, it would be the perfect offering of the Messiah, the one who would truly bear the sins of mankind, that would take them away permanently.

  3. "To atone for wickedness." To atone for wickedness" carries the idea of making reconciliation, or bringing into harmony. In the Old Testament, every year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest offered sacrifices for the sins of Israel, applying blood to the mercy seat, the cover on the ark of the covenant in the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle (Leviticus 16). But this was a temporary provision. The restored relationship with God is now possible because of the perfect sacrifice of the Messiah Jesus Christ. The death of Christ makes man savable. Though atonement was provided, however, Israel's rebellion has continued in the present age. At the Second Coming, the atonement will be applied to Israel and she will be restored spiritually.

  4. "To bring in everlasting righteousness." True, everlasting righteousness will never be achieved on this earth until the Prince of Righteousness rules. When He comes, He will bring in what is called "everlasting righteousness," that is, He will reign in righteous judgment over the earth, and Israel will be restored to walking righteously with the Lord. That age will be characterized most of all by righteousness (Isaiah 60:21; Jeremiah 23:5-6). The bringing in of everlasting righteousness is another way to speak of the bringing in of Messiah's kingdom.

  5. "To seal up vision and prophecy." To seal up vision and prophecy means to bring all that God predicted through visions and oral and written prophecies to their complete and final fulfillment. This cannot be accomplished until the Messiah returns to earth when the full truth of God will be revealed in the person of His Son. Until these prophecies are fulfilled, they are "unsealed."

  6. "To anoint the most holy." The text here actually reads, "to anoint the most holy," an indefinite idea that could be read "most holy place" (NASB) or "most holy One." The way the text is read does not greatly affect the interpretation, for the fulfillment of either option has to be millennial. If the rendering "most holy place" is followed, the millennial temple and its completion (Ezekiel 40-48) is in view. If the "most holy One" is preferred, the anointing of Jesus as the rightful King over David's throne in the millennial kingdom is the intention. Since Jesus was anointed for His messianic office at His baptism, perhaps it is better to understand this as a reference to the anointing of the "most holy place."

These six things will be accomplished within the seventy sevens. It is interesting that the first three of these purposes seem to be related in some way to offerings for sin; they look at the issue of salvation, or soteriology. They also were all accomplished in the first advent of Jesus Christ, as He came to earth and offered Himself as that perfect offering for sin. Anyone, Jew or Gentile, can enjoy the blessings of salvation through personal faith in the offering that was made by Jesus Christ on Calvary.

The second three things all seem to be related to prophetic, or eschatological events. In order for the second group of three to be fulfilled, the Messiah must return to institute His kingdom on earth, which is exactly the event that brings the seventieth week of Daniel to its close.

These six prophecies clearly pertain to Israel, though they will also have an impact on the rest of the world. They summarize God's promises to Israel in the Abrahamic, Davidic, and New Covenants (Genesis 15:18-21; 2 Samuel 7:16; Jeremiah 31:31-34).

9.4 The Beginning of the 490 Years (the Beginning of the Seventy Sevens) 

Gabriel communicated further information to Daniel so that he could understand the meaning of this revelation. In order to understand the sequence of the seventy sevens, Daniel was given a beginning point for the time period, which is declared to be "from the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem" (Daniel 9:25).

9.4.1 The starting point of the 490 years

There are four decrees by Persian rulers pertained to the return of Israel from captivity to the Promised Land spelled out in the historical books of the Bible that are often pointed to as being the decree mentioned here in Daniel:

  1. The first decree, concerning the building of the temple, was made by Cyrus the Great in 538 B.C.; it began the process of Israel's return (2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4; 5:13).

  2. The second decree confirmed the first decree and was issued by Darius I (522 - 486 B.C.) in the year 520 B.C. (Ezra 6:1, 6-12; cf. 2 Chronicles 36:22-23).

  3. The third decree was issued by Artaxerxes Longimanus (464 - 424 B.C.) in 457 B.C. (Ezra 7:11-26).

  4. The fourth decree was issued by Artaxerxes Longimanus in 14th March 445 B.C. as proposed by Sir Robert Anderson or 5th March 444 B.C. as proposed by Professor Harold Hoehner (Nehemiah 2:1-8).

The first three decrees said nothing about rebuilding the city of Jerusalem; they addressed the situation of the Jewish temple. The third decree spoke of finances for the animal sacrifices that were to be used in the temple services. Only the fourth decree mentioned anything about rebuilding the city itself. Artaxerxes gave permission to rebuild the walls that would constitute Jerusalem as a secure capital city once again, and it was a capital city, not a religious temple, that would make Israel a recognized national state. It is concluded, therefore, by many conservative scholars that the decree of Artaxerxes Longimanus in 445 B.C. (Nehemiah 2:1-8) is the decree marking the starting point of the seventy sevens of Daniel's prophecy.

The date 14th March 445 B.C. is based on the reference in Nehemiah 2:1 stating that the decree went forth in the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes Longimanus. As his reign begin in 465 B.C., twenty years later would be 445 B.C. The 1st Nisan 445 B.C. was 14th March 445 B.C. (Reference: The Coming Prince, pp. 59-66, 121-128, 251-257, Kregel Classics: Grand Rapids, 10th Edition, 1957 Reprint, by Sir Robert Anderson).

If this is the starting point for Daniel's prophecy, then from the time of the decree until the appearing of Messiah, the "Anointed One, the Ruler" (i.e. the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ), two separate periods would occur:

  1. a seven "sevens" period or 7 x 7 = 49 years; followed by

  2. a sixty-two "sevens" period or 62 x 7 = 434 years (Daniel 9:25).

9.4.2 The break between the seven "sevens" period and the sixty-two "sevens" period

If the date of the fourth decree is 445 B.C. (Nehemiah 2:1-8), then the first seven "sevens" period would last to approximately 396 B.C. (i.e. 445 - 7 x 7 = 396). While it is clear that the Messiah was not to appear until the complete sixty-nine "sevens" were fulfilled, it is not clear why the sixty-nine "sevens" were divided into two separate periods. There are two possible suggestions:

  1. Perhaps a break was placed in the first sixty-nine "sevens" so that the break between the sixty-ninth "sevens" and the seventieth "sevens" would not come as a complete surprise.

  2. The first segment, 7 x 7 = 49 years, was the period in which the city was rebuilt (445 - 396 B.C.). Nehemiah was able to encourage the people to reconstruct the city's wall in 52 days (Nehemiah 6:15). After the wall was completed, one of every ten families in Judah was required to live in the city (Nehemiah 11:1), and during the 49 years the city's debris was removed, houses were built, and "the streets and a trench" were rebuilt (Daniel 9:25).

9.5 The Second Period of 434 Years (the Sixty-Two Sevens)

The second segment in the seventy "sevens" was 62 x 7 = 434 years (sixty-two "sevens," Daniel 9:25). Adding the first 49 years, these two segments 49 + 434 = total 483 years, after which the Messiah, the "Anointed One, the Ruler" was to come.

Several attempts have been made to reconcile the sixty-nine "sevens" with actual history. Two possible methods are proposed by:

  1. Sir Robert Anderson (The Coming Prince, pp. 121-128, Kregel Classics: Grand Rapids, 10th Edition, 1957 Reprint, by Sir Robert Anderson); and

  2. Professor Harold Hoehner (Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, pp. 137-138, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977 Edition, by Harold Hoehner; Daniel's Seventy Weeks and New Testament Chronology, Bibliothca Sacra, January - March 1975, by Harold Hoehner).

9.5.1 Sir Robert Anderson's proposal

The classic work in this regard is The Coming Prince by Sir Robert Anderson. He accepted the beginning of the time period to be the decree in Nehemiah 2:1-8, which is dated in the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes Longimanus, or 14th March 445 B.C. He also understood each week in the prophecy to be a seven-year period of time and that each year was a prophetic year, which amounted to 360 days.

9.5.1.1 The reasons for using a prophetic year of 360 days

The reasons for using a prophetic year of 360 days were as follows:

  1. in keeping with the tradition of the Jewish nation that each year has 360 days;

  2. the prophecy was given at Babylon, and the Babylonian year consisted of twelve months of thirty days (i.e. 12 x 30 = 360 days); and

  3. the concept that a prophetic year was 360 days (twelve months of thirty days) is confirmed by the 1,260 days (Revelation 11:3; 12:6), with the forty-two months (Revelation 11:2; 13:5), and with a time, times and half a time, or 3 and 1/2 years (Daniel 7:25; 12:7; Revelation 12:14).

9.5.1.2 The reasons for the sixty-nine "sevens" began at 14th March 445 B.C.

The murder of Artaxerxes' father, Xerxes, and the beginning of the usurper Artabanus's seven months' reign was in July 465 B.C.; the accession of Artaxerxes was in February 464 B.C. One or other of these dates, therefore, must be the epoch of Artaxerxes' reign. But as Nehemiah mentions the Chisleu (November) of one year, and the following Nisan (March) as being both in the same year of his master's reign (see Nehemiah 1:1; 2:1), it is obvious that, as might be expected from an official of the court, Nehemiah reckons from the time of the death of Artaxerxes' father, that is from July 465 B.C.

The twentieth year of Artaxerxes therefore began in July 446 B.C., and the commandment to rebuild Jerusalem was given in the Nisan following. The epoch of the prophetic cycle is thus definitely fixed as in the Jewish month Nisan of the year 445 B.C.

In summary, Sir Robert Anderson's reasoning is as follows:

  1. In the 1st year of Artaxerxes' reign began in July 465 B.C (Ab 465 B.C.).

  2. In the 20th year of Artaxerxes' reign began in (note: 465 - 20 + 1 = 446) July 446 B.C. (Ab 446 B.C.).

  3. In the month of Chisleu in the 20th year of Artaxerxes' reign is equivalent to November 446 B.C.

  4. In the month of Nisan in the 20th year of Artaxerxes' reign is equivalent to March 445 B.C..

  5. Since the 1st Nisan in the year of 445 B.C. is 14th March, the sixty-nine "sevens" began at 14th March 445 B.C.

Artaxerxes's Accession Year

Unit Western Correlation Artaxerxes's Accession Year
Month July - August 1st Ab
August - September 2nd Elul
September - October 3rd Tishri
October - November 4th Marchesvan, Bul
November - December 5th Cislev
December - January 6th Tebeth
January - February 7th Shebat
February - March 8th Adar
- 9th Ve-Adar, Intercalary
March - April 10th Nisan
April - May 11th Iyyar, Ziv
May - June 12th Sivan
June - July 13th Tammuz

9.5.1.3 The reasons for the sixty-nine "sevens" came to an end on 6th April 32 A.D.

According to his work, the sixty-nine "sevens" came to an end on 6th April 32 A.D., the very day that Jesus Christ rode into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey proclaiming Himself to be the Messiah of the nation. The date 6th April 32 A.D. for the Triumphal Entry was deduced by the following factors:

  1. Ancient Jewish people went up to Jerusalem, before the Passover, to purify themselves on the 8th Nisan (Wars, vi: 5, 3, by Josephus).

  2. In accordance with the Jewish custom, the Lord Jesus went up to Jerusalem upon the 8th Nisan, "six days before the Passover" (John 11:55; 12:1, 12). If the 8th Nisan was "six days before the Passover," then the Passover would be 14th Nisan and the Paschal Supper was eaten later on that night.

  3. As mentioned in John 19:31-32, the Lord Jesus was crucified at the "Day of Preparation" - 15th Nisan Friday (i.e. one day before the Sabbath - Saturday). Therefore, He must be arrested at the preceding Thursday night, on which the Paschal Supper was eaten on that night (Matthew 26:17-22; Mark 14:12-17; Luke 22:7-13). 

  4. According to astronomers, the only possible time 15th Nisan fell on Friday was in the year of 32 A.D.. If the trial and crucifixion of Christ was on 15th Nisan Friday 32 A.D., then the Passover was on the preceding 14th Nisan Thursday 32 A.D..

  5. Then, the very day that Jesus Christ rode into the city of Jerusalem proclaiming Himself to be the Messiah of the nation was the preceding Sunday 10th Nisan 32 A.D.. Astronomers told us that Jewish calendar of 10th Nisan Sunday 32 A.D. was equivalent to our western calendar of 6th April 32 A.D..

9.5.1.4 Sir Robert Anderson's calculations

The period of 483 years extends from 14th March 445 B.C., when Artaxerxes issued the decree for Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem's wall, to 6th April 32 A.D., the date of Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, which was followed in a few days by His death on the Cross. At first glance the period of time from 445 B.C. to 32 A.D. does not seem to equal 483 years (the sixty-nine "sevens"). But in Biblical times a prophetic year was 360 days (twelve months of thirty days). Thus when the 483 years are multiplied by 360 days, the total number of days is 483 x 360 = 173,880, which corresponds exactly to the time from 445 B.C. to 32 A.D., when leap years are added. This total of 173,880 days ended shortly before Christ was crucified, or as Daniel's prediction states, before He was "cut off and will have nothing" (Daniel 9:26).

Sir Robert Anderson's calculations went like this:

Unit Jewish Calendar (360 days per year) Gregorian Calendar (365 days per year) Remarks
Years (7 x 7) + (62 x 7) = 483 years 445 B.C. to 32 A.D. = 476 years Since only 1 year expired between 1 B.C. and 1 A.D., the total is 476, not 477.
Days 483 years x 360 days = 173,880 days 476 years x 365 days = 173,740 days A total of 476 years divided by 4 (a leap year every four years) gives 119 additional days. But 3 days must be subtracted from 119 because centennial years are not leap years, though every 400th year is a leap year.
Add for leap years N/A (476 x 1/4) - 3 = 116 days
Add for extra days N/A 31 - 14 + 1 + 6 = 24 days 14th March to 6th April, both inclusive
Total 173,880 days 173,880 days The interval contained exactly and to the very day 173,880 days, or 69 x 7 prophetic years of 360 days, the sixty-nine "sevens" of Gabriel's prophecy.

9.5.2 Professor Harold Hoehner's proposal

Based on a subsequent work of Harold Hoehner of Dallas Theological Seminary (Daniel's Seventy Weeks and New Testament Chronology, Bibliothca Sacra, January - March 1975, Dallas Theological Seminary), Harold Hoehner concluded that Anderson's calculations contained some problems, and that a more acceptable date for the twentieth year of Artaxerxes is 444 B.C. The A.D. 32 date for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is also untenable because that would mean that Christ would have been crucified on either a Sunday or a Monday. When Hoehner recalculated the period, he came up with a starting date of 5th March 444 B.C. for the decree of Artaxerxes and a concluding date of 30th March 33 A.D. for the Triumphal Entry.

9.5.2.1 The reasons for the sixty-nine "sevens" began at 5th March 444 B.C.

The date of this decree is given in the biblical record. Nehemiah 1:1 states that Nehemiah heard of Jerusalem’s desolate conditions in the month of Chislev (November/December) in Artaxerxes’ twentieth year. Then later in Artaxerxes’ twentieth year in the month of Nisan (March/April) Nehemiah reports that he was granted permission to restore the city and build its walls (Nehemiah 2:1).

To have Nisan later than Chislev (in the same year) may seem strange until one realizes that Nehemiah was using a Tishri-to-Tishri (September/October) dating method rather than the Persian Nisanto-Nisan method. Nehemiah was following what was used by the kings of Judah earlier in their history (Note: As mentioned in the above Section 8.3.3, the Jewish civil year commenced with the seventh month "Tishri," corresponding roughly to October on the modern western calendar.). This method used by Nehemiah is confirmed by Jews in Elephantine who also used this method during the same time period as Nehemiah.

Next, one needs to establish the beginning of Artaxerxes’ rule. His father Xerxes died shortly after 17th December, 465 B.C. and Artaxerxes immediately succeeded him. Since the accession-year system was used, the first year of Artaxerxes’ reign would be either:

  1. 1st Nisan 464 to 1st Nisan 463 B.C. (i.e. March 464 to March 463 B.C.) according to the Persian Nisan-to-Nisan system; or

  2. 1st Tishri 464 to 1st Tishri 463 B.C. (i.e. October 464 to October 463 B.C.) according to the Jewish Tishri-to-Tishri system.

Correlation between Western Calendar and Jewish Civil Calendar

Unit Western Correlation Jewish Civil Year
Month September - October 1st Tishri
October - November 2nd Marchesvan, Bul
November - December 3rd Cislev
December - January 4th Tebeth
January - February 5th Shebat
February - March 6th Adar
- 7th Ve-Adar, Intercalary
March - April 8th Nisan
April - May 9th Iyyar, Ziv
May - June 10th Sivan
June - July 11th Tammuz
July - August 12th Ab
August - September 13th Elul

This could be charted in the following way:

(Source: Daniel's Seventy Weeks and New Testament Chronology, Bibliothca Sacra, January - March 1975, Dallas Theological Seminary, by Harold Hoehner)

The Accession of Artaxerxes

The accession of Artaxerxes.JPG (165822 ????)

Therefore, the 20th year of Artaxerxes’ reign (i.e. 464 - 20 + 1 = 445) would be either:

  1. 1st Nisan 445 to 1st Nisan 444 B.C. (i.e. March 445 to March 444 B.C.) according to the Persian Nisan-to-Nisan system; or

  2. 1st Tishri 445 to 1st Tishri 444 B.C. (i.e. October 445 to October 444 B.C.) according to the Jewish Tishri-to-Tishri system.

In the 20th year of Artaxerxes’ reign, two events happened:

  1. In the month of Cislev in the 20th year of Artaxerxes' reign, Hanani reported to Nehemiah about the conditions of the Jewish remnant that survived the exile and also about Jerusalem  (Nehemiah 1:1-3).

  2. And then later on, in the month of Nisan in the 20th year of Artaxerxes' reign, Nehemiah requested the King Artaxerxes to grant permission to rebuild Jerusalem. King Artaxerxes accepted Nehemiah's request and then he issued a decree to rebuild Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:1-9).

The month of Cislev in the 20th year of Artaxerxes's reign would be November 445 B.C. and then the month of Nisan in the 20th year of Artaxerxes's reign would be March 444 B.C. The two events are illustrated in the following chart:

(Source: Daniel's Seventy Weeks and New Testament Chronology, Bibliothca Sacra, January - March 1975, Dallas Theological Seminary, by Harold Hoehner)

The decree of Artaxerxes.JPG (161287 ????)

Finally, 1st Nisan in 444 B.C. was 4th March, or more likely 5th March since the crescent of the new moon would have been first visible so late at night (ca. 10 P.M.) on 4th March and could easily have been missed. Therefore, 5th March 444 B.C. marks the beginning of the seventy sevens of Daniel 9:24–27.

In summary, Professor Harold Hoehner's reasoning is as follows:

  1. In the 1st year of Artaxerxes' reign began in October 464 B.C. (Tishri 464 B.C.).

  2. In the 20th year of Artaxerxes' reign began in (note: 464 - 20 + 1 = 445) October 445 B.C. (Tishri 445 B.C.).

  3. In the month of Chisleu in the 20th year of Artaxerxes' reign is equivalent to November 445 B.C.

  4. In the month of Nisan in the 20th year of Artaxerxes' reign is equivalent to March 444 B.C.

  5. Since the 1st Nisan in the year of 444 B.C. is 5th March, the sixty-nine "sevens" began at 5th March 444 B.C.

Comparison of the Two Proposals of the Commencement Date of the Sixty-Nine Sevens

Events

Sir Robert Anderson's Proposal

Professor Harold Hoehner's Proposal

1st year of Artaxerxes' reign

July 465 B.C. (Ab)

October 464 B.C. (Tishri)

20th year of Artaxerxes' reign

July 446 B.C. (Ab)

October 445 B.C. (Tishri)

20th year of Artaxerxes' reign, Chisleu

November 446 B.C. (Chisleu)

November 445 B.C. (Chisleu)

20th year of Artaxerxes' reign, Nisan

March 445 B.C. (Nisan)

March 444 B.C. (Nisan)

20th year of Artaxerxes' reign, 1st Nisan

14th March 445 B.C. (1st Nisan)

5th March 444 B.C. (1st Nisan)

9.5.2.2 The reasons for the sixty-nine "sevens" came to an end on 30th March 33 A.D.

The date 30th March 33 A.D. for the Triumphal Entry was deduced by the following factors:

  1. Jesus' trial and crucifixion were on the "day of preparation for the Passover" (John 19:14) and not after the eating of the Passover. The Jews did not want to enter the Praetorium on 14th Nisan morning (John 18:28) so as not to be defiled since later that day they would slay their paschal lambs on 14th Nisan afternoon and then they would eat the paschal supper on that night. Christ the Paschal Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7) was crucified on the Day of Preparation - Friday (John 19:31-32) when a prisoner was released at the Passover on 14th Nisan morning (Matthew 27:15; Mark 15:6; Luke 23:17; John 18:39). Due to the above reasons, Christ died at the time when the Israelites were sacrificing their Passover lambs on 14th Nisan Friday afternoon.

  2. Having concluded that Jesus died on a Friday and on 14th Nisan, one must determine in which year 14th Nisan fell on Friday. The Jewish month was a lunar month having no less than 29 and no more than 30 days. The first day of the month was determined from the new moon. Of course, the new moon is not visible, but one or two days after the new moon, a faintly glowing moon sickle appears. When two trustworthy witnesses informed the priestly calendar commission (i.e. Sanhedrin), under oath, that they had seen the new moon, the day would be declared the first of the new month. There have been several studies in this, and their conclusions are that the only possible times 14th Nisan fell on Friday were in the years of 30 A.D. and 33 A.D.

  3. Luke 3:1-2 indicates that John the Baptist's ministry started in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar (14 -37 A.D.) which was 29 A.D. (i.e. 15 + 14 = 29). Some scholars hold to 30 A.D. as the date of Christ's crucifixion. However, if one accepts John the Baptist's ministry beginning in 29 A.D., then Christ would have had a ministry of only about one year (note: Christ began His ministry after He was baptized by John the Baptist as recorded in Matthew 3:3-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-23a). However, John mentioned in his gospel three Passovers (John 2:13; 6:4; 11:55) and one unnamed feast in John 5:1. Because of this, a three year and some months ministry of Christ better explains the evidence in John's gospel. Hence, the crucifixion date of Jesus should be 14th Nisan Friday 33 A.D.. Astronomers told us that Jewish calendar of 14th Nisan Friday 33 A.D. was equivalent to our western calendar of 3rd April 33 A.D..

  4. On 13th Nisan Thursday morning, Christ had His disciples prepare the Passover Lamb (Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13), and they had their paschal supper in the Upper Room on that night (Matthew 26:20-30; Mark 14:17-26; Luke 22:14-30; John 13:1-14:31). Later that night Jesus was arrested (Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:2-12).

  5. Therefore, the day of Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-19) would be 10th Nisan Monday (i.e. 30th March 33 A.D.) when the lamb was selected for Passover. Hence, the Triumphal Entry was the day when Christ presented Himself as Israel's Paschal Lamb. 

9.5.2.3 The problem of harmonization between the Synoptic Gospels and John's Gospel regarding the observance of the Passover

The Synoptic Gospels picture that Christ and the disciples had a Passover lamb, and it had already been slaughtered (Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13; cf. also Matthew 26:17-19). However, John 18:28 which states that the Jews did not enter the Praetorium "in order that they might not be defiled, but might eat the Passover." If Jesus' Last Supper was the Paschal Supper, how on the next day could the Jews say they had not eaten the Passover?

In addition, according to Sir Robert Anderson's chronology, the Passover was on 14th Nisan Thursday. However, according to Professor Harold Hoehner's chronology, the Passover was on 14th Nisan Friday. If both of them are correct in their analysis, then how to reconcile the apparent contradictions?

9.5.2.4 The possible solution to the problem of harmonization between the Synoptic Gospels and John's Gospel regarding the Passover

(Reference: Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, pp. 76-88, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977 Edition, by Harold Hoehner)

As I have mentioned in the above Section 8.3.5, there are different ways to reckon a day. But what about the Passover of Jesus' day? The Passover could be reckoned from sunset to sunset or sunrise to sunrise. Generally, it is thought it was reckoned from sunset to sunset. Yet Josephus, who was a Pharisee living in Jesus' day, in explaining the law of the Passover, states that the Paschal lamb must be eaten during the night with nothing left for the morning. This seems to indicate a sunrise-to-sunrise reckoning. The Mishnah states that the Passover lamb must be eaten by midnight which would seem to indicate that the new day began at sunrise.

Since in Jesus' day there were two systems of reckoning the day, this would be a solution to the disagreement between the Synoptics and John. It is thought that the Galileans used a different method of reckoning the Passover than the Judeans. The Galileans and Pharisees used the sunrise-to-sunrise reckoning whereas the Judeans and Sadducees used the sunset-to-sunset reckoning. The two systems of reckoning the Passover were as follows:

  1. According to the Synoptics, the Last Supper was a Passover meal. Since the day was to be reckoned from sunrise, the Galileans, and with them Jesus and His disciples, had the Paschal lamb slaughtered in the late afternoon of Thursday, 14th Nisan, and later that evening they ate the Passover with the unleavened bread.

  2. On the other hand, the Judean Jews who reckoned from sunset to sunset would slay the lamb on Friday afternoon which marked the end of 14th Nisan and would eat the Passover lamb with the unleavened bread that night which had become 15th Nisan. Thus, Jesus had eaten the Passover meal when His enemies, who had not as yet had the Passover, arrested Him.

This interpretation eliminates the difficulties presented in John's Gospel:

  1. This gives good sense to John 18:28 where the Jews did not want to enter the Praetorium so as not to be defiled since later that day they would slay the victims for those who reckoned from sunset-to-sunset.

  2. John 19:14 makes sense for it says that Jesus' trial and crucifixion were on the "day of preparation for the Passover" and not after the eating of the Passover.

  3. This fits well with John 19:36 where it speaks of the fulfillment of the Old Testament (Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12) when no bones of Jesus, the Passover Lamb, were broken. After Jesus' trial and crucifixion, He died when the Paschal lambs were slain in the temple precincts.

This view not only satisfies the data of the Synoptics and the Gospel of John, it is also substantiated by the Mishnah. It was the custom of the Galileans to do no work on the day of the Passover while the Judeans worked until mid-day. Since the Galileans' day began at sunrise they would do no work on the entire day of the Passover. On the other hand the Judeans' day began at sunset and they would work the morning but not the afternoon. Their ceasing to work at mid-day could have been either the Judeans' 14th Nisan which would have given them time for slaying their Paschal lambs that afternoon or more probably the mid-day of the Judeans' 13th Nisan, which meant that they did not work in deference to the Galileans' 14th Nisan (who would have been slaying their Paschal lambs that afternoon).

In conclusion, then, the proposed interpretation does justice to the data of the Synoptics, the Gospel of John, and the Mishnah.

9.5.2.5 Professor Harold Hoehner's calculations

The comparison between the calculations of Sir Robert Anderson and Professor Harold Hoehner are as follows:

Unit Sir Robert Anderson's proposal Professor Harold Hoehner's proposal Remarks
Years 445 B.C. to 32 A.D. = 476 years 444 B.C. to 33 A.D. = 476 years Since only 1 year expired between 1 B.C. and 1 A.D., the total is 476, not 477.
Days 476 years x 365 days = 173,740 days 476 years x 365 days = 173,740 days A total of 476 years divided by 4 (a leap year every four years) gives 119 additional days. But 3 days must be subtracted from 119 because centennial years are not leap years, though every 400th year is a leap year.
Add for leap years (476 x 1/4) - 3 = 116 days (476 x 1/4) - 3 = 116 days
Add for extra days 31 - 14 + 1 + 6 = 24 days 30 - 5 - 1 = 24 days 5th March to 30th March, both exclusive
Total 173,880 days 173,880 days The interval contained exactly and to the very day 173,880 days, or 69 x 7 prophetic years of 360 days, the sixty-nine "sevens" of Gabriel's prohecy.

9.5.3 Comments

Regardless of the calculations, it is fascinating to think that when Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem on that Sunday morning, He was appearing there on the very day that Daniel had prophesied more than 500 years before. Perhaps the words of the Lord Jesus recorded by Luke are even more enlightening, for it is recorded that as Jesus approached the city He wept over it and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes" (Luke 19:42).

9.6 Events After the 483 Years (the Gap Between the Sixty-Ninth and the Seventieth Seven)

There are two theories have been proposed for the interpretation of the events after the sixty-ninth seven (i.e. after the 483 years):

  1. The continuous fulfillment theory which holds that the seventieth seven immediately follows the sixty-ninth. If fulfillment is continuous, then the seventieth seven is already history.

  2. The gap theory which holds that there is a period of time between the sixty-ninth seven and the seventieth seven. If there is a gap, there is a possibility that the seventieth seven is still future.

9.6.1 The continuous fulfillment theory 

Most amillenarians argue that the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem was Cyrus's decree in 538 B.C. and that the seventieth "seven" has already been fulfilled in Jesus' ministry on earth. They say He was "cut off" (crucified) in the seventieth seven. Thus there is no future fulfillment of a seventieth "seven"; all seventy "sevens" are past. However, this presents several serious problems:

  1. This requires a nonliteral approach to the numbers. The length of time from Cyrus's decree to Jesus' death is far more than 490 years (note: 538 + 32 = 570 > 490). Amillenarians respond that the numbers are to be "spiritualized" to mean simply a "long period of time."

  2. Jesus' ministry on earth was not seven years long.

  3. The decree of Cyrus, as already noted, pertained only to the temple, not to Jerusalem.

  4. Amillenarians suggest the six accomplishments in Daniel 9:24 are being fulfilled today in the church. But this overlooks the fact that these six actions pertain to Daniel's people (Israel) and the holy city, Jerusalem. Nothing in Daniel 9:24 suggests the church is fulfilling these promises.

  5. The events following the sixty-ninth "seven" including the death of Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem, have been fulfilled. But the Rapture and the time of trouble including the Great Tribulation leading up to the Second Coming did not immediately follow the sixty-nine sevens they are yet future. This is confirmed by the fact that the Second Coming has not occurred.

Due to the above reasons, the continuous fulfillment theory must be rejected as false.

9.6.2 The gap theory

Premillennialists believe that there is a gap between the sixty-ninth seven and the seventieth seven. Their reasons are as follows:

  1. It is clear that the cutting off of the Messiah was to come "after the sixty-two "sevens" (Daniel 9:26). Since the sixty-two "sevens" follow the seven "sevens" period, the total amount of time from the issuing of King Artaxerxes' decree until Messiah was to be sixty-nine "sevens." But the cutting off of the Messiah was to be "after" the sixty-ninth seven   (i.e. after 69 x 7 = 483 years) not "in" the seventieth seven, so there must be some interval of time between the sixty-ninth sevens and the seventieth seven.

  2. The amount of time that was to transpire between these two periods is not indicated in Daniel's prophecy. It is known from history that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ occurred within one week of the Triumphal Entry, but He had predicted that He would be building His church. Apparently that program also comes between the sixty-ninth sevens and the seventieth seven.

  3. The setting aside of the nation of Israel for a period of time is clearly in view in Daniel's prophecy. According to Daniel's prediction, the Messiah "will be cut off and will have nothing" (Daniel 9:26). This comment apparently refers to the six purposes that are mentioned in verse 24. Through the death of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, on the cross, the provision has been made for the first three soteriological promises. However, the Jewish nation did not enter experientially into the blessings that He provided. It is stated clearly in John 1:11 that "He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him." This means that there has been no advance in the kingdom program for the nation of Israel since the days that Daniel gave these prophecies.

  4. It was revealed that "the people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary" (Daniel 9:26). What is revealed to Daniel here is that the city of Jerusalem would be destroyed by a group following the sixty-nine "sevens" and the cutting off of the Messiah. This fact is another reason why there must be a break between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth seven in the prophecy. Clearly, the seventieth seven did not immediately follow the sixty-ninth seven. This "people" must come and destroy the city and the sanctuary.

  5. While the sixty-ninth seven and the death of Messiah probably occurred either in 32 or 33 A.D., the destruction of Jerusalem did not happen until 70 A.D. (i.e. a gap of at least 70 - 33 = 37 years was observed between the sixty-ninth seven and the seventieth seven). The people who came at that time and destroyed the city and the temple were the Romans, led by a general known as Titus. Jesus had predicted this destruction several times (cf. Luke 21:5-6; Matthew 23:38-39; 24:1-2). The Roman invasion was like a "flood" (Daniel 9:26) as the mighty Roman army swept through the land and totally destroyed everything. But that was not the end of the destruction; Daniel says that "war will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed" (Daniel 9:26). The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. will not be its final destruction. According to Zechariah 9:11-17, Jerusalem will be surrounded again by the coming world dictator during the Tribulation period. The reference by Daniel to "the end" (Daniel 9:26) moves the interpretation of this passage to the final "seven," the seventieth seven of the prophecy.

  6. The decisive evidence for a gap, however, comes from the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:16 in which an event of the seventieth seven, "the abomination that causes desolation," is yet future because it is connected with His Second Advent, not in direct sequence to the first sixty-ninth seven.

See below chart for illustration of the gap theory (based on Sir Robert Anderson's proposal):

3.HTM2.gif (24779 ????)

9.6.3 Conclusion

I conclude that the gap theory is correct and therefore the seventieth seven is still future.

9.7 Events in the Final 7 Years (the Seventieth Seven)

Daniel 9:27 discusses events that relate to the last seven years, years that are yet to come.

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

9.7.1 The identity of the "he"

Daniel was informed that "he will confirm a covenant with many for one seven" that is, the final seven of the 490 years (Daniel 9:27). Who is the "he"? There are two different interpretations of the identity of the "he":

  1. Some amillenarians insist this refers to the New Covenant Christ inaugurated by His death on the cross. However, the New Covenant was not a seven-year covenant. Further, as already noted, the destruction of Jerusalem did not occur until 37 years after His crucifixion. Therefore one cannot say these prophecies were fulfilled during Jesus' life on earth. Also the pronoun "he" does not refer to Christ. Instead it points back to the previous person mentioned, who is the "ruler" whose "people' the Romans, "will destroy the city" (Daniel 9:26). Hence, it is obvious that this interpretation is false.

  2. In the classic premillennial understanding of this passage, the "he" is a reference to the coming world dictator, the Anti-christ. The nearest antecedent to the "he" is a reference to the people of "the ruler" (or translated as "the prince" in NASB) who will come" (Daniel 9:26). This "ruler" is said to be a prince of those who were coming to destroy the city of Jerusalem. Since those who came were the Romans, this is seen to fit with the previous visions of Daniel regarding the Gentile world powers. In Daniel 7, the final great Gentile world empire is said to be the dreadful and terrifying beast with the ten horns, which was understood as being a reference to Rome. When the ten horns are in place, another "little horn" emerges to power, supplanting the place of three of the existing horns. That "little horn" and this "prince who will come" who will confirm a covenant with many for one seven are one and the same individual. These designations make perfectly good sense for a Satanic impostor. If the true Messiah is called "the prince" in Daniel 9:25, does it not make sense that an impostor would also claim the same designation for himself? Hence, this interpretation is correct.

9.7.2 The identity of the "many"

The reference to "many" (Daniel 9:27) must be a reference to the Jewish people, for since the events of the first sixty-nine sevens revolve around the city of Jerusalem and the Jewish people, it is logical to assume that the events of the seventieth seven must also.

9.7.3 The Anti-christ will confirm a peace accord with the Jewish people at the beginning of the seventieth seven

This covenant will apparently be a covenant of peace, for Israel will view it as the opportunity that will permit her to dwell peacefully in her land. Ezekiel 38-39 speak of a time when Israel will think that she is dwelling in safety (see Ezekiel 38:14). Perhaps this could be viewed as a counterfeit fulfillment of the genuine promises of the Abrahamic covenant.

There has been, in the Mideast region, talk about peace for many years (e.g. Camp David Accords in 1979, Oslo Accords in 1993, etc). The fact is, none of these peace agreements are actually working as they were designed. The failure of these treaties has set the scene for the need of someone to help bring these agreements into some kind of workable order. These peace agreements, which are already on the table, not working, is that they fit the Biblical scenario of Daniel 9:27. The prophet Daniel wrote that the Anti-christ, the "coming prince," will confirm a peace covenant with the Jewish people, not sign a peace agreement. The Hebrew word for "confirm," gabar, which is used in the Bible, is not the same word as to "sign." Gabar also means to "strengthen." In order to strengthen, or confirm something, it must already be on the table, which is where these three "peace treaties" are now located.

When this coming prince, or Anti-christ, enters into this covenant with the many (that is, the many Jews who will reside in the land at the time) the time of the seven-year Tribulation period will begin.

9.7.4 The Anti-christ will break his covenant and desecrate the temple in the middle of the seventieth seven (i.e. after 3 and 1/2 years)

This covenant will not, however, stay in effect for the entire seven-year agreement because Daniel records that "in the middle of the seven he will put an end to sacrifice and offering" (Daniel 9:27). This refers to a temple yet to be built and the sacrifices that will be offered in it. After making a seven-year peace agreement with Israel, the Anti-christ (i.e. the coming prince) will discontinue these sacrifices in the middle of the last seven years leading up to the Second Coming of Christ (Daniel 9:27; 12:11). He will cause all the restored sacrificial worship of Jehovah in the rebuilt temple to cease.

In its place, "on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation" (Daniel 9:27). In the middle of the seventieth seven, that is the Great Tribulation, the world dictator will elevate himself to the position of God and demand that everyone in the world worship him (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 13:8). This is what Jesus referred to in Matthew 24:15-16 when He said, "So when you see standing in the holy place the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of through the prophet Daniel (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains."

Other Scriptures confirm the point that the Great Tribulation will occur in the last three and a half years before the Second Coming (Daniel 12:1; Matthew 24:21; Revelation 7:14). The length of the Great Tribulation will be forty-two months, or 1,260 days (Revelation 12:11; 13:5). This coincides with the last half of the seven years of Daniel 9:27, which indicates that persecution of Israel by the Anti-christ will begin in the middle of the last seven years, when he will break his covenant with her.

See below chart for illustration of the prophecy of Daniel's seventy sevens (based on Sir Robert Anderson's proposal):

wpe34972.gif (162503 ????)

9.7.5 The Anti-christ will be destroyed when Jesus Christ returns

This willful one will not be allowed to continue indefinitely, however, for "the end that is decreed is poured out on him." Daniel's final word at this point is that what had been determined regarding this individual will be carried out. Even though the Anti-christ will bring desolation on Israel and the world, he will be brought to judgment (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:8-9). When Christ returns to earth, He will deliver Israel from her persecutors, and the Anti-christ and the forces of wickedness will be totally destroyed (Revelation 19:17-21).

9.7.6 The goal of the Anti-christ will be to eliminate all Jews

The efforts of this one are Satanically induced, for he will attempt to make it impossible for Jesus Christ to assume His rightful place as King over the nation of Israel. His plan of attack will be similar to previous attempts, for his goal will be to eliminate all Jews. If everyone of Jewish descent were killed, Jesus would have none of Abraham's descendants to rule over. Satan's efforts will not succeed, however, and he will be dealt with when Jesus Christ returns.

9.7.7 The Daniel's seventieth seven will be a time of terrible judgments from God

The entire present Church Age from Pentecost until the time of the Rapture - the lengthy interval between the sixty-ninth and the seventh seven - must run its course before the events in these last seven years will occur. The seven years (Daniel's seventieth seven) leading up to the Second Coming will be a time of terrible judgments from God, as recorded in Revelation 6-18.

These facts together demonstrate that the last seven years of Daniel's prophecy of seventy "sevens" have not been fulfilled, but will be fulfilled just prior to the Second Coming of Christ.

9.8 Israel's Glorious Future to Begin after the 490 Years (After the Seventieth Seven)

Daniel learns that from the time when the daily sacrifice is taken away and the abomination of desolation is set up until the end will be 1,290 days (Daniel 12:11). Previously Daniel was told that these events would occur in the middle of the seventieth seven (Daniel 9:27). Following the model of days presented earlier, three and a half prophetic years of 360 days each should amount to only 1,260 days. Why is there an additional 30 days added here? Another complicating factor is the statement "blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days" (Daniel 12:12). This is an additional 45 days beyond the 1,290 figure (note: 1,335 - 1,290 = 45). Why these days are added is not explained in Daniel. The inclusion of them does point out the fact, however, that the establishment of the millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ will take some time to accomplish. Perhaps it is best to conclude that the Second Advent of Jesus Christ will occur precisely at the end of the seventieth seven, or at the end of the 1,260 days.

It is clear that the Lord's return will lead to several different judgments:

  1. the judgment of the nations (Matthew 25:31-46); and

  2. the regathering and judgment of Israel from all over the world (Ezekiel 20:34-38; Matthew 25:1-13).

These judgments will be for the living; they will decide whether an individual remains on earth to enter Messiah's kingdom or is purged out into eternal separation from God because of unbelief. These judgments will obviously take some time. It may be assumed that with the 75 days following the Second Advent these great judgments will all have been accomplished and the millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ actually initiated. Those who attain to this period are obviously those who have been judged worthy to enter the kingdom. That is why they may be called "blessed."

Daniel was told he would rise "at the end of the days" (Daniel 12:13). He was promised that he too would be resurrected to share in the glorious kingdom that he had been writing about. The resurrection of Old Testament saints is clearly post-tribulational, but that is not to say that the resurrection of all people is post-tribulational. When God instituted His plan for the church, He put a different program into place for the completion of His plan than for those from the Old Testament age. But God's program for Israel involves a resurrection of Old Testament believers just before the institution of the millennial kingdom so that those individuals will also be able to share in Messiah's glorious reign.

 

10. THE GREAT TRIBULATION

(References: Basic Theology, Section XIII, Chapter 84, ChariotVictor Publishing, 1999 Edition, by Charles C. Ryrie; Countdown to Armageddon - The Final Battle and Beyond, Chapter 13, Word of Life Fellowship Inc., Harvest House Publishers, 1999 Edition, by Charles C. Ryrie; The Bible and Future Events, Chapters 4 and 7, Academie Books, Zondervan Corporation, 1973 Edition, by Leon J. Wood)

While the raptured church is in heaven, a time of Tribulation, lasting seven years, will take place on earth. The Scriptures have much to say concerning this period. This section is a detailed description of the Tribulation period. It is divided into the following thirteen major divisions: 

  1. the definition of the term Tribulation;

  2. the meaning of the Tribulation;

  3. the uniqueness of the Tribulation;

  4. the purpose of the Tribulation;

  5. the participants of the Tribulation;

  6. the preparation for the Tribulation;

  7. the duration of the Tribulation;

  8. the commencement of the Tribulation;

  9. the predictions of the Tribulation in Old Testament;

  10. the predictions of the Tribulation in New Testament;

  11. the description of the Tribulation in the book of Revelation;

  12. the Israelitish aspect of the Tribulation; and

  13. the religious aspect of the Tribulation.

10.1 The Definition of the term "Tribulation"

Daniel the prophet spoke of seven years of desolation (Daniel 9:27). This period of future intense suffering is called "7-year Tribulation." The first three and one-half years may be calm and prosperous, but the last half will be terrifying. Strictly speaking, the term "Great Tribulation" (Matthew 24:21) applies to the latter half of the seven years of the Anti-christ's reign. The first half was described by the Lord as "the beginning of sorrows/birth pangs" (Matthew 24:8). Therefore, the 7-year Tribulation is divided into two parts:

  1. the first half "the Beginning of Sorrows/Birth Pangs" (duration of 3.5 years or 42 months); and

  2. the latter half "the Great Tribulation" (duration of 3.5 years or 42 months).

The 7-year Tribulation period will come between the two phases of Christ's coming appears from a study of the whole program of the future. It will close with Christ's return in glory (Matthew 24:29f).

10.2 The Meaning of the Tribulation

Earthquakes, storms, famines and epidemics are the common experience of mankind, and wars have caused the death of millions throughout the history. Trials, testing, suffering and pain are the human heritage. Jesus declared to His own, "In the world you shall have tribulation" (John 16:33). We know, of course, that believers must through many tribulations "enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22; 1 Thessalonians 3:3); but there is, besides this common experience of Christians, a future period of Tribulation. If you are a believer in Christ, praise God that you will escape the fearful destruction of that day.

When we refer to the "Great Tribulation" we have in mind, not man's daily difficulties, but a specific era of anguish still in the future - a period of intense, excruciating sorrow and physical pain. The coming Tribulation is penal. It will be a righteous penalty from God upon apostate Israel and Christ-rejecting Christendom.

The Great Tribulation is described in the following Scriptural passages:

  1. the "time of God's indignation with the inhabitants of the earth" (Deuteronomy 4:30-31; Isaiah 24:19-21; 26:20-21);

  2. the "time of Jacob's trouble/distress" (Jeremiah 30:7);

  3. the "day of the Lord" (Isaiah 13:9-10; Ezekiel 30:1-3; Joel 1:15; 2:1-2; Amos 5:20; Zephaniah 1:14; Zechariah 14:1-7);

  4. a "time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation" (Daniel 12:1-4);

  5. a "great tribulation" (Matthew 24:21);

  6. "that day" (Luke 21:34);

  7. the "day of the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12);

  8. "the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth" (Revelation 3:10); and

  9. who had "come out of the great tribulation" (Revelation 7:14).

10.3 The Uniqueness of the Tribulation

In describing the period of the Great Tribulation, the Lord Jesus said it will be a time "such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall" (Matthew 24:2 1). It will be a time of trouble unique in the history of the world. How will the Great Tribulation be unique?

Two characteristics will distinguish the Tribulation from all other hard times that the world has seen:

  1. It will be worldwide, not localized, stated in the promise of deliverance (Revelation 3:10) and as described in detail in the judgments of the Revelation. The intense local persecutions and calamities of this present day cannot be the beginning of the Tribulation for that time will affect the entire world.

  2. The Tribulation will be unique because of the way men act. In one of the early judgments, men will hide themselves in the dens and caves of the mountains and say, "Fall on us, and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb" (Revelation 6:16). When the Great Tribulation comes, men will act as if they think the world is coming to an end. For a time during the Tribulation, even suicide will be impossible, forcing men to live (Revelation 9:6).

For years some men have been talking as if they thought the end were near, but at the beginning of the Tribulation they will realize that the end is actually at hand. Scientists, politicians, and even church leaders warn today that the end of human history could be upon us, and even use the term "Armageddon," but people are not behaving as if they believe it. Real estate is being bought and sold, savings are being accumulated, and plans are continually being made for the future. But when the Tribulation comes, people will hide in bomb shelters and will actually seek death rather than try to preserve life. The future, in those days, will hold no attraction.

10.4 The Purpose of the Tribulation

According to the Scriptures two main purposes are served by the Tribulation period:

  1. retribution on the world; and

  2. time of Jacob's trouble.

10.4.1 Retribution on the world

One purpose is the bringing of retribution on the nations of the world for their sinfulness. All men individually have been sinners; and all nations, as collections of individuals, have likewise followed in ways not pleasing to God. The world has never witnessed the blessed existence possible on the earth, because sin has prevented the gracious benefits God has in store. One day this blessedness will be experienced, when Christ rules in justice and perfection during the millennial age. Before that time comes, however, there must be a reckoning, a time of retribution for the nations of earth. Revelation 3:10 speaks of that time as "the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth."

10.4.2 The time of Jacob's trouble

The other purpose of the Tribulation is the preparation of Israel to receive her Messiah. God's people must be brought to a frame of mind receptive to their Messiah. The Jews were not ready to receive Christ the first time He came, and they are not ready today. A change is needed, therefore; this change will make them ready to accept the One they have so long rejected. However, only a major experience can bring about such a change (Deuteronomy 4:30-31). This is the reason for the extreme suffering of the Tribulation time. Jeremiah expresses this thought in his description of the tribulation as "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:7). Zechariah speaks of the degree of suffering involved in most somber tones, as he states, "And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I [God] will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried" (Zechariah 13:8). Finally Zechariah tells of the end accomplished by this shattering experience: "They shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people; and they shall say, The LORD is my God" (Zechariah 13:9).

10.5 The Participants of the Tribulation

The unbelieving Jews and Gentiles will be the participants of the Tribulation period. The bride of Christ (i.e. the true Church) is not the object of God's wrath, but of His unchanging grace, therefore she will not experience one drop of that "day of grief and desperate sorrow." "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ. Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him" (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10).

10.6 The Preparation for the Tribulation

In our day the Holy Spirit exercises a measure of restraint upon the hatred and lust of men. But when Christians are taken up at the rapture, the Holy Spirit, who now thwarts the evil desires and purposes of wicked men, will be "taken out of the way" (2 Thessalonians 2:7). Lawlessness, which is already discernible in the world, will no longer be divinely restrained. The way will be paved for Anti-christ to assert himself as the enemy of God.

10.7 The Duration of the Tribulation

We are nowhere told in so many words just how long the period will be, though we are told that for the elect's sake the days will be shortened (Matthew 24:22). There are, however, some things that indicate that the time is seven years.

Whatever be the method of calculating the seventy weeks in Daniel 9:24-27, it is clear that they began with Nehemiah's return and the rebuilding of the walls and city of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:1-8; Daniel 9:25). It is clear also that the sixty-ninth week ended with the crucifixion of the Messiah (Daniel 9:26) and that there is a break in the succession of weeks. The destruction of the city and sanctuary in A.D. 70, and the repetition of wars and desolations reaching to the end, come between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth weeks. To many it seems perfectly clear that the seventieth week is still future and that it is the Tribulation period. It seems clear that a "week" in Daniel's chronology is seven years. If, therefore, the seventieth week represents the Tribulation period, then we can assume that it will last for seven years.

In harmony with this, the latter half of the period is elsewhere referred to as "a time, times, and half a time" (Daniel 7:25; 12:7; Revelation 12:14), as "forty-two months" (Revelation 11:2; 13:5), and as 1,260 days (Revelation 11:3; 12:6; cf. Daniel 12:11f.). This is perhaps all that can be said about the duration of this period.

10.8 The Commencement of the Tribulation

The 7-year Tribulation period does not necessarily have to begin the day the church is taken to meet the Lord Jesus at the Rapture. Actually nothing is said in the Scriptures as to whether or not some time (or how much time) may elapse between the Rapture and the beginning of the Tribulation.

The Tribulation actually begins with the signing of a covenant between the leader of the "Federated States of Europe" (i.e. the Anti-christ) and the Jewish people. This treaty will set in motion the events of the seventieth week (or seven years) of Daniel's prophecy. There is an interval of undetermined length between the first sixty-nine weeks of seven years each and the last or seventieth week of seven years.

We are living in that interval. It is the time in which God is forming the church, the body of Christ, by saving Jews and Gentiles alike. Since God has not yet finished this present program, the last week of the seventy has not yet begun. When it does, God will once again turn His attention in a special way to His people the Jews and to His holy city Jerusalem, as outlined in Daniel 9:24.

10.8.1 The beginning of the Tribulation

At the beginning of this period of seven years, the Anti-christ will confirm a covenant with Israel "for one week," that is, seven years (Daniel 9:24-27). This period begins after the removal of Christ's true Church from earth, and seems to be timed with the breaking of the first seal of the seven-sealed book of Revelation 6. Readers should note that before the Lamb breaks these judgment seals there are crowned, clothed, and glorified elders in heaven. These are quite distinct from the angels and four beasts, and evidently symbolize the glorified church saints (Revelation 4, 5).

10.8.2 The midst of the Tribulation

After three and one-half years of the seven-year period, the Anti-christ will break the covenant, and the Great Tribulation will begin. The "time of Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:7; Daniel 12:1) will arrive. The second three and one-half years will be the most awful era in world history. This period is referred to in the Bible as "a time, times, and a half" (Daniel 12:7); "forty and two months" (Revelation 11:2); "a thousand two hundred and threescore days" (Revelation 11:3; 12:6); and "a time, and times, and half a time" (Revelation 12:14). During these months of suffering, pain and death Anti-christ will continue in his mad, sinful course, and the great tribulation will reach its pitch of frenzy.

10.9 The Predictions of the Tribulation in Old Testament

This specified period finds particular mention in both Testaments. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, as well as several of the Minor Prophets, all refer to it:

  1. the "time of God's indignation with the inhabitants of the earth" (Isaiah 26:20-21; 24:19-21; Deuteronomy 4:30-31);

  2. the "time of Jacob's trouble/distress" (Jeremiah 30:7);

  3. the "day of the Lord" (Isaiah 13:9-10; Ezekiel 30:1-3; Joel 1:15; 2:1-2; Amos 5:20; Zephaniah 1:14; Zechariah 14:1-7); and

  4. a "time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation" (Daniel 12:1-4).

10.9.1 The "time of God's indignation with the inhabitants of the earth"

There is no better way to come to an understanding of the Scriptural concept of the Tribulation than to let Scripture speak for itself (Isaiah 26:20-21; 24:19-21; Deuteronomy 4:30-31):

"Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain" (Isaiah 26:20-21).

"The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth" (Isaiah 24:19-21).

"When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God, and shall be obedient unto his voice; ... he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them" (Deuteronomy 4:30-31).

10.9.2 The "time of Jacob's trouble/distress"

Jeremiah 30:7, which gives the well-known name to the period, "the time of Jacob's trouble/distress." The verse reads:

"Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it."

The context speaks of suffering experienced by Israel. The time of this suffering refers in part to the Babylonian captivity of Judah, but, as is true of many passages, it refers also to the suffering of the Tribulation time. This is made evident by indications such as in verse 9, that after this suffering is over, the people will "serve the Lord their God, and David their king," whom God will raise up unto them. Verse 10 says that then the people will return and "be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make [them] afraid." These developments did not occur after the return from Babylon, but will occur in the future. Another indication that this suffering refers to the Tribulation is the phrase, "so that none is like it" (v. 7). Only one time can be worse than any other, therefore this phrase must refer to the same period as that referred to by the expressions which occur four other times in Scripture: Daniel 12:1; Joel 2:2; Matthew 24:21; Mark 13:19. Designated here as "the time of Jacob's trouble," this period is shown to be characterized especially by trouble for Israel. The nature of the trouble is not identified in the verse, but its fact is made clear. Other passages show that it will consist of hardship, difficulty, unpleasant conditions, deprivations, loss of life, and anything which comes under the general term, "trouble."

The closing phrase of the verse, "but he shall be saved out of it," is explained further in verse 11: "Yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished." The "trouble," then, does not result in annihilation of the people, for the nation will continue. The point is made that an important purpose will be served by this suffering. The people will be corrected. They will learn a lesson. As noted in prior discussions, this discipline is needed that the people might be made willing to receive Christ as their Messiah-Deliverer. The Jews of Israel in the present day are not ready to receive Him. For the most part, they have returned to the land in unbelief, and today they are interested in what they as people can do and make for themselves. A radical change is needed if they are to open their minds and hearts to Him in the future day. A basic purpose of the Tribulation "trouble" is to bring this about.

10.9.3 The "Day of the Lord"

The primary reference of the phrase "day of the Lord" is a time of judgment. In the earlier prophets like Isaiah it referred to the nearer judgment of God on his people for their disobedience. This judgment, the Assyrian invasion of northern kingdom Israel in 722 B.C. and the Babylonian invasion of southern kingdom Judah in 587 B.C., seems to become; however, a mere type of the future, final holocaust of Israel and the whole world in the end times.

A brief review of several representatives where the phrase "day of the Lord" occurs will be sufficient to describe this Old Testament concept (Isaiah 13:9-10; Ezekiel 30:1-3; Joel 1:15; 2:1-2; Amos 5:20; Zephaniah 1:14; Zechariah 14:1-7):

10.9.3.1 Isaiah 13:9-10

"See, the day of the Lord is coming - a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger - to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins."

This passage is significant in its similarity to New Testament descriptions of the Day of the Lord and the Great Tribulation found in Paul's Thessalonian letters (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12), Jesus' Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24), and John's description of the time of distress (Revelation 6-18) in its reference to cosmic phenomena and universality of punishment.

10.9.3.2 Ezekiel 30:1-3

"The word of the Lord came to me: Son of man, prophesy and say: This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Wail and say, Alas for that day! For the day is near, the day of the Lord is near - a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations. A sword will come against Egypt, and anguish will come upon Cush."

10.9.3.3 Joel 1:15

"Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come."

10.9.3.4 Joel 2:1-2

"... the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand; a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness ... there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations."

10.9.3.5 Amos 5:20

"Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light - pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?"

10.9.3.6 Zephaniah 1:14

"The great day of the Lord is near - near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the Lord will be bitter, the shouting of the warrior there. That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness, a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the corner towers. I will bring distress on the people and they will walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord."

10.9.3.7 Zechariah 14:1-7

Zechariah 14:1-7 refers to Jerusalem's experience of this event with a reference of the coming of Messiah:

"A day of the Lord is coming when your plunder will be divided among you. I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city. Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will 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."

These passages form the backdrop to the New Testament usage of the phrase "day of the Lord." It is not a calendar day but a period of time. It is not only the return of Messiah but also a coming of judgment concluded by the return of Messiah.

10.9.4 The "time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation"

The consummation of the Great Tribulation is described in Daniel 12:1-4:

"Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time ..."

The angel Michael "arises" (apparently to protect Daniel's people Israel) and the "time of distress" (tribulation) follows. In words which Jesus was later to echo (Matthew 24:21), this period is described as "a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall." This is the extent of the description. All that remains is a promise of Israel's preservation through this period of distress, a resurrection of the just and unjust, and their eternal reward. This passage, incidentally, provides a clue as to the time of the resurrection of Israel following the Great Tribulation: it immediately follows that period which precedes the millennial kingdom.

10.10 The Predictions of the Tribulation in New Testament

Moreover, the New Testament confirms and amplifies the Old Testament concept of "Great Tribulation." God's greatest Prophet, Christ Himself, dwelt upon the details of this dark period and solemnly outlined its course (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21). Both Paul and John also added their quota of information (1 Thessalonians 5; 2 Thessalonians 2; Revelation 4-19).

10.10.1 The time of Tribulation in Matthew 24

Matthew 24:1-3 sets the stage for a remarkable passage in which Jesus becomes a prophet. A walk through the temple and Jesus' prediction about the destruction of the temple became the occasion for asking a question about when this prediction would come to pass as well as a further question about the "end of the age" (Matthew 24:3). When Jesus and his disciples reached the Mount of Olives he took time to answer their questions.

10.10.1.1 The course of the present age (Matthew 24:4-8)

Jesus first warns them about the tendency that some would have in assuming that the end of the age had already come based on crisis times. He informs them that the age to come would be characterized by crisis, that such cycles of crisis should not be thought of as necessarily ushering in the very end times. They would include false claims of Messiahship (24:5); wars and rumors of wars (either threats of war or expectations of war, 24:6); and famines and earthquakes (24:7). These crises would characterize the age, not constitute ample reason for expecting the end of the age. Nevertheless, in spite of Jesus' warning, people have been predicting the end of the age whenever some major crisis has occurred.

10.10.1.2 The beginning of sorrows/birth pangs (Matthew 24:8-14)

With Matthew 24:9 the Greek particle "then" (Greek, tote) introduces a significant change. At some point near the end a change from bad to worse takes place. Addressing his disciples Jesus says "you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me." Keep in mind the nature of the original question throughout this passage. It concerned the destruction of the temple and the end times. Frequent references such as 24:16, "let those who are in Judea," and 24:20, "pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath," lend a distinctively Jewish caste to the passage. This is the eschatology, then, of Israel, not the church. These disciples whom he now addressed were representative of Israel, not the church which was yet to come into existence.

Why would a gospel given to the church have the development of the end times for the nation of Israel?

The answer is that we the church benefit from the knowledge of the future in order to prepare for it. The times described here are not that different from the last days of the church, even though the church may be removed from the earth just prior to the time of distress.

10.10.1.3 The crisis of the desecration of the temple (Matthew 24:15-28)

At verse 15 the "so then" connects the previous discussion with a major event foretold by Daniel 9:27, "the abomination that causes desolation." We have already noted that this is evidence of the futurity of the seventieth seven, an event that divides the last seven into two parts. That chronology places this prediction into the latter half of that seven, in other words 24:9-14 describes the troubles for Israel as a result of the desecration of the temple. Presumably, the good of the covenant, which the coming ruler (Anti-christ) makes at the outset of the seventieth seven, is undone by this event. It implies a persecution, and in light of other passages a future holocaust for Israel, in which Jews will be driven into the wilderness seeking protection.

Jesus, taking His cue from Daniel 12:1, refers to the crisis which follows this desecration as a time of unprecedented trouble. All the other passages, which we will shortly examine, confirm this description by additional details of divine judgment and worldwide conflict and suffering.

This crisis is a desecration of the temple which is probably described in 2 Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 13 which we will examine shortly. It becomes the major "sign" for which the disciples asked earlier, a clear, unmistakable pointer to the nearness of the end of the age. The other possible sign which Jesus may be assuming by his reference to the middle event of the seven is the initiating event of the week, the "covenant with many," the nature of which we can only speculate, but probably accurately. It would include the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, a favor this future ruler (Anti-christ) will make to Israel similar to Herod's rebuilt temple during Jesus' day.

10.10.2 The time of Tribulation in the Thessalonian letters

The focus of Paul's two letters to the Thessalonians (1 Thess 5 and 2 Thess 2) is eschatological, and in particular, the future world dictator called the "man of lawlessness." The conditions of the time of distress are described in the following letters:

  1. First Thessalonians 5:1-11; and

  2. Second Thessalonians 2:1-12.

10.10.2.1 First Thessalonians 5:1-11

Following his description of the Rapture or Translation of living believers in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul turns to details of what he calls "the day of the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 5:2). I identify this "day" as the same described in the Old Testament prophets, and thus it is not a 24-hour calendar day but a period of time.

Here are the facts Paul includes that characterize the time of distress:

  1. it comes unexpectedly (1 Thessalonians 5:2);

  2. it involves destruction that is inescapable (1 Thessalonians 5:2b-3);

  3. believers will not be taken by surprise because they will not be there due to pretribulational rapture (1 Thessalonians 5:4-9); and

  4. believers should not share the same life or life-style as those who are "destined" for this time (1 Thessalonians 5:6-10).

10.10.2.2 Second Thessalonians 2:1-12

Paul's discussion about the misconception about the arrival of the day of the Lord among the Thessalonians prompts him to show them that this event cannot possibly have begun as they had been told (2 Thessalonians 2:2). He prefaces his statement with a reference to "our being gathered to him," by which he probably means the rapture and resurrection he had described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Their confusion, therefore, was connected with the timing of that event.

Characteristics of the day of the Lord given in this passage are:

  1. it begins with what Paul calls "the rebellion" (Greek, apostasia, "falling away from truth" - 2 Thessalonians 2:3) which refers to a departure from truth either within the apostate church, if it remains, or in the world in general;

  2. the emergence to prominence of the "man of lawlessness" (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4) who elevates himself above God by miraculous, demonic works (2 Thessalonians 2:9) and sets up his own worship in the temple;

  3. the removal of a restraining force probably in the person of the Holy Spirit which permits "lawlessness" to increase (2 Thessalonians 2:7); and

  4. a great deception so that people "believe the lie" (the lie is that this man is indeed God).

10.11 The Description of the Tribulation in the book of Revelation

Revelation 6-19 describes the Tribulation period in detail and climaxes with the Second Coming of Christ (Revelation 19:11-16). Within this section are three series of judgments:

  1. judgments described as seals of a scroll are broken open (Revelation 6);

  2. judgments announced by blowing of trumpets (Revelation 8-9); and

  3. judgments poured out of bowls (Revelation 16).

These three series form a chronological structure of the seventieth week of Daniel's prophecy, the Tribulation period. Interpreters differ as to the relationship of these three series of judgments. Some teach that they are a recapitulation of the same events. That is, the trumpets review what the seals previously described but with greater intensity, and the bowls review the same events with even more severity. Others, including myself, see these three series following consecutively and doing so distinctly and in chronological sequence. That is, the trumpets come out of the seventh seal and follow that first series. My reasons are as follows:

  1. There are no explicit corresponding judgments for seals numbers one (false peace), three (famine), and five (martyrs) in the other two series.

  2. There are no similar judgments to bowls number one (sores) and six (drying up of the Euphrates River).

  3. Even though these judgments occur in sequence, this does not mean that these judgments are evenly spaced throughout the seven years, for the bowl judgments apparently occur rapidly one after the other near the very end of the Tribulation.

Integrated among the series of seals, trumpets, and bowls are certain additional descriptions of other phenomena during the Tribulation. Included are:

  1. the 144,000 Jews sealed by God and the salvation of a great multitude (Revelation 7);

  2. the two witnesses (Revelation 11);

  3. the woman and the dragon probably representing Israel and the Devil's persecution (Revelation 12);

  4. the two beasts (Anti-christ and false prophet, Revelation 13);

  5. the woman on the beast (false religion and the Anti-christ, Revelation 17); and

  6. the fall of commercial Babylon (Revelation 18).

This sub-section 10.11 is a detailed analysis of the following prophetic events recorded in the book of Revelation. It is divided into the following seven parts:

  1. the seal judgments (Revelation 6);

  2. the trumpet judgments (Revelation 8-9);

  3. the bowl judgments (Revelation 16);

  4. the redeemed of the Tribulation;

  5. the 144,000 Jewish servants sealed by God (Revelation 7:1-8; 14:1-5);

  6. the salvation of a great multitude from every nation (Revelation 7:9-17); and

  7. the two powerful witnesses (Revelation 11:3-13).

10.11.1 The seal judgments

The seal judgments will happen during the first half of the Tribulation. Two other passages support this conclusion:

  1. Paul wrote that the day of the Lord (the time of judgment) "cometh as a thief in the night ... when they shall say, peace and safety ..." (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3). The first seal will bring conquest without war, for peace is not taken from the earth until the second seal is broken (Revelation 6:2, 4).

  2. There is also a chronological sequence in our Lord's conversation on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24-25). This sequence hinges on Matthew 24:15, which describes Anti-christ's placing himself in the temple and demanding to be worshiped. This we know will occur at the mid-point of the Tribulation. The verses that follow verse 15 describe events in the second half of the Tribulation and climax with the Second Coming of Christ (Matthew 24:16-31). Thus the verses that precede must be describing the first half of the Tribulation. Indeed, the results of the six seal judgments find correspondence in Matthew 24:6-11, which specifically mention wars, famines, earthquakes and martyrs, all of which correspond to the seal judgments in Revelation 6:1-14.

The first group of devastating events is symbolized by a successive breaking of seals of a scroll. The scroll is taken by Christ from the hand of God, "sitting upon the throne" (Revelation 5:6-7). As Christ opens the scroll, breaking the seals in turn, the various events transpire. The events set forth by the first four broken seals are symbolized by a series of horses, each of a different color and bearing a rider. 

10.11.1.1 The first seal judgment

The first seal reveals a white horse and a rider (Revelation 6:1-2). The opening months of the Tribulation will see nations conquered by the rider on the white horse. He will conquer some unspecified nations and/or territory, but he does not remove peace from the earth. With no outright war being depicted, it is probable that the mission of the rider is to enforce peace in a world characterized by unrest and disturbance. It may be that a major contributing factor to the disturbance will be the startling departure of great numbers of people in the Rapture of the church, which will have recently occurred.

Some think this rider is the man of sin, the head of the Western coalition of nations (i.e. the Anti-christ). His method of conquest, however, we would call "cold" war. Clearly, this description coincides exactly with the picture of the beginning of the Tribulation given in 1 Thessalonians 5:3 - it will be a day when men are talking about peace and safety. This may indicate that we are living in the days immediately preceding the Tribulation - but, on the other hand, there is nothing in the Word of God which would indicate that there could not another world war in this present age, then another time of peace before the Lord Jesus comes.

Other evangelical scholars agree that the first rider simply represents the spirit of conquest - an attitude that has characterized the nations throughout human history. Doubtless this spirit will be intensified as the end approaches.

10.11.1.2 The second seal judgment

The second seal reveals a rider on a red horse (Revelation 6:3-4). The red color of the second horse suggests bloodshed. The phrase, "a great sword was given unto him," indicates that peace will be removed from the earth and men will war with each other. Here war is clearly represented as the eventual failure of the rider of the first horse to maintain peace. War has always followed the spirit of conquest. The fact that a great sword "was given" to him suggests that God is controlling all these events.

10.11.1.3 The third seal judgment

The third seal will bring severe famine to the inhabitants of the world (Revelation 6:5-6), probably resulting mainly from the preceding devastating war. A black horse pictures this event, and the pair of scales carried by his rider bespeaks a careful rationing of food. The Roman denarius (v. 6), was a day's wages in Palestine in Jesus' day (Matthew 20:2). Normally it would buy ten quarts of wheat or thirty of barley. Under the famine conditions of these coming days, a day's wage will buy only one measure of wheat or three of barley - one tenth the normal supply of food. At this point in the Tribulation the food supply will be reduced by 90 %.

However, there is an ironic twist to this famine. Oil and wine, the very things a majority of people cannot afford, will not be in short supply. The scarcity of basic foods and the availability of luxury items will taunt the common people in their impoverished state.

10.11.1.4 The fourth seal judgment

The judgments of the fourth seal will kill one-fourth of the people on the earth (Revelation 6:7-8). The fourth horse will be, literally, a yellowish green. He is the only horseman who is named, and he is called Death. Death, of course, claims the physical part of man, and it is accompanied by hades, the place of the dead (v. 8), which claims the immaterial part. The effect of this judgment will be devastating - one fourth of earth's population will be killed by the sword (war), by hunger (the famine that often accompanies war), by death (perhaps by the plagues and diseases that follow war), and by wild beasts of the earth, which apparently will be unrestrained at this time and will roam about freely, killing men. Man's cleverly devised schemes for bringing in peace, plenty, and longevity will be overturned in the short space of time this judgment will take.

10.11.1.5 The fifth seal judgment

The fifth seal reveals a heavenly scene in which martyrs are asking the Lord for revenge on those who killed them (Revelation 6:9-11). Though the action of the fifth seal is in heaven, it presupposes that certain events have happened on earth. Obviously, before this time they were living on earth, having been saved after the Rapture. They were killed because of their testimony or witness for Christ early in the Tribulation (verse 9). As soon as they died their souls were taken to heaven and told to wait until, in the Lord's best timing, they would be avenged. (Note: They are not the church age saints because only their souls were taken to heaven, i.e. without resurrection bodies.)

10.11.1.6 The sixth seal judgment

The sixth seal will bring universal destruction on the earth (Revelation 6:12-17). It will include six catastrophic events:

  1. A single great earthquake will take place (v. 12). Other earthquakes during the Tribulation are predicted in Revelation 8:5; 11:13; 16:18-19.

  2. The sun will be darkened so that it becomes black as sackcloth (v. 12). The text does not say that the sun will be turned into sackcloth, but that it will be blackened as sackcloth.

  3. The moon will become as red as blood (v. 12).

  4. There will be a meteor shower, with all the natural devastating consequences that follow (v. 13).

  5. Apparently heaven will be opened for a moment so that the men on earth can have a glimpse of that awesome scene, with God on His throne (v. 14, 16).

  6. Every mountain and island will be moved (v. 14).

These catastrophic events are often interpreted to be symbolic of political revolutions on earth, but they may be intended quite literally, as depicting actual convulsions of nature. I believe that these events should be interpreted as actual convulsions of nature (compare Revelation 6:12-17 with Matthew 24:7).

These judgments will produce terror in the hearts of all living men. Their hearts will be filled with fear - not primarily because of the physical disturbances or the awful wars and pestilences, but because they will see God on His throne. Men will plead to be hidden "from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb." They will go to any length to avoid facing their Creator and Judge, even to seeking death under the rocks and mountains in which they will try to hide. All classes of people (v. 15) will be affected. As has been true throughout history, there will be no general or mass turning to God repentance, but only a turning from God's face.

The great day of God's wrath "has come" (Revelation 6:17). The tense of that verb indicates that His wrath will have begun to be poured out after it is opened. The Greek scholar, Henry Alford, affirms that the "virtually perfect sense of the aorist eithen [has come] here can hardly be questioned."

These will be the first judgments of the Tribulation. But these will be only the beginning - the worst is yet to come.

10.11.2 The trumpet judgments

Where is the middle point of the Tribulation in relation to the these judgments? The Scriptures do not specifically say, but many feel that the middle point comes with the first trumpet judgment. That is, with the opening of the sixth seal, the first half of the Tribulation is brought to an end. This is evidenced by the following:

  1. Events of greatly increased suffering follow these broken-seal events. Several considerations bear out this conclusion:

    1. The text (Revelation 6:17) refers to people crying, as a result of the broken sixth seal, that God's great day of wrath "has come."

    2. The punishments symbolized by the blown trumpets and outpoured vials are described in ensuring chapters of Revelation as being more severe than those of the broken seals.

    3. The first verses of the next chapter in Revelation (7:1-3) speak of "the four winds of the earth" being restrained by angels until 144,000 people can be sealed for protection from them; these winds represent the impending great judgments of the blown trumpets and the outpoured vials. The implication is that what is about to come is measurably more severe than what has happened.

    4. The opening of the seventh seal, from which the blown trumpets emerge, is followed by a marked silence of one-half hour (Revelation 8:1), suggesting an awesome, foreboding sense of fear in view of what is about to happen.

  2. According to Matthew 24:15-21, this marked increase in suffering comes immediately atter the setting up of "the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet"; this occurs, according to Daniel 9:27, at the midpoint of the Tribulation.

  3. Israel experiences a parallel marked change at the midpoint of the Tribulation. As seen in the prior discussion, at this point the Anti-christ shifts from being a staunch friend of Israel to a bitter enemy. Israel's experience, then, is changed from enjoying good times to enduring the very worst.

With the opening of the seventh seal (Revelation 8:1) one would expect a holocaust to let loose. Instead, there is silence - the still silence of expectancy and foreboding. The silence will last for half an hour and will be awesome. The opening of this seventh seal introduces another series of judgments which are announced by the blowing of seven trumpets (Revelation 8:7-9:21; 11:15-19). The last three of the seven trumpet judgments are distinguished from the first four by being specially designated as "woes" which seems to imply that they are of harsher character. The trumpet judgments seem to continue on into the last year of the period. They are followed by a final rapid series of further judgments (the bowls) in the last months of the seventh year.

10.11.2.1 The first trumpet judgment

The first trumpet brings hail and fire mingled with blood on the earth so that a third part of the earth and a third part of the trees are burned plus all the grass (Revelation 8:7). Fire and blood, here, are not symbols of something else. We are to take them literally. They will devastate vegetation on the earth and further add to the climatic disruptions.

10.11.2.2 The second trumpet judgment

The second trumpet results in a third part of the sea becoming blood, one-third of the creatures in the sea dying, and one-third of the ships destroyed (Revelation 8:8-9). This is explained with a figure of speech - "something like a great mountain burning with fire." Probably nothing in the realm of our present experience corresponds to this. It will likely be something about which we do not yet know anything, but its effect is clear - the ramifications for shipping, trade, and food supply from this judgment are significantly destroyed.

10.11.2.3 The third trumpet judgment

When the third trumpet sounds (Revelation 8:10-11), a great star (comet?), named Wormwood, falls and contaminates a third of the rivers. This judgment will affect the supply of fresh water making it bitter to the taste and polluting to the system. As a result, many will die from the contamination and pollution.

10.11.2.4 The fourth trumpet judgment

The fourth judgment will affect one-third of the sun, moon, stars, and the uniformity of the day-night cycle (Revelation 8:12). This may mean that the 24-hour cycle will be reduced to 16 hours or that the output of the power of these heavenly bodies will be reduced by one-third. In either case this would seem to result in a drastic reduction in temperature (though the opposite happens under the fourth bowl judgment in Revelation 16:8-9).

Difference of opinion exists concerning the nature of the destruction and the identity of the objects destroyed. Some believe that the physical items listed should all be taken symbolically, representing such entities as human government, the Roman empire, apostate religion, leading persons of the Tribulation, etc. It seems wise, however, to understand them literally because such interpretation is supported by the Lord Jesus' prediction in His Olivet discourse, "signs in the sun and moon and stars" (Luke 21:25).

10.11.2.5 The fifth trumpet judgment (the first woe)

Let us move on to consider the last three trumpets. These clearly involve suffering still more severe in nature; the sufferings revealed as the trumpets sound are described as "woes." The first of these woes (fifth trumpet, Revelation 9:1-12) concerns a horde of creatures called "locusts," which bring terrible torment on men generally, except those who have "the seal of God in their foreheads," namely the 144,000 Jews (Revelation 7:3-4).

From the shaft will come "locusts" (Revelation 9:3-11) that are no ordinary insects. They originate from the bottomless pit - literally, from the "shaft of the abyss." This pit, entered by a shaft, is under lock and key. They will come straight from Satan's domain. They seem to be animal creatures like locusts, but they are demonic in nature. Perhaps they are demons who take on the form of these unique locusts, and who are directed by the king of the shaft of the abyss (v. 11).

These locusts inflict a bite like a scorpion's. "The pain from the sting of a scorpion, though not generally fatal, is perhaps, the most intense that any animal can inflict upon the human body. The insect itself is the most irascible and malignant that lives, and its poison is like itself ... It is also difficult to guard against them, if they can be warded off at all, because they fly where they please, dart through the air, and dwell in darkness" (The Apocalypse, p. 83, New York: Cook, 1865 Edition, by J.A. Seiss). Unlike ordinary locusts, these creatures will not attack vegetation, but only men. They will be released for five months, during which time men will be unable to commit suicide. Poisons, pills, bullets, knives, and all other means which people ordinarily use to kill themselves will not work. How people will be kept from killing themselves is beyond our imagination, but that's the way it will be.

It is difficult for us to imagine such creatures, but this is no reason for thinking they are mere symbols. Remember that the power of Satan and his demons is great - and these ferocious locusts are demonic. Little wonder that this is called the first woe. Since men do not believe in or accept the existence and activity of demons, people then alive will probably try to give some natural explanation for these creatures, and will try to destroy them with a hastily concocted pesticide. But they will find no explanation, and their antidotes will not work.

Incidentally, chapter 9 contains more occurrences of the words "as" and "like" than any other chapter in the Bible. It was difficult for John to describe what he saw in the vision. Nevetheless, the horror of the judgment is clear.

10.11.2.6 The sixth trumpet judgment (the second woe)

The sixth trumpet (second woe, Revelation 9:13-19) involves an army of two hundred million horsemen, who kill a third part of men. The two widely accepted interpretations are as follows:

  1. This army is made up of demons. The description of the horses differs so greatly from any ordinary horse. The weapons of this army are fire, smoke, and brimstone (Revelation 9:17) which are weapons of hell and may further indicate that the army is made up of the inhabitants of hell (i.e. demons). Couple with this the association with the four demonic angels of Revelation 9:14. They are quite numerous. It is impossible to have an army which consists of two hundred million soldiers at the present moment. If such army is demonic, then it is not a problem to have such large number. This interpretation is sensible.

  2. This army is made up of demon-possessed human soldiers and modern warfare weapons. God's use of human armies of heathen nations to fulfill His purposes in the Old Testament accords with this understanding (Isaiah 10:6-7; 25-26; 44:27-45:7; Jeremiah 51:11, 28). John has never seen tanks or armored vehicles as the vision went beyond his day. The description of fire, smoke, and brimstone could refer to any number of devices of modern warfare such as tanks, missiles, toxic gases, chemical weapons, etc. The population of the People's Republic of China is approximately thirteen hundred million in 1997. If it is an united army from all the Eastern countries, then it is possible to have such large number. It is possible that this army, like the one gathered in Revelation 16:14, is a human army already in existence which these demons (i.e. the four fallen angels) now cause to move against mankind similar to the work of the three unclean spirits who cause the kings of the earth to gather together for the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:13).

This army may refer to a human army, it may be taken as symbolical of modern mechanical warfare. The fire, smoke, and brimstone could refer to any number of devices of modern warfare. The comparison of the description of the army with modern warfare weapons are as follows:

Description of the 200,000,000 Army Corresponding Modern Weapons
Horses with breastplates Armored tanks, vehicles
Horses with lion heads High speed of the weapon carriers
Mouth of the horses Rocket bases, Cannons, machine guns
Fire, smoke Rockets, Nuclear bombs, missiles
Brimstone Chemical weapons, toxic gases

Their killing a third of the world's population means that this judgment along with those who have been killed under the fourth seal judgment (Revelation 6:8) will reduce the total population on the earth by one-half. Add to this the many who will be killed by famines, plagues, wars, and natural disasters, and the world by the latter part of the seven years will be inundated in corpses.

If the population of the world at the time of the Rapture is about five billion, and if 10 percent are believers and thus are raptured (that percentage may be too large or too small, I do not know), the Rapture will remove 500 million people and leave 4.5 billion. If half of that number are killed by two judgments, that would leave 2.25 billion. But from that number many more who will die from other judgments must be subtracted. Let's say that at the time of the sixth trumpet there are 2 billion people on the earth and two hundred million demons are let loose. That means one demon for each ten human beings!

One would think that in the face of all these judgments people would cry out to God for mercy, but not so. Instead they continue to worship demons and idols and refuse to repent of their acts of murder, misuse of drugs (sorceries, literally pharmacies), fornications, and thievery (verses 20-21). The terrible judgments seem only to increase the hardness of men's hearts.

10.11.2.7 The seventh trumpet judgment (the third woe)

The seventh trumpet (third woe, Revelation 11:15-19), which is recorded only after the intervening description of several other matters (Revelation 10:1-11:13), concerns, quite in contrast to the first two, the establishment of Christ's millennial kingdom. This one qualifies as a "woe" judgment, parallel to the first two, because it implies the destruction of powers hostile to the program of God, particularly as headed up in the Anti-christ. Because this seventh trumpet represents the establishment of the kingdom, it is evident that the seven trumpets together symbolize events spanning the entire second half of the Tribulation week.

With the sounding of the seventh trumpet, seven other judgments must be poured on the earth before all will be finished. These judgments will be the bowls of the wrath of God (Revelation 16:1-21). These last plagues will come in the closing months, or possibly even weeks, of the last year of the Tribulation, without interruption or pause. The seven angels that have to do with these last judgments will all be told to pour out their judgments at one time. All this will be happening at the same time that Anti-christ demands that men worship him. Men will be pressured from every side. Most will decide to cast their lot with Anti-christ.

10.11.3 The bowl judgments

Because the trumpet judgments do continue over the last three-and-a-half years of the period, a question arises as to when the last set of judgments falls. The three widely accepted interpretations are as follows:

  1. The bowl judgments run contemporaneously with the trumpet judgments and represent basically the same forms of punishment. Support for this view is found in certain striking resemblances which exist between the respective trumpets and bowls. One of the difficulties with this view, however, is that Revelation 15:1 speaks of the bowls as representing the "seven last plagues"; and, also, distinct differences, as well as the similarities, are to he found between the two sets of judgments.

  2. The bowl judgments do not come from the trumpet judgments. Scripture never says that the seventh trumpet leads to the seven bowls. It is not like the other judgments, where the seventh seal did lead into the first trumpet, and then between the seal and the trumpet judgments the chronological survey of the Tribulation from the rise of the world dictator to the announcement of the establishment of Christ's kingdom. The bowls appear to be a special series of judgments that come near the end of the Tribulation period, judgments that are poured out on the beast, his government, and his followers. This is the final demonstration of the wrath of God, and it will bring the beast to his destruction.

  3. The bowl judgments are subsequent to the trumpet judgments and proceed out of and constitute the seventh trumpet. The judgments described in the trumpet pronouncements and the bowl pronouncements fall in rapid succession, and they all will be consummated within a short period of time toward the close of the Great Tribulation. The bowl judgments, the climax of God's divine dealings with a blasphemous earth, lead up to the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Henry Alford in commenting on the phrase "the seven last plagues" writes, "There can then be no doubt here, not only that the series reaches on to the time of the end, but that the whole of it is to be placed close to the same time" (The Greek New Testament, IV, p. 696, by Henry Alford). I prefer this interpretation.

See below chart for illustration of the relationship among the seal, trumpet and bowl judgments:

(Source: Revelation - Everyman's Bible Commentary, p. 70, Moody Press: Chicago, 1996 Edition, by Charles C. Ryrie)

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The bowl judgments are extremely severe. The world will experience suffering of the very worst kind, with the severity increasing as the successive events occur. Note also that, because these last seven judgments are concentrated in the final few weeks of the seven-year period, and since they are more severe than even the trumpet judgments, the intensity of suffering during these final weeks will be very great indeed. The seven angels who have these bowls are given orders simultaneously to pour out these judgments, which they do in quick succession during the final weeks of the Tribulation.

10.11.3.1 The first bowl judgment

The first bowl will bring on men a grievous sore described as "bad and evil" (Revelation 16:2). These words could mean malignant and indicate some sort of cancer (thus corresponding to the sixth plague, Exodus 9:8-12). This affliction will come only on those who worship the beast (i.e. Anti-christ), believers being exempt. But apparently the beast will be able to do nothing for his followers, for they will continue to curse God for these sores even after the fifth bowl has been poured out (Revelation 16:11).

10.11.3.2 The second bowl judgment

The second bowl will result in turning water into blood (corresponding to the first plague, Exodus 7:20-21) so that every living thing in the sea will die (Revelation 16:3). Under the second trumpet judgment, a third of the sea creatures die (Revelation 8:9); now the destruction of marine life will be total. Can you imagine the stench and disease this will bring to people who live along the seashores of the world? 72% of earth's surface is water.

10.11.3.3 The third bowl judgment

The contents of the third bowl (Revelation 16:4-7) change the rivers into blood, making it necessary for persons who had "shed the blood of saints and prophets" to drink blood (also corresponding to the first plague). At this time, as in the third trumpet judgment, the fresh-water supply is affected. The victims of this plague will experience inexorable retribution. They will have shed the blood of the saints and prophets, so now they will have to drink blood. They will deserve what they receive. It is not easy for us to conceive of God dealing with people in this manner. For thousands of years He has been long-suffering and gracious, not dispensing the kind of judgment the world deserves.

10.11.3.4 The fourth bowl judgment

The fourth bowl (Revelation 16:8-9) impart power to the sun to bring widespread death by excessive heat (Revelation 16:8-9). Once again, men will harden their hearts instead of turning to God in repentance.

10.11.3.5 The fifth bowl judgment

The contents of the fifth bowl (Revelation 16:10-11) bring darkness on the kingdom of "the beast," i.e., the Antichrist (thus corresponding to the ninth plague, Exodus 10:21-23); this judgment apparently anticipates the complete destruction soon to come at the hand of Christ. The result will be that men will gnaw their tongues and blaspheme God for their pains and sores, for pain always seems worse in darkness than in the light.

10.11.3.6 The sixth bowl judgment

The sixth bowl will dry up the Euphrates River, which forms the northeastern boundary of the promised land (Genesis 15:18) and which will have previously been turned into blood (Revelation 16:12-16). This will facilitate the crossing of that river by the armies of the kings of the East as they march toward Armageddon (see Daniel 11:44). "Three unclean spirits like frogs" (corresponding to the second plague, Exodus 8:1-6) to emerge from the mouths respectively of "the dragon" (Satan), "the beast" (the Antichrist) and "the false prophet" (the Antichrist's religious partner). These three spirits gather the earthly kings to battle at Armageddon.

10.11.3.7 The seventh bowl judgment

Finally, the seventh bowl (Revelation 16:17-21) will bring about widespread destruction and havoc, and with it will be heard the cry, "It is done!" Many physical disturbances will follow. An earthquake will divide Jerusalem and cause other cities to fall. Islands and mountains will disappear, and there will be an unheard-of storm in which single hailstones will weigh 100 pounds. But in spite of the severity and universality of these last judgments, men who survive them will persist in blaspheming God rather than turning to Him for mercy. Everything that man has built in this world will literally collapse before his very eyes, yet he will think he is still the master of his fate and that he has no need for God. The conclusion of this judgment will bring men to the end of the Tribulation and to the Second Coming of Christ to begin His reign over earth.

10.11.4 The redeemed of the Tribulation

By the time of the fifth seal a number of true believers will have been martyred. In other words, during the first years of the Tribulation there will be a true witness to the Gospel, and this will be opposed by the ecumenical apostate church, which will be "drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus" (Revelation 17:6). In the name of religion, the apostate church of the first part of the Tribulation will kill true believers for their faith.

How will these true believers have been converted in the first place? With the Rapture of the church, all Christians will have been remove from earth, so that none will be alive immediately after the Rapture. If there are to be martyrs, there must first be believers. How will men be saved?

10.11.4.1 Will anyone be saved after the rapture?

The question has often been asked, "Will anyone be saved after the rapture?" The Scriptures clearly indicate that a great multitude of both Jews and Gentiles will trust in the Lord after the church is caught up to glory (Revelation 7). Though all genuine Christians living on earth will be raptured to the Heaven when Christ comes for His church, immediately a testimony will be raised up to the name of Christ through new converts among Jews and Gentiles, including:

  1. the 144,000 Jewish servants sealed by God (Revelation 7:1-8; 14:1-5);

  2. the salvation of a great multitude from every nation (Revelation 7:9-17); and

  3. the two powerful witnesses (Revelation 11:3-12).

There are strong indications that those who heard the gospel and deliberately rejected it before the rapture will not be saved after the rapture. "... God shall send them strong delusion (e.g. U.F.O.; aliens; false cults religions, etc), that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12). The lie, of course, is the belief that the wicked superman (i.e. the Anti-Christ) of the Tribulation period is God Himself. Those who have rejected Christ during the age of grace (i.e. the church age) will be prone to accept the lie.

But there are many in the world who either have never heard the gospel or have not fully understand it. There is no reason to think that these cannot be saved, if still alive after the rapture. By reading the Bible and related books and Internet resources regarding the Bible Prophecy (Note: it is one of the missions of my Bible Studies on the Internet homepage), many Jews and Gentiles, for instances, will turn to the Lord Jesus Christ in repentance and faith. This will also include some previous professing Christians who will repent and have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They will then go throughout the world (Matthew 24:14), preaching the gospel of the Kingdom. All who believe in Christ will be saved and will enter the Millennium with Christ. Many Jews and Gentiles will be converted. Though these are never described by the term "church," they are constantly called "saints" in the book of Revelation, that is, those set apart as holy to God and saved through the sacrifice of Christ.

The first judgments of the Tribulation, and the religious situation in the first part of that period, are repeated, in summary form, in the Lord's Olivet discourse (Matthew 24). Verses 4-14 cover the events of the first half of the Tribulation, for at verse 15 we read about an event that occurs exactly halfway through the seven-year period. Notice how the seal judgments are summarized: "And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars ... for nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines, and earthquakes" (vv. 6-7). Notice the reference to the martyrs of the fifth seal: "Then will they deliver you up to Tribulation and will kill you" (v. 9). Look at the false religion: "And many false prophets will rise and will mislead many" (v. 11). The ministry of the 144,000 Jewish sealed ones, the two powerful witnesses and other witnesses, will account for the fact that "this Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations" (v. 14). Here are all the major events of the first half of the Tribulation, in capsule form, from Christ's lips before the Crucifixion.

10.11.4.2 The special ministries of the Holy Spirit during the Tribulation

The presence of saved people in the world after the rapture has puzzled some because according to 2 Thessalonians 2:7 the one who now restrains sin, often identified as the Holy Spirit, is pictures as being removed from the world. The question then is how can people be saved in the Tribulation if the Holy Spirit is taken out of the world?

The answer is that the Holy Spirit is removed from the world in the same sense in which He came on the day of Pentecost. When the present church age ends and the Holy Spirit is caught up with the church, the situation will return to that which was true before the day of Pentecost. Though the special ministries which are characteristic of the present dispensation may cease, there will be the continued ministry of the Spirit in a similar way to that which existed before Pentecost. The Holy Spirit will lead people to Christ, and many will be saved during the Tribulation time. The Holy Spirit is always omnipresent. He has always been in the world and always will be.

10.11.5 The 144,000 Jewish servants sealed by God (Revelation 7:1-8; 14:1-5)

In Revelation 7:1-8, we are introduced to a sort of parenthesis in judgment. The purpose of this suspension of judgment is that a certain group of people may be "sealed" (Revelation 7:3). These people are called "the bond-servants of our God." Who they are is described in detail in Revelation 7:4-8 indicate that this total number is made up of 12,000 from each of Israel's twelve tribes, thus identifying the total group unmistakably as Jews. 

The 144,000 Israelites is not the entirety of the faithful remnant of Israel, but a group of them charged with a special responsibility of witnessing for Christ during the world's darkest hour. There will be other Israelites saved besides these 144,000, but many of these will die martyrs' deaths and give up their lives for their faith. The 144,000 are those who are delivered from their persecutors and brought safely through this terrible time of Tribulation. In Revelation 14:1-5, they are seen triumphant at the end of the Tribulation when Christ returns.

10.11.5.1 The identity of the 144,000 servants of God

There are two interpretations of the 144,000 Israelites:

  1. It is the church (symbolical interpretation). The 144,000 Israelites represent the spiritual Israel (i.e new Israel) during the Tribulation period.

  2. It is the national Israel (literal interpretaion). It is the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

10.11.5.1.1 Symbolical Interpretation: It is the church (wrong interpretation)

The reasons are as follows:

  1. The sealing must embrace the entire Christian community, for God would not secure some of His servants and leave others unprotected.

  2. A reference to national Israel here complicates the book of Revelation by introducing racial distinctions that no longer exist in the New Testament.

  3. There is no reason why only Jews have the seal and are preserved by the God.

  4. Ten of the twelve tribes of Israel lost their identity in the Assyrian captivity and the remaining two lost theirs when Jerusalem fell in A.D. 70. The lost tribes are perpetuated in the English-speaking people of the world and their genealogies have been lost.

However, this interpretation is not reliable due to the following reasons:

  1. The entire Christian community will be protected by the God as the true church will be raptured to Heaven before the Tribulation period.

  2. There is no racial distinctions as the church (which consists of both Jews and Gentiles) will be raptured to the Heaven and a great multitude of Gentiles will also be saved during the Tribulation period (Revelation 7:9-17).

  3. The Jews have to spread the gospel during the Tribulation period and it is necessary for the God to preserve them.

  4. Though the identity of the tribe members is lost to mankind, it is still known to God who will be in charge of the sealing when it takes place.

  5. It is ridiculous because it necessitates typological interpretation that divides the church into twelve tribes to coincide with the listing of Revelation 7:5-8.

  6. As God reserved 7,000 in the days of Ahab (1 Kings 19:18; Romans 11:4), there is no reason why we cannot believe that He will reserve 144,000 Israelites for Himself during the future Great Tribulation.

10.11.5.1.2 Literal Interpretation: It is the national Israel (correct interpretation)

The reasons are as follows:

  1. This accounts for the detailed division of the people of God into twelve families answering individually to the twelve tribes of Israel in 7:5-8.

  2. It is the explanation favored by the earliest Christian tradition. It is the traditional orthodox way.

  3. It is in harmony with Paul's clear distinction between two groups of God's people, Israel and the church, as developed in Romans 9-11.

  4. Various Bible prophecies in both the Old Testament and New Testament promised that the national Israel which will be preserved in the Tribulation period, will become a great nation in the future Millennial Kingdom.

10.11.5.2 The reasons for the sealing

In Revelation 7:1-8, a sizable group of 144,000 Jews is mentioned in the Scripture. In the first verse of the passage, four angels are seen "standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth," so that they will not bring their devastating effects on the earth.

Another angel is directing the first four to continue holding back these winds until "the servants of our God" have been sealed in their foreheads. These servants are identified as the 144,000 of interest here. Following verses indicate that this total number is made up of 12,000 from each of Israel's twelve tribes, thus identifying the total group unmistakably as Jews.

The text gives two reasons for this sealing:

  1. The 144,000 are identified for protection against the "four winds" of destruction. The primary nature of this destruction follows logically from what happens in the succeeding chapters, namely, the damage coming from the blown trumpets and poured-out bowls of wrath. In fact, in Revelation 9:4, the specific instruction is given that the fifth blown trumpet is to hurt "only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads." These 144,000, then, will be spared in large part from the suffering so represented.

  2. The 144,000 are signified as true believers in God. They are called "the servants [bondslaves] of our God," indicating that they serve God, which calls for true faith in Him. Whether the seal placed on them is a visible mark or characteristic of some kind is neither stated nor implied in the text. A seal need not be visible to be real (Ephesians 4:30). It is principally a guarantee of ownership and security. Both these ideas are involved in the sealing of this group. In addition, the second passage noted, Revelation 14:1-5, presents the group clearly as constituted of redeemed people.

  3. The 144,000 are kept secure by God, which may mean He protect them from their enemies on earth while they complete their service for Him. What will be the important work for which God will protect these people supernaturally? They are a group of special witnesses to the Gospel in the Tribulation days. They will not be the only ones witnessing, but they will be the only group given special protection from their enemies.

10.11.5.3 The time of the sealing is at the midpoint of the Tribulation

In the movement of events set forth in the book of Revelation, the time of the sealing of the 144,000 comes after the opening of the sixth seal. This means at the midpoint of the seven years. This suggests that their conversion will occur during the first half of the period, because this sealing does not indicate the time of conversion, but only the identification of those already converted. It seems clear, then, that the 144,000 Jews will be converted during the first three-and-a-half years of the Tribulation.

10.11.5.4 The differences between the lists of twelve tribes in the Old Testament and in Revelation 7:5-8

The terms "Israel" and "twelve tribes" must be referred to the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The birth of Jacob's 12 sons is described in Genesis 29:32 to 35:18. Other lists of them are found in Genesis 35:22-26; 46:8-25; 49:3-27; Exodus 1:2-5; Numbers 1:5-15; 2:3-31; 13:4-15; 26:4-51; 34:19-28; Deuteronomy 27:12-13; 33:6-25; Joshua 13:7 to 22:34; Judges 5:12-18; 1 Chronicles 2:1 to 8:40; 12:24-37; 27:16-22; Ezekiel 48:1-7, 23-28, 31-34.

The differences between the lists of twelve tribes in the Old Testament and in Revelation 7:5-8 are summarized below:

  1. The tribe of Levi is included in the Old Testament lists where territorial division is in view (1 Chronicles 6:1-81).

  2. Judah is listed in the first position. The reason for Judah's first position lies in Christ's membership in that tribe, giving it priority. This is supported by the title "the lion of the tribe of Judah" in Revelation 5:5 and Hebrews 7:13-14.

  3. The absence of the tribe of Dan in the list. There are two reasons for this. First, the Jewish tradition and the early church believed that the Anti-Christ was to arise from this tribe. Second, idolatry was the blight upon Dan. Deuteronomy 29:18-21 and 24-26 requires the blotting out of the name of anyone who introduces idolatry into Israel. Though Dan is included in the future distribution of the land and it will be situated in the extreme north which is the farthest removed from the temple (Ezekiel 48), it will be excluded from the protective sealing because of the blot upon Dan's history caused by idolatry.

  4. The absence of the tribe of Ephraim in the list is due to the sins of Ephraim (see Judges 17:1-13; 18:2, 30, 31; 1 Kings 12:25-29; Hosea 4:17; 2 Samuel 2:9; Isaiah 7:2-17; Hosea 5:3). The tribe of Ephraim, like that of Manasseh, is closely associated with their father Joseph through whom they received their inheritance (Joshua 17:16-17). The inclusion of Joseph in the present list accomplishes the purpose of including Ephraim without the unpleasant connotation that the name carried.

  5. The inclusion of the tribes of Manasseh and Joseph in the same list. Manasseh was the faithful son of Joseph. Because Joseph was given a double portion by Jacob in recognition of his favoritism toward Joseph (Genesis 37:3; Joshua 17:16-17), this is a fitting tribute to Manasseh's faithfulness.

10.11.6 The salvation of a great multitude from every nation (Revelation 7:9-17)

The existence of this group is established especially by Revelation 7:9-17. The group is there described as "a great multitude, which no man could number," standing before the throne of God (v. 9), having come "out of Great Tribulation," with robes washed "white in the blood of the Lamb" (v. 14). The implication is that these people have died as martyrs during the Tribulation, and that now their tears, resulting from the suffering, are being wiped from their eyes (v. 17).

10.11.6.1 The identity of the great multitude from every nation

There are several interpretations of the identity of the "great multitude" as follows:

  1. It is a symbolic representation of those who are finally victorious in salvation. This interpretation fails to note the connection of this crowd with the future Great Tribulation in Revelation 7:14, and is not keeping with the point reached in the breaking of the seals.

  2. They are identical with the 144,000 sealed earlier in the chapter. But the two groups cannot be the same. The earlier one was numbered, but this one is innumerable. One is exclusively Jews, the other is not. This multitude includes far more than the 144,000 of the earlier group. Please see the below table showing the differences between the two groups of people. It is obvious that this interpretation is wrong. See below table for comparisons.

    Comparisons Between the Two Groups Described in Revelation 7

    144,000 of 7:1-8

    The Multitude of 7:9-17

    Are Israelites only, 12,000 from the 12 tribes of Israel. Come out of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues.
    Consist of a specific number. A great multitude which no one can number.
    Still upon the earth in mortal bodies that need the protection of God. In a state of glory before the very throne of God.
  3. They are Old Testament saints in the heaven. They are not Old Testament saints as John did not recognize them (Revelation 7:13-14). John would have known them if Old Testament saints, as he and Peter and James knew Elijah and Moses on the Transfiguration Mount (Matthew 17:1-8).

  4. They are Church saints and it is the time of the Rapture of the Church. It is not the time of the Rapture of the Church as neither trumpet is sounded nor resurrection of saints is mentioned. They are not the Church saints as John did not recognize them (Revelation 7:13-14). John would have known them if Church saints as John is one of the twelve apostles. Note the contrasts between these and believers of the church age. This shows that these Tribulation saints are distinct and different from the Church age saints. See below table for comparisons.

    Comparisons Between the Church Age Saints and Tribulation Saints

    Church Age Saints

    Tribulation Saints

    Kept out of the Tribulation by the rapture (3:10) Come out of the Great Tribulation through Martyrdom (7:14)
    Clothed in white raiment or garments (en himatiois leukois, mantle, cloak )(3:5; 4:4) Clothed in white robes (stolh, a festal robe) (7:9)
    Sit on thrones about the throne (4:4) Stand before the throne (7:10)
    Wear crowns (stefanos, the victor's crown as promised to the church) (4:4) No crowns mentioned
    Have harps and golden bowls full of incense (5:8) Palm branches in their hands (7:9)
    Sing a new song (5:9) Cry out with a loud voice (7:10)
    Declared to be a kingdom of priests who will reign with Christ (5:10) Serve Him day and night (7:15, cf. 20:4)
  5. They are purely Gentile believers who have died violent deaths during the period of the first six seals. This interpretation fails to note that they come from "all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues" (Revelation 7:9). The word "all" should include both Jews and Gentiles. In addition, there will be other Israelites saved besides these 144,000 Jewish servants of God, but many of these will die martyrs' deaths and give up their lives for their faith.

  6. The best interpretation is to identify this vast crowd as both Jewish and Gentile believers who have died violent deaths during the period of the first six seals. The universality of terminology agrees with this as does the placement of the vision between the sixth and seventh seals. They are seen in Heaven at a point immediately after the completion of the sealing of the 144,000 on earth.

10.11.6.2 When will the great multitude come from?

These great multitude of Jews and Gentiles will be saved through the witness of the following sources:

  1. Bible, books and internet resources about Bible prophecies will still be available during the Tribulation.

  2. A lot of professing Christians and church goers will not be raptured to the Heaven because their faith is not genuine. They will be left behind on the earth (Revelation 3:10). During the Tribulation period, some of them will repent and accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. They will preach the gospel world-wide during the Tribulation period.

  3. The 144,000 faithful Jews will preach the gospel world-wide (Revelation 7:4).

  4. The two powerful witnesses (Revelation 11:3-13).

  5. An angel will preach the gospel world-wide (Revelation 14:6-7).

10.11.6.3 Why the number of people who will be converted during the Tribulation period is so large?

The large number of people who will be converted during the Tribulation period. How can one account for this, when wickedness will reign as never before? The number will indeed be large, for Revelation 7:9-17 discusses only those of the Tribulation saints who have been martyred, and they alone are said to be a "great multitude." Two principal matters may be noted in answer:

  1. The rapture will have occurred, which certainly will have brought great psychological shock to millions of people. They will have experienced the sudden departure from the world of their finest friends and relatives. This will force them to think seriously of religious matters, in a way they have never before desired or thought necessary.

  2. There will be a marked increase of sinful activity in the world, over anything known before (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8), and this will likely be repugnant, especially at first, to a significant number of people. Reacting against it, many will be led to a source of refuge from it, as found in Jesus Christ.

  3. Substantial numbers of Jews will be converted during the Tribulation period or at its close, when Christ will come to deliver them from the Anti-christ. For instance, this is the import of Romans 11:26, "And so all Israel shall be saved." The salvation of "all Israel" will occur only after Christ's grand coming in power, as the next words of the same verse indicate: "There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob." This general meaning is found also in Isaiah 4:3-4; Jeremiah 23:5-6; 24:7; Ezekiel 36:25-27; 37:23; Zephaniah 3:11-12; Zechariah 13:1-2.

10.11.6.4 The martyrdom will begin at the first half of the Tribulation period

The martyrdom will begin at the first half of the 7-year Tribulation period until the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, because this description in Revelation 7:9-17 is given between the opening of the sixth and seventh seals (cf. Revelation 6:12 and 8:1). In fact, evidence exists that considerable martyrdom will have occurred up to the time represented by the fifth seal. When this seal is opened, a host is seen in heaven "slain for the word of God" (Revelation 6:9-11). The time then is just before the midpoint of the Tribulation.

10.11.6.5 The persecution of the Tribulation saints

This large group of people, truly exercising faith in Christ, will suffer intense persecution at the hands of the apostate church. This is evidenced not only by the existence of so many martyrs in heaven, as early as the midpoint of the Tribulation, but by direct statements in Revelation 17:6 and 18:24. In Revelation 17:6, the woman riding on the beast is seen to be "drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus." In Revelation 18:24, the statement is made that in the apostate church "was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth." In this terrible activity, of course, the apostate church will have the support, if not the insistence, of the Anti-christ, who elsewhere is also described as bringing severe persecution on God's saints (Revelation 13:7; cf. Daniel 7:25). Thousands apparently will have their lives taken, and thousands of others will be made to suffer in horrible ways. The lot of the Tribulation saints will not be easy.

10.11.7 The two powerful witnesses (Revelation 11:3-13)

In addition to these judgments, two powerful witnesses will be active during the first part of the Tribulation (Revelation 11:3-12). They will have power to kill their enemies by fire coming out of their mouths. They will be able to turn water into blood and bring plagues "as often as they will" (verse 6). When Anti-christ finally kills them at the mid-point of the Tribulation, their corpses will lie in a street in Jerusalem for all to see, but three and one-half days after they are killed, God will raise them from the dead and take them to heaven. Jerusalem will then suffer an earthquake, which will destroy one-tenth of the city and kill 7,000 people (Revelation 11:13).

10.11.7.1 The identity of the two powerful witnesses

There are several interpretations regarding the identity of the two witnesses:

  1. They signify the church. They signify the church because lampstands (cf. Revelation 11:4) are symbols for churches earlier in the book (cf. Revelation 1:20). Objection to this interpretation is that only individual persons can wear sackcloth. This view would require that all believers of the future undergo martyrdom, denying the possibility of survivors that will remain to populate the Millennium.

  2. They are Enoch and Elijah. The ancient church identified the two witnesses as Enoch and Elijah because both were translated to Heaven without seeing death (Genesis 5:24; 2 Kings 2:11). The necessity for all men to die (cf. Hebrews 9:27) supposedly requires the return of these two to earth to experience death. Objection to this interpretation is that the ones alive at the return of the Lord for His church will never meet physical death (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:17).

  3. They are Elijah and Moses. They are Elijah and Moses because their miracles are similar to those of Elijah and Moses (cf. Revelation 11:5-6). Elijah called down fire from Heaven (2 Kings 1:10) and shut off the rain from Heaven (1 Kings 17:1). The duration of the drought in Revelation 11:6 (cf. Revelation 11:3) is the same as that under Elijah's ministry, three and a half years. Moses turned water into blood and struck the earth with plagues (Exodus 7:14-11:10). Scripture says Elijah will come again, and Malachi 4:5 says "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord" (Malachi 3:1). Deuteronomy 18:15, 18 predicted the coming of a prophet like Moses. Further, Moses and Elijah were seen with the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:3; Mark 9:4; Luke 9:30). The mystery surrounding Moses' death (Deuteronomy 34:5-6; Jude 9) and the translation of Elijah (2 Kings 2:11) offer some corroboration of these as the two witnesses. This interpretation is not without objections. One is that John the Baptist fulfilled the Malachi prophecy about Elijah's return. Another objection is that Moses did die. For him to return as one of the witnesses would have him dying a second time.

  4. They are two men who will come in the power, spirit, and character of Moses and Elijah, etc., i.e., a virtual Elijah and Moses, but not literally Elijah and Moses.

    1. Luke 1:17 clearly states that John the Baptist, as a forerunner of Christ, would go forth in the spirit and power of Elijah (cf. Mark 1:2-3 with Malachi 3:1), i.e., he was a virtual Elijah.

    2. Matthew 11:7-14 show that John could have and would have fulfilled the Malachi passage if Israel as a nation had believed and accepted his message. But since they rejected both John and Messiah, another would have to come to fulfill the Malachi prophecy and this would need to occur prior to Christ's second advent. Since John could have and would have fulfilled the Malachi passage, it seems obvious the one who will come in the future, will be, like John, one who will come in the spirit and power of Elijah, a virtual Elijah, but not literally Elijah himself. He does not have to be a literal Elijah, or John could not have fulfilled the Malachi passage.

    3. They are similar from the standpoint of their ministries, but similarity does not mean identity. Their ministries are similar because they are ministering to Israel and such similarity would carry great significance to the Jews.

    4. They are not named in the text which would indicate that God does not intend for us to identify them. Because the two are not named, however, the possibility exists that they are not to be identified with any historic person, but will simply live for the first time at this future date.

10.11.7.2 The time of activity

In Scripture a prophetic year is 360 days. Thus the 1,260 days equals three and a half years - exactly half of the seven-year Tribulation. The big question is in which portion of the Tribulation do they minister, the first half, last half, or in a portion of each?

  1. Their ministry will be in the last half of the Tribulation. Reasons are as follows:

    1. Immediately after this teaching regarding their ministry there is the announcement of the third woe and the seventh trumpet (cf. Revelation 11:14-15). This seventh trumpet occurs right at the end of the Tribulation and results in the ushering in of the kingdom of God.

    2. The two witnesses pour out judgment on any who would attempt to harm them (Revelation 11:5). It would appear that this condition better fits the last half of the Tribulation after the abomination of desolation when the Beast is seeking to be worshipped, when there is great anti-semitism and persecution against all believers.

    3. The reaction of men in verse 13 with mankind terrified and giving glory to God also better fits the very end of the Tribulation than the middle or even somewhat later in the seven-year period. During the last half of the Tribulation men will worship the Beast (i.e. the Anti-christ) and Satan and exclaim "who is like the Beast and who is able to make war with him"? (Revelation l3:4). But then, there is their resurrection, the voice from heaven, and the devastating earthquake (Revelation 11:11-13). After this, those who are left, in terror, give glory to God instead of the Beast.

    4. There seems to be a natural sequence and tie between verses 1, 2, and 3. In verses 1 and 2a we see the temple that is to be measured. We know the temple is present in the first half of the Tribulation (Daniel 9:27a). Then in verse 2b we have a reference to the court of the Gentiles and the 42 months (three and one half years), when the nations will tread under foot the city of Jerusalem. We know this occurs in the last half of the Tribulation, after the Beast invades Palestine (Daniel 9:27b). Right after this, we then have the mention of the two witnesses who prophesy for 1,260 days (three and one half years).

  2. Their ministry will be in the first half of the Tribulation. Reasons are as follows:

  1. It is the coming of the Beast onto the scene with great power that terminates their witness (Revelation 11:7). Although present and active during the first part of the Tribulation, chiefly as a political figure, he does not show himself in his true character and demand to be worshipped until the middle of the Tribulation. At the midpoint he will kill the two witnesses who have been ministering during the first part of the Tribulation. The death of the witnesses triggers the Great Tribulation.

  2. After the death and resurrection of the two witnesses, the third woe will come upon the earth (Revelation 11:14). The third woe is the seventh trumpet judgment (Revelation 11:15) which consists of the seven bowl judgments (Revelation 16:1-21). We cannot assume that the duration of the these judgments are timeless. If the ministry of the two witnesses is in the last half, then all the judgments must have been accomplished. Therefore, it is the strongest point to prove that the ministry of the two witnesses is not in the last half.

  3. Revelation 11:1-13 does not advance the chronological sequence of the prophetic events, but parenthetically describes the ministries of the two witnesses, which occur over a three-and-a-half-year period. Not until Revelation 15 will the chronological developments continue again, namely the pouring out of the seven bowls which constitutes the seventh trumpet and the last woe. Therefore, most of the reasons raised in the above 1(a)-(d) to place the ministry of the two witnesses in the last half are invalid. According to the above reasons, I conclude that the ministry of the two witnesses should be in the first half of the Tribulation Period.

10.11.7.3 They were empowered by the Holy Spirit

According to Revelation 11:4, the two witnesses are "the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth." This is a reference to Zechariah's vision of the olive trees and the candlestick in Zechariah 4. The message there concerns Zerubbabel and Joshua and their need for empowerment by the Holy Spirit. A parallel thought is no doubt intended here. That is, these two witnesses of the future will need and will experience a similar empowerment from the Holy Spirit for their faithful and courageous task of witnessing, as well as for the working of miracles. The number and type of miracles gives some indication of the degree of their power. They will be able to devour enemies by fire from their mouths, to shut up the heaven from giving rain, to turn water to blood, and to impose numerous plagues (Revelation 11:5-6).

10.11.7.4 Their death and resurrection

Anti-christ must eliminate opposition from the two witnesses (Revelation 11:3-13) who have been plaguing him. The killing of these "two witnesses" will be the Anti-christ's first great feat at the middle of the Tribulation.

The two witnesses will have a spectacular ministry during the first part of the Tribulation. They will have power to kill their enemies with fire, to prevent rain, to turn water to blood, and to bring plagues on the earth as often as they wish. Their frequent use of these powers will add to the general devastation. Think, for instance, what will happen when they use their power to prevent rain. Along with the climatic and topographical changes that will occur on earth, unimaginable disaster will result.

Though the witnesses will be invincible for three and a half years, God will permit the beast to kill them after they have finished their work (Revelation 11:7). Making martyrs of the witnesses will win Anti-christ wide support among the people of the world. But he will not be satisfied with merely killing them; he will display their bodies in the streets of Jerusalem. People, seeing the witnesses dead, will rejoice that they will no longer have to hear their warnings.

Merely to look on the decaying bodies of these two men will not satisfy people. They will make a great holiday of the occasion, and will send gifts to each other. Interestingly enough, this is the only occasion, during the entire Tribulation period, in which rejoicing is mentioned. People will be so overjoyed that the witnesses are dead that this will be a happy holiday for them. If they had believed the witnesses' preaching, their deaths would have been a sad occasion instead of a holiday.

But God will intervene. After three and a half days, the bodies of the two witnesses will be resurrected and translated into heaven in a cloud of glory. Imagine the scene. Long lines will be waiting to view the corpses. Perhaps the cameras will be focusing on them at the very moment of their resurrection. People around the world will be watching via satellite transmission. The calm, matter-of-fact announcer will suddenly become nearly hysterical as he sees a resurrection in process and realizes that millions of people are depending on him for an explanation. How will the interpreters of the news manage this one? Even the voice from heaven (Revelation 11:12) will be heard in millions of homes.

But even before the newspapers can report the story or the commentators write their analyses, there will be another great event for them to cover, an earthquake which will center in Jerusalem and which will destroy a tenth part of the city, killing 7,000 people.

10.12 The Israelitish Aspect of the Tribulation

God has not cast away his people; even today there is a remnant according to the election of grace (Romans 11:1-5). But what is more than that, God will once again take up Israel as a people, "for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable" (Romans 11:25-29).

This sub-section is a detailed description of the Israelitish aspect of the Tribulation. It is divided into the following three major divisions: 

  1. conversion of the Jews;

  2. persecution of the Jews; and

  3. deliverance of the Jews.

10.12.1 Conversion of the Jews

A significant feature of the Tribulation period is that substantial numbers of Jews will be converted. This general meaning is found in the following passages:

  1. Isaiah 4:3-4;

  2. Jeremiah 23:5-6; 24:7;

  3. Ezekiel 36:25-27; 37:23;

  4. Zephaniah 3:11-12;

  5. Zechariah 13:1-2 and

  6. Romans 11:25-29.

Passages which speak particularly of Jews who will be converted during the Tribulation period are recorded in:

  1. Revelation 7:1-8;

  2. Revelation 11:3-13; and

  3. Revelation 14:1-5.

These passages have already been discussed in the above Sections 10.11.5 and 10.11.7.

10.12.2 Persecution of the Jews

The following passages speak specifically of the persecution of the Jews in the Tribulation period:

  1. Jeremiah 30:7;

  2. Zechariah 13:8-9; 14:1-2; and

  3. Revelation 12:1-6, 13-17.

10.12.2.1 Jeremiah 30:7

The context speaks of suffering experienced by Israel. The time of this suffering refers to the suffering of the Tribulation time. The "trouble" will consist of hardship, difficulty, unpleasant conditions, deprivations and loss of life. An important purpose will be served by this suffering. The people will be corrected. This discipline is needed that the people might be made willing to receive Christ as their Messiah-Deliverer. The Jews of Israel in the present day are not ready to receive Him. A radical change is needed if they are to open their minds and hearts to Him in the future day. A basic purpose of the Tribulation "trouble" is to bring this about. Please read the above Section 10.9.2 for further information on this verse.

10.12.2.2 Zechariah 13:8-9; 14:1-2

The book of Zechariah, from chapter 12 on, speaks principally of last-day events. In Zechariah 13:8-9, it gives the number of Jews who will be destroyed by the Anti-christ as two-thirds of the populace, leaving only one-third.

In Zechariah 14:1-2, the attack by the Anti-christ on the capital city of Jerusalem is depicted. The statement is made that the city will fall, the women will be ravished, and half of the city will be taken captive. Obviously, such words speak of terrible suffering. If Jerusalem will be treated this way, other cities may be expected to endure the same. All told, the degree of carnage and slaughter implied in these verses is quite beyond one's ability to imagine.

In Zechariah 13:9, the significant result of this persecution is stated, a result which emphasizes God's purpose in permitting the shocking event. The verse states that the surviving one-third of the people, who will be brought through the "fire" of the suffering, will experience a refinement and a testing, such as that applied to silver and gold in the smelting process. This will lead them to call on God's name, and God will respond by accepting them as His people. In other words, the pride found among the people of Israel today will be removed, along with their lack of willingness to receive Christ as their Messiah. They will be made willing to do whatever God wishes and will accept their great Deliverer.

10.12.2.3 Revelation 12:1-6, 13-17

In the opening verses 1-4, a woman (symbolic of Israel) and a great red dragon (symbolic of Satan) are presented. The woman is at the point of giving birth to a child, symbolizing Christ, and the dragon stands ready to devour him as soon as he is born. The historical occasion symbolized is Jesus' birth into the world. At that time Herod the Great, as Satan's tool, issued his directive that all male children, two years and younger, should be killed in an attempt to take the life of Jesus (Matthew 2:16).

In verse 5, the child is said to be "caught up unto God"; this represents Christ's ascension following His life on earth. Between verses 5 and 6, an extended gap of time must be recognized, because in verse 6 the woman is described as fleeing "into the wilderness," where she is protected and nourished for 1,260 days; this is a reference to the last half of the Tribulation period.

In verses 8-12, the main story concerning the persecution of the woman is interrupted by an account of the dragon, Satan, being cast from heaven. This occasion of Satan being cast from heaven contrasts with the time set forth in Isaiah 14:12-17; at the earlier time, he was cast from heaven as his regular place of abode, while still being permitted to return for the purpose of accusing the saints (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7; Revelation 12:10), while here he is cast out fully, not being permitted to return for any reason.

Then with verse 13, the story continues, noting further the fact of this persecution. In verse 14, the woman is again said to flee "into the wilderness," where she is cared for during a period described as "a time and times, and half a time." This period has been explained in another connection to mean three-and-a-half years, or 1,260 days, the same length of time as given in verse 6. The occasions are identical, then.

Verses 15 and 16 speak of Satan trying to kill the woman, who has fled, by a flood of water, but the earth helps the woman by swallowing the flood. This flood should be understood symbolically, as representing whatever means of destruction Satan, working through the Anti-christ, will bring against Israel during this last half of the Tribulation.

Verse 17 concludes by stating again, generally, that the dragon was angry with the woman, adding that this anger was directed especially against those who kept "the commandments of God," meaning true believers among the Jews.

The significance of this passage may be summarized as follows:

  1. Satan will be the one who masterminds the persecution, working through the instrumentality of the Anti-christ.

  2. The persecution will continue for 1,260 days, that is, the last half of the Tribulation period.

  3. Satan's bitterness against Israel will be increased as a result of his being cast from heaven, apparently just prior to this period of persecution.

  4. During this time Israel will be protected from annihilation, God will provide a place for her in the wilderness (v. 6), by her being cared for there (vv. 6 and 14), and by the earth opening its mouth to swallow the flood of the dragon (v. 16).

  5. The dragon, in his anger at the woman, makes war especially on true believers among the Jews.

10.12.3 Deliverance of the Jews

Israel's deliverance will take place in her darkest hour. Christ and His holy angels and saints will come at the Mount of Olives and the Jews will see Him (Daniel 12:1-2; Zechariah 14:4-5). Then they will mourn for Him (Zechariah 12:10-14), plunge into the fountain for sin and uncleanness, and become a new nation (Zechariah 12:10-13:2). God will save all Israel surviving these judgments.

10.13 The Religious Aspect of the Tribulation

At the same time that these three sets of judgments take place, there is a significant development in false religion. An apostate church grows and assumes a high position of power.

This sub-section is a detailed description of the religious aspect of the Tribulation. It is divided into the following five major divisions: 

  1. The formation of the apostate church;

  2. The apostate church was symbolized as a harlot and as Babylon;

  3. The perversion of the apostate church;

  4. The relationship between the apostate church and the Anti-christ; and

  5. The cessation of the apostate church.

10.13.1 The formation of the apostate church

An apostate church exists today, already; its members will, of course, not be included in the rapture of the true church. With the true church gone, it will be the only so-called church remaining. Quite the contrary, because it is man's nature to be religious, it could be expected to claim wide allegiance and to assert itself in world power. This is the way the Scriptures present it. The church has always known apostate groups, but in recent years, with the rise of modernism, the extent of apostasy has grown. Aiding in this growth has been what is called the ecumenical movement, which has urged the uniting of various denominations into federated churches. Each time such a union has been formed, a compromise of viewpoint has been required, and this has resulted in a greater overall defection from the truth. All this has brought a very large apostate group into existence today which will continue into the Tribulation period.

10.13.2 The apostate church was symbolized as a harlot and as Babylon

The book of Revelation speaks at length of this religious group, especially in chapter 17, using the figure of a harlot and the name "Babylon." That the intended reference is to the apostate church is evident from several factors:

  1. The figure of an unfaithful woman fits for the apostate church because the true church is often likened in the New Testament to a bride (see Romans 7:4; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-33; Revelation 19:7-8). The true church is thus a faithful bride and the apostate church an unfaithful one.

  2. There is an evident contrast intended between the woman set forth in Revelation 17 with the one in Revelation 12; the latter is properly identified as Israel. Because the Old Testament uses the figure of a wife in respect to Israel, this again makes fitting the contrasting figure of an unfaithful wife for the woman of Revelation 17.

  3. The name Babylon links this person with the city of Rome, for the term Babylon almost certainly was used figuratively for Rome already in early church times. Babylon and Rome were particularly strong and dominant cities in their respective periods and both oppressed the people of God. It may be added that Revelation 17:18 even states directly that this woman is "that great city," meaning Rome.

  4. This woman cannot be Rome as a political entity, however, for she rides a "beast" in Revelation 17, and, according to Revelation 13:1-10, this beast symbolizes political Rome. She is no doubt ecclesiastical Rome, that is, Rome as the geographical headquarters of the apostate church. The figure of the woman riding the beast shows political Rome supporting the apostate church, and the church greatly influencing the course of political Rome. Another reason the woman could not be political Rome is because eventually the ten kings of political Rome come to kill her (Revelation 17:16).

10.13.3 The perversion of the apostate church

In view of the above, the significance of the apostate church being symbolized as a harlot becomes apparent - namely to denote the perversion this group makes of the purpose of the true church. Posing as the continuation of the church, now raptured, she will pervert what the true church stood for:

  1. The continued denial of cardinal doctrines set forth in the Bible, such as the inerrant inspiration of the Scriptures, the reality of miracles, the deity of Christ, and the necessity of regeneration for sinful man.

  2. Her committing "fornication" with "the kings of the earth" (Revelation 17:2); this means she will cater to and serve political powers, no doubt to further her own position of strength. Since this form of perversion will involve "kings" (plural) we can assume that these actions will take on widespread proportions.

  3. She will make the world's inhabitants drunk with her fornication. This indicates that she will be able to deceive people at large, making them insensible to her perversions. This deception will be aided by her great influence with the leading powers.

  4. She, as a harlot, is called "the mother of harlots" (Revelation 17:5). The thought is that she will produce subordinate church unions, like herself, in various portions of the world. This will probably be for the purpose of making her own top position stronger.

  5. A lot of people, truly exercising faith in Christ, will suffer intense persecution at the hands of the apostate church. In Revelation 17:6, the woman riding on the beast is seen to be "drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus." In Revelation 18:24, the apostate church "was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth."

10.13.4 The relationship between the apostate church and the Anti-christ

The significance of the apostate church being called by the name Babylon is to show her relation to Rome. During the Tribulation period, Rome takes on central importance in the world, as the capital of the restored Roman confederacy. The head of this restored political entity will be a powerful ruler, depicted in Daniel 7 as a "little horn," and in Revelation 13, as "the beast," who is properly called the Anti-christ. The apostate church, recognizing the importance of Rome, will seek to enhance her own position of power by making it her center of operation. Since Rome has long been the headquarters for Roman Catholicism, it is probable that there will be, or already will have been, a union formed between the two religious groups. It is well known that, even in the present day, there are significant developments in this area. With such a union between the apostate Protestant church and the apostate Catholic church, the size and influence of this truly world church will be very great. This is, no doubt, why political Rome will be interested in establishing a formal relationship between itself and this powerful organization. The Anti-christ, as he seeks greater power for himself, will be glad to receive all the support this organization can give; and, at the same time, the church group will be pleased to enjoy the added strength he can provide.

10.13.5 The cessation of the apostate church

In Revelation 17:1-6 the apostate church is seen riding the beast. At the beginning of the Tribulation period, this apostate church, the harlot, will dominate the government. When in the midst of it the Anti-christ breaks his covenant with the Jews and forbids the offering of sacrifices (Daniel 9:27), the ten kings will hate the harlot, cast her off, and destroy her (Revelation 17:16f.). By this time, the Anti-christ will see no advantage in the continuing relationship between the apostate church and himself. He will have reached a zenith of power by then and will have no more need of help. This event, done according to God's purpose (Revelation 17:17), opens the way for the supreme rule of the Anti-christ, who himself will demand universal worship (see Revelation 13:3-8; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). 

From that time on, all will be required to worship the beast (Revelation 13:4-8), and the second beast will set out to force the world to do so (Revelation 13:11-17). He will use deception and lying wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12; Revelation 13:13) and force (Revelation 13:7, 15; cf. 6:9-11; 20:4), persecuting those who will not worship the beast nor take his name (Revelation 13:16f.). He will require all to take the mark of the beast and will not allow any to buy or sell unless they take this mark. It is clear that in those days multitudes will be slain for the Word of God and the testimony which they hold. But with the coming of Christ and the destruction of the leaders and their armies, the whole religious system of the end-time will come to nought.

 

11. THE ANTI-CHRIST

(References: Countdown to Armageddon - The Final Battle and Beyond, Chapter 14, Word of Life Fellowship Inc., Harvest House Publishers, 1999 Edition, by Thomas N. Davis; The Bible and Future Events, Chapter 6, Academie Books, Zondervan Corporation, 1973 Edition, by Leon J. Wood; Exposition of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, Chapter 13, Kregel Publications, 12th Impression of the 4th Edition in 1982, by Walter Scott)

At the rapture of the Church the Holy Spirit's restraint will be removed (2 Thessalonians 2:7). We believe that this One is the Spirit of God, Whose presence in the world today prevents the full development of lawlessness. And although He will work mightily on earth after the translation of the Church, there will be a lifting of His control over political and religious ungodliness. This will clear the way for Satan to mastermind his end-time conspiracy.

The dominant person in the Tribulation period will be the Anti-christ. He, as king of a restored form of the Roman empire, will continue to grow in power and influence as the seven years of the period pass. The Scriptures present him as a fully controlled tool of Satan, used to effect Satan's program for the Tribulation; this program will include this time of suffering for God's chosen people Israel. God is willing to permit the suffering so that His people will be brought to a frame of mind for receiving Christ as their Messiah-Deliverer at the climax of the seven-year time.

This section is a detailed description of the Antichrist. It is divided into the following seven major divisions: 

  1. the meaning of the term Antichrist;

  2. the Scriptural use of the term Antichrist;

  3. the empire of the Antichrist;

  4. the character of the Antichrist;

  5. the associates of the Antichrist;

  6. the career of the Antichrist; and

  7. is the first beast Antichrist?

11.1 The Meaning of the Term "Antichrist"

The Scriptural portrait of the Antichrist may be obtained by a study of several key passages of Scripture. Surprisingly, the term "antichrist" appears only five times in the Bible, and all five are in John's first and second epistles:

  1. twice in First John 2:18, "As ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists";

  2. once in First John 2:22, "He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son";

  3. once in First John 4:3, "And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God; and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come"; and

  4. once in Second John 7, "For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist."

Four of the five occurrences are in reference to people of John's day who were opposed to Christ and His work, either denying His deity (1 John 2:22) or the fact that He had come in the flesh (1 John 4:3; 2 John 7). Only once does it refer to the person of the future with whom this chapter is concerned. This is in First John 2:18, "As ye have heard that antichrist shall come." Even here, however, no information is given as to whom John had in mind. It seems clear that he did have a definite person in view, and probably could have described him at some length had the occasion called for it. But he does not do so, which means that in no passage of the Bible is a person bearing this name described. The result is that the identity and description of the one John had in mind must be discerned from a study of the various persons who are set forth in apocalyptic texts.

Before beginning an inquiry as to the identity of the Antichrist, we should determine the meaning of the term "antichrist." The meaning is twofold in nature:

  1. One aspect is implied in John's use of the term as he speaks of people opposed to Christ. People of his day were antichrist if they manifested an antagonism to Christ. The Antichrist of the future, then, will be one who is similarly opposed to Christ and all for which Christ stands.

  2. The other aspect comes from the basic meaning of the Greek preposition "anti," which is the prefix used in the name. This basic meaning is "substitute for" or "in place of." This meaning, then, speaks of the Antichrist as a person who takes the place of Christ, who substitutes for him. Actually this meaning is the more fundamental of the two; the antagonism will arise from the substitution because of hostility in attitude. It may be concluded that the person properly designated as the Antichrist will be one who will both substitute for Christ and stand opposed to Him.

11.2 The Scriptural Use of the Term "Antichrist"

The particular person in apocalyptic texts who is best identified with this twofold role is one called by five major different terms, each depicting him from a distinct point of view, he is called:

  1. the "little horn" (King James Version) or "another horm, a little one" (New American Standard Bible) in Daniel 7:3-26; 8:3-25;

  2. the "prince that shall come" (King James Version) or the "prince who is to come" (New American Standard Bible) in Daniel 9:26-27;

  3. the "willful king" (King James Version) or "who will do as he pleases" (New American Standard Bible) in Daniel 11:36-45;

  4. the "man of sin" (King James Version) or the "man of lawlessness" (New American Standard Bible) in Second Thessalonians 2:3-4, 6-9; and

  5. the "beast" (King James Version & New American Standard Bible) in Revelation 13:1-8, 11-18; 17:8-14.

11.2.1 The "little horn" (Daniel 7:3-26; 8:3-25; 11:36-39)

Daniel refers to the Antichrist in several passages, two of which are important for study at this point. In the first of these, the characteristic term "little horn" is used, and in the other only the general designation, "king." A third passage calls for attention also, because in it another person, who lived in ancient history, is significantly called by the same term "little horn."

11.2.1.1 Daniel 7:3-26

The term "little horn" is used in Daniel 7, where the first of Daniel's four visions is described. This first vision is the most comprehensive in meaning of the four. The other three visions reveal additional information related to aspects of the overall history set forth in this one. The history involved concerns the successive empires of Babylonia, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome of ancient time, and then of Rome again, in a restored form, during the Tribulation period.

I) The four empires

The history of the four empires is symbolized by four animals, with the fourth one giving birth to the little horn. Their descriptions are as follows:

  1. The first animal is a lion, having eagle's wings (Daniel 7:4); it represents Babylonia, the empire in power when Daniel had his vision. Two facts show that this is the intended representation. First, the lion as the king of animals and the eagle as the king of birds correspond in significance to the "head of gold" in Nebuchadnezzar's earlier dream (Daniel 2:32, 38). This head of gold is specifically said to represent Nebuchadnezzar, the great king of Babylonia. Second, the information given about this animal fits well with the history of the later years of Nebuchadnezzar's rule.

  2. The second animal is a bear with three ribs in its mouth (Daniel 7:5); it represents Medo-Persia. This follows from the fact that Medo-Persia did succeed Babylonia in history. Also, Medo-Persia conquered vast areas of territory, which is symbolized especially by the three ribs in the bear's mouth.

  3. The third animal is a leopard with four wings (Daniel 7:6); it represents Greece. The Greek empire succeeded the Medo-Persian empire, and did so with great rapidity. The element of rapidity is symbolized by the very nature of the leopard, which is the swiftest of animals, and by the four wings on its back.

  4. The fourth animal is not identified, but is described as exceedingly strong (Daniel 7:7); it represents Rome. The Roman empire succeeded Greece, and was noted for its great strength. This resulted in its continuing for a longer time than the other three empires taken together.

II) The restoration of the Roman empire

An item of major significance concerning this fourth animal is that it has ten horns, which is a parallel to the "ten toes" of the vision of Daniel 2:41-42, are described in Daniel 7:24 as symbolizing "ten kings." Since these horns exist at the same time, and since the little horn, soon to be introduced, grows out from among them, the kings so symbolized must reign concurrently. This idea of concurrence is significant because at no time in the history of ancient Rome, for all of its approximately six centuries of existence, did ten contemporaneous kings rule. This fact provides a clue that two different periods of existence are to be distinguished here for the Roman empire. One is the empire of past days, and the other is a Roman empire to be restored. If the empire of past days did not fulfill the predictive history set forth, then there has to be a restoration, for the Scriptures are never inaccurate. This change of reference can most logically be located in the phrase, "and it had ten horns." Thus the beast symbolizes ancient Rome in the text prior to this phrase and future Rome beginning with and following this phrase.

See below chart for illustration:

(Source: The Book of Daniel, Lesson 1, p. 1, Emmaus Bible College, 1973 Revised Edition, by James A. Stahr)

Identification of the Four Kingdoms in the Book of Daniel

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III) The little horn

The little horn of interest in this discussion is introduced in Daniel 7:8, where it is said to displace three of the original horns as it grows. This leaves a total of seven. The king represented by the little horn is described as having "the eyes of a man," suggesting keenness of insight, and as having "a mouth speaking great things," indicating that he will be boastful.

This little horn is further described in Daniel 7:24-26, in the portion of the chapter devoted to the interpretation of the vision.

Verse 24

In verse 24, after the ten horns were in place, an eleventh one, "a little horn" would emerge. The ten horns are definitely identified as ten kings, it is implied that the "little horn" is also a king. Apparently he is referred to throughout this chapter as the "little" horn because he arises to power later, not because his power is in any way less than that of the previous rulers. In his rise to power he will take the place of three of the existing ten horns. It seems that the other seven horns will align themselves with him, for his kingdom becomes a federation of states (Revelation 17:12-13). The fact that this one is "diverse from" the others and is able to displace three of them shows that he becomes the leader of the others.

Verse 25

In verse 25, he is again depicted as a boaster, even speaking "great words against the most High." The verse states further that he will make "the saints of the most High" to suffer, a characteristic noted earlier regarding the Antichrist. He also will "think to change times and laws":

  1. An attempt even to change laws of nature which pertain to time (Note: At the time of the French revolution, an attempt was made to start a ten-day week.).

  2. The apostle Paul refers to this one in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 as "the man of lawlessness," for he apparently will attempt to change all moral and statute law. Law, of course, comes from God, so if this one is opposed to God, it is natural to suspect that he will try to change everything.

He will continue in this activity for a period described as "a time and times and the dividing of time." This last phrase, which is really a formula denoting a period of time, is used again in Daniel 12:7 and Revelation 12:14; in the latter verse it is made parallel with 1,260 days (see Revelation 12:6), or three-and-a-half years. Actually, putting together the singular "time," the plural "times," and a "dividing of time" makes sense only if it does mean three-and-a-half times, or three-and-a-half years. As will be seen in the next chapter, this duration of time corresponds to the last half of the Tribulation period, at the beginning of which the Antichrist breaks his covenant with Israel. He will then be at the height of his power during this period, having worked to attain it during the first half of that period of years.

Verse 26

Verse 26 implies that the demise of the "little horn" will be sudden and complete. The "little horn" will not have the freedom to exercise his perverted authority forever, because he will be brought to judgment before the Ancient of Days (i.e. God the Father) and his dominion will be taken away from him. The authority of the "little horn" will be given over to the saints of the Highest One (v. 27), and will be administered by the Son of Man (i.e. the Lord Jesus Christ), who receives the kingdom from the Ancient of Days (i.e. God the Father).

11.2.1.2 Daniel 8:3-25

Before speaking of the second passage in Daniel which presents this same king of the future, it is well to note Daniel 8 which again uses the term "little horn," but of a person of ancient history. This passage also carries significance in reference to the Antichrist.

I) The two empires, Medo-Persia and Greece

This passage sets forth Daniel's second vision. Once again animals are seen, but this time there are only two:

  1. a two-horned ram; and

  2. a one-horned goat.

Verses 3-4

The ram, said in verse 20 to represent Medo Persia (corresponding, then, to the bear of the first vision), is depicted as making a sweeping conquest of enemies "westward, and northward, and southward," almost without opposition (v. 4). It had two horns, with the higher of the two coming up last (v. 3). Medo-Persia did conquer extensively under Cyrus the Great and did so with comparative ease. Also, the Persian division of the Medo-Persian empire did rise to power after the Median division, and then became the more important of the two, since Cyrus himself was Persian.

Verses 5-7

The goat, said in verse 21 to represent Greece (corresponding, then, to the leopard of the first vision), is depicted as coming with great speed from the west to destroy the ram (vv. 5-7). It had "a notable horn between its eyes," symbolizing "the first king" (v. 21). Greece did come against Medo-Persia from the west, and did so with great speed. Also it was led by the first king of the empire, the renowned Alexander the Great. Alexander's smaller forces defeated the hosts of Persia in three great battles; at Granicus in western Asia Minor (334 B.C.), at Issus in eastern Asia Minor (333 B.C.) and at Gaugamela not far from ancient Nineveh (331 B.C.).

Verses 8-9

According to verse 8, when the goat had become victorious, his "great horn was broken," symbolizing the death of Alexander. The great conqueror died in the city of Babylon at the young age of 33, after sweeping all the way to India. Following this, "four notable" horns grew in its place. This symbolizes the division of Alexander's vast holdings into four parts, under the control of four of his generals (Note: The four divisions were: Macedonia and Greece under Cassander; Thrace and much of Asia Minor under Lysimachus; Syria and vast regions to the east under Seleucus; and Egypt under Ptolemy.). It is from one of these divisions that the little horn of this second division comes forth (v. 9).

II) The little horn as Antiochus Epiphanes

Verses 10-25

This "little horn" is correctly identified with Antiochus Epiphanes (175 - 164 B.C.). He was a descendant of one of these generals, Seleucus Nicator, who achieved rule over the Syrian division. There is common agreement on this identification, because this man brought extreme suffering on the Jews in Palestine. This suffering was of a nature corresponding to the descriptions, given in the following verses of this chapter, of atrocities wrought by this "little horn." Antiochus Epiphanes wanted to force the Jews to become Grecian in their thinking and practices, especially in matters of religion. He had spent time in Athens, prior to becoming king of Syria, and apparently had become enamored with the Grecian way of life. He wanted the Jews to change their Mosaic practices and devised laws to this end. When the people resisted, they were made to suffer, with large numbers paying with their lives. The Temple was desecrated and an altar and/or statue of Zeus Olympius was erected, later referred to by Christ as the "abomination of desolation" (Matthew 24:15).

In view of these matters, the reason Daniel used the same term, "little horn," for this man of ancient history as for the Antichrist of the future becomes discernable. The later little horn will be like the earlier little horn in bringing suffering on the Jews. Antiochus did this to a degree much greater than any other person of ancient time; the Antichrist will do the same to a degree much greater than any other person of future time. He was, then, a kind of Antichrist of ancient time, and, therefore, appropriately called by the same term. The use of this term thus had a prophetic function. By designating this person of history as the antichrist of ancient time, Daniel was predicting the character and deeds of the Antichrist of future time. Those who would live after the period of Antiochus Epiphanes could know the general pattern of the final Antichrist by studying the life of the former one.

Thus we can learn the following information about the future Antichrist:

  1. anger;

  2. violence;

  3. disregard for Jehovah;

  4. desecration of the temple (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15);

  5. an image in the temple;

  6. severe persecution of the Jews;

  7. claims of deity; and

  8. ultimate defeat by the saints.

11.2.2 The "prince that shall come" (Daniel 9:26-27)

Daniel was informed that "he will confirm a covenant with many for one seven" that is, the seven-year Tribulation period (Daniel 9:27). Who is the "he"?

11.2.2.1 The identity of the "he"

The "he" is a reference to the coming world dictator, the Anti-christ. The nearest antecedent to the "he" is a reference to the "prince that shall come" (Daniel 9:26). This coming "prince" is said to be a prince of those who were coming to destroy the city of Jerusalem. Since those who came were the Romans, this is seen to fit with the previous visions of Daniel regarding the Gentile world powers. In Daniel 7, the final great Gentile world empire is said to be the dreadful and terrifying beast with the ten horns, which was understood as being a reference to Rome. When the ten horns are in place, another "little horn" emerges to power, supplanting the place of three of the existing horns. That "little horn" and this "prince that shall come" who will confirm a covenant with the Jewish people for one seven are one and the same individual.

11.2.2.2 The "prince" will confirm a peace accord with Israel at the beginning of the Tribulation period

This covenant will be a covenant of peace, for Israel will view it as the opportunity that will permit her to dwell peacefully in her land. Ezekiel 38-39 speak of a time when Israel will think that she is dwelling in safety (see Ezekiel 38:14). When this coming prince enters into this covenant with Israel the time of the seven-year Tribulation period will begin.

11.2.2.3 The "prince" will break his covenant and desecrate the temple in the middle of the Tribulation period

This covenant will not, however, stay in effect for the entire seven-year agreement because Daniel records that "in the middle of the seven he will put an end to sacrifice and offering" (Daniel 9:27). This refers to a temple yet to be built and the sacrifices that will be offered in it. After making a seven-year peace agreement with Israel, the coming prince will discontinue these sacrifices in the middle of the Tribulation period.

In its place, "on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation." In the middle of the Tribulation period, the coming prince will elevate himself to the position of God and demand that everyone in the world worship him (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 13:8). This is what Jesus referred to in Matthew 24:15-16 when He said, "So when you see standing in the holy place the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of through the prophet Daniel (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains."

11.2.2.4 The "prince" will be destroyed when Jesus Christ returns

This coming prince will not be allowed to continue indefinitely, however, for "the end that is decreed is poured out on him." Daniel's final word at this point is that what had been determined regarding this individual will be carried out. Even though the coming prince will bring desolation on Israel and the world, he will be brought to judgment (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:8-9). When Christ returns to earth, the coming prince and the forces of wickedness will be totally destroyed (Revelation 19:17-21).

11.2.3 The "willful king" (Daniel 11:36-45)

Daniel 11:36-39 is a portion from the chapters recording Daniel's fourth vision (chapters 10-12). In this vision, a glorious heavenly messenger relates to Daniel events which would occur in Israel's history following Daniel's day. In Daniel 11:21-35, this heavenly messenger describes Antiochus Epiphanes, setting forth once more, in greater detail than in chapter 8, some of the anti-Jewish activities of this ruler. Then, in verses 36-45, he comes to speak of the future Antichrist. This change of subject, from the one person to the other, is evident because the description given could be true only of the future Antichrist. Verses 40-45 describes the Antichrist's final conflicts and ultimate doom.

11.2.3.1 The identity of the "willful king"

In verse 36, Daniel was told that in "the end time" a king would arise who "will do as he pleases" (New American Standard Bible). The King James Version of the Bible refers to this one as "the willful king." He is obviously the future Antichrist who is going to rise to power and attempt to exercise his own will. He is said to "magnify himself above every god," and to speak "marvelous things" against the true God. He sounds like the "little horn," who has a mouth that keeps uttering great boasts (Daniel 7:8). He will recognize no authority outside of himself and will even defy the true God (2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 13:6). The verse further states that, in doing this, the Antichrist will "prosper till the indignation be accomplished." The "indignation" is another name for the seventieth seven of Daniel's prophecy, that is the Tribulation period. The Antichrist will be allowed to prosper until the close of the Tribulation period.

11.2.3.2 The lineage of the "willful king"

In verse 37, he "will show no regard for the God (or gods) of his fathers." This expression has been taken two ways by Bible scholars. The word for "god" here is the Hebrew word elohim, which may be used of either the true God of the nation of Israel (i.e. Jehovah) or a general word for false gods of any given nation. The two possible interpretations are as follows:

  1. If this word should be translated as "the God of his fathers," it would mean that the future Antichrist would be Jewish in his ancestry. If the expression had been the usual one when referring to the God of Israel, the Jehovah of his fathers, the identification would be unmistakable. Very frequently in Scripture, the God of Israel is described as "Jehovah, the LORD God of their fathers" (cf. Exodus 3:15-16; 4:5; Deuteronomy 1:11, 21; 4:1; 6:3; 12:1; 26:7; 29:25; Joshua 18:3; Judges 2:12; 2 Kings 21:22).

  2. If this word should be translated as "the gods of his fathers," then the future Antichrist would be a Gentile. Since this is thought to be another reference to the "little horn" that comes up out of the fourth world empire (the Roman Empire), it is probably best to understand the text as saying "the gods of his father." The coming world dictator will probably not be Jewish. He will have no regard for any past religious system and will, in fact, repudiate all religion. Ultimately he will demand that everyone in the world worship him (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4), or as it says in the last part of verse 37, "he will magnify himself above them all," that is, all other gods. In past history, a reigning Roman emperor did attempt to compel his subjects to worship him.

Would the Jewish people ever accept a Gentile as their Messiah?

Some Bible scholars think that anyone who could come into the Middle East situation today and guarantee peace would be regarded by people on all sides as being a "Messiah." However, other Bible scholars think that devout Jews will never accept a Gentile as their Messiah due to the teachings of the Old Testament prophecies, such as:

  1. the Messiah will be a descendant of David (Zechariah 3:8; 6:12-13); and

  2. the Messiah will be the Mighty God (Isaiah 9:6-7). 

What is the "desire of women"?

This great world ruler will also show no regard "for the desire of women, nor will he show regard for any other god." Bible scholars have debated this phrase for a long time. There are two possible interpretations:

  1. It is a reference to the Messiah, for it is clear from Scripture that the Messiah would come through "[the] seed" of the woman (Genesis 3:15). Surely the desire of every Jewish woman may have been that she would be the one chosen to be the physical mother of the Messiah. The next phrase in this verse could be connected with this interpretation to show a contrast between the desire of women (Messiah) and the fact that this coming one will show no regard for any god. Truly Messiah is God, so there is a stark contrast given in the verse. In addition, if the word for "god" here should be translated as the true God of Israel, then the "desire of women" should be interpreted as "a desire to be the physical mother of the Messiah."   

  2. It is a reference for peace. It is not the women of the world who go off to war. The thing buried deep in the heart of every woman is that there will be world peace so that her husband and sons will not have to go off and fight. But this willful king is not interested in true peace. If the word for "god" here should be translated as the false gods of any given nation, then the "desire of women" should be interpreted as "a desire for peace."

Since the critical word "elohim" is not clear enough for us to make any decisive conclusion on this matter, I suggest the readers to make their own judgments here.

11.2.3.3 The military power of the "willful king"

Verse 38

Instead of seeking peace, "he will honor a god of fortresses, a god whom his fathers did not know" (v. 38). This god will be one of military power and activity. That is, the willful king will make military strength, especially as represented by impregnable fortifications, the central interest of his life, thus making this his virtual god. He will honor this "god ... with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things"; this is probably an indication that he will devote great wealth to supporting this military strength. Warfare has always been expensive, and, no doubt, will be the same in this future day. In addition, he will be supported by Satanic power; according to Revelation 13:2 "the dragon [Satan] gave him his power and his throne and great authority."

Verse 39

In verse 39, the willful king is said to pursue his goals "in" or "against" the very strongest fortresses (the same word as in the prior verse), apparently wherever such may try to resist and hinder him. Those who honor this king will be honored by him - "he will give great honor to those who acknowledge him, and he will cause them to rule over the many, and will parcel out land for a price." Those who support him will benefit when it comes time to divide the spoils of battle. The land that will be parceled out probably is a reference to the "holy land." Inherent in this statement is an anticipated invasion of Israel in the coming Tribulation period. This invasion is anticipated in the conflict described in verses 40-45.

11.2.3.4 The final conflict of the "willful king"

Verse 40

At some point in the end times, a great conflict will occur in which the "king of the south - Egypt" and the "king of the north - Russia" will come against the willful king (v. 40). These invasions mark the beginning of the campaign of Armageddon (compare Daniel 11:40-45, Ezekiel 38-39, Zechariah 14:1-4 with Revelation 16:12-16).

The variety of the resources that are to he employed against the willful king indicate how great his power must be at the latter end - "chariots, horsemen, and many ships." But the willful king will not be slow to repel the attack. He himself shall "come into these lands," that is, the lands of those who have assailed him, and "shall sweep along and pass through." The major revelation here, therefore, is that the "willful king," although engaged in bitter struggle, continues to dominate the situation until he comes to his end at the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Verse 41

This battle will enable the willful king to "enter the Beautiful Land, and many countries will fall" (v. 41). His counterattack on those who have assailed him results in his entering into their countries, occupying "the glorious land," referring to the Holy Land (i.e. Israel) and many other countries including Egypt. However, he does not completely restore the situation, as it is stated that "Edom and Moab and the children of Ammon escape."

Verses 42-43

The text states that "the land of Egypt shall not escape" (v. 42). The willful king will conquer Egypt. His victory is such that he is able to increase greatly his "treasures of gold and silver and obtain precious things from Egypt." Having taken Egypt, he will move west ward to seize "Libya" and southward to take "Ethiopia" (v. 43). 

As a result of this movement, the willful king will "pitch the tents of his royal pavilion between the seas and the beautiful Holy Mountain" (v. 45). His headquarters for the last half of the Tribulation will be located in the city of Jerusalem, which will make it easy for him to bring the Jewish system of worship to an end (it will have been re-established). He will set himself up as God and demand that everyone worship him. For the last three and one-half years of the Tribulation, the willful king will be the Satanic counterfeit of the rightful Messiah's reign. The world will worship this man and the power that is behind him, Satan.

Verse 44

But finally, "rumors from the East and from the North will disturb him" (v. 44). To add to the difficulties encountered by the willful king, occasioned by the invasion from the north and the south, now word is received of a gigantic army from the east (probably including China, Japan and India) and another invasion from the north (Russia). The eastern world has not yet figured into these end-time events; perhaps remnants of the northern armies will have had time to reassemble and join up with the east. It is clear that the warfare extends over a period of time and that more than one battle is involved.

The tidings out of the east probably refer to the gigantic invasion described in Revelation 9:13-21; 16:12-16. Here, according to Revelation 9:16, an army of two hundred million men cross the Euphrates and descend upon the Holy Land. The willful king "will go forth with great wrath to destroy and annihilate many" (v. 44). The world's armies will be gathered on the plains of Megiddo, prepared to engage in battle.

11.2.3.5 The ultimate doom of the "willful king"

But instead, the sign of the coming of the Son of Man will appear in the heavens (Matthew 24:30; cf. Zechariah 14:1-4; 12-13). When the Lord Jesus Christ returns to this earth, He will take this willful king and throw him alive into "the lake of fire which burns with brimstone" (Revelation 19:20). Daniel's words will be fulfilled - "he will come to his end, and no one will help him" (v. 45).

The end times world wars, including the campaign of Armageddon, will be further discussed in Section 12 of this Chapter 5.

11.2.4 The "man of sin" or "man of lawlessness" (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, 6-9)

The fourth term used for the Antichrist is "man of sin" (King James Version) or "man of lawlessness" (New American Standard Bible).

11.2.4.1 The "man of lawlessness" will appear at the very beginning of the Tribulation period (2 Thessalonians 2:3)

The Day of the Lord will involve the rise of a satanic leader (2 Thessalonians 2:3-5, 9). Paul's name for this future leader is "man of lawlessness," which in Paul's Jewish thinking would refer to one who disregards God's laws. In all likelihood he will establish his own laws. Most Bible scholars identify this individual with the "Antichrist" of 1 John 2:18 and the "Beast" of Revelation 13:1-10 due to many similarities of description.

Paul argues that the Day of the Lord (i.e. the Tribulation period) had not come because the rebellion and revelation of the "man of lawlessness" had not yet occurred. In other words, the man of lawlessness will come to power at the beginning of the Tribulation period, providing a sign that it has begun. The rebellion and revelation of the man of lawlessness are not so much separate events as collateral phenomena; one involves the other. The man of lawlessness rebels against God by deifying himself and this in turn leads probably to worldwide rebellion against God as the world accepts him as God.

The word "rebellion" is the Greek word apostasia, which literally means "falling away," and this, depending on the context, can mean falling away from a political allegiance or a religious allegiance. In this context it could easily be both political and religious, as the man of lawlessness (i.e. the Antichrist) in other texts is a political figure who takes on religious power.

As if to reassure his readers, Paul states at the outset that the "man of lawlessness" is "doomed to destruction." I called attention to the fact earlier that the literal translation of this is "son of destruction," which means that he is destined to suffer the eternal punishment of God. Perhaps Paul anticipates the awful sense of fear and discouragement that will accompany his revealing; he will appear to be invincible. However, as we learn from elsewhere in Scripture, his time will be brief.

This "revelation" of the man of lawlessness is presumably a revelation of his true character, for prior to this he will have been perceived as a hero, especially to the Jews with whom he makes a covenant according to Daniel 9:27.

11.2.4.2 The "man of lawlessness" will oppose God and demand worship (2 Thessalonians 2:4)

Paul continues to speak in some detail regarding the man of lawlessness. In verse 4, he states that he will oppose and exalt "himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped"; this is quite similar to what is said in Daniel 11:37.

Paul adds however, that "he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God." This will probably occur when the Antichrist has invaded Israel and conquered Jerusalem and the Temple there. Apparently, he will be audacious enough to take a seat in the sacred building, as if he were the god for whom it had been built. This, of course, implies that a temple which does not presently exist will someday be constructed. Due to the fact that the Old Testament Scriptures forbid construction of a temple on any site but what God Himself determines (Deuteronomy 12:5; 27:4), this future temple will probably be located on the site of the temple of Solomon, the site of the post-exilic temple and the temple of Herod of Jesus' day.

In this temple the "man of lawlessness" will set himself up as God. There is every reason to connect this event with the Abomination of Desolation of Daniel 9:27 concerning which Jesus himself warned his disciples in Matthew 24:15 as the event which triggers the Great Tribulation. It probably corresponds with the event described in Revelation 13:14 and 15 in which an image of the "Beast" which seems to come alive and speak through the power of the False Prophet is worshiped.

11.2.4.3 The "man of lawlessness" will not be revealed until the "restrainer of evil" is withdrawn (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7)

In verse 6, the thought is set forth that a certain power has continued down through history to prevent the man of lawlessness (i.e. Antichrist) from appearing sooner. This power is designated as who "holds back" or "restrains." This implies that Satan's plan will call for the existence of unrestrained sin, when human beings can be brought to exercise the vilest thoughts and actions.

The career of the man of lawlessness may have been in the making (v. 7) prior to this withdrawal, but with it he is "revealed" at what verse 6 calls the "proper time." What is the "proper time"? This restraint is a restraint of evil, and it is removed when it is no longer needed for the propagation of the gospel of the kingdom. That is to say, the "proper time" is when the Church Age (i.e. Grace period) is ended.

11.2.4.4 Who is the restrainter of evil? (2 Thessalonians 2:7)

Who is this restrainer? That the restrainer is a personal being is clear from the use of personal pronouns "he" in describing him.

Some have interpreted this restrainer as merely a force such as the Roman government of Paul's day or even the church. Indeed, both of these served to restrain evil as instruments of the "common" grace of God, a form of grace which prevents man's depravity from reaching its worst effects throughout history. Before the Flood of Noah's day, God's Spirit "contended" with man (Genesis 6:3), possibly a reference to this restraint, and since the Holy Spirit was sent by the Lord Jesus to convince the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8-11), I am inclined to identify the restrainer as none other than the Holy Spirit Himself.

Some have carried this interpretation so far as to mean that the Holy Spirit is totally removed from the world, but since salvation, and thus regeneration, seems to continue, I am inclined to see it as a taking away only in regard to restraint of evil.

11.2.4.5 The "man of lawlessness" will be destroyed by the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:8)

As soon as the Holy Spirit ceases in this work of restraint, the man of lawlessness will be revealed. In the same verse, Paul adds the thought that this one will be consumed by Christ, "with the spirit of his mouth" and "with the brightness of his coming."

11.2.4.6 The "man of lawlessness" will be empowered by Satan (2 Thessalonians 2:9)

Paul says, "the coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders." On the basis of this passage it appears that the man of lawlessness will seek to accredit himself before the religious institutions of his day, especially the Jews. A "counterfeit" miracle is a genuine supernatural occurrence but it is performed by the power of Satan. This is a reference, no doubt, to the miracles performed through the instrumentality of the False Prophet, as described in Revelation 13:13-15. These power displays will serve as deceiving credentials, which will convince even those who should know better, having previously been taught and warned in the present age, to become followers of this wicked person (v. 10).

11.2.5 The "beast" (Revelation 13:1-8, 11-18; 17:7-14)

In the book of Revelation, the term used for the Antichrist is "beast," a designation which depicts him as ravaging and hostile to God and His will. The term is used most frequently in Revelation 13 and 17, where this person is described at some length. The discussion to follow centers mainly on the two principal chapters.

Actually there are two different persons called "beast" in chapter 13. The first one, described in verses 1-8, is correctly identified with the Antichrist. The other one, presented in verses 11-18, is elsewhere called the "false prophet" (Revelation 16:13; 19:20; 20:10). He also must be considered, because in his activities he is closely related to the Antichrist. Some Bible students, in fact, favor him for the designation "Antichrist," instead of the first beast. Some discussion will be devoted later to this matter.

11.2.5.1 The beast out of the sea (Revelation 13:1-8)

Verse 1

I) The interpretation of "the sea"

In verse 1, this beast is seen to "rise up out of the sea," like the animals witnessed by Daniel 7:3. Scripture occasionally pictures the Gentile world as being like the restlessness of "the sea." The sea represents humanity, upon which the winds of turmoil and trouble blow. "The sea" as suggested, is symbolical of masses of people (cf. Revelation 17:15), and especially of the Gentile nations. The system of the beast will be derived from and will be the final Gentile world power to have dominion of Israel during the times of the Gentiles (see Luke 21:24). So Israel, as the nation to whom God promised the land of Israel, is related to the land, and the nations to the sea. In support of this are following facts:

  1. In Revelation 17:1, 15 and Daniel 7:2-3, all the nations portrayed there, which are linked with the waters or the sea, are Gentile powers as Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome.

  2. In the visions of Daniel 2 and 7, Daniel sees Gentile powers who will continue to rule and dominate over Israel until the return of Jesus Christ. Jesus called this "the times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24). This began in 587 B.C. with the Babylonian captivity and will continue to the end of the Tribulation, until the return of Christ (Revelation 19).

  3. One should also note and compare Daniel's description of the four Gentile powers (7:4-25), especially the fourth, with that of John in Revelation 13:2-6.

  4. Daniel 9:26-27 clearly shows that the final world ruler would be a Roman, one out of the old Roman empire, a Gentile power.

  5. Finally, some see the "sea" here as a reference to the Mediterranean Sea and believe the beast, though a Gentile, will rise up out of the Mediterranean area. The "sea" here shows us that the beast is both a Gentile and from the Mediterranean area.

II) The interpretation of "the ten horns"

"Having ten horns and seven heads." This monstrous representation portrays the nature of the end time kingdom, the final worldwide political system. It may refer to the king in one verse and the kingdom in the next, or vice versa. Verses 1 and 2 look more at the kingdom, the empire; verse 3 includes both, and verses 4 and following refer more to the individual, the satanically controlled dictator. So "the beast" may refer to the end time kingdom, the empire, or to the dictator or both.

"The ten horns" is a reference to the ten nation confederation of the future which will form the nucleus of this end time kingdom due to the following reasons:

  1. According to Daniel chapters 2 and 7, it will be a revived form of the old Roman empire since these ten nations will come out of the fourth nation which would arise after Daniel's time, historically we know this was Rome (Daniel 7:7, 24).

  2. Revelation 17:12 also states that "the ten horns which you saw are ten kings." These are ten kings who rule over ten nations, fragments of the old Roman empire (compare with the "ten toes" of the image seen in Daniel 2).

After the fall of the empire, Rome was divided up into many separate kingdoms which became the European nations of modern times. But in the end times, these nations, at least ten of them, will confederate together as one, forming what is in reality a revived Roman empire. Since the fall of Rome, these fragments of the old empire have continued to exist, but in the future, they will be brought together in a revived Roman empire. Please note the recent development in the European Common Market (previous), European Union (now), and European Currency implemented in 1999.

III) The interpretation of "the seven heads"

This system of the beast also has "seven heads." This is explained for us in Revelation 17:9-10, "the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits and they are seven kings ... " The seven heads are seven mountains and seven kings.

The interpretation of "the seven heads" is that the seven heads represent seven phases of Gentile powers or nations which find their culmination in the beast. The ten horns look at the future history of the beast and the seven heads, the past history. The seven heads are mountains, seven successive historic Gentile kingdoms, who are represented by seven kings or rulers. This is supported by the following:

  1. The term mountain is commonly used in Scripture as an image of a kingdom (Psalm 30:7; Isaiah 2:3; Daniel 2:35, 44-45).

  2. Revelation 17:10 tells us the seven mountains are kings. This could indicate that the mountains are symbolical for the kingdoms these seven kings represent.

  3. But more importantly, Revelation 17 deals with the harlot system of Babylon which goes all the way back to the time of Nimrod and all these Gentile world powers have been her lovers and supporters, not Rome alone (cf. 17:1-2, 15). It is more likely that the seven mountains refer to seven successive Gentile kingdoms which go way back, far beyond Rome.

IV) The interpretation of "the seven Gentile kingdoms"

The kingdoms refer to the major world empires up to the time of Rome and which also were connected with the nation of Israel and her enslavements. These were:

  1. Egypt: This was the first great world empire and the cause of Israel's enslavement before entrance into the Promised Land.

  2. Assyria: Historically this was the next great empire which took the northern kingdom of Israel into captivity in 722 B.C.

  3. Babylon or the Chaldean empire: This is where Daniel's prophecies begin and where we have the captivity of Judah, the southern kingdom. In Daniel's prophecies he does not list the three preceding Gentile powers because his prophecies look forward only from his time in history to the final Gentile power and the return of the Lord. But Revelation 13 and 17 both look back (the seven heads) and forward (the ten kings).

  4. Medo-Persia: This Gentile power followed Babylon and was the kingdom under which a remnant of Israel were allowed to return to the land to rebuild the city and the temple (cf. Ezra and Nehemiah).

  5. Greece: This was the kingdom of Alexander and his successors who likewise ruled over the land of Palestine.

  6. Rome: The Roman Empire of New Testament times was the empire of the emperors who reigned from before Christ: Augustus (30 B.C. - A.D. 14), to Domitian when Revelation was written (A.D. 81-96), and afterwards. During this time, Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews dispersed world wide (A.D. 70 - A.D. 135). Later the Roman empire divided into the eastern and western divisions (the two legs of the image in Daniel 2) and finally fell, becoming fragmented into many nations.

  7. Revived Roman Empire (i.e. European Union?): What about the seventh head? Revelation 17:10-11 explains the seventh head. It is really a future kingdom though it has historical roots in the sixth kingdom. Revelation 17:10 says "five are fallen." These five are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia and Greece. "One is," which is the sixth, the Roman empire of John's day. "And the other is not yet come," this is the revived Roman empire, the ten nation confederation or the ten horns under the leadership of the white horse rider in the first half of the Tribulation.

Compare Revelation 17:11 with Revelation 17:8 and Daniel 7:24-26, "The beast which you saw was (refers to his past history, old Rome), and is not (does not presently exist; from John's standpoint it would soon pass from the scene, i.e., the fall of Rome), and is about to come up (refers to the revived Roman empire)." Now in 17:11, this beast, the Roman empire represented by its king, becomes an eighth kingdom while at the same time being one of the seven, specifically, the seventh. The eighth refers to the final form of the revived Roman empire in the last half of the Tribulation under the power of the dictator, the man of lawlessness or the Antichrist who is also called the beast. This interpretation is supported by Daniel 7:24-26. After the ten horns (i.e. ten kings of the revived Roman empire - the seventh Gentile kingdom) were in place, an eleventh one, "a little horn" (i.e. the Antichrist) would emerge. In his rise to power he will take the place of three of the existing ten horns. The fact that the Antichrist is diverse from the others and is able to displace three of them shows that he becomes the leader of the final form of the revived Roman empire - the eighth Gentile kingdom.

V) The names of blasphemy

Next we read that "on his heads were blasphemous names." This points out the blasphemous character of these Gentile powers. This is one of the key characteristics of Antichrist. The blasphemy will be done in three primary ways:

  1. by claiming that he is God;

  2. by trying to usurp the place of God (2 Thessalonians 2:4; Daniel 7:8); and

  3. by slandering the true God (Revelation 13:6; Daniel 11:36-37; 7:25).

Verse 2

In verse 2, the beast is seen to have similarities to "a leopard," "a bear," and "a lion"; these are the same three animals to which Greece, Medo-Persia, and Babylonia were likened in Daniel 7. Restored Rome will have characteristics similar to those of all three ancient empires, including:

  1. the swiftness of a leopard - a reference to the previous Grecian Empire;

  2. the tremendous strength of a bear - a reference to the Medo-Persian Empire; and

  3. the autocratic and majestic power of a lion - a reference to the Babylonian Empire.

It is significant that "the dragon" (Satan) gives the beast "his power, and his seat, and great authority," for the Antichrist will be Satan's tool, in a unique sense, to carry out his will and program.

Verse 3

John's statement that one of the "heads [appeared] as if it had been slain, and [the] fatal wound was healed" has been interpreted in many ways by scholars. The two possible interpretations are as follows:

  1. It is a reference to the demise of the Roman empire of ancient time; that the "deadly wound was healed" is a reference to the restoration of the Roman empire in the future.

  2. It appears that a part of this beast, but not the whole thing, passed from the scene for a while, but was then restored. Since there is no reason to believe that Satan has the ability to give true life, whatever this expression means, it clearly is an imitation of death and not the real thing.

My opinion is that the beast represents both the revived Roman empire and the Antichrist himself. Therefore, verse 3 is a reference to the restoration of the Roman empire in the future and the Antichrist will also try to imitate Christ's death and resurrection in order to gain the worship of the world.

Note several reasons this will not be a genuine resurrection:

  1. The beast comes up out of the abyss (Revelation 11:7, 17:8). The concept of "the abyss" (NASB, NIV) or "bottomless pit" (KJV). This does not mean that this man himself will be raised up out of hell or gehenna or hades. This simply means that the source and power of the beast and his system is Satan himself. The abyss is the abode of demons and not of man (cf. Revelation 9:1-2, 11; Luke 8:31; 2 Peter 2:4). The system will be demonically inspired and controlled. It is possible that the Antichrist will be a leader of the revived Roman empire and he will also be demon-possessed and controlled by an unclean spirit who comes up out of the abyss. This is the point of Revelation 11:7 and 17:8.

  2. No where else in Scripture is it indicated that Satan has the power of resurrection or the power to produce life. Instead of being a life giver, he is portrayed as a life taker, a murderer or a destroyer. He has "the power of death" (Hebrews 2:14). Only Christ is seen as the One who gives life (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:22, John 11:25; 5:24-29).

  3. The wicked or the unbelieving dead are confined in torments (i.e. in hades) until the great white throne judgment and there is no suggestion from Scripture that God would allow them to be brought up from their confinement before their time of judgment.

  4. The Greek word "slain" which is sfazw, was a sacrificial term used of the animals of sacrifice. The use of this word indicates that the deadly wound will be designed to be like the slaying of the Lamb; it will be designed to imitate the death of Christ, if not in method, at least in purpose or function. It suggests it was part of Satan's strategy to imitate Christ's death and resurrection. Satan is, however, the master deceiver and he could easily perform such a deception as an apparent death and resurrection (2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 12:9; 13:14-15).

So, more than likely this is a counterfeit, a supreme deception, and an attempt to imitate the resurrection of Jesus Christ in correspondence with the revival of the imperial form of Rome in order to gain the worship of the world.

Verse 4

With verse 4, the beast becomes personified in the Antichrist, the great ruler of this restored empire. The first indication is that the world will worship both Satan and the beast. This shows further that the two will work in unison and that many people will recognize the fact as they worship both. The growing, present-day worship of Satan, shocking and offensive as it is, prompts one to realize that the day here described may not be far in the future.

Verse 5

In verse 5, this ruler's boastfulness is noted again, as it was in Daniel 7:8, 25, and it is described as including blasphemy against God, as observed also in Daniel 11:36. The Antichrist will rule for forty-two months, that is three-and-a-half years, the same length of time as the last half of the Tribulation period.

Verse 6

In verse 6 his boasting is noted once more, no doubt in the interest of emphasis, but this time also with the specification that it will include the blaspheming of God's "name, and his tabernacle [the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem], and them that dwell in heaven."

Verses 7-8

Verse 7 describes the Antichrist's oppression of God's "saints"; the expression "make war with" is used here in parallel with "wear out" of Daniel 7:25. There is no question but that the saints of God, both Gentile and Jewish, will suffer greatly at this man's hand. In the remainder of verse 7 and in verse 8, the thought is added that the Antichrist's authority will become worldwide. He will obtain power "over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations," so that "all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him." The people who render this worship will be those "whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." It will be during this time that the intense persecution of the Jewish nation will occur, a time when all of the descendants of Abraham will be fleeing for their lives. Anyone who has professed Jesus Christ as personal Savior/Messiah will find his life in continual jeopardy. Multitudes of people will die for their faith in Jesus during this time (cf. Revelation 6:9-11; 7:9-17). The rest of the world, however, will blindly follow this satanic impostor of the true Messiah.

11.2.5.2 The beast out of the earth (Revelation 13:11-18)

In the last half of Revelation 13, the other person designated as "beast" is described. This person, however, is called by the term only once, namely in the introductory verse of the section (v. 11). All other instances of the term, not only in 13:11-18 but throughout the book, refer to the first beast. As noted, the second beast elsewhere is called "false prophet" (Revelation 16:13; 19:20; 20:10). He is depicted in the present passage as the helper of the Antichrist, performing miracles as credentials of his authority and pointing people to the Antichrist as the one deserving their worship (vv. 12-15). He will demand that people receive "a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads" (v. 16); this, apparently, will be a way of controlling all trade. The implication is that those who refuse this sign will not be able to buy and sell and thus will be eliminated from engaging in business and even from purchasing the necessities of life.

Verse 11

I) The interpretation of "the earth"

The second beast John describes in this chapter emerges from "the earth" (v. 11). Bible scholars hold many opinions as to this person's identity:

  1. "The earth" simply means a settled world condition. The first beast comes out of an unsettled state of things - the sea; the second beast arises out of a settled and established condition of civil and political government - the earth. The former is a secular power; the latter a religious one. Therefore, the second beast is possibly the head of the final form of apostate religion. He may be the head of the Roman Catholic Church in the Tribulation period. He is a Gentile religious leader and his headquarter is in Rome.

  2. "The earth" means Palestine (i.e. the land of Israel). If the first beast "comes out of the sea" is a Gentile, then the second beast "comes out of the earth" must be a Jew. The earth means Palestine. In other words, the second beast is a Jew and he rules in Palestine. The description of the second beast as a lamb seems to indicate that he is a religious leader.

John F. Walvoord does not believe it proper to make too much of the fact that this beast comes from "the earth," while the first beast emerges from "the sea." Even so, it is reasonable to believe that these designations have some kind of meaning. If the first beast is another representation of the coming world dictator who arises out of the Gentile world, it would be fitting to see him coming out of the sea. Scripture occasionally pictures the Gentile world as being like the restlessness of "the sea." (cf. Daniel 7 where the succession of the four Gentile world empires emerges from the sea) However, "the land" is almost always connected in some way with the nation of Israel. Would it not be possible that the second beast could come from the nation of Israel, perhaps with an ancestry unknown even to him?

II) The interpretation of "two horns like a lamb"

"And he had two horns." The horns are symbolic of great power, but not to the degree of the first beast who had ten horns. His horns were like those of "a lamb." As the lamb is a religious symbol, a symbol of sacrifice, so this beast is a religious figure, and, as a lamb is also symbolical of a mild, lamb-like manner, so this second beast will adopt a mild lamb-like appearance, but he will be a wolf in sheep's clothing.

His lamb-like appearance points him out at once as the false Messiah. He has "two horns." The Lamb of God (i.e. the Lord Jesus Christ) has "seven horns" (Revelation 5:6). Fulness of power is with the Lamb; limited power is with this beast. The two horns of power signify the dual office of king and prophet assumed by the second beast. As the king he reigns in Jerusalem, but in subordination to his great chief, the first beast reigns in Rome. This situation would be quite similar to the relationship between the ancient Israel and Roman empire in the 1st century. Historically, the king Herod reigned in Jerusalem but he was in subordination to Caesar, the Roman emperor, in Rome.

Under this apocalyptic title, "the false prophet" (Revelation 16:13; 19:20), he exercises great spiritual authority amongst the Jews and the peoples of apostate Christendom generally. In simple words, this beast will be a Jew, dual office of king and false prophet among Jews who seeks to persuade men to worship the first beast.

This second beast does, nevertheless, possess some authority, for when he speaks he speaks "as a dragon." It is clear that Satan is behind this beast as well, supporting all his words and actions.

Verse 12

The second beast's work is presented clearly in the text. He will exercise the first beast's authority and cause the inhabitants of the world to become involved in the worship of him, exactly what had been predicted concerning the first beast in verse 8. Therefore, the primary work of the second beast will be in the religious realm, as the world dictator's final rule will involve both a political and a religious emphasis.

Verse 13

The second beast will have the ability to make "fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men" (v. 13), as well as being able to perform "signs" he will be given that will deceive the people of the earth (v. 14). If the two witnesses (cf. Revelation 11:3-6) are performing their ministry in the city of Jerusalem at the same time as this second beast is carrying out his deceptions, it is fitting that a satanic counterfeit will be in place to duplicate the true miracles of God.

Verses 14-15

The greatest accomplishment of the second beast, and probably one of his "signs," is presented in verse 15. He will produce an "image of the beast" that will appear to have life and the ability to speak. Many believe that this image will be erected in the Jewish temple, which will have been claimed by the world dictator at about the midpoint of the Tribulation. This may very well be "the abomination of desolation" that Daniel spoke of (Daniel 9:27) and that Jesus Christ referred to in Matthew 25:15-25. This abomination will mark the Great Tribulation and the period of intense persecution for the believer and Jew alike. This image will become the center of the religious system that will seek to honor the beast, and Satan who empowers him.

With the advancements in the field of robotics and animation, it is not difficult to conceive how someone could make an "image" that would appear to have life and the ability to speak. The people of the world will be required to "worship" at this image and those who refuse to do so will be killed.

Verses 16-17

The second beast will also inaugurate a program that will impact the economic systems of the world. According to verse 16, he will "cause all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand, or on their forehead." This "mark of the beast" is so named because in verse 17 the mark is connected with "the name of the beast or the number of his name." During the Tribulation period the beast will require that his mark appear in some way on everyone. And furthermore, this mark will be necessary in order to buy or sell anything. Clearly this mark will be a way to control the economic systems of the beast's kingdom.

Some believe that this mark on the forehead may be instituted by the second beast as a contrast to the seal that will be present on the foreheads of the 144,000 servants of God (cf. Revelation 7:1-8), who have been marked by God for protection throughout the Tribulation period. When Satan's man rises to power, his followers are given a mark to identify them, and apparently the whole unbelieving world will follow after this satanic deceiver (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12).

Verse 18

In verse 18 his number is said to be "six hundred and sixty-six." Throughout history much has been speculated about the mark of the beast and the number 666, and surely they will continue as long as men exist.

The possible interpretations of the number 666

There are four suggestions:

  1. One of the Ancient Roman Emperors. Some people attempt to refer the number 666 to specific historic Roman emperors such as Nero Caesar, Caligula and Domitian. The Nersonic calculation requires using a Hebrew transliteration of the Greek form of a Latin name for a readership who knew no Hebrew. It also involves a defective spelling. The only sensible conclusion is that it does not refer to Nero. Caligula and Domitian have evidence even weaker than that for Nero.

  2. One of the current historical political leaders of their day. Others throughout the centuries have tried, using the number 666, to identify Antichrist as some current historical figure of their day like Hitler, Mussolini or even Napoleon. However, the Bible told us that the Antichrist would be thrown to the Lake of Fire at the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 19:20). None of them were thrown to the Lake of Fire and the Second Coming of Christ is still not happened. Therefore, this interpretation is obviously wrong.

  3. A symbolical meaning (second most probable interpretation). The triple six has each digit falling short of the perfect number "seven" and so is the number of a man. The number "seven" often has the idea of "perfection", the number of God. (Note: The God creates the whole world in seven days. The God creates man at the sixth day. The God rest at the seventh day). Six is the number of man, who always comes short of God's perfection. The first beast is not God, only the greatest man in his time, ruler of the world. The number 666 represents a false Trinity of the God. The first digit 6 represents the false God the Father (Satan), the second digit 6 represents the false God the Son (the first beast) and the third digit 6 represents the false God the Holy Spirit (the second beast or False Prophet). This solution, however, falls short on two counts. It ignores the command to "count", and it overlooks the writer's intention that the number be understood well enough to identify an individual from it.

  4. A future political leader whose name can be calculated (most probable interpretation). The word "calculate" is the Greek psefizo, "to count, compute" (cf. Luke 14:28). This word was used of calculating the numerical value of a word or number. But it also meant to calculate in order to arrive at a value (cf. Leviticus 27:23). That is to say, the way to identify the beast is by counting. Some Bible scholars have taken the verb "calculate" to refer to the ancient practice of gematria. Ancient languages, including Hebrew, Greek and Latin use standard letters from their alphabet as numerical signs. For example, alpha (a) in Greek stands for the number one; beta (b) the number two; iota (i) for ten; iota alpha (i.a) for 11; and iota beta (lb) for 12. The Hebrew alphabet also had numerical value. Alep stands for one; bet stands for two; gimel for three and so on. Thus, a series of letters could form a word, and at the same time indicate a number.

Comments 

The identity of the person represented by the number 666 should not be a subject of speculation until that person arrives on the earthly scene. The person to whom 666 applies must have been future to apostle John's time, because John clearly meant the number to be recognizable to someone. If it was not discernible to his generation, the generation to whom it will be discernible must have lain in the future. If 666 is the number of a future individual, attempts to identify past entities through the number are futile.

11.2.5.3 The origin of the beast (Revelation 17:8-14)

This is the same beast as described in Revelation 13:1-10. The origin of the beast is further explained to the apostle John by an angel.

Verse 17:8

This verse describes the beast, the Antichrist political system in terms of the past, present and future. The beast is the personification of imperial power.

"Was" refers to old Rome, the old Roman empire of John's day; this is her past.

"And is not” refers to the fall of Rome. From John's standpoint and ours, Rome would fall and pass from the scene; this is her present condition. That system of government appeared to go out of existence with the fall of the Roman Empire in A.D. 476, but the authority of Rome was actually dispersed into many nations (i.e. the ten "toes" in Daniel 2 and the ten horns in Revelation 13).

"And is about to come up ... " refers to the revived Roman empire in its final form in the days of the Tribulation; this is her future.

"Out of the abyss ..." refers to the true source of the power behind that resurrection is seen as being Satanic, for only Satan and his demons actually come from the abyss (cf. Revelation 9:1-11). It is possible that the leader of the revived Roman empire will be controlled and possessed by a demon who comes from the abyss.

"Go to destruction ..." refers to the final destruction of the revived Roman empire and its leader (i.e. the Antichrist and the False Prophet) at the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 19:20; 20:10). The angel's revelation gives the complete history of this final form of Gentile power.

"The inhabitants of the earth ... will be astonished ..." During the Tribulation the nations will see the rise of this final Gentile world leader as phenomenal (cf. Revelation 13:3-4, 8), and the whole world will follow after the beast. That a form of government could exist for a period of time, go out of existence for an extended period of time, and then be restored in all of its power is beyond human comprehension.

The meaning of the "book of life" is fully discussed in the course, the book of Revelation (In-depth Study), Chapter 10, Section 2.2.3.1.

Verse 17:9

Next John receives an explanation as to the Gentile world power who will be prominent during the final days of the Tribulation. The angel shows John that this final power is really just a continuation of the same powers that have been in existence throughout history.

John learns from the angel that the seven heads are "seven mountains on which the woman sits, and they are seven kings" (vv. 9-10). In Daniel's interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, that the stone that struck the image in the feet became "a great mountain" that "filled the whole earth" (Daniel 2:35, 44-45). That "great mountain" was a picture of Messiah's kingdom and this, as well as the seven mountains, is best understood as representing seven kingdoms. This is confirmed by the fact that they are also said to be seven kings, with the king representing the kingdom as Nebuchadnezzar did for Babylon (Daniel 2:37-43). But what kingdoms are in view?

Verse 17:10

The key to understanding the succession of Gentile world powers is to note that in the interpretation given by the angel it is said that "five [of these kingdoms] have fallen, one is, the other is not yet come" (v. 10). The kingdom that existed in John's day was the sixth kingdom, the Roman Empire. That empire was in some way preceded by five Gentile kingdoms, and will be followed by two additional kingdoms: the seventh, which "when [it] comes, [it] must remain a little while" (v. 10), and then the eighth, which will be the kingdom of the beast (v. 11).

If Rome is considered as the sixth empire, it is not impossible to identify five preceding Gentile nations who previously had an impact on the nation of Israel. In fact, in Daniel's prophecies it is possible to see all five Gentile empires. In the visions of Daniel 2, 7, and 8, three of those five empires are mentioned by name. If Rome is nation six, Greece would be five. Medo-Persia would be four, and Babylon would be three.

But that still leaves two Gentile nations unaccounted for. Recalling the vision of Medo-Persia in Daniel 7, the bear that came up from the sea "was raised up on one side" and "three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth" (Daniel 7:5). With that identification in mind, it has been suggested that the three ribs stood for the three previous Gentile world empires replaced by the Medo-Persian Empire, that is, the Babylonian, the Assyrian, and the Egyptian. This would fit perfectly with the interpretation of the angel, for Assyria would then be nation number two and Egypt would be number one.

The seventh kingdom that is yet to come will be the ten-horned (or ten-toed) stage of the revived Roman empire that will develop at the first half of the Tribulation period (v. 12).

"When he does come, he must remain for a little while ..." refers to the time of the seventh kingdom's reign (i.e. Revived Roman Empire) will be very brief, only last for 3 and 1/2 years (the first half of the Tribulation period).

Verse 17:11

"The beast ... is an eighth king ... belongs to the seven ... is going to his destruction." This verse informs us that the beast (i.e. the "little horn" - the Antichrist's empire) will emerge from the seventh kingdom (i.e. the ten nation confederation form of the revived Roman empire), taking the place of three of the existing kings (see Daniel 7:8, 24-26) and his kingdom will become the eighth kingdom. In other words, the revived Roman empire will take on the form of an imperial dictatorship and by this change actually become an eighth kingdom, a whole new and vicious form of government, the blasphemous form seen in Revelation 13. This occurs in the last half of the Tribulation and lasts for 3 and 1/2 years, but then is destroyed by the return of Christ (Revelation 19).

In summary:

  1. "Five are fallen" refers to the past history of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia and Greece.

  2. "One is" refers to Rome of John's day, the sixth.

  3. "The other is not yet come" refers to the revived Roman empire, or the Ten Nation Confederation of the first half of the Tribulation, the seventh.

  4. "A little while" refers to the revived Roman empire will continue only for a little while, specifically, 3 and 1/2 years (the first half of the Tribulation).

  5. The Antichrist's empire will take the place of three of the existing kings of the revived Roman empire and his kingdom will become the eighth.

See below chart for illustration:

Eight Successive Phases of Gentile Kingdoms

Five of these kingdoms have fallen (past) One is (John's day) The other is not yet come (future)
1st Kingdom 2nd Kingdom 3rd Kingdom 4th Kingdom 5th Kingdom 6th Kingdom 7th Kingdom 8th Kingdom
Egypt Assyria Babylon Medo-Persia Greece Ancient Roman Empire Revived Roman Empire Antichrist's Empire

Verse 17:12

"The ten horns ... are ten kings ..." This verse defines the ten horns. The ten horns become the Ten Nation Confederation of nations that will join together under ten kings. These are nations which were once a part of the old Roman empires. These ten nations will form the nucleus of the end time kingdom. Now remember, in prophecy we sometimes have difficulty distinguishing between the kingdom (governmental system) and the king. One verse will speak of the kingdom and the very next verse switches to the king. Such is the case here. The beast is sometimes the empire and sometimes the Satan-controlled man.

"Who have not yet received ... " i.e., this is all future and will occur in the Tribulation.

"They receive authority ... with the beast" means the beast will probably be one of the kings or certainly one who will rise up from one of the ten nations to take control and become the head of this confederation (Daniel 7:23-24).

Verse 17:13

This verse then tells us of their league with the super-personality, the one called the beast and the white horse rider of Revelation 6. They will give him their authority and power thinking he can solve the world's problems and provide a leadership which the world needs against the Communist threat of the king of the north, his allies, the Orient, and solve the Arab-Israel dispute.

Verse 17:14

Verse 14 states that these, along with the beast, will "make war with the Lamb." This Lamb is the Lord Jesus Christ, and the occasion must be when Christ comes in power at the close of the Tribulation, bringing full defeat on the Antichrist and these helpers.

11.3 The Empire of the Antichrist

The world has periodically sought to have a super-government. Nations cannot solve problems themselves, so large groups have banded together to solve their problems. In 1945, at the end of the Second World War, the United Nations was formed. This forum proved successful in resolving several conflicts, including the Persian Gulf War against Saddam Hussein. A strong United Nations has the potential of becoming a one-world government.

The Antichrist will arise from the revived Roman empire (Daniel 2, 7; Revelation 13, 17), the land of NATO and the European Union, and seize political authority. That rise to power will come not as a result of warfare, but rather individual states will give their authority to the beast (Revelation 17:13). Although there could be numerous changes before this occurs, it is interesting how the current political order is postured to support such a transition. 

11.4 The Character of the Antichrist

11.4.1 Great wisdom

He will be admired for his insight and wisdom as he offers solution to current tough problems. Were he alive today, he might find a ready audience in many parts of the world. He will be known for bringing peace to Israel, the Middle East and the world (cf. Daniel 9:27).

11.4.2 Great power

The greatest dictator the world has known, he will move triumphantly from the west into Palestine, "the glorious land," overcoming nations en route, and finally entering Jerusalem victoriously (Daniel 11:41-45). Continuing to exhibit astonishing might, he will demonstrate his martial prowess in a series of remarkable military exploits. Power "was given unto him ... over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations" (Revelation 13:5, 7). He will lead a large coalition of nations against the military powers of the world in a final world battle called "Armageddon" (Revelation 16:16). He will honor a "god of fortresses" and wage war with saints, the people of God (Daniel 11:38; 7:21).

11.4.3 Charismatic

Our world is always looking for great leaders. Sometimes people do not care whether their leaders are good or bad, as long as they deliver what the people want. Leaders who are charismatic or who promise much often win the hearts and minds of the people over more practical, sensible alternates. The Antichrist is the one who has "eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully" (Daniel 7:8). He will be a charismatic and persuasive leader, and people will mistakenly follow him.

11.4.4 Consuming pride

He will "exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god" (Daniel 11:36), he is the one who has "eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully" (Daniel 7:8). This self-glorification will go so far that he will actually sit in the temple of God (2 Thessalonians 2:4). This is what the Lord Jesus had in mind when He said that the abomination would "stand in the holy place" (Matthew 24:15). In unrestrained conceit he will open his mouth in blasphemy against God. Daniel declared: He "shall speak great words against the most High" (Daniel 7:25). He "shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods" (Daniel 11:36); "he shall magnify himself above all" (Daniel 11:37). Paul describes him as the one "who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped..." (2 Thessalonians 2:4). He will try to change times and laws so he can have his own way (Daniel 7:25).

11.4.5 Arrogant blasphemy

Antichrist will hate God. "And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies ... And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven" (Revelation 13:5, 6). The God Himself - His Being, His attributes, His sanctuary and His redeemed in heaven will be teh objects of Antichrist's blasphemous, scornful diatribes.

11.4.6 Religious power

The Antichrist will be a religious leader. Through the ecumenical movement, he seeks to unite various denominations and world religions. Eventually, the Antichrist will acquire this ecumenical group and destroy it. He will do this so he can become the world's major religious person. He will establish himself in the temple of God, call himself God, and seek the world's worship (2 Thessalonians 2:4). He wants to destroy all religion so he can forge his own. This is why he is called "Antichrist."

11.4.7 "Opposed to" and "in place of" Christ

His very title summarizes his despicable vices. He will be anti, "opposed to," Christ in every conceivable area of character and conduct. The Lord Jesus represents righteousness, truth, purity and honor. This personality will be a man of sin, falsehood, vileness and dishonor. Christ was marked by self-denial. Antichrist will be a man of self-esteem and self-aggrandizement. Jesus came in humility, "to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). This wicked man will strut in pomp across the stage, destroying, pillaging, murdering those who refuse to yield to his unruly will. He will also be anti, "in place of," the Lord Jesus Christ; for he will claim to be the Messiah. He will try to imitate Christ's death and resurrection in order to gain the worship of the world (Revelation 13:3).

11.5 The Associates of the Antichrist

The Antichrist (i.e. the beast out of the sea) will be a man. But he will not work alone. He will have a powerful assistant at his side (i.e. the False Prophet - the beast out of the earth) and an invisible force behind him (i.e. Satan - the Devil). Otherwise, he would never be able to perform such phenomenally wicked exploits.

11.5.1 The False Prophet (The beast out of the earth)

11.5.1.1 His origin

The origin of the False Prophet is sketched in Revelation 13:11-18 as well as in other New Testament passages. He rises out of the earth. The earth may represent the land of Palestine, suggesting that this religious leader is a Jew.

11.5.1.2 His appearance

He has two horns like a lamb, giving the appearance of gentleness and harmlessness, and also suggesting that he impersonates the Lamb of God. The Lord Jesus taught that false prophets may look like the true sheep, but we can know what they really are by their fruits (Matthew 7:15, 20; 1 John 4:1-3).

11.5.1.3 His office

The two horns of power also signify the dual office of king and prophet assumed by the False Prophet. As the king he reigns in Jerusalem, but in subordination to his great chief, the Antichrist reigns in Rome. This situation would be quite similar to the relationship between the ancient Israel and Roman empire in the 1st century. Historically, the king Herod reigned in Jerusalem but he was in subordination to Caesar, the Roman emperor, in Rome.

11.5.1.4 His field

His field is religion, and he serves as the lieutenant of the Antichrist. In other words, these two men are associates, the first having his capital in Europe (probably Rome) and the other in Jerusalem. The religious leader is an imitator of the lamb of the God. But his speech betrays him: he is another mouthpiece of the devil, and possesses as much deceptive power as does his political superior. In fact, he directs worship to the latter as well as receives it for himself. His own claims to deity are the essence of impiety and blasphemy, and his enforcement of idolatry is effected by a universal economic boycott (Revelation 13:16-18).

11.5.1.5 His career

The major purpose of the False Prophet is to get the world to fall down and worship the Antichrist. To do this, the False Prophet will perform spectacular miracles such as causing fire to come down from heaven for all to see (Revelation 13:13-14). This is what the prophet Elijah did (2 Kings 1:1-14), and some will think this person is also a prophet from God. By imitating the power of God, the False Prophet will easily be accepted by the people, and he will get them to fall down and worship the Antichrist (Revelation 13:12).

He will make a gigantic image of the Antichrist. This image will be animated so it looks lifelike and real (Revelation 13:14-15). By being able to make the image speak, the False Prophet will have a profound effect upon the world and be able to compel the people to do as he directs.

The world will receive the special mark of the beast (i.e. 666). This mark will be visible and placed on the right hand or forehead of the people. Its operation may be similar to the way credit cards or grocery items are scanned at a check-out line, via a subcutaneous implant under the skin. This requirement will have great economic significance, for no one will be able to buy or sell items without it (Revelation 13:16-18).

11.5.2 The Devil (Satan)

As the Scriptures reveal, throughout history Satan has had access to heaven, where he makes accusation of believers' sins and shortcomings. Satan challenged God to permit Job to undergo a number of trials and troubles (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7). Of course, Satan is limited in what he can do; he can attack Christians only to the extent God permits. For this reason it is possible for Christians to have relatively peaceful lives; this would be impossible if Satan had his full way.

A dramatic change, however, will take place in the future. Satan and his demons, who now have access to heaven, will be thrown down to the earth at the beginning of the last three and a-half years of the Great Tribulation (Revelation 12:9-10). They will lose "their place in heaven" (Revelation 12:8). John heard a loud voice in heaven say, "But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you!" (Revelation 12:12).

While Satan understands that Christ is coming and knows that his doom is certain and that his time will be short (Revelation 12:12), he will act according to his nature, which is to rebel against God. During a coming Tribulation period he will try to set up his own world government and use the Antichrist and False Prophet to accomplish his goals. The "dragon" (Satan) will indeed give power unto the "beast" (Antichrist) (Revelation 13:3-4). Antichrist's coming is "after the working of Satan." Hence his uncanny skill and ability to deceive (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10). He will influence them and make them carry out his plans and purposes. He will get them to do what he wants them to do. With all of these influences, the people will turn against the Lord of heaven. 

11.6 The Career of the Antichrist

The career of the Antichrist and his False Prophet is summarized as follows:

11.6.1 The beginning of the Tribulation

  1. Antichrist will be the final king of a restored form of the Roman empire (Daniel 2, 7; Revelation 13, 17).

  2. Antichrist will come to power at a time when a confederacy of ten rulers has already been formed, displacing three of these at the time. The remaining seven will then assist and support him as head ruler (Daniel 7:8, 23-26).

  3. Antichrist will come to power at the beginning of the Tribulation period, providing a sign that it has begun (2 Thessalonians 2:3-5, 9). This will coincide with the time when the Holy Spirit ceases His work of restraining sin in the world (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7).

  4. Antichrist will be a capable person with keen insight, but extremely boastful, even daring to blaspheme the name of God and to try to change basic laws of nature (Daniel 7:25).

  5. Antichrist will be empowered and controlled by Satan as no other person of history has been (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10; Revelation 13:3-4).

  6. Antichrist will be assisted by one called the False Prophet, who is also empowered and controlled by Satan (Revelation 13:11-15).

  7. Antichrist will work through the Great Harlot, the head of the Rome-centered apostate church (i.e. worldwide counterfeit religious system), to bring severe persecution on true saints, even bringing about martyrdom for many (Revelation 17:3-6).

  8. Antichrist's career will be hindered by the activities of the two powerful witnesses (Revelation 11:3-12).

  9. Antichrist will be killed and then be restored to life (Revelation 13:3). This is a counterfeit, a deception, and an attempt to imitate the resurrection of Jesus Christ in correspondence with the revival of the imperial form of Rome in order to gain the worship of the world.

  10. Antichrist will confirm a covenant with the Jewish people (the nation Israel) for a period of seven years (Daniel 9:27) and he will allow them to restore Jewish worship in their rebuilt temple at Jerusalem.

11.6.2 The mid-point of the Tribulation

  1. Antichrist will destroy the worldwide counterfeit religious system that has flourished during the first half of the Tribulation, for which he will then no longer have use (Revelation 17:16). These three events alone will remove all religious opposition to Antichrist.

  2. A great conflict will occur in which the "king of the south - Egypt" and the "king of the north (God and Magog) - Russia" will come against the Antichrist (Daniel 11: 40). But supernatural intervention by God and the destruction of the Russian hordes will clear the way for the Antichrist to enter Israel and Egypt ( Daniel 11:40-45, Ezekiel 38-39). 

  3. Antichrist will invade Israel and and then moving on to seize Jerusalem (Daniel 11:40-45).

  4. Antichrist will break his covenant with the Jewish people, stopping their worship and sitting himself in the temple to be worshiped (Daniel 9:27b).

  5. Antichrist will show his atheism by denying the existence of all gods and will assume the position of a god himself (Daniel 11:36-37). He will call for people to worship him and will take a seat in the Temple of God in Jerusalem, after conquering the Holy Land (2 Thessalonians 2:4).

  6. Antichrist will kill the two witnesses (Revelation 11:7).

  7. False Prophet will cause people to worship the Antichrist and he will deceive them by miracles wrought through power granted by Satan (Revelation 13:11-14).

  8. False Prophet will begin to force people to receive an identifying mark either on their foreheads or right hands in order to buy or sell (Revelation 13:16-17). He will also kill as many as he can who refuse to worship the Antichrist or his image (Revelation 13:15).

  9. After the initial victory of the Antichrist, he will move with his major force southwest into Africa, to subjugate Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia, leaving only controlling garrisons in Palestine (Daniel 11:43). 

11.6.3 The end of the Tribulation

  1. Antichrist will be disturbed by the invasion from a gigantic army from the east - probably including China, Japan and India ( Revelation 9:13-21; 16:12-16) and another invasion from the north - Russia (Daniel 11:44). The world's armies will be gathered on the plains of Megiddo (Armageddon), prepared to engage in battle.

  2. At this time, the Jews will make one last effort to throw off his recently imposed bondage by attacking these garrisons. This will infuriate the Antichrist, prompting him to return quickly and put down the insurrection more severely than at the first occasion of fighting. Once more Jerusalem will be taken, so that the Antichrist can and will place his tent of victory there (Daniel 11:45). 

  3. The Antichrist and the False Prophet will all be brought to an abrupt end by Christ when He comes in power as the Messiah-Deliverer of the nation of Israel, at the conclusion of the Tribulation period. They will be thrown alive into "the fiery lake of burning sulfur" (Revelation 19:11-21; 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 8-9).

11.7 Is the First Beast Antichrist?

Expositors have not agreed entirely as to the identity of the two beasts as revealed in the book of Revelation and the other passages of Scripture. There are two possible interpretations:

  1. the beast from the sea is the Antichrist (the first view); or

  2. the beast from the earth is the Antichrist (the second view).

11.7.1 The beast from the sea is the Antichrist (the first view)

Bible commentators who hold that the Political Beast is the Antichrist (such as Sir Robert Anderson, Barnhouse, Chafer, Larkin, McGee, Newell, Pentecost, Pettingill, Talbot and Vine) generally find him throughout the prophecies of Daniel. He is the eleventh horn of Daniel 7:8; the king of fierce countenance in 8:23; the prince that shall come of 9:26, 27; and the willful king of 11:36. He is also the man of sin in 2 Thessalonians 2:2-10 and the Beast from the Sea in the book of Revelation 13:1-8.

Another leading character appears in Revelation 13:11-16. He is called the False Prophet, in contrast to the first beast who is a False Christ (Matthew 24:24). He takes a place of subordination to the first beast, and directs worship to him. In doing so, he is imitating the role of the Holy Spirit, who directs worship to Christ. Satan, the Political Beast and the False Prophet appear to form a Satanic counterfeit of the Trinity. The False Prophet, in this view, does not appear in the book of Daniel. They opined that Satan is the Anti-God, the Political Beast is the Anti-Christ and the False Prophet is the Anti-Holy Spirit.

11.7.1.1 Reasons for holding this view

Reasons for holding this view are as follows:

  1. The first beast is worshipped as God. He opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he as God sits in the temple of God shewing himself that he is God (Daniel 9:27; 11:31, 36; 2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 13:8).

  2. The first beast will be Satan's false claimant as king of the world, in substitution for God's true claimant. This person, as king of Roman empire, will be Satan's representative to grasp for world rule, prior to the coming of God's representative.

  3. The death and resurrection of the first beast is a counterfeit, a supreme deception, and an attempt to imitate the resurrection of Jesus Christ in order to gain the worship of the world (Revelation 13:3).

  4. Historically, Jews have thought of their Messiah as being a king (John 12:13-15; Acts 1:6). The first beast, especially when he makes a meaningful covenant with them at the beginning of the tribulation, could be seen by a significant number of Jews as being the Messiah. For example: Dr. Theodore Herzl, the great organizer of Zionism, in his zeal to secure a national home in Palestine for Israel, even telling Sultan Abdul Hamid of Turkey ("Abdul the Damned") that if he would let the Jews have Palestine, they would adopt him as their promised Messiah.

  5. The voice of history and tradition calls to us that the Antichrist and the last Roman emperor are to be identical. For example: Victorinus and St. Augustine says, "Nero will be raised from the dead, appear again at Rome and persecute the Church once more, and finally be destroyed by the Messiah." Note carefully, we are not insisting at all that Nero will be the Antichrist, but that the early Christians believed that a Roman imperial persecutor, possibly Nero, would be the AntIchrist.

11.7.1.2 Weakness of this view

Devout Jews will never accept a Gentile as their Messiah due to the teachings of the Old Testament prophecies, such as:

  1. the Messiah will be a descendant of David (Zechariah 3:8; 6:12-13); and

  2. the Messiah will be the Mighty God (Isaiah 9:6-7). 

11.7.2 The beast from the earth is the Antichrist (the second view)

A second viewpoint (held by Darby, Dennett, Gaebelein, Ironside, Kelly, Scott, Tatham) sees Antichrist as a religious leader rather than as the political head. The False Prophet is called Antichrist, and his particular concern is with the Jewish people. He acts as an imposter, impersonating Christ, presenting himself to the Jewish people as the Messiah. He carries out the dictator's purposes in the Holy Land. His likeness to the lamb (Revelation 13:11) is part of his impersonation. He himself must be a Jew, or else his false claim would have no appeal to the Jewish people. 2 Thessalonians 2:2-10 is a reference to this False Prophet, rather than to the Beast from the Sea in the book of Revelation 13:1-8. They opined that the Political Beast is the Anti-God, the False Prophet is the Anti-Christ and Satan is the Anti-Holy Spirit.

Those holding this second viewpoint, also recognize the coming of a great world dictator, but do not call him the Antichrist. Their interpretation of the book of Revelation is substantially the same as that given by those of the first viewpoint. The principal difference from the first view is in the assigning of passages in Daniel. The dictator is seen in Daniel 7 and 9, but a different king is usually seen in Daniel 8:23. The Antichrist, in this view, appears in Daniel only once, and that, as the willful king of 11:36-40. There are, then, three main actors found in Daniel in place of the one seen in the first view. There is a vagueness in the presentations of this viewpoint as to which of the three actors introduces the "the abomination of desolation."

We should remember also that Satan offered Christ "all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them" (Matthew 4:8), if He would worship him. Our Lord refused, but another will accept, and receive these kingdoms (Revelation 13:7-8).

11.7.2.1 Reasons for holding this view

Some Bible scholars believe the name Antichrist is better ascribed to the second beast than to the first beast. This reasoning is based mainly on the idea that no devout Jew would ever accept a Gentile as Messiah and that since the second beast appears to be a Jew, he must therefore be the Messiah. It is believed that the False Prophet would present this appearance in greater degree than the Roman king. This reasoning is as follows:

  1. The False Prophet rises "up out of the earth" (Revelation 13:11), whereas the first beast rises "up out of the sea" (Revelation 13:1). This reference to "earth" is thought to mean Palestine (i.e. Israel), thus making Palestine the residence of this person; this is believed necessary for his acceptance.

  2. The second beast has two horns like a lamb suggesting that he impersonates the Lamb of God (compare Revelation 5:6, 9-10 with Revelation 13:11). It is observed that the second beast has the appearance of a "lamb," while actually speaking "as a dragon" (Revelation 13:11); this is believed to be in keeping with an intended messiah-like approach to the people.

  3. The Antichrist will not "regard the God of his fathers" (Daniel 11:37). This phrase is a reference to the God of Israel's fathers (i.e. Jehovah). This is taken as evidence that he will be Jewish, another necessary factor for acceptance as the Messiah. Very frequently in Scripture, the God of Israel is described as "Jehovah, the LORD God of their fathers" (cf. Exodus 3:15-16; 4:5; Deuteronomy 1:11, 21; 4:1; 6:3; 12:1; 26:7; 29:25; Joshua 18:3; Judges 2:12; 2 Kings 21:22).

  4. This great world ruler will also "show no regard for the desire of women" (Daniel 11:37). It is a reference to the Messiah, for it is clear from Scripture that the Messiah would come through "[the] seed" of the woman (Genesis 3:15). Surely the desire of every Jewish woman may have been that she would be the one chosen to be the physical mother of the Messiah.

11.7.2.2 Weaknesses of this view

There are several weaknesses of this view, including:

  1. The second beast is merely a subordinate of the first beast. Since the second beast is neither a political leader nor is worshipped as God, he does not meet some of the necessary requirements/descriptions of the Antichrist as recorded in several Scriptural passages, e.g. Daniel 9:26-27; 2 Thessalonians 2:4, etc.

  2. Identifying "the earth" with Palestine (Israel), is weak, because there is no exegetical evidence for this identification. It seems better to take "the earth" in a general sense." It simply means a settled world condition.

  3. Regarding the lamblike appearance of the second beast, does not necessarily suggest the thought of messiahship, for the Jews have historically anticipated their Messiah to be kinglike, not lamblike.

  4. The phrase "the God of his fathers" in Daniel 11:37 which would seem to make the king in that passage a Jew is better translated "gods" in keeping with the Hebrew elohim which removes any specific Jewish character from the phrase. Therefore, it could also be a reference merely to the God whom this person's ancestors, whether Gentile or Jewish, worshiped. Moreover, the person referred to in Daniel 11:37, where this phrase occurs, is not the False Prophet, anyway, but the first beast, the mighty king of the restored empire.

  5. The phrase "show no regard for the desire of women" may be interpreted as a reference for peace. It is not the women of the world who go off to war. The thing buried deep in the heart of every woman is that there will be world peace so that her husband and sons will not have to go off and fight.

11.7.3 Comments

I would like to provide some ideas for the readers to decide whether or not the first beast is the Antichrist. Please note that I am not an expert of this difficult issue and therefore my opinions should not be dogmatically held. Readers are reminded to make their own judgements on this issue.

11.7.3.1 The beast from the sea is the Antichrist (the first view)

The only one weakness of this view is that devout Jews will never accept a Gentile as their Messiah due to the teachings of the Old Testament prophecies. However, this is not a serious problem nowadays because most of the Jewish people living in Israel are neither believers of Judaism nor Christianity. As most of them don't care about religious matters, they will not check the identity of the first beast (false Messiah) with the teachings of the Holy Bible. Certainly, they will not insist that their Messiah must be a descendant of king David. Even though devout Jews will not accept a Gentile as their Messiah, after the rapture of the true church, secular Jews and most of the western people (especially professing Christians) are ready to accept a Gentile political leader to become their Saviour provided that such leader can guarantee world peace. In other words, anyone who could come into the Middle East situation today and guarantee peace would be regarded by people on all sides as being a "Messiah."

11.7.3.2 The beast from the earth is the Antichrist (the second view)

This view has several weaknesses, including:

  1. Since he is neither a political leader nor is worshipped as God, he does not meet some of the necessary requirements/descriptions of the Antichrist as recorded in several Scriptural passages. I think that this is a very serious problem.

  2. The Jews have historically anticipated their Messiah to be kinglike, not lamblike. However, this is not a serious problem as the population of Gentiles is significantly greater than Jews. The effect of the possible objection from the Jews is only negligible provided that most Gentiles are willing to accept a lamblike leader to become their Christ (note: His name is "Anti-Christ" which is more relevant to apostate Christianity than Judaism.). Nowadays, we are trying to resolve conflicts by negotiations rather than by using force. I think that a peaceful leader (i.e. lamblike) is more welcome than a dictator.  

  3. There is insufficient Biblical evidence that the Antichrist must be a Jew. I think that it is a matter of translation. In Daniel 11:37, the word for "god" here is the Hebrew word elohim, which may be used of either the true God of the nation of Israel or a general word for false gods of any given nation. If this word should be translated as "the God of his fathers," it would mean that the future Antichrist would be Jewish in his ancestry. Unfortunately, the critical word "elohim" is not clear enough for us to make any decisive conclusion on this matter. 

11.7.3.3 Conclusion

It is impossible to discuss fully the arguments put forward. Basically, the argument for the beast from the sea being the Antichrist rests on the fact that he is worshipped as God. Those who hold that the beast from the earth is the Antichrist point out that no Jew would ever accept a Gentile as Messiah and that since the beast from the earth appears to be a Jew, he must therefore be the Messiah. In my opinion, I think that the beast from the sea is the Antichrist due to the following main reasons:

  1. The first view has only one minor problem.

  2. The second view has a very serious Scriptural problem and also uncertainty in translation.

 

12. THE CAMPAIGN OF ARMAGEDDON

Modern wars are fought in many different ways and with many different weapons. Not only can nations use missiles, tanks, and bombers, but they can computer trigger smart bombs, and nuclear bombs. The world is rapidly marching toward its final conflict. Nations try to negotiate disagreements, but sometimes conflict is necessary. Whenever a major war breaks out, we ask, "Is this Armageddon?"

Armageddon is the end-time battle when the nations of the earth fight against God and each other in the Middle East (Revelation 16:12-16). This war will break out in the Middle East and will usher in the return of Christ. With growing conflicts in the world and the continual Arab-Israeli discord, some feel such a war could happen very soon. This is why many are looking for such a war at the beginning of this millennium.

The aim of this section is to provide a correct Biblical view of the campaign of Armageddon. It is divided into the following five major divisions: 

  1. the meaning of Armageddon;

  2. the various places involved in the war of Armageddon;

  3. the participants in the war of Armageddon;

  4. the chronological sequence of the various battles in the war of Armageddon; and

  5. the necessity of the war of Armageddon.

12.1 The Meaning of Armageddon

John describes Armageddon as "the battle of that great day of God Almighty" (Revelation 16:14). Instead of translating polemos as "battle," some translations use the word "war." "Battle" focuses on a single engagement while "war" includes several battles, a campaign. There will be several battles encompassing more than just the local area of Megiddo that precede the final and climactic battle at Megiddo.

This encounter is on "the great day of God Almighty." It is a war allowed by God. Nations come to the end of themselves in this conflict, and then God brings it to an end. All mankind fight against heaven and the forces of God, but the Lord Jesus and His armies are victorious.

12.2 The Various Places Involved in the War of Armageddon

Where will this war take place? Many Middle East nations think their land will be involved and have tried to protect it with sophisticated weaponry. This is true in Israel, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq. The Scriptures seem to indicate four foci of the destruction of the armies of the world at the second coming of Christ, they are:

  1. Jerusalem;

  2. Megiddo;

  3. Edom; and

  4. Jehoshaphat.

12.2.1 Jerusalem

The major place of contention, according to Scripture, will be the city of Jerusalem. This city, whose name means "city of peace," has been the object of many wars, and was destroyed several times. It again will be the center of slaughter in this end-time war. According to Zechariah 14, Jerusalem will be a center of tremendous fighting just before and at the Second Coming of Christ.

"For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women raped; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city ... And His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east ... and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee" (Zechariah 14:2-5).

According to this passage, at the end of the Tribulation the armies opposing the Lord will attempt to capture Jerusalem with house-to-house fighting and will be temporarily successful. But the Lord will empower the inhabitants of Jerusalem to fight like the mighty King of David (Zechariah 12:8). Too, He will send "the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth" (Zechariah 14:12). And the Lord will come and stand on the Mount of Olives from which He ascended (Acts 1:11-12). The Mount of Olives will split, providing a valley through which survivors may flee, and He "will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem" (Zechariah 12:9). At His Second Coming Israel will recognize Jesus as her Messiah, acknowledging with deep contrition that He was the One whom their forefathers pierced (Zechariah 12:10). The land will be healed and changed, and the Lord will be king over all the earth (Zechariah 14:9-10).

Years ago, former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat began the modern peace movement and went to Jerusalem. There he addressed the Israeli parliament. "The first thing we want," he said, "is the city of Jerusalem!" Since that time, Arabs and Jews negotiated the Sinai, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and a Palestinian State. The problem of Jerusalem, however, continues to fester and could become a time bomb, ready to explode.

The United Nations General Assembly voted for Israel to with draw from the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. Israel, on the other hand, affirmed that the united city of Jerusalem was the country's capital. Of making East and West Jerusalem one, Jerusalem's former Mayor Teddy Kollek said, "Whom did it help? I see what confusion it has created, even among our friends" (Time, 11 August 1980). The Oslo Peace Accord set the question of Jerusalem aside for a later date. Negotiations on Jerusalem's status continue and temporary solutions have been tried. The underlying attitudes of dissent continue to grow and fester. The problems of Jerusalem's future status may initiate that eventual struggle.

12.2.2 Megiddo

One of the major battlefields will be Armageddon, for it is there that the nations will gather (Revelation 16:16).

12.2.2.1 The identification of Megiddo

Armageddon is the Greek name for the Hill of Megiddo, a specific place located in the north-central part of Palestine, halfway between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Galilee. To identify Armageddon with Megiddo is the most probable and usual interpretation. However, throughout history the site has been debated, for examples:

  1. The oldest identification was put forth by Hippolytus (died around A.D. 236) who understood it to be the valley of Jehoshaphat, mentioned in Joel 3:2 as the place of judgment of the nations.

  2. It has also been connected with the area west of the Euphrates River across which the kings of the East will come. However, it is argued that because the "Tell of Megiddo" was probably only 70 feet high in John's day, it is not tall enough to designate it as a mountain (the meaning of Har in Harmagedon). In response, it is pointed out that Megiddo is near the Carmel range of mountains, which justifies the use of the word "mount."

  3. Another complicating factor is the fact that the spelling of Megiddo is different from Harmagedon. The Greek of Revelation 16:16 (Harmagedon) has only one "d" while some manuscripts spell Megiddo with two (including the Septuagint). The final "n" on Armageddon but not on Megiddo also presents a problem.

On the other hand, the valley of Megiddo has been an important center as well as the site of various battles through out history, for examples:

  1. About 1482 B.C. Thutmose III, one of the greatest Egyptian conquerors, launched a successful campaign to subdue his vassals in Palestine among whom was the king of Megiddo.

  2. In the days of Deborah and Barak (1195 - 1155 B.C.) a battle against the Canaanites under Jabin took place at Taanach "by the waters of Megiddo" (Judges 5:19).

  3. Ahaziah, king of Judah, fled from Jehu to Megiddo where he died (2 Kings 9:27).

  4. King Josiah, trying to intercept Pharaoh-necho at Megiddo in 609 B.C., was killed at Megiddo (2 Kings 23:29).

However, none of these events can compare with the climactic battle at the Second Coming of Christ, and there is no compelling reason not to locate it at Megiddo at the head of the Jezreel (or Esdraelon) valley.

12.2.2.2 The military significance of Megiddo

Historically, Megiddo was an important military garrison. It is strategically located and overlooks the valley of Megiddo. This valley empties into the valley of Jezreel, which is the largest valley in the nation. An underground springwater system is there and is necessary for any troops stationed there. As generals tried to take over Israel, and there were many, they knew that if they controlled Megiddo, they would control the whole northern half of the country.

12.2.2.3 The battle of Megiddo in Revelation 16:12-16

According to Revelation 16:12-16, God will send an angel to pour out His wrath by drying up the eastern boundary of the Holy Land, the Euphrates River, to facilitate the crossing of the kings of the East. Satan, the Antichrist, and his False Prophet will send three demons to convince world leaders to send their troops to Megiddo. To authenticate their message, these demons will be able to work miracles, which will convince the nations to mobilize for the battle of Armageddon. God is involved, Satan is involved, Antichrist is involved, and doubtless governmental bodies will be involved by ratifying the actions of their leaders - all are involved to bring the climactic battle at Megiddo.

12.2.2.4 The two possible scenarios

Will the conflict that centers in Jerusalem precede or follow that which centers in Megiddo? It is hard to tell. If Megiddo follows Jerusalem, perhaps it will be because having been routed from Jerusalem, the armies retreat north to Megiddo to regroup, bivouac, and prepare for what they assume will be the next attack on them. Then the coming of Christ will utterly destroy those armies. So extensive will be the slaughter that an angel will call birds to eat the flesh from the corpses of those who have been killed (Revelation 19:17-18). Then Antichrist, his False Prophet, and his followers, those who received his mark and worshiped him, will be cast alive into the lake of fire and brimstone forever (Revelation 19:20-21).

If the conflict in Jerusalem follows that at Megiddo, it would mean that some troops would be in Jerusalem fighting at the same time as others are gathered at Megiddo. In other words, warfare would be happening at Jerusalem and Megiddo simultaneously. If the war in Jerusalem follows that in Megiddo, then our Lord apparently will first destroy those armies gathered at Megiddo (though not necessarily setting foot on the earth), and then He will move to Jerusalem, stand on the Mount of Olives, and put down the conflict there.

By either scenario, the entire land will be engulfed in wars, which will only be stopped by the victorious coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

12.2.3 Edom

Another place for conflict is the land of Edom (see city of Petra). This is some times called "Idumea" and is located in the southern section of Palestine.

Isaiah foresaw this center of conflict as recorded in Isaiah 34:1-15 and 63:1-6. The Lord says, "My sword has drunk its fill in the heavens; see, it descends in judgment on Edom, the people I have totally destroyed" (Isaiah 34:5). The Lord is portrayed as coming from Edom (a nation that often opposed Israel and was therefore under God's wrath, Malachi 1:4) and from Bozrah in Edom, which is about 20 miles southeast of the southern tip of the Dead Sea. There He will tread the winepress of His wrath and destroy His enemies (see Revelation 14:17-20).

Rather than thinking of these centers - Jerusalem, Megiddo, and Edom - in some sort of sequence with regard to battles, we should perhaps think of them as giving us the total picture of the nearly simultaneous battles or the war of the great day of God Almighty (Revelation 16:14). In other words, the war will encompass the whole land from Megiddo in the north, Jerusalem in the center, and Edom in the southeast. That distance is about 140 miles. The clue that this might be the best way to view the war and these three centers is found in Revelation 14:20, which describes a river of blood 180 miles (about 300 km) long and up to four and one-half feet deep. That would include the area from Megiddo to Edom with some miles to spare on both ends.

Some believe that during future persecution in Israel, some of the people will flee to Edom to escape God's judgment. This is because Scripture predicts that people will hide "in caves and among the rocks of the mountains" (Revelation 6:15). A logical place for them to go is Edom, for it contains many rocks and the capital city of Petra, whose name means "Rock." This was a city that literally was hewn out of rocks and boulders. It contains temples, houses, and amphitheaters, all made out of rocks. However, even though these people try to leave Israel and hide in rocks, they will find bloodshed wherever they go.

12.2.4 Jehoshaphat

There are other battlefields, however, for this bloodshed. One is the Valley of Jehoshaphat. This valley is located in central Palestine between the city of Jerusalem and the Jordan River. This is called the "West Bank" area. God says, "I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will enter into judgment against them" (Joel 3:2). The West Bank problems, like the Jewish settlements, autonomy questions, and the Palestinian State, could be a prelude to a coming war.

The Bible describes the conflict's bloodshed as a harvest of God's wrath, rather than a harvest of souls. The picture is of a huge reaping, the harvest of the whole earth. An angel thrusts his sickle into the earth and gathers the clusters of people from the vine. Then he throws them "into the great winepress of God's wrath" (Revelation 14:19). What a terrible picture of God's necessary judgment be cause of man's devastating sin.

In summary, the various battles in the war of Armageddon results in a river of blood. This river will flow as high as the horses' bridles, a depth of four and a half to five feet. It will run for a distance of 180 miles (Revelation 14:20), which is the length of the land of Palestine. With this imagery, God confirms that the entire area of Israel will be covered with the blood of nations, from the northern region (the Valley of Megiddo) to the central (the Valley of Jehoshaphat and Jerusalem), to the southern (the land of Edom).

See below map for the location of these battles:

(Source: Ryrie Study Bible, Expanded Edition, New International Version, p. 1969, Chicago: Moody Press, 1994 Edition, by Charles C. Ryrie)

Map Showing the Location of Various Battles in the War of Armageddon

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12.3 The Participants in the War of Armageddon

What countries will fight in this final world war? During end-time events there are four major groups, or blocs, of nations that will surround Israel and come against her. These confederacies are located in the north, west, east, and south of Israel. As we look at the world today, we can see that those blocs of nations may be forming already.

12.3.1 The northern confederacy

The countries of that northern confederacy are listed in Ezekiel 38:2-6; they include the territory of Magog, which will be ruled by Gog and was identified by Josephus as the land of the Scythians, the region north and northeast of the Black Sea and east of the Caspian Sea. Today these are the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States including Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan and perhaps some of the smaller states of the commonwealth. Meshech and Tubal includes the area of modern Turkey. Persia is modern Iran; Ethiopia, northern Sudan; Put, Libya; Gomer, probably the eastern part of Turkey and Ukraine; Beth-togarmah, the part of Turkey near the Syrian border. Many, but not all of these nations, now have large Muslim populations.

The northern confederacy is Russia and her allies (Ezekiel 38-39). Those nations will come from "the far north" (Ezekiel 38:6) of Israel as a "cloud to cover the land" (Ezekiel 38:9). Russia's continued diplomatic influence in the Middle East, in the Balkans, and elsewhere could be a prelude of what Ezekiel predicted.

12.3.2 The western confederacy

The western confederacy is a ten-nation federation located in the approximate area of the old Roman Empire (Revelation 17:7-13). Carefully described in Daniel 2, it is the last part of the great image in Nebuchadnezzar's dream. This is an image that depicts the entire sweep of Gentile world history. The European Union or Common Market may fit the description that the prophet Daniel gave. Many details are precisely as given, while others are potentially working out. As with any new venture, it takes time to assemble all of the right ingredients. However, this confedemacy, along with many associate nations, could prepare for the end-time events Scripture predicts.

12.3.3 The eastern confederacy

The eastern confederacy is east of Israel and east of the Euphrates River. It is called "the kings from the East" (Revelation 16:12). China, Japan, and India, with other nations, may make up this confederacy. The overtures those nations are making now could result in the alliance that Scripture refers to.

12.3.4 The southern confederacy

There is also a southern confederacy. This is where the Arab nations may fit. Instead of this being a multination confederacy, however, this bloc will be just one nation. Typically, there is little unity among Arab countries. Historically, they have spent more time fighting each other than in finding avenues for cooperation. When there is an overriding purpose, though, they can quickly unite. Most of the time, however, they are seen as separate entities. According to prophecy, God has an important purpose for the Arab nations. The southern confederacy will be most likely be Egypt, for it is called "the king of the South" (Daniel 11). Although Arab states may periodically support this country, the word "king" is singular and shows that Egypt will act alone.

Egypt is a country with limited resources and a vast population. It is a nation of 60 million people, most of whom live in extreme poverty. The government uses 50% of its revenue to subsidize basic commodities. The nation is dependent on the handouts of other nations, such as the United States, just to keep going.

Although Egypt is not a leader economically, it is a powerful leader politically. It is the one that began the peace process with Israel many years ago. It is the one that originally obtained land through negotiation. And it is the one that could easily upset the whole easing of tensions in the Middle East.

12.4 The Chronological Sequence of the Various Battles in the War of Armageddon

God tells us exactly the chronological sequence of the various Battles in the war of Armageddon through the prophets Daniel & Ezekiel and the apostle John.

12.4.1 Egypt will initiate the conflict

The time of the battle of Gog and Magog prophesied in Ezekiel 38-39 will take place at the middle of the Tribulation period, in the last half of that seven-year period. At the "time of the end," Egypt, the "king of the South," will come against Israel (Daniel 11:40). Egypt's pushing against Israel will be an agitation that will initiate the conflict.  The underlying reason that Egypt or any Arab nation will confront Israel will be because of the Arab's continued hatred of the Jew. Speaking of the Arab nation Edom, the Lord says it has an "ancient hostility," or a "perpetual hatred", of Israel (Ezekiel 35:5). The psalmist confirmed that hatred. The Arab nations have said, "Come ... let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more" (Psalm 83:4). Also, "with one mind they plot together" (Psalm 83:5).

12.4.2 Antichrist will enter Israel in order to expel the army from Egypt

In order to defend Israel, the western confederacy led by the Antichrist will enter Israel and try to expel the army from Egypt, the king of the South (Daniel 11:41). When the western confederacy enters Israel and challenges Egypt, this will give Russia (i.e. Gog and Magog) and her allies (i.e. the northern confederacy) the excuse to come down against Israel to protect its influence (Daniel 11:40). Antichrist must fight against Egypt (i.e. the king of the South) and also Russia (i.e. the northern confederacy), which will require Antichrist either to divide his forces and take on both attackers at the same time or to try to defeat the weaker enemy first. He apparently will decide to do the latter and turn his attention first to defeating the army from Egypt.

12.4.3 Antichrist will leave Israel and conquer Egypt

When the army from Egypt is successfully expelled, Antichrist will leave Israel and try to extend his dominion into Egypt. He will conquer Egypt and apparently at the same time subdue Libya and northern Sudan, which are part of the northern coalition (Daniel 11:42-43; Ezekiel 38:5). He will then take the treasures of the land, i.e. the "riches of Egypt" (Daniel 11:43). But while in Egypt, Antichrist will be troubled by threats from the east and north (Daniel 11:44). It may be the report of the approach of the eastern and northern confederacies to challenge the authority of the Antichrist. So he will apparently turn his attention to the coalition from northern Israel, which by this time will have entered Israel. This northern coalition is the king of the North of Daniel 11:40 (i.e. northern confederacy, Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38-39).

12.4.4 God will destroy the northern confederacy (i.e. Gog and Magog) 

When Antichrist returns from Egypt into Israel he finds no living opposing army. It is because God will destroy the northern armies on the mountains of Palestine (Ezekiel 38-39). God will destroy that northern army (i.e. Gog and Magog - the northern confederacy) by sending "pestilence and ... blood ... and over flowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone" (Ezekiel 38:22). As a result, this mighty army "shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and all thy bands, and the peoples that is with thee: I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of every sort, and to the beasts of the field to be devoured ... And I will send a fire on ... I will give unto Gog a place there of graves in Israel ... and there shall they bury Gog and all his multitude" (Ezekiel 39:4, 6, 11).

12.4.5 Antichrist will conquer Israel and demand worship

Up until that time, a balance of world power among the nations will remain. However, with Egypt subdued and Gog, Magog, and their allies destroyed by God, the balance of world power suddenly will be no more. This will enable the western confederacy, the revived Roman Empire led by the Antichrist, to move into the "Beautiful Land" (i.e. Israel) and will conquer all that territory. Edom, Moab and Ammon alone will escape (Daniel 11:41-42). That is also the time when the Antichrist will break his treaty with the Jewish people and he will also put himself in the rebuilt temple demanding to be worshiped (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). Antichrist will move his headquarters into Israel and assemble his armies there (Daniel 11:45). It is there that his destruction will come (Daniel 11:45).

12.4.6 Kings of the east will cross the Euphrates River in order to enter Israel

The only enemy remaining for the Antichrist (who is the western leader of the revived Roman Empire countries) comes from the east. This coalition of the "kings of the east" (Revelation 16:12) will discover to its great surprise that the Euphrates River, which it must cross in order to enter the Holy Land, will have been dried up, making it easy to cross. The Euphrates River is the longest river of western Asia originating in the mountains of Armenia in modern Turkey and emptying into the Persian Gulf 1,780 miles downstream. It is at its lowest in September but rises eight feet by May with the melting of winter snows.

12.4.7 Antichrist will fight against the eastern confederacy

The climax of this final conflict will be when the Antichrist (i.e. leader of the western confederacy), threatened by the kings of the East (i.e. the eastern confederacy), will go to fight the eastern confederacy (Daniel 11:44). It will also involve other remaining nations that have not been destroyed (e.g., nearby African ones?) because the three demons will incite the kings of the whole world to join the war (Revelation 16:13-14). The final military battle will engulf the entire Holy Land - Israel. Jerusalem will be destroyed as a result of this attack (Zechariah 12:2).

12.4.8 Jesus Christ will return and will be victorious

Satan knows the Bible, so he knows that Christ's Second Coming is near and that He will return to the earth, at the same place from which He ascended. So Satan, the prince of this world, will make one last and unsuccessful attempt to thwart God's plan to glorify His Son and establish Him as the rightful ruler of this world. Instead of fighting each other, however, their hatred will turn against the Lord from heaven. It is then that Jesus Christ will return in order to protect the Jewish remnants (Zechariah 12:8-9) and slay His enemies (Revelation 19:21). Jewish remnants will recognize the Lord Jesus Christ as their Messiah (Zechariah 12:10-14). Jesus Christ will be victorious!

12.5 The Necessity of the War of Armageddon

Living as we are in the day of God's longsuffering, patience, and grace, it is sometimes difficult for believers to even think that God might act otherwise. And when you add the many displays of His grace during hundreds of years past, it tends to become even more difficult. Even with the judgments with which He afflicted Israel, and judgments that the world has seen since the First Coming of Christ, these pale beside the terrible judgments of the Tribulation, the wars of that time, and especially the slaughter that leads to Armageddon.

Why will God do this? There are two valid reasons:

  1. God must fulfill His promises to Israel; and

  2. God must punish the wickedness of the nations of the world.

12.5.1 God must fulfill His promises to Israel

For one reason He must protect His people Israel. He made promises to them beginning with Abraham, some of which have not been fulfilled. If the Gentiles, who will hate Israel in the Tribulation, would be able to exterminate them (Matthew 24:9), or if Satan, who will vent his fierce anger against Israel in the Tribulation would be able to succeed in wiping Israel out (Revelation 12:13-17), then there would be no Jewish people left to fulfill the yet unfulfilled promises of God to them. The land from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates River was promised to Abraham's physical descendants (Genesis 15:18-21). That has never been literally fulfilled. One of the promises made to King David could not be fulfilled if Israel were not protected and preserved. See below Bible prophecies relating to the future of Israel:

"... I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more" (2 Samuel 7:10).

"... Judah shall dwell for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation" (Joel 3:20).

"... I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel ... And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God" (Amos 9:14-15).

"... ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matthew 19:28).

"... This generation [the Jewish race] shall not pass, till all these things [the judgments of the Tribulation described in the preceding verses] be fulfilled" (Matthew 24:34).

If God does not prevent the Jewish people from being annihilated during the Tribulation (or any other time) then these promises either have to be left unfulfilled or fulfilled by Gentiles or the church, totally contradicting the words of these texts, which clearly and specifically say that Israel will fulfill them. But He will protect Israel, and many who survive the Tribulation will turn to Him in repentance and salvation (Zechariah 12:10).

12.5.2 God must punish the wickedness of the nations of the world

For another reason, the Almighty must punish the wickedness of the nations of the world and put down all rebellion against Him, the living and true God. Since Adam and Eve first sinned, much of mankind has exhibited an unbroken record of rebellion against God. This in spite of all evidences He has given in the world around us, in His dealings with Israel in the Old Testament, and most vividly in the Coming of Jesus Christ and the worldwide proclamation of the good news that anyone who believes can be reconciled to God and possess eternal life. But people have rejected His advances and turned to their own wicked ways. In the Tribulation, wickedness and rebellion will be unmasked to reveal the hardness of the human heart (Revelation 9:20-21; 16:9, 11). God's patience has been for the purpose of giving people time to come to Him (2 Peter 3:9). But that will come to an end at His Second Coming. At Armageddon He will "smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron" (Revelation 19:15). At Armageddon He will "destroy all the nations that come against Jernsalem" (Zechariah 12:9). And at Armageddon He says He will "tread down the people in [His] anger, and make them drunk in [His] fury, and [He] will bring down their strength to the earth" (Isaiah 63:6).

Enemies subdued, Israel exalted, the earth renovated, the King of kings and Lord of lords reigning in absolute right eousness, and, grace upon grace, we believers reigning with Him - all will usher in the glorious millennial reign of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

13. THE FALL OF BABYLON

The city of ancient Babylon is in Iraq, about 50 miles south of Baghdad on the Euphrates river. Saddam Hussein had for several years been working to uncover the ancient ruins of Babylon with a view to rebuilding the city and establishing himself as practically the incarnation of Nebuchadnezzar, the great Babylonian king who took Judah captive from 606 to 586 B.C. This captivity by Nebuchadnezzar began the times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24), the period of gentile domination over Jerusalem and Israel which has and will continue to keep all descendants of David from sitting on the throne of Israel until the return of the Lord Himself.

The aim of this section is to provide a correct Biblical view of the ultimate fall of Babylon. It is divided into the following five major divisions: 

  1. the origin of Babylon;

  2. the destruction of Babylon by the Medo-Persian empire in 539 B.C.;

  3. the restoration of Babylon by Saddam Hussein;

  4. Old Testament prophecy about the destruction of Babylon has not been fulfilled completely; and

  5. New Testament prophecy about the final destruction of Babylon (Revelation 18).

13.1 The Origin of Babylon

Babylon comes from the Hebrew Bab-el which some say is a Hebrew form of the Assyrian Bab-ili, which meant "Gate of God," and is used of the ancient city on the banks of the Euphrates River. However, in Hebrew Bab-el means "confusion."

Babylon's Biblical beginnings are recorded in the following passages:

  1. Genesis 10-11;

  2. Genesis 14; and

  3. Isaiah 36-37.

13.1.1 Genesis 10-11

Babylon is first found in Genesis 10 in the table of nations. Here Moses traces the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. When Moses traces the descendants of Ham, those responsible for a great deal of trouble for Israel throughout her history, Moses wrote the following:

"Now Cush became the father of Nimrod; he became a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord therefore it is said, 'Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord' And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar" (Genesis 10:8-10).

Babel is the first reference to Babylon and its beginnings. Nimrod is recorded as the founder of Babel, later called Babylon (Genesis 10:10; 11:2-3, 5, 9). Nimrod's name means "Let us revolt or rebel." In Genesis 10:8 he is called "a mighty one," and in 10:9 "a mighty hunter before (against) Yahweh." Genesis10:10 gives us the result. A kingdom is formed as a result of his tyranny or the exercise of absolute force (10:9-10). This kingdom originally consisted of Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh in the land of Shinar, southern Babylon above the Persian Gulf and along the Euphrates River.

Nimrod was a rebel from beginning to end. As the first king of Babylon, he had within him the nature and character that would exist in the Gentile nations throughout history and especially in the final form in the Tribulation--tyranny and apostasy. Genesis 11:3-4 records the out-and-out rebellion of the people of Shinar against the plan of God, undoubtedly under the leadership of Nimrod (cf. 10:10). Their rebellion is seen in their attempt at building a city and tower that would reach to heaven, i.e., high in the sky. The purpose of this was to make a name in defiance against God's plan of nationalism (11:4f).

It seems quite clear then, that this tower stood for rebellion against God, rejection of Him, His plan of salvation in the coming Redeemer (Genesis 3:15), and a rebellion against nationalism. It was the first attempt at world unity apart from dependence upon God. Here was an attempt at a man-made world unity by means of force. As Stigers says, "it is the will of God, so long as sin is present in the world, to employ nationalism in the reduction of sin" (Commentary on Genesis, p. 129, quoted by Ross, p. 234).

God judged this act with the confusion of tongues which automatically created nationalism by the linguistic differences. Because of God's judgment, the descendants of Noah stopped building the city (11:8) and its name was called Babel, a short form for Balbel from Balal "to confuse." Babel really means confusion and again it expresses God's judgment on internationalism.

This became the central city of Babylonia even beyond the time of Alexander the Great. However, its greatest glory was during the time of Nebuchadnezzar 600 years before Christ. Cyrus the Mede captured the city from the Chaldeans, Alexander the Great in turn captured it from Medo-Persia, and both made it their capital. From this you can see its importance to the Gentile world powers and how it stands in opposition to Jerusalem and the purposes of God.

13.1.2 Genesis 14

After we are introduced to Babylon in Genesis 10 and 11, Babylon disappears briefly from Scripture, but appears again in Genesis 14. Sodom and Gomorra were attacked and defeated by a confederation of kings and taken captive. Two things are particularly significant here:

  1. Sodom and Gomorra were located in the land of Canaan or Palestine probably at a spot that is now under the southern end of the Dead Sea. But where is this? It is a part of the land God had promised to Abraham in the Abrahamic covenant which had its beginnings in Genesis 12:1, recorded for us, significantly so, right after the account of the tower of Babel.

  2. In the beginning of the chapter the kings are described for us. Dr. Charles Dyer points out that historically, the leader of these kings that came in against the land, a land that God had promised to Abraham, was a man by the name of Chedorlaomer, king of Elam. But note who Moses lists first (Genesis 14:1-12). Amraphel king of Shinar which is the land Babylon (The Road to Armageddon, Chapter Five - Babylon: Iraq and the Coming Middle East Crisis, Word Publishing, 1999 Edition, by Charles Dyer). The NIV has a notation in the margin regarding the name "Shinar," "that is Babylonia."

It seems that by mentioning this king first, we see who Moses viewed as the real leader of this confederacy is the king of Babylon.

After Abraham defeats these kings, he stopped at a place called Salem which later came to be known as Jerusalem. There Abraham received a blessing from Melchizedek, King of Salem. Melchizedek means "king of righteousness" and in the Bible, he is a type of Christ (Hebrews 7:1f).

Historically, we can summarize Babylon's early history in Genesis with the following:

  1. First, we have the rise of the city of the ungodly, Shinar or Babylon which had its beginnings not only in rebellion against God, but in an attempt to be like God.

  2. Second, we see this city intruding on the land which God had promised to Abraham through whom the Messiah would come.

  3. Third, suddenly brought into this narrative is the city of Salem, later to become Jerusalem, with a king who is a type of Christ, whose name means king of righteousness, and who meets Abraham and gives him a blessing.

  4. Fourth, we have God Himself appearing to Abraham to reinforce His covenant with Abraham with specific boundaries given in connection with the land of promise and victory over the inhabitants of the land (Genesis 15:1, 18-21).

13.1.3 Isaiah 36-37

Babylon then disappears from the book of Genesis and the next place we find her mentioned in an historic way is in Isaiah 36-37. Here Hezekiah King of Judah is faced with invasion and is threatened by Sennacherib King of Assyria. In this passage we find Hezekiah reading the terms of surrender from Sennacherib, but Hezekiah turned the matter over to the Lord and was delivered.

However, in chapters 38-39 we have a lapse of faith by Hezekiah. Because of this, Isaiah the prophet predicted that all he had stored would be taken to Babylon where some of the King's sons would become officials of the palace of the King of Babylon. This was a prophecy of the Babylonian captivity which took place about 100 years later.

Hezekiah's descendants represented the Davidic kingdom and the line of Messiah. Their city, Jerusalem, was the place of the temple with the Shekinah glory. This represented the presence of God and was the place of God's worship. All of this represented God's reign and kingdom on earth. What does this mean?

Through the Babylonian captivity, Nebuchadnezzer invaded the land, destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the temple, and deported Judah's king. This was a product of God's judgment against Israel for her continued disobedience as He had predicted through the prophets, but nevertheless, the first kingdom that man had started, Babylon, literally attacked and destroyed the kingdom of God on earth. From this point in history, there has not been a king from the line of David sitting on the throne of David in Jerusalem.

In a sense, though temporary, this is the triumph of mankind over God's kingdom. The book of Daniel pictures this in the statue with King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon as the head of gold. This statue as described for us in Daniel 2 represents what our Lord referred to as "the times of the Gentiles."

So historically we see three things about Babylon:

  1. It begins as the place of man's rebellion through tyranny and a united world effort which God judged by the confusion of languages.

  2. It's also the instrument that seeks to take away the land promised by God to His people, the Israelites.

  3. It is the kingdom that destroys or at least disrupts God's kingdom here on earth and starts the times of the Gentiles, the time of Gentile domination.

13.2 The Destruction of Babylon by the Medo-Persian Empire in 539 B.C.

Cyrus, king of the Medo-Persian Empire, attacked Babylon in 539 B.C. (Isaiah 13:17-19; Daniel 5-6). When Cyrus conquered the city, he came suddenly and gained immediate control, but he did not destroy the city. Instead he beautified the city in 540 B.C. Hundreds of years later many Jews still lived at Babylon and a Jewish Talmud actually originated from there.

Most people think there's nothing left of Babylon, that the Bible says it should just be a haunt of jackals. No one can live there; no Arab will pitch his tent there. That's the view many people have of Iraq and Babylon.

However, in the twelfth century A.D. Babylon had grown and several mosques had been erected. Later a city by the name of Hillah was built there and in 1900 it had a population of ten thousand. The land around Babylon is fertile today and dates are grown in abundance. Other cities around the area of Babylon were built from the ruins of ancient Babylon; in fact the city of Hillah was built entirely from the ruins of Babylon. Bricks with the word "Babylon" stamped on them have been found as far away as Bagdad.

13.3 The Restoration of Babylon by Saddam Hussein

(Source: The Road to Armageddon, Chapter Five - Babylon: Iraq and the Coming Middle East Crisis, Word Publishing, 1999 Edition, by Charles Dyer)

Driving down a road in Iraq, you can see a giant portrait of Saddam Hussein. It's like a "Welcome to a City" sign, except they do the welcome signs with his picture. His picture is everywhere in Iraq. He has influenced that country, and he exploded on the world scene in 1990 when he invaded Kuwait. Most people don't realize that Saddam Hussein started rebuilding the city of Babylon shortly after he became ruler in Iraq in 1979. Eight years after that he held his first Babylon Festival.

One poster was every where through Baghdad. It shows a portrait of two individuals. The first is Saddam Hussein; the other is Nebuchadnezzar. If you could compare Saddam Hussein with Nebuchadnezzar, looking carefully at the eyes, the nose, and the lips, you would notice a similarity. Saddam Hussein had the poster drawn so that he and Nebuchadnezzar looked alike. His goal in holding the Babylon Festival was to wrap himself in the mantle of Nebuchadnezzar and the glories of ancient Babylon and to promote what he wants to do with the nation of Iraq today.

But since 1979 Saddam Hussein has been rebuilding the city of Babylon on its original foundations. While the foundation is still covered in sand in some places, the walls of Babylon are going up right beside them in others. The bricks at the bottom of the city were laid by Nebuchadnezzar twenty-five hundred years ago. It's an archeologist's nightmare, but Saddam Hussein is trying literally to build on the original foundations laid by King Nebuchadnezzar two and a half millenia ago.

Some of the temples and other buildings have been rebuilt. One of the temples, called the Ninmach Temple, was rebuilt on its original foundations. In 1987, all that was left of Nebuchadnezzar's Palace were just some scattered ruins and the gateway. The throne room had been rebuilt, but nothing else. One year later, the walls were entirely rebuilt around Nebuchadnezzar's Palace. In one year s time, over two-thirds of that palace had been restored.

Hussein finished the remainder of Nebuchadnezzar's Palace before the Gulf War. Even more exciting, Saddam Hussein has built one of his many palaces in Babylon on a hill constructed beside Nebuchadnezzar's Palace. Actually, Hussein has two palaces in Babylon and many others throughout Iraq. He built his palace so he could look down on Nebuchadnezzar's palace.

Another dwelling place that Saddam Hussein has in Babylon is called the Saddam Hussein Guest House. This building, by the way, is right next to the Euphrates River which to this day flows through Iraq and right through the heart of ancient Babylon. The Euphrates River is still there.

The one thing that's not dated from the time of King Nebuchadnezzar is a theater. It was built by Alexander the Great. He was rebuilding Babylon as the eastern capital for his empire when he died in the city. This theater was used for the opening night of the Babylon Festival. The performance began with some music and ended with a tribute to Ishtar, the mother god dess of Babylon, who was credited with bringing this eternal city back. A man bowed down before a woman who represented Ishtar as the words in French and Arabic and English extolled this eternal city's return under Saddam Hussein.

The city was never damaged in the Gulf War, and as soon as the war was over, Saddam Hussein continued building. Every September he holds the Babylon Festival, extolling what he's doing to rebuild the city of Babylon.

It is obvious from this recent information that Babylon was not destroyed suddenly nor completely. Instead, it continued to be inhabited after it was conquered and the land around her did not become desolate, but continued to be populated and fertile. This is a fact of history. Her ruins were used in building other cities.

13.4 Old Testament Prophecy About the Destruction of Babylon Has Not Been Fulfilled Completely

Some argue against the rebuilding of Babylon and claim that we must not take the references to Babylon in Revelation 18 too literally. They say this chapter refers to a spiritual Babylon, a city which will become the incarnation of ancient Babylon, but will not be a literal Babylon. They maintain Babylon has already been destroyed and Old Testament prophecy teaches us it will never be rebuilt. But let's consider the following prophetic facts about Babylon:

  1. The Bible predicts the destruction of Babylon will be final and complete (Jeremiah 50:35, 39-40; Isaiah 13:1, 19-22). These verses show that it will no more be inhabited and that its destruction will be as Sodom and Gomorrah with absolutely nothing left (Jeremiah 51:24-26). However, it continued to be inhabited, populated and fertile under the rule of Saddam Hussein.

  2. Scripture predicts that the destruction would be sudden and quick (Jeremiah 51:8). However, such destruction is not yet fulfilled.

  3. The Old Testament predicts this destruction will come in the "day of the Lord" (Isaiah 13:6-11; 13:1; 14:1-3; Jeremiah 50:1-6). However, the "day of the Lord" is not yet come.

  4. At the time of her destruction there will be a disturbance in the sun and moon (Isaiah 13:10). However, there is no disturbance in the sun or moon.

  5. Universal peace will result from the overthrow of Babylon (Isaiah 14:7-8). However, universal peace is not yet achieved.

  6. When Babylon's destroyed that will be the time when God restores His people Israel. "The LORD will have compassion on Jacob; once again he will choose Israel and settle them in their own land. Aliens will join them and unite with the house of Jacob. Nations will take them and bring them to their own place. And the house of Israel will possess the nations as menservants and maidservants in the LORD's land. They will make captives of their captors and rule over their oppressors" (Israel 14:1-2). You'll know when Babylon's destroyed, because its destruction signals the restoration of Israel, not just back to the land as a small scattered group, but as a nation that's ruling over those nations that once held them in captivity.

  7. A literal interpretation of Zechariah 5:5-11 demands a restored and rebuilt Babylon. These verses involve the vision of the "ephah." A woman called "wickedness" is seen sitting in an ephah measure, covered with a round piece of lead. An ephah to a Jew was a perfect symbol of commerce and was the largest dry measure of the Jews. The ephah is then borne away by two women with wings of a stork "to build for it an house in the land of Shinar" (the land of Babylon). This vision anticipates a final concentration of wickedness and commercialism in a great center in the land of Shinar (Babylon) which would reach out over the whole earth. This is the exact portrayal of Babylon as seen in Revelation 18.

The historical situation concerning Babylon shows much of the prophecies mentioned above have not been fulfilled and must await a final and complete fulfillment. The prophecy regarding Babylon is an illustration of dual reference with a partial (near) fulfillment versus a complete (far) fulfillment.

13.5 New Testament Prophecy About the Final Destruction of Babylon (Revelation 18)

The description of Babylon's destruction in Revelation 18 declares that:

  1. Babylon will be destroyed suddenly ("in one day her plagues will come” in Revelation 18:8; "for in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste" in Revelation 18:17).

  2. The destruction will be complete and final, "it shall be found no more at all" (Jeremiah 51:63-64); "So will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer" (Revelation 18:21).

  3. Babylon will be destroyed with fire from heaven as God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (Revelation 18:18; 16:17-21).

  4. Babylon's destruction will immediately precede the second coming of Christ, described in Revelation 19 (i.e. the "day of the Lord" is come).

  5. Universal peace will follow the destruction of Babylon (i.e. the establishment of Christ's Millennial Kingdom in Revelation 20).

All of this coincides exactly with the prophecies of the Old Testament and shows that Babylon must be rebuilt in the Tribulation in order to be destroyed as prophesied in "the day of the Lord."

13.6 Conclusion

As mentioned in the above Section 10.13.2, Rome may well be the religious Babylon of the world in the first half of the Tribulation, but I am convinced that Babylon on the Euphrates will be rebuilt and will be the commercial capital in the last half of the Tribulation. The Word of God is true and these prophecies still await a future fulfillment.

 

14. THE RETURN OF CHRIST WITH HIS CHRIST (THE REVELATION OF CHRIST)

(Reference: The Bible and Future Events, Chapter 8, pp. 141-147, Academie Books, Zondervan Corporation, 1973 Edition, by Leon J. Wood)

The Tribulation period is brought to a close by the coming of Christ in power to deliver the surviving Jews from the Antichrist. This coming is often called the revelation of Christ. It terminates not only the seven-year period, but also the rule of the Antichrist and the very existence of the restored Roman confederacy. It thus sets the stage for Christ to establish His own true rule of the world. With Satan's false ruler deposed, God's proper Ruler can take the throne. The aim of this section is to consider Scripture portions which tell of this coming of Christ and of the factors involved in making the transition from one rule to the other. It is divided into the following eight major divisions: 

  1. the return of Christ in Old Testament prophecy (Zechariah 14:3-4);

  2. the return of Christ in New Testament prophecy (Matthew 24:27-30; Revelation 19:11-21); and

  3. the relation of the return of Christ to the Great Tribulation;

  4. the return of Christ, a bodily and visible return;

  5. the return of Christ in relation to Zion;

  6. the purpose of the return of Christ is to judge the earth;

  7. the acceptance of Christ as Messiah by the Jews in Israel; and

  8. the chronological sequence of events for the return of Christ.

14.1 The Return of Christ in Old Testament Prophecy (Zechariah 14:3-4)

The first passage which speaks directly of Christ return in power is Zechariah 14:3-4.

In verse 3, continuing from a statement concerning the capture of Jerusalem by the Antichrist, declares, "Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle." This sets the time of Christ's coming as shortly after the complete subjugation of the city. Christ will wait until all seems hopeless for the Jews, and then come upon the scene. By this time, the Jews will realize that their own strength is insufficient. Their own defensive forces will be devastated. Their leadership, capable as it is today, will have proven inadequate. Their native ingenuity, of which they are presently so confident, will have been found lacking. Nothing will be left in which to find encouragement. By this time, too, the Antichrist will think himself completely adequate for any challenge. Having defeated all his enemies, he will think that his work lies behind him, with only the spoils of the recent war calling for any attention. On the actual day of Christ's arrival, the Antichrist will be gathered with his army, perhaps in a victory celebration, in the "valley of Jehoshaphat" (Joel 3:2, 12); a valley best identified with the Kidron, located between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. Then it will be, says the verse, that "the LORD shall go forth, and fight against" the nations gathered under the Antichrist's banner.

In verse 4, the specific place where Christ will return at this time is identified. It will be the Mount of Olives, from which He left nearly two thousand years ago. On that former occasion He was speaking to the disciples, when "a cloud received him out of their sight" (Acts 1:9). It is only fitting that He should return to the same place. The verse continues by speaking of a tremendous physical phenomenon, which will occur at His arrival: the cleaving of the mountain from east to west, as "half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south." Such an event, apparently coming just as Christ's feet touch the earth, will cause all witnesses to be enormously impressed. The power and authority of the One who has just arrived will be made strikingly clear, both to the enemy in the valley and to the Jews observing from Jerusalem.

14.2 The Return of Christ in New Testament Prophecy (Matthew 24:27-30; Revelation 19:11-21)

14.2.1 Matthew 24:27-30

The second passage to consider is Matthew 24:27-30, which falls within the Olivet Discourse. In this discourse, Christ relates the sequence of last-day events. There are two other records of the discourse; in these, the portions which parallel these verses in Matthew are Mark 13:24-26 and Luke 21:25-27. Just prior to this section of the discourse, Jesus speaks of the reality of the Tribulation period (Matthew 24:21) and of the claims of false christs who will then exist (Matthew 24:23-26). From these thoughts He moves on in the present section to describe His true appearance, indicating that it would be of a nature that could not be mistaken.

In verse 27, Christ states that His coming will be very noticeable, like the "lightning" coming "out of the east" and shining "even unto the west." When lightning spreads across the sky in this manner, it is indeed noticeable.

He emphasizes the point by an illustration in verse 28, speaking of the hunting eagles gathering wherever prey is to be found. When birds of prey circle overhead, they are noticeable to observers on the ground.

In verse 29, two points are made:

  1. The first is chronological. Christ's coming will be "immediately after the tribulation of those days." This is in accordance with other passages already studied.

  2. The other is phenomenological. Remarkable events will occur in respect to nature. The sun shall be darkened, "the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken." The effect of such events will be to draw men's attention and let them know assuredly that something of unusual importance is about to happen. God clearly will make the moment of Christ's arrival on earth very noticeable. Such events will also bring an attitude of awe and fear, which will provide a proper setting for Christ's arrival.

In verse 30, Christ introduces His actual coming with the words, "Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven." When these tremendous displays of nature have occurred, Christ will come. The word "sign" is best taken as roughly equivalent to the word "sight." The Antichrist, with his hosts, having seen the signs of nature, will suddenly look up and see the amazing "sight" of Christ approaching, accompanied by His hosts. Christ's hosts are consisting of angels and glorified saints (Revelation 19:14). The sight will prompt the "tribes of the earth" to mourn. Probably, this mourning will come mainly from the national groups assembled in the Antichrist's army, who will have reason to mourn and become concerned lest their victory be not so complete after all. The view of the coming of Christ "in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" will be reason enough for their anxiety.

14.2.2 Revelation 19:11-21

The third passage to note is the most informative of the three, Revelation 19:11-21. The passage falls in the book of Revelation after the descriptions of the Tribulation scenes involving the broken seals, the blown trumpets, and the poured-out vials of wrath. In the immediately preceding verses (Revelation 19:5-10), the marriage supper of the Lamb has been described." The time, then, is at the close of the seven-year period.

14.2.2.1 The coming in glory

In verses 11-16, the scene of Christ's actual descent to earth is depicted.

Verse 11 describes heaven being opened; from it a "white horse" comes forth, with One sitting on it called "Faithful and True." He is said to come in "righteousness" to "judge and make war." The rider on the horse is Christ, the only one who can be called "Faithful and True" in the ultimate sense.

Verse 12 describes His eyes as "a flame of fire," signifying keenness of insight and knowledge. He is adorned with "many crowns, showing the deserved honors that have been granted Him (cf. Revelation 4:10). The verse states further that "he had a name written, that no man knew." No clue is given for knowing what name is in reference, and no reason exists for conjecture.

Verse 13 indicates that his "vesture" appeared as if it had been "dipped in blood"; a reference either to Christ's work of blood-atonement, at His first coming, or to the shedding of blood in judgment of Antichrist's army, soon to be effected. The verse then gives another unmistakable name for Him, "The Word of God." See also the idea of Christ's treading the winepress in Revelation 19:15 (Isaiah 63:2-3; Revelation 14:20), which depicts the pouring out of God's wrath.

Verse 14 turns to the subject of those who accompany Christ. These also ride on "white horses" and are "clothed in fine linen, white and clean." Whiteness generally symbolizes purity in Scripture. This host, then, is pure from sin. Other passages indicate that the makeup of the host is twofold:

  1. the church, now glorified, judged, and married to the Lamb; and

  2. angels (Matthew 25:31) who come to render service as needed.

When one thinks of the total number of Christians from all centuries who will be in this group, besides the many angels probably involved, the size of the host takes on immense proportions. Certainly the appearance of this grand coming will be a sight to impress all observers on earth.

Verse 15 pictures Christ prepared for the coming judgment. "Out of his mouth" proceeds a "sharp sword, that with it he should smite" the army of the Antichrist, effecting complete dominance over him and his subjects "with a rod of iron." The figure of Christ treading out "the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God" shows strikingly the nature of this judgment. As men tread grapes in a winepress, bringing stains of the crushed grapes high on their garments, so will Christ tread out the blood of guilty men.

Verse 16 identifies a name written both on Christ's "vesture," already said to have been "dipped in blood," and on His "thigh": the name is "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS," the highest possible. Christ alone is worthy of it, and He is ascribed with it as He comes here in power on this momentous occasion.

14.2.2.2 The defeat of the Antichrist

The last five verses of the passage describe the defeat of the enemy host. The description shows two divisions.

The first part (vv. 17-18) is parenthetical in thought. It interrupts the story to state, by means of gruesome symbolism, that soon there will be a great number of dead bodies of men lying on the earth. The verses depict an angel crying with a loud voice for "all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven" to come to "the supper of the great God." This supper consists of human flesh. It is called the supper of God because it is God who provides it; that is, He brings about the deaths of the men whose bodies provide the food for the birds to eat. The bodies are set forth according to their rank in the army. There is the flesh first of "kings," those who had served under the Antichrist and had been his supporters from the beginning; then the flesh of "captains," the leading military figures under the kings; third, the flesh of "mighty men," vital in their service to the captains; fourth, the flesh of "horses, and of them that sit on them," the horsemen; and, lastly, the "flesh of all men," meaning all others, including footmen and assistants. The use of the word "all" is to say that none escape. All suffer extinction at the hand of Christ.

Verse 19 resumes the story, giving the second division of the section. It tells of the victory over the forces of the Antichrist, particularly setting the scene of the opposition Christ faces. This opposition consists of the "beast" (Antichrist), the "kings of the earth" under him, and their armies - a vast host of people. They are "gathered together to make war against" Christ and His army. The thought seems to be that the Antichrist and his forces, having been relaxing outside Jerusalem, look up now to see the approach of Christ's great throng; accordingly they quickly rise up and prepare to fight. The resulting conflict, however, if it can even be called that, is short-lived. The next verse moves on to tell of its results, and it does not mention any fighting at all.

In verse 20, the fate of both the beast and false prophet is first noted. These two leaders are cast directly, while still alive, into "a lake of fire burning with brimstone," meaning hell (cf. Daniel 7:11). The two, then, are not permitted even to pass the normal portals of death, apparently in the urgency for their consignment to eternal hell. Interestingly, they thus become the third and fourth persons in history who do not die; the first two were Enoch (Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11). But, in contrast to these great men of faith who were highly honored, the Antichrist and the False Prophet will be severely dishonored, for this action will only serve to bring them the more quickly to the punishment they deserve. This, then, is the reason why they are not listed in verse 18 among those providing food for the birds. They do not die as the others. This also is the "end" of the Antichrist to which Daniel referred (Daniel 11:45) when he said so correctly that there would be none to help him in that day. Note that the False Prophet is carefully identified, being described as the one who did miracles before the Antichrist. This lets the reader know that this man is truly the same as the one in Revelation 13:11-17, where he is similarly described.

Verse 21 tells of the fate of the armies of the Antichrist. They suffer a more normal end, being "slain," apparently as they stand together in the valley. The instrument Christ uses is said to be the "sword," noted both in verse 15 and now again as proceeding "out of his mouth." This probably is figurative language for Christ's voice of authority. That is, Christ's words will go forth like a sword of destruction to cause their deaths. This is the reason for the shortness of the conflict. The Antichrist's hosts rise to fight, but with swords only drawn and not used, they fall in death. Those in Christ's great army act only as observers, apparently not needing to fight at all. The last part of the verse returns to speak of the fowls. They are filled with the flesh for which they have been called to come and eat.

14.3 The Relation of the Return of Christ to the Great Tribulation

The second coming of Christ is clearly the climax of the Great Tribulation described in Revelation 6-18. In Christ's own description of his second coming, he indicates that is will be preceded by the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21-29). This period will be a time of great stress when many false christs will appear.

It is clear that the second coming of Christ is an answer to the rebellion of the nations that have chosen to follow a world ruler who is controlled by Satan rather than by Christ. This conclusion makes the suggestion of some that the second coming of Christ was fulfilled in A.D. 70 in connection with the destruction of Jerusalem totally unacceptable. Passages in the New Testament written after the destruction of Jerusalem, including the book of Revelation, clearly predict the Second Coming as a future event.

14.4 The Return of Christ, a Bodily and Visible Return

Though it is true that Christ is present everywhere indwells every Christian, bodily he has remained in heaven. At the second coming, He will return bodily to the earth. Just as the Ascension was a bodily ascension into heaven, so the second coming will be a bodily return to the earth. The angels who met the disciples after the ascension of Christ told them, "This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11). Jesus went into heaven bodily and visibly in the clouds. His second coming will have all these same characteristics.

Though there is a question as to whether the rapture of the church will be visible to the earth as a whole, the Scriptures clear that the second coming of Christ will be visible to all, believers and unbelievers. Matthew 24:27 describes it as lightning shining from the east to the west. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:30; Revelation 1:7).

14.5 The Return of Christ in Relation to Zion

The announcement of the angels that the second coming of Christ will be like the Ascension (Acts 1:11) will be confirmed when Christ returns to Mount Zion, the same area from which He ascended. As previously noted, when Christ returns, the Mount of Olives will be divided into two hills with a valley running east and west. This will change the area from which Christ ascended. Though Mount Zion is a short distance away, for all practical purposes, Jesus will return to the place from which he ascended (cf. Zechariah 14:4).

A number of Scriptures dwell on the fact that Christ is either coming to or coming from Mount Zion in his deliverance of the people of God at his second coming. He obviously will come to Mount Zion first and from this point proceed to go forth and achieve deliverance of those who will have been persecuted in the Great Tribulation. A number of Old Testament Scriptures bear witness to this (Psalm 14:7; 20:2; 53:6; 110:2; Isaiah 2:3; Joel 3:16; Amos 1:2). The Lord grants deliverance from Zion, but Scripture is not always clear whether this refers to history or prophecy. He is also said to be the Deliverer who will come out of Zion in Romans 11:26. Scriptures testify that Christ's government will be headquartered in Jerusalem in the millennial kingdom, and it is in keeping with this that his return will be to this point geographically.

14.6 The Purpose of the Return of Christ Is to Judge the Earth

According to Revelation 19:15, Christ's purpose is to judge the world: "Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. 'He will rule them with an iron scepter.' He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty." On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS (v. 16). The events that follow first portray the judgment on the enemies of God, then on the Antichrist and the False Prophet, and finally on Satan. Other Scriptures indicate that judgment will extend to the entire living population on the earth. In His second coming, Christ will terminate His time of waiting on the throne of God for the future subjugation of His enemies. He will then judge the world and bring everything under His authority and power. Noteworthy is the fact that there is no mention of the rapture of living saints in this sequence. This will have occurred at least 7 years before.

14.7 The Acceptance of Christ as Messiah by the Surviving Jews in Israel

The surviving Jews in Israel will accept Christ as their Messiah when He comes in power to deliver them. The Biblical evidences are as follows:

  1. In Zechariah 12:10, "And I will pour upon the house of David ... the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son." This mourning will evidently be in lament for what the Jews did to Christ at His first coming.

  2. In Zechariah 13:9, the result of the tribulation suffering will be that the people "shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God."

  3. In Ezekiel 36:24-31, after God' people have been gathered from all countries and brought to their own land, God will "sprinkle clean water" upon them, so that they will be clean from all filthiness and idols; He will also grant them "a new heart" and put His spirit within them. The result will be that the people will remember their "own evil ways" and "loathe" themselves for their iniquities and abominations.

  4. In Isaiah 25:9, "And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation."

  5. In Romans 11:26, "And so all Israel shall be saved." The time of this salvation will be when "there shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob."

These and similar passages make clear that the surviving Jews in Israel will give their allegiance, apparently unanimously, to Christ as their Messiah. As has been seen, many will already have done this prior to Christ's coming in power. The others will do so when they witness the wondrous deliverance Christ effects for them from the control of the Antichrist.

14.8 The Chronological Sequence of Events for the Return of Christ

The chronological sequence of events of the return of Christ may be summarized as follows:

  1. The time of Christ's coming will be just as the Antichrist has brought Israel to its point of lowest humiliation, with two-thirds of the people killed and Jerusalem fully in ruins. The Antichrist will be with his vast army in the valley of Jehoshaphat (probably the Kidron, at the foot of the Mount of Olives), thinking that his victory is complete and relaxing in the glow of accomplishment.

  2. Suddenly, Antichrist and his host, along with the defeated Jews who survive in the city of Jerusalem, will witness miraculous changes in nature in respect to the sun, moon, and stars, which will alert all observers that something of major importance is about to occur.

  3. Then these people will view the grand spectacle of Christ coming in glory, along with His enormous throng, approaching the earth from above, all in the dazzling whiteness of purity.

  4. They will witness the arrival of this host on the Mount of Olives, at which time they will be amazed by a sudden movement of the mountain, as a gaping valley is formed, running through it from east to west.

  5. About this time, the Antichrist will issue orders for his troops to prepare for battle against this heavenly army. It would seem that these troops, being only mortal and sinful, in such contrast to the pure-white host from heaven, would not want to fight; but apparently they still will obey and rise as commanded.

  6. Having risen, however, they will not have any opportunity to fight. Even as they make their preparations, they will witness the miraculous removal of their two main leaders, the Antichrist and the False Prophet, and they themselves will fall in death.

  7. The Antichrist and the False Prophet, having been snatched from their army, will find themselves cast into the torment of eternal hell, without having been taken through the normal portal of death.

  8. The many bodies of the slain troops will lie exposed on the open field, available as food for birds.

  9. Christ and His twofold army will not be involved in actual fighting, but will remain victorious on the Mount of Olives, over looking the scene of death stretched in the valley below. They will also be in sight of the capital city, Jerusalem, then in ruins but soon to become the leading city of the world.

  10. The surviving Jews in Israel will accept Christ as their Messiah when He comes in power to deliver them.

 

15. THE BINDING OF SATAN

Another event which will occur prior to the inauguration of the millennial age is the binding of Satan. In Revelation 20:1-3 John says that Satan will be rendered inactive for a thousand years after Christ's second coming:

"And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time" (Revelation 20:1-3).

The passage speaks of an angel coming down from heaven, with a key to the "abyss" or "bottomless pit" (Greek, abussou, "abyss") and a "great chain in his hand." With the latter the angel binds Satan, called here by four terms, "dragon," "serpent," "Devil," and "Satan," apparently as a way of making a positive identification. The angel then casts him into the "abyss," where he is kept securely for one thousand years, the duration of the Millennium. At the end of the Millennium, Satan is let loose for "a little season," when he goes forth again to "deceive the nations" (Revelation 20:8). He is somewhat successful at first, being able to gather an army to move against the forces of God. However, fire is sent from God, the army is devoured, and Satan himself is cast into "the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are" (Revelation 20:10).

15.1 The Purpose of Binding Satan Before the Millennium

The fact of Satan's binding before the Millennium begins is presented in Revelation 20:1-3. During the present age, Satan has freedom to move about as he wishes, promoting his interests and hindering the program of God. This manner of freedom is out of keeping with the idea of the Millennium, however. The Millennium will be characterized by truth and righteousness, when the "earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9).

The extent of Satan's influence in the world today is little recognized. Though he is himself not omnipresent, he has hosts of demons who stand ready to serve him. Either directly, or through these helpers, he is able to bring enormous influence on the course of world affairs. Paul realized this and warned the Ephesians accordingly, saying, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12). It is in recognition of this fact that God confines Satan and his host during the thousand years of the Millennium.

Satan will experience an enormous change when he is forced to leave the freedom he enjoyed during the Tribulation period and come to this complete confinement of the Millennium. During the seven-year period, he will witness his plans and goals being achieved on every hand, as he wields extensive control over the Antichrist and those who assist him. During the thousand-year period, however, he will see only the plans and goals of Christ being brought to pass, as he remains imprisoned in chains.

15.2 The Amillennial View Is Wrong  

To understand this prophecy, it is very important to notice the details. This prediction, like many others, has been tampered with by the amillenarians who have attempted to make the hinding of Satan begin with the first coming of Christ. This is not supported by either Scripture or experience. Satan is very much alive and well and still going around tempting, destroying, and murdering, as the Scriptures testify. The context here is the second coming of Christ and the series of judgments clearly will result from it, as itemized in Revelation 19.

One must distinguish between what John saw and the interpretation that was given to him. What he saw was an angel with a great chain binding Satan and throwing him into the Abyss (or called  the "bottomless pit") - that is, the natural home of the demon world - then locking the door and sealing it so that it would be impossible for anyone to enter or leave. God used illustrative language here to make clear to readers that Satan is not going to be loose in the Millennium to do any tempting. Apparently the entire demon world will also be shackled. In addition to seeing the vision, John was also told the meaning of it - that Satan would inactive for the thousand years following the Second Coming.

Visions must be interpreted, but one is not free to change the factual revelation of the purpose of the binding of Satan. Because this destroys the amillennial point of view, its adherents have vigorously resisted accepting this passage. Nevertheless, it is plain that the second coming of Christ will usher in millennial kingdom rather than bring it to its conclusion. It is also clear that Satan's binding will begin with the second coming of Christ and continue until the end of the thousand years.

 

16. THE RESURRECTIONS OF TRIBULATION MARTYRS AND OLD TESTAMENT SAINTS

Sometime between the exact close of the Tribulation and the beginning of the millennial age, another resurrection of saints will occur. This will be a resurrection both of Tribulation saints, whether Jews or Gentiles, who have died during the Tribulation period, and also of Old Testament saints. Two Biblical passages call for discussion:

  1. the resurrection of Tribulation martyrs (Revelation 20:4-6); and

  2. the resurrection of Old Testament saints (Daniel 12:1-2, 13).

16.1 The Resurrection of Tribulation Martyrs (Revelation 20:4-6)

"I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years (Revelation 20:4). The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection (Revelation 20:5). Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years (Revelation 20:6)."

The thought of Revelation 20:4-6 is that those who have been "beheaded for the witness of Jesus" during the Tribulation time, and have not "worshipped the beast" nor received his "mark upon their foreheads," will be raised again to live and reign "with Christ a thousand years." Verse 6 ascribes blessedness and holiness to these raised ones, saying that the "second death" will have no power over them, to make them experience the torment of eternal hell. The verse also repeats the statement that they will reign with Christ for a thousand years.

16.1.1 Countless believers in the Great Tribulation will be martyred

According to the book of Revelation many believers in the Great Tribulation will die for their faith. Contrary to the sanguine predictions of posttribulationists, who say the church will go through the Great Tribulation unharmed, Revelation 7:9-17 makes clear that countless individuals will come to Christ after the Rapture but will be martyred because of their refusal to worship the world ruler (Revelation 13:15). The role of believers in the Great Tribulation will be more difficult than that of the unsaved. While both will be subject to the same catastrophic judgments - such as earthquakes, famine, pestilence, war, and others - believers will have the additional problem of being the objects of hatred by Satan and by the Antichrist, the world ruler. When Satan, depicted as a dragon, is cast out of heaven at the beginning of the three-and-a-half-year Great Tribulation, he will express unusual rage and power toward those who trust Christ in the Great Tribulation. He will be enraged against Israel and all "those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus" (Revelation 12:17).

16.1.2 The resurrection of Tribulation martyrs will occur after the Second Coming of Christ and before the Millennium

A number of facts stand out in this passage:

  1. This is not a general resurrection of all saints, but rather of a particular group, namely, the saved of the Tribulation who will die as martyrs in that period.

  2. They will be resurrected so they can reign with Christ for a thousand years. This indicates their resurrection will occur before the Millennium, not during or after it.

  3. Their resurrection will occur after the Second Coming (Revelation 20:4-6 follows Christ's return in Revelation 19:11-21), not before or at the time of His second coming. This is another reason for rejecting the posttribulational view that the Rapture will occur just before or at the Second Coming. The fact that this special resurrection will occur after the Second Coming makes clear that no rapture of living saints will occur at the Second Coming.

  4. The timing of this resurrection of Tribulation martyrs provides convincing proof for Premillennialism, the view that Christ will come to earth before His thousand-year reign.

Amillenarians say Revelation 20:4-6 depicts the new birth of believers, but this has no correspondence to what the Biblical text says. The people spoken of here will be believing martyrs, not the unsaved. Also their resurrection is to physical life, not to a spiritual rebirth. This is made clear in verse 5, which speaks of "the rest of the dead." In addition, to say this refers to people being born again throughout the ages overlooks the sequence of events in Revelation 19-20:

  1. the return of Christ;

  2. the binding of Satan for a thousand years;

  3. the resurrection of Tribulation martyrs;

  4. the one-thousand-year reign of Christ; and

  5. the resurrection of the wicked dead to the Great White Throne Judgment.

16.1.3 The meaning of "the first resurrection"

Revelation 20:4-6 speaks of this resurrection as the "first resurrection." The question arises as to how this occasion can be called "first" when the resurrection of church saints will have transpired seven years earlier.

The answer is that the term "first" is used more to characterize the occasion as to kind, namely a resurrection of the righteous, than as to number in sequence. In other words, this resurrection is "first" in the sense of being "before" the resurrection of the wicked dead that will occur "later' that is, at the end of the Millennium. The point of the term "the first resurrection" is that it is first, not in the sense of being number one or prior to all resurrections, but in the sense that it occurs before the final resurrection, the resurrection of the wicked at the Great White Throne Judgment.

In ordinary conversation we often say we will do something "first," not because it is the first time we will have ever done it, but because it will precede a later event. The first resurrection, which has several phases, is of one group of people, the saved, and the second resurrection (Revelation 20:11-15) is of another group, the unsaved.

To use the term "first resurrection" to refer to the new birth, as amillenarians do in evading the teaching of this passage on the millennial kingdom, or to refer to it as the Rapture, as posttribulationists do, based on the idea that there could not be a resurrection before this, are both inadequate explanations of the expression. The doctrine of resurrection falls into place when one recognizes that that there is a series of resurrections in Scripture, beginning with the resurrection of Christ and ending with the resurrection of the wicked. In series the resurrection of the martyred dead of the Great Tribulation is resurrection number five and is probably about the same time as the resurrection of the Old Testament saints. The resurrection of the wicked is the last resurrection.

Though there are numerous restorations to life in both the Old and New Testaments, resurrection in the sense of being given a resurrection body that will last forever did not occur until Jesus Christ was raised from the dead.

Actually, there are other occasions of the "first resurrection," including:

  1. The first resurrection is the resurrection of Christ (Matthew 28:1-7; Mark 16:1-11; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-18). Christ was resurrected as the Firstfruits (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23).

  2. The second resurrection is recorded in Matthew 27:50-53. The Scriptures declare that when the earthquake occurred at the time of Christ's resurrection, tombs were broken open and bodies of holy people who had died were raised to life. Later, after Christ was raised from the dead, a number of these individuals were seen in Jerusalem. A large number of saints were resurrected, so that they might walk for a time in Jerusalem as living credentials of the authenticity of Christ's resurrection. It is commonly accepted that these were later taken directly to heaven with glorified bodies.

  3. The third resurrection will occur in connection with the Rapture of the Church (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:50-53). At the Rapture "the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). This resurrection apparently refers to everyone who is baptized into the body of Christ from the Day of Pentecost until the Rapture.

  4. The fourth resurrection will occur when the "two witnesses," discussed in the previous Sections 5.8.3 and 10.11.7.4, will arise from the streets of Jerusalem and be taken to glory at the mid-point of the Tribulation period (Revelation 11:3-12).

  5. The fifth resurrection is described in Revelation 20:4-6. This resurrection has to do with the martyred dead of the Great Tribulation. If the resurrection at the Rapture covers all of the saints of the present age since Pentecost, this resurrection relates to the saints who will die in the period between the Rapture and the Second Coming. This will include the martyred dead that are mentioned here specifically. It is amazing how scholars have ignored the plain statement of this passage and tried to make it a general resurrection of all the dead or even make it a reference to the new birth of the believer at the time of his faith in Christ. The Scriptures here show plainly that this resurrection refers to a particular class of people who will be raised in connection with the second coming of Christ.

  6. The sixth resurrection will be that of the Old Testament saints. There are three references in the Old Testament that speak specifically of the resurrection of the Old Testament saints:

    1. The first prediction of this resurrection is found in Isaiah 26:19: "But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead."

    2. The second prediction is found in Ezekiel 37 in connection with the restoration of the children of Israel. Though the figure is largely that of the restoration of the nation of Israel, bodily resurrection is also mentioned in verses 13-14: "Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you an will live, and I will settle you in your own land."

    3. The third prediction is found in Daniel 12:1-2. This resurrection will come at the close of the Tribulation period described in Daniel 11:36-45: "There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people - everyone whose name is found written in the book - will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlas contempt" (Daniel 12:1-2). The resurrection is mentioned specifically in the verse that follows. Though the chronological arrangement of this passage in relation to the resurrection of the Tribulation dead is not given in Scripture, it is probable that this will immediately follow the resurrection of the Tribulation martyrs.

  7. The fifth resurrection will occur when millennial saints will rise at the close of the thousand-year period. Though no Scripture portion can be cited as evidence of this resurrection, but the inference is clear enough. If millennial saints are to have a part in eternal blessings, along with saints of prior ages, there will have to be a time of resurrection for them as for the others. The resurrection of millennial saints, accordingly, will be in the seventh and final resurrection of the righteous.

  8. The last resurrection has to do with the judgment of the Great White Throne as recorded in Revelation 20:11-15. In this resurrection all the wicked dead, who up to this time have been in Hades, will be resurrected and cast into the Lake of Fire.

The order of these eight resurrections should make plain that the resurrection of Revelation 20:5-6 is not first in the sense of being before all previous resurrections.

16.2 The Resurrection of Old Testament Saints (Daniel 12:1-2, 13)

"There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people - everyone whose name is found written in the book - will be delivered (Daniel 12:1). Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2) ... As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance (Daniel 12:13)."

16.2.1 The resurrection of Old Testament saints will occur after the Great Tribulation and before the Millennium

The time of the resurrection of Old Testament saints is given in Daniel 12:1. There are four reasons to support that the resurrection of Old Testament saints will occur after the Great Tribulation:

  1. After Israel's "time of distress," that is the Tribulation, believing Israelites "will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt." This shows that the resurrection of Old Testament saints will occur after the Great Tribulation because the "time of [Israel's] distress" should be interpreted as the Great Tribulation period (see Jeremiah 30:7; Matthew 24:21). The exact time is not given, but it is probable that this will immediately follow the resurrection of the Tribulation martyrs, mentioned in Revelation 20:4-6.

  2. From Daniel 12:1 alone, one would not recognize that it is speaking of saints who lived and died during Old Testament time, but a comparison with Daniel 12:13 shows that it must be. In Daniel 12:13, the prophet Daniel is told by God to rest content with what he then knows in respect to the last days; he should do this until the last days would actually come, for at that time he would "rise to receive his allotted inheritance at the end of the days." In view of the context, the time in reference must be the close of the Tribulation, which means that Daniel is promised a resurrection at that time, when he would inherit his "lot." It is obvious that the "allotted inheritance" is the blessing of the millennial kingdom. If Daniel is to be raised at this time, logic says that other Old Testament saints will be as well.

  3. A further reason for placing the resurrection of Old Testament saints after the Great Tribulation, rather than at the Rapture of the Church, follows from the general characterization of the Tribulation period. This period will have more in common with Old Testament time than the church age preceding. In the church age today, Jews who turn to Christ are made one with Gentiles in the unified body of Christ. Jews of the Tribulation period, however, who turn to Christ, will do so as members of the Jewish nation, quite as in Old Testament time. Also, Gentiles will be judged at the close of the period on the basis of their manner of treatment of Jews during the time, thus distinguishing them further from Jews. Therefore, to have both Old Testament and Tribulation Jews raised at this same posttribulational moment would group together saints who had a similar background.

  4. Some say Old Testament saints will be resurrected at the Rapture, but those who are raised at the Rapture are referred to as "the dead in Christ" (1 Thessalonians 4:16). This phrase seems to relate to those who are baptized into the body of Christ, a work of God that began on the Day of Pentecost and is peculiar to the present age of the church. Accordingly, it seems that the resurrection of the church will be a selective resurrection This is indicated in Paul's statement in Philippians 3:11 of his desire "to attain to the resurrection from the dead." Obviously Paul believed in a selective rather than a general resurrection of the righteous. A careful search of all the resurrection passages indicates that while every righteous person who has died will be resurrected in time to participate in the millennial kingdom, even the resurrection of the righteous is not accomplished in one resurrection but in a series of resurrections.

This is not to say that only Jews will be involved in this time of resurrection. The stress in Daniel 12:2 is clearly on Jews, for their time of trouble during the Tribulation has been the subject of the preceding discussion, but nothing in the verse or context precludes that Gentiles will have a part. It could be presumed, rather, that they will, whether they are Gentiles of Old Testament time or the Tribulation period; the former passage noticed, Revelation 20:4-6, calls quite clearly for this to be the case.

16.2.2 The righteous will be resurrected one thousand years earlier than the wicked

"Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt" (Daniel 12:2). Daniel 12:2 should not be taken to mean that both righteous and wicked are raised at this time because Revelation 20:5 states definitely that "the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished."

It is not at all unusual for the Old Testament in prophecy to include events separated by a considerable span of time as if they concurred in immediate relation to each other. The passing over of the entire present Church Age - the period between the first and second advents of Christ - in such passages as Isaiah 61:1-2 is similar to all expositors of the Old Testament. Here is another illustration. The correct interpretation is that the righteous will be raised as a reward for their faith and faithfulness, but the wicked who die are warned concerning their final judgment.

16.3 Conclusion

These descriptions of the resurrections show that before the Millennium all the righteous dead will have been raised in one resurrection or another and will enter the millennial kingdom in their resurrection bodies. Only the wicked will remain in their graves to be subject to resurrection at the end of the millennial kingdom.

 

17. THE JUDGMENTS AT THE SECOND COMING (REVELATION) OF CHRIST

Many attempts have been made by Christian scholars to merge all the judgments at the Second Coming (Revelation) of Christ into one great judgment. However, careful attention to the details relating to various judgments of Scripture reveal that while everyone will be judged, not everyone will be judged at the same time or in the same way.

Prior to the Second Coming of Christ, there was judgment on Christ when he hung on the cross as a sacrifice for the sin of the whole world. His sacrificial death made it possible for God to extend forgiveness and righteousness to those who trust in Christ as Savior and Lord. As has been brought out previously, after the Rapture believers of the Church Age will go to the Judgment Seat of Christ where they will be judged and rewarded according to their works.

With the defeat and removal of the Antichrist and his supporting people, the way will be cleared for the establishment of Christ's millennial kingdom. However, between the moment of the Antichrist's defeat and the actual inauguration of the millennial reign, the following judgments will necessarily take place:

  1. the judgment of the Tribulation martyrs;

  2. the judgment of the resurrected Old Testament saints;

  3. the judgment of living Jews; and

  4. the judgment of living Gentiles.

17.1 The Judgment of the Tribulation Martyrs

"I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years" (Revelation 20:4).

17.1.1 The participants

This is clearly a specific judgment of a certain portion of those who have died, that is, believers who were beheaded by the world ruler. This does not mean all saints of all ages, nor is this a group of church saints, for they will have been raptured seven years earlier (and of course not all church saints are martyred). In the Tribulation many people will accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour and many of them will be killed, either because of their refusal to worship the Beast or because of the worldwide catastrophes. At Christ's second coming, all the Tribulation martyrs will be raised from the dead.

17.1.2 The judges

According to the Lord Jesus Himself, the Father has committed all judgment to the Son. He will judge fairly and according to the will of the Father (cf. John 5:21-23, 27). During His earthly ministry, Jesus was not impressed nor was He influenced by the wealth, power or status of anyone. And this will be true of His judgments in the future (cf. Isaiah 11:4-5). When the nations gather before Him they can be sure that they come before One who sees all and knows all and cannot be fooled, deceived, or bribed (Revelation 1:14; 2:18; 3:7). He will make no mistakes, and there will be no miscarriage of justice when He invites some to enter His kingdom and prohibits others from doing so.

The individuals seated on thrones with "authority to judge" (Revelation 20:4) are not identified. Possibly they will be Jesus and His apostles, who, Jesus said, "will eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Luke 22:30). The apostles will assist the Lord Jesus Christ to carry out all judgments in the end times.

These judges will evaluate the Tribulation martyrs and determine that they should "come to 1ife," that is, be given resurrection bodies and reign with Christ for a thousand years as His priests.

17.1.3 The purpose

Though it is not stated in so many words here in Revelation 20, it is obvious that, having been raised from the dead, the Tribulation saints receive their final reward at this judgment.

17.1.4 The criteria

The criteria of the judgment are as follows:

  1. had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God;

  2. had not worshiped the beast or his image; and

  3. had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands.

In other words, those who had worshipped the beast and received his mark on their foreheads will not be qualified to participate in this resurrection and judgment.

17.1.5 The rewards

Hebrews 9:27 says, "man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment." As with the church, which was raptured, others will be judged at the time of their resurrection. The reward of the Tribulation martyrs will be that, inasmuch as they have suffered for Christ, they will reign with Christ. This is brought out in 2 Timothy 2:12, "If we endure, we will also reign with him." Suffering relates to this life, reward to the life to come. "Blessed and ho1y" they will have a special relationship to Christ in the millennial kingdom, sharing in His reign (Revelation 20:6). The Tribulation martyrs will join the church in reigning with Christ on earth.

They will be resurrected and given gloried bodies. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven (Matthew 22:23-29). Therefore, they will not produce any descendants in the millennial kingdom.

17.2 The Judgment of the Resurrected Old Testament Saints

"Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousnes like the stars for ever and ever" (Daniel 12:2-3).

17.2.1 The participants

Old Testament saints will be raised at the time of the Second Coming of Christ, as stated in Daniel 12:2: "Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt." The resurrection and judgment here extended to all the saved of the Old Testament, whether Jews or Gentiles, all who were not resurrected at the time of the Rapture.

In Daniel 12:3, it is significant that no mention is made of the punishment of the wicked. Their resurrection and judgment will not occur until a thousand years later, according to Revelation 20:5.

17.2.2 The judges

Again, the judges will be Jesus and His apostles.

17.2.3 The purpose

The purpose is to evaluate the Old Testament saints so that they will be given resurrection bodies and reign with Christ for a thousand years.

17.2.4 The criteria

The principle of judgment is basically what they have done for God. They are described as "lead many to righteousness" in that they are able to help the other people in their generations to come to God. That is, they are faithful servants of God. They are also described as "wise" in that they are able to see through the unbelief and wickedness of their generation and put their confidence in the unseen eternal values of their faith. They behaved themselves wisely; that is, they were obedient to God.

In summary, the criteria of the judgment are as follows:

  1. faithful service; and

  2. obedient.

17.2.5 The rewards

In addition to receiving eternal life itself (Daniel 12:2), they will be rewarded by glorification (Daniel 12:3). Their reward is that they will shine with the same glory as the heavens and fulfill the same function to "declare the glory of God" (Psalm 19:1).

They will be resurrected and given gloried bodies. Therefore, they will not produce any descendants in the millennial kingdom (cf. Matthew 22:23-29).

17.3 The Judgment of Living Jews

Jews living in Israel now, though they have been regathered to their land, are not its ultimate residents. The fact that some Israelites now reside in the Holy Land, however, is prophetically significant because Israel's existence as a political state is necessary for the fulfillment of the seven-year covenant the Antichrist will make with them (Daniel 9:27).

At the time of the Second Coming (Revelation) of Christ, there will be left in the world many living Jews as well as living Gentiles. Though many Jews will have been martyred in the Tribulation and then raised at the Second Coming, living Jews will need to survive the purging judgments relative to their qualifications to enter into the millennial kingdom.

17.3.1 Bible prophecies regarding the regathering of Jews to the land of Israel

According to the following Biblical passages, when Christ returns, Jews who are alive at that time will be regathered to the land of Israel:

  1. "God will gather the exiles of Israel and assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth" (Isaiah 11:12).

  2. "So then, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when people will no longer say, As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt, but they will say, As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the descendants of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them. Then they will live in their own land" (Jeremiah 23:7-8).

  3. "Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will now bring Jacob back from captivity and will have compassion on all the people of Israel, and I will be zealous for my holy name. They will forget their shame and all the unfaithfulness they showed toward me when they lived in safety in their land with no one to make them afraid. When I have brought them back from the nations and have gathered them from the countries of their enemies, I will show myself holy through them in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God, for though I sent them into exile among the nations, I will gather them to their own land, not leaving any behind" (Ezekiel 39:25-28).

  4. Also at the time of the Second Coming, Ezekiel tells us the Promised Land will be divided into twelve sections, one for each of the tribes of Israel. "You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel" (Ezekiel 47:21). There follows in Ezekiel 48 the description of each of these twelve sections of the Holy Land. In this way God will fulfill the promise to Abraham that his posterity will inherit the land, and as long as the earth lasts Israel will possess the portion of the Holy Land promised to them.

17.3.2 Bible prophecies regarding the judgment of living Jews

Regarding the judgment of living Jews, the following two Biblical passages are significant:

  1. Ezekiel 20:33-38, 40, 43; and

  2. Malachi 3:1-5.

17.3.2.1 Ezekiel 20:33-38, 40, 43

"As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I will rule over you with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath (verse 33). I will bring you from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered - with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath (verse 34). I will bring you into the desert (or wilderness) of the nations and there, face to face, I will execute judgment upon you (verse 35). As I judged your fathers in the desert (or wilderness) of the land of Egypt, so I will judge you, declares the Sovereign LORD (verse 36). I will take note of you as you pass under my rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant (verse 37). I will purge you of those who revolt and rebel against me. Although I will bring them out of the land where they are living, yet they will not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD" (verse 38) ... For on my holy mountain, the high mountain of Israel, declares the Sovereign LORD, there in the land the entire house of Israel will serve me, and there I will accept them (verse 40) ... There you will remember your conduct and all the actions by which you have defiled yourselves, and you will loathe yourselves for all the evil you have done (verse 43).

In this passage the prophet Ezekiel speaks of a judgment. He states that the Jews in question will be judged (Hebrew, shaphat The Hebrew shaphat is the usual word for the idea "to judge" all through the Old Testament.) by God in "desert" or "the wilderness" (v. 35), as God judged the "fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt" (v. 36). He adds that God will cause these people to pass under His rod and will bring them "into the bond of the covenant" (v. 37). Some will thus be purged out as rebels, namely those who transgressed against the LORD; they will not be permitted to enter "the land of Israel" (v. 38).

The prophet's intention is to draw a parallel between Israel's experience in the wilderness, when the people travelled from Egypt to Canaan, and this future time of the return of Jews from the various outside countries. As Israelites were judged earlier, due to their unbelief especially at Kadesh-barnea (Numbers 13-14), and made to wander and die in the wilderness as punishment, never entering the Promised Land, so these Jews of the future, who wish to return to Israel, will be judged, with at least some being turned back as rebels and kept from entering the land.

17.3.2.2 Malachi 3:1-5

"See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the LORD Almighty (verse 1). But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap (verse 2). He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness (verse 3), and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years (verse 4). So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me, says the LORD Almighty" (verse 5).

The portion presents Christ, "the messenger of the covenant" (v. 1), as one who brings judgment like a "refiner's fire" (v. 2). This characterization fits Christ well at this posttribulational time of judgment (see Revelation 1:14-15; 19:12). Those judged are said to be "the sons of Levi"; the purpose of the judgment is to prompt these "sons" to "offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness" (v. 3). A special reference certainly is intended to priests and Levites of the day, those literally descended from Levi; they will be required to perform sacrifice and offering at the rebuilt Temple in the proper manner. In a broader sense, however, it would seem that Jews in general are also in view, to the end that they might present an "offering in righteousness" to the LORD, in the sense of exhibiting righteous conduct in their personal lives. In His millennial kingdom, Christ will require righteous lives on the part of all citizens.

17.3.3 The time

The time of this judgment will occur at the close of the Tribulation period. The reasons are as follows:

  1. The passage concerns a general time when God will rule over the Jews (Ezekiel 20:33).

  2. This time will be when Jews are brought back from countries where they have been scattered (Ezekiel 20:34).

  3. It will be a time when all Jews in the land will serve God and be accepted of Him (Ezekiel 20:40).

  4. It will be a time when they will loathe themselves because of their previous sinfulness (Ezekiel 20:43).

The only time in history when all this will be true will be following the close of the Tribulation period.

17.3.4 The place

The place of this judgment will be the "desert" or "wilderness" outside the land of Israel (Ezekiel 20:35-36).

17.3.5 The participants

A few passages speak of Jews being judged at this time, with many being counted as rebels. How can these passages be fitted with the ones just noticed in Section 14.7 which depict the Jews of Israel, as a group, accepting Christ (Zechariah 12:10; 13:9; Ezekiel 36:24-31; Isaiah 25:9; Romans 11:26)?

The answer is as follow:

  1. At the beginning of the Great Tribulation many Israelites will flee from the land of Israel (Matthew 24:15-22). Then when Christ returns, Israelites who are alive at that time will be regathered to the land of Israel and judged.

  2. Today many Jews live in countries other than Israel, especially in the United States. Many of them will apparently want to transfer their residence to Israel at this end-time.

17.3.6 The judge

Again, the judges will be Jesus and His apostles.

17.3.7 The purpose

The main purpose in the judgment of living Jews is whether they are worthy to enter the millennial kingdom. In other words, only the righteous or godly remnant of Israel (i.e. true believers in Christ) will be allowed to enter the millennial kingdom (Ezekiel 20:33-38; Malachi 3:1-5; cf. Matthew 25:1-13). Apparently there will also be rewards for those who have been faithful (cf. Matthew 25:14-30).

This judgment, like other judgments relating to the Second Coming, makes plain that after the judgments at the beginning of the Millennium the entire remaining adult population will be true believers of Christ. Obviously this does not apply to children who have not reached the age of responsibility, but all those who are responsible for their salvation who have not trusted Christ will be put to death at the beginning of the Millennium and will have their final judgment at the end of the Millennium at the Great White Throne Judgment.

17.3.8 The criteria

The theme of Matthew 25:1-13 is that of preparedness for the coming of the Lord. Those who are wicked will be assigned a place of judgment and death at the time of the Second Coming. Those who are righteous will enter into the kingdom blessing. This is indicated in the parable of the ten virgins. The five virgins who are prepared join the wedding procession of Christ and His church and participate in the wedding feast and the millennial kingdom that follows.

In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), when the lord comes back, the principle of reward is carried out, and those faithful servants who had the five talents and the two talents will be rewarded with additional responsibilities, as will be true in the millennial kingdom. On the other hand, the man with one talent, depicting one who had the possibility of salvation and reward but lost it through unbelief and wickedness, will be put to death and excluded from the kingdom.

In summary, the criteria of the judgment are as follows:

  1. preparedness; and

  2. faithfulness.

17.3.9 The reward

The godly remnant of Israel (i.e. true believers in Christ) will be allowed to enter the millennial kingdom (Ezekiel 20:33-38; Malachi 3:1-5; cf. Matthew 25:1-13) while the rebels will be purged. They will enter the millennial kingdom in their normal physical body instead of resurrected glorified bodies. Therefore, they will continue to have marriages and descendants in the millennial kingdom.    

17.4 The Judgment of Living Gentiles

Some Gentiles who have turned to Christ in the Great Tribulation will survive that awful time and will be on the earth when Christ returns. Other Gentiles who reject Christ in the Great Tribulation (Revelation 16:9, 11, 21) will be alive at Christ's second coming. The days immediately after the return of Christ will witness also a time of judgment for Gentiles.

17.4.1 Bible prophecy regarding the judgment of living Gentiles

The judgment of these believing and unbelieving Gentiles is recorded in Matthew 25:31-46:

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory (verse 31). All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats (verse 32). He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left (verse 33). Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world (verse 34). For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in (verse 35), I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me (verse 36).' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink (verse 37)? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you (verse 38)? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you (verse 39)?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me (verse 40).' Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (verse 41). For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink (verse 42), I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me (verse 43). They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you (verse 44)?' He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me (verse 45).' Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life (verse 46)."

Christ is described as comes "in his glory" (v. 1). The following judgment, then, must take place at the close of the Tribulation.

At that time, He shall "sit on his throne in heavenly glory," judging "all nations" gathered before Him, separating "sheep" from "goats" like a shepherd (v. 32). Believing Gentiles are likened to sheep, and unsaved Gentiles are called goats. Christ is like a sheperd to separate the righteous from the unrighteous.

The Greek word for "nations" is ethnos, which can be translated "Gentiles" as well as "nations," and should be so translated here. God's judgment is on an individual basis, not national. Those individuals judged to be "sheep" are permitted to "inherit the kingdom," meaning, in the light of the context, the millennial kingdom (v. 34).

Those judged to be "goats" are sentenced to "everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (v. 41). This last reference indicates that the issue concerns not only the identity of kingdom inhabitants, but also the later and eternal inhabitants of heaven (v. 46).

Most of the passage is concerned with the nature of the test used in making the judgment. In brief, the test involves the attitude of each person toward the "brethren" of Christ (v. 40), meaning the Jewish people. If the person has been willing to feed, clothe, and give shelter to the Jews, he is accounted a "sheep," but if not, then he is a "goat." Because those judged to be sheep are called "the righteous" (v. 37), and because these not only enter the millennial kingdom but also "life eternal" (v. 46), the passing of this simple test must be indicative of a changed heart as well. Only those with changed hearts, having been converted to true faith in Christ, are spoken of elsewhere in Scripture as qualifying for heaven.

17.4.2 The place

"I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will enter into judgment against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel, for they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land" (verse 2).

According to Joel 3:2, this judgment will occur in the Valley of Jehoshaphat (which means "Jehovah judges"), possibly located near Jerusalem. Some have identified this with the Kidron Valley next to Jerusalem while others see it as the location where God brought deliverance to King Jehoshaphat by defeating a coalition of enemies (cf. 2 Chronicles 20). But the exact geographic location is difficult to determine because this name historically is not attached to any specific place. It probably refers to a future site, which will come into existence in connection with the topographical changes that will take place in Israel at the Second Coming (Zechariah 14:4). It is most likely that it will be near to the city of Jerusalem, the city of King Jesus.

17.4.3 The participants

The participants will be the Gentiles who are still alive at Christ's second coming.

17.4.4 The judges

Again, the judges will be Jesus and His apostles.

17.4.5 The purpose

The purpose will be, as with the living Jews, to make selection of those who will be privileged to enter the glorious millennial period.

17.4.6 The criteria

The test involves the attitude of each person toward the "brethren" of Christ, meaning the Jewish people. In the light of the time involved, such a test is not difficult to understand. During the preceding Tribulation period, when the Antichrist will have been venting his hatred against the Jews, any person, other than one who has exercised true faith in Christ, will not care to show himself friendly toward the Jews. Under the widespread anti-Semitism that will prevail in the Great Tribulation, it will be too unpopular and even potentially dangerous for anyone who befriends a Jew. When the test reveals one who has befriended the Jews, then it will reveal one who also has placed courageous faith in Christ.

17.4.7 The reward

The true believers in Christ (i.e. sheep) will be allowed to enter the millennial kingdom while the rebels (i.e. the goats) will be purged (Matthew 25:31-46). They will enter the millennial kingdom in their normal physical body instead of resurrected glorified bodies. Therefore, they will continue to have marriages and descendants in the millennial kingdom. 

17.4.8 The posttribulational rapture theory is wrong

This judgment (Matthew 25:31-46) tends to confirm the fact that the Rapture will not occur on the day of the second coming of Christ due to the following reasons:

  1. If the Rapture were to occur at the second coming of Christ, the sheep and the goats after the Second Coming would no longer be mingled; no separation of them would be needed. This is another proof that the Rapture is not posttribulational.

  2. Since these two numbers, 1,260 and 1,290 (Daniel 12:11-12), are used in comparison with each other in the general passage, both must be intended specifically. This indicates that the days between the Antichrist's breaking of his treaty with Israel until his defeat by Christ, must be exactly 1,260 days to the day. Therefore, anyone living during the Tribulation period who is aware of this should be able to predict the very day of Christ's glorious appearance. This fact has a bearing on an argument that the Rapture cannot occur at the close of the Tribulation. If it could, then people could predict the time of the Rapture exactly, and numerous passages speak of it as coming by surprise, as a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2, 4).

17.5 The Judgments After the Millennium

At the second coming of Christ, both Jews and Gentiles will be judged on their qualifications to enter the millennial kingdom, and only adults who are saved and also children who have not reached the age of responsibility will be allowed to enter. Only the wicked dead will be left in the graves (Revelation 20:5).

The Scriptures are silent on how God will deal with saints living on earth at the end of the Millennium or saints who have died in the Millennium. It is probable that the righteous who die in the Millennium will be resurrected, much as the church will be at the Rapture, and that living saints will be given bodies suited for eternity like those living church saints will receive. It is clear that the millennial saints will not be involved in the judgment of the Great White Throne because this judgment relates to the wicked dead.

As the millennial kingdom unfolds, as children grow up and face the question of whether they will trust Christ, a sizable portion of the population will go through the motions of outwardly conforming to the rule of the King yet not actually be born again. Open rebellion will not be permitted in the millennial kingdom, but apparently the hypocrisy of profession without reality will not be revealed until the end of the Millennium.

Those who are in rebellion against the King throughout the thousand-year reign of Christ, including the hypocrites, will be judged at the end of the millennial kingdom. Christ will deal with them together with the wicked dead at the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11-15).

17.6 A Series of Judgments Will Occur at the Second Coming of Christ

The details given in Scripture show that a series of judgments will occur at the second coming of Christ. To teach one final judgment for the entire human race is not Scriptural. These judgments indicate that individuals are fully accountable to God, and that in His own time He will judge every sin that is not forgiven through faith in Christ based on the grace of God and Jesus' substitutionary death.

Below table is a summary of all the future judgments mentioned in the Bible.

Future Judgments Mentioned in the Bible

JUDGMENT TIME PLACE PERSONS BASIS RESULTS SCRIPTURE
Church Age Believers' Works Between Rapture and
Second Coming
Judgment Seat of Christ in Heaven Believers in Christ Works and walk of the Christian life Rewards or loss of rewards 1 Corinthians
3:10-15;
2 Corinthians
5:10
Tribulation Martyrs End of
Tribulation
/Second Coming
Earth Martyrs of Tribulation period Faith in and faithfulness to Christ Reign with Christ in the Millennium Revelation 20:4-6
Old Testament Saints End of
Tribulation
/Second Coming
Earth Believers in Old Testament times Faith in God Rewards Daniel 12:1-3
Living Jews End of
Tribulation
/Second Coming
Wilderness Jews who survive the Tribulation Faith in Christ Believers enter kingdom; rebels are purged Ezekiel 20:34-38
Living Gentiles End of
Tribulation
/Second Coming
Valley of Jehoshaphat Gentiles who survive the Tribulation Faith in Christ as proved by works Believers enter the kingdom;
others go to Lake of fire
Joel 3:2;
Matthew 25:31-46
Millennial Saints End of
Millennium
Not Mentioned Saints who have died or survive the Millennium Obey Christ's leadership by faith Not Mentioned Not Mentioned
Satan and Fallen Angels End of Millennium Not Mentioned Satan and those angels who follow him Allegiance to Satan's counterfeit system Lake of fire Matthew 25:41;
2 Peter 2:4;
Jude 6;
Revelation 20:10
Unsaved People End of Millennium Before the Great White Throne Unbelievers of to all time Rejection to God Lake of fire Revelation 20:11-15

 

18. THE ESTABLISHMENT OF CHRIST'S MILLENNIAL KINGDOM

(References: The Bible and Future Events, Chapter 9, pp. 159-185, Academie Books, Zondervan Corporation, 1973 Edition, by Leon J. Wood; Things to Come, Chapter XXVIII, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Co., 1996 reprint, by J. Dwight Pentecost)

Men have long dreamed of a utopia on earth. The thinking usually has been that this would be achieved through the improved knowledge and technology of man himself. Even a cursory reading of daily newspapers and periodicals, however, shows that this will not happen. But there will indeed be a day when utopian conditions will exist. This will be the day when God brings them about, the day of the Millennium, when Christ will reign as King of all the world. The Scriptures have much to say about this future period. It is our task now to consider numerous passages, to see what the principal features of that wonderful day will be.

This section is a detailed analysis of the doctrine of the Millennium. It is divided into the following fourteen major divisions:

  1. preparation for the establishment of the millennial kingdom;

  2. divine purposes in the millennial kingdom;

  3. duration of the millennial kingdom;

  4. geographic changes during the millennial kingdom;

  5. spiritual characteristics of the millennial kingdom;

  6. conditions existing within the millennial kingdom;

  7. government of the millennial kingdom;

  8. subjects of the millennial kingdom;

  9. the dwelling place of glorified saints;

  10. Jerusalem and Palestine in the millennial kingdom;

  11. worship in the millennial kingdom;

  12. millennial temple and sacrifices;

  13. the final judgment of millennial saints; and

  14. summary.

18.1 Preparation for the Establishment of the Millennial Kingdom  

The last event to be effected at the end of the Tribulation period is the actual establishment of the millennial reign of Christ. Some matters will call for attention, that this government might become a reality. For instance, an organization will have to be brought to existence.

18.1.1 Preparation works

Appointments of personnel will have to be made to fill posts of responsibility. Those selected to fill these posts will be glorified saints, whether of the church (2 Timothy 2:12) or of the Tribulation or of Old Testament time (Revelation 20:4). Also, the boundaries of Israel will have to be set. God indicated to Abraham that his seed would rule from the "river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates" (Genesis 15:18). This has never been achieved in history, this means that it will have to be during the Millennium, if God's sure word is to be kept. This establishment of boundary will not be difficult at the time, for all the world will lay open for the dictates of Him who has just annihilated the army of the prior ruler.

18.1.2 Preparation time

The amount of time required to effect these matters may be set forth by another chronological indication in Daniel 12:11-12.

"From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days (verse 11). Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days" (verse 12).

Daniel learns that from the time when the daily sacrifice is taken away and the abomination of desolation is set up until the end will be 1,290 days (v. 11). Previously Daniel was told that these events would occur in the middle of the seventieth week (Daniel 9:27). Following the model of days presented earlier, three and a half prophetic years of 360 days each should amount to only 1,260 days (note: 3.5 x 360 = 1,260 days). Why is there an additional 30 days added here? Another complicating factor is the statement "blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days (v. 12). This is an additional 45 days beyond the 1,290 figure. Why these days are added is not explained in Daniel.

It is clear that the Lord's return will lead to several different judgments, including:

  1. the regathering and judgment of living Jews from all over the world (Ezekiel 20:34-38; Matthew 25:1-30); and

  2. the judgment of the living Gentiles (Matthew 25:31-46).

These judgments will obviously take some time.

It may be assumed that the 75 days (note: 30 + 45 = 75 days) can be utilized in the following ways:

  1. The complete removal of all the opposing forces and the regathering of living Jews and Gentiles to the places of judgments will require 30 days (i.e. will be achieved at the 1,290 days).

  2. The completion of the two judgments and the necessary preparation works for the establishment of Christ's millennial kingdom, including organization, appointments, and setting boundary, will require an additional 45 days (i.e. will be achieved at the 1,335 days).

Following the Second Coming of Christ, these great judgments will all have been accomplished and the millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ will actually be initiated. Those who attain to this period are obviously those who have been judged worthy to enter the kingdom. That is why they may be called "blessed" (v. 12). 

18.2 Divine Purposes in the Millennial Kingdom

Why is a millennial kingdom necessary in God's plan for the human race?

God has three purposes in the millennial kingdom, they are:

  1. fulfillment of the Old Testament promises to the nation of Israel;

  2. recognition of God's authority in all the earth; and

  3. final illustration of the grace of God and man's need of salvation.

18.2.1 Fulfillment of the Old Testament promises to the nation of Israel

One of the purposes in the millennial kingdom is closely related to God's chosen people, the Jews. God molded them into a nation in Old Testament days, that they might be God's kingdom in the world. Accordingly, when they entered their land of promise, they had a glorious future awaiting them, if they would only do the will of God. This is outlined clearly, for example, in Deuteronomy 28:1-14, where God states that they would become the leading people of the world, if they would follow Him. He would set them "on high above all nations of the earth" (v. 1), so that they would be "above only, and ... not be beneath," being "the head, and not the tail" (v. 13). This did not occur, however, because the people did not meet the condition of obedience. It became necessary, instead, for God to permit neighboring nations to impose servitude on His people as a means of discipline.

To Abraham, God had promised the land "from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates (Genesis 15:18), but this promise was never fulfilled. Land was given, but never that much - not even in the day of David and Solomon, when the boundaries extended furthest. God also had promised Abraham that in him should "all families of the earth be blessed" (Genesis 12:3). This has occurred in a spiritual way, since Christ came of the seed of Abraham; but it has not happened in a physical way, and that thought also was intended. In addition, God guaranteed that the throne of David would be established forever (2 Samuel 7:12-16). Furthermore, God promised a renewed heart and mind would be given to Israel, her regeneration and restoration to divine favor, and everlasting blessing (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Up to the present moment, none of these promises is totally fulfilled.

The great truth of the Millennium is that all these promises will be fulfilled. Israel will become the leading nation of the world, her borders will stretch from Egypt to the Euphrates, and she will be the influence and world-wide blessing predicted.

18.2.2 Recognition of God's authority in all the earth

The second purpose in the millennial kingdom is to have a period when God's authority will be recognized in all the earth. God's universal kingdom has been in effect, but His highest creation, free moral man, has refused to render obedience. Because of Christ's gracious provision of salvation at His first coming, individual persons have bowed, making God's rule a reality in their own hearts; but mankind at large has not given Him due recognition. For this reason the great potential blessings of God's creation have not been realized. The sinfulness of man has kept the world from seeing in their fulness the beautiful, wonderful conditions which God's handiwork had promised.

Something of what might have been, had sin not entered the scene, may be drawn from the idyllic situation of Adam and Eve, as they were in the Garden of Eden. The physical conditions they enjoyed were clearly to their greatest advantage. Also, the sense of peace and rest they knew has probably not been experienced since. Most of all, there was the closeness of fellowship with God, in which direct communication between God and man occurred with some frequency. When sin entered, however, all changed. Man became estranged from God, and strife became the rule of the day. Governments came into existence to control strife, but, being led by sinful men, they were corrupt. Man fought with man, and nations with nations. Suffering, hardships, disease, famine, injustice, and loss of fellowship with God developed on every hand. With all this God was not pleased. His perfect creation held potential for so much more. As long as sin continued to be in command, however, matters could only continue in this way.

But God will not permit this situation always to exist. He will have His authority recognized. His kingdom will come, not only in the hearts of individuals but in all the world. Time will not cease nor the eternal state begin without His masterpiece of creation witnessing His will being observed and the great promises fulfilled. This will come to pass under the rule of the perfect King, Christ Himself. What might have been, will be. God will see His handiwork accomplish that for which He made it, and man will have an existence of peace and happiness to meet his fondest desire.

18.2.3 Final illustration of the grace of God and man's need of salvation

The third purpose in the Millennium is the final illustration of the grace of God and man's need of salvation. Throughout history the human race has been tested in various ways, and people have made various attempts to justify the idea that somehow they can conquer sin on their own. However, people have failed under every possible circumstance. As the human race has progressed, God has engaged mankind in different stewardships or dispensations with varying requirements:

  1. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were not to partake of the forbidden fruit. After they fell into sin, God gave mankind a conscience that informed them concerning right and wrong. Conscience, however, proved a failure; the sin of the human race led ultimately to the Flood.

  2. Following the Flood God introduced the principle of human government, including the execution of those guilty of murder. "And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an account ing from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man" (Genesis 9:5-6). The descendants of Noah, however, did no better than their forebears, and the climax of their sin came at the Tower of Babel when God imposed diverse languages on the human race.

  3. Following the Tower of Babel, God selected a new line in Abraham and his descendants, who would be a special people of God. This line extended from Abraham to Isaac and Jacob and the twelve sons of Jacob, who formed the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel. From that point on in the Old Testament, the nation that descended from Jacob's family illustrated God's special purposes in law and grace. More than six hundred regulations were given to guide the Israelites in their worship and in their social and moral life. The nation, however, failed miserably to keep the Law, demonstrating once again that the human will does not respond properly to the will of God.

  4. With the death of Christ, the Mosaic Law was terminated as a basis for God's judgment of Israel. The present age is an age of grace in which God is not only saving people by His grace (as He has always done), but He is dealing graciously with their social and moral life. In the Church Age, however, as well as in preceding dispensations, most humans beings have failed to follow God. Today many are failing to trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior and to worship the true God. When the Rapture occurs, it will end the present age and will begin what the Bible refers to as the Day of the Lord. This will be a time of immediate judgment that will extend through out the Tribulation period, as well as a time of blessing in the millennial kingdom, which will finally reach its climax in the final judgments at the end of the existence of the physical and temporal world.

18.3 Duration of the Millennial Kingdom

18.3.1 Continues for thousand years

The duration of the Millennium is clearly established in Revelation 20:1-7 as one thousand years. Though this figure is used in Scripture only here, its manner of usage makes the literal intention unmistakable. It is mentioned no less than six times, and each time it is in reference to a distinct feature of the period. The force of this is to say, in six different ways, that the duration will indeed be of this length:

  1. in verse 2, it refers to the length of time Satan will be bound;

  2. in verse 3, to the time nations will not be deceived by him;

  3. in verse 4, to the time martyred saints will reign with Christ;

  4. in verse 5, to the time during which the "rest of the dead" (i.e., the wicked dead) will wait until their resurrection;

  5. in verse 6, to the time those who rise in the first resurrection will reign with Christ; and

  6. in verse 7, to the time which will elapse before Satan will again be loosed from his confinement in the bottomless pit.

Adherents of both amillennialism and postmillennialism deny the literalness of this reference. They hold that the thousand years are to be understood symbolically, with most taking them to refer merely to an indefinite, long period of time. These same scholars, however, believe that other elements from the passage are to be taken literally, such as the resurrections mentioned, Satan, heaven, the angel, and the binding or restraining of Satan. The question becomes pertinent, then, as to the reason for making a distinction with the thousand years. The writings of the early church fathers show that it was interpreted literally by those near to the Apostles, and also later by the church in general for at least three hundred years.

18.3.2 Continues for all eternity

It should also be noted that a sense exists in which Christ's kingdom will last actually for all eternity. The earthly aspect of the kingdom, with Christ ruling out of Jerusalem, will last only the limited time. But there will be a continuation of the rule, which will have no end. At the conclusion of the thousand years, there will be a merging of the earthly form of the kingdom into God's eternal rule. At that time, Christ will deliver up "the kingdom to God, even the Father," and there will be an adjustment of its character and dimensions to eternal proportions rather than temporal (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:24-28).

18.4 Geographic Changes During the Millennial Kingdom

When Christ returns, a number of dramatic things will happen to the earth:

  1. The Mount of Olives will split in two from east to west into a great valley (Zechariah 14:4).

  2. There will be a dramatic change in Jerusalem, for water will flow from Jerusalem both west to the Mediterranean Sea ("the western sea") and east to the Dead Sea ("the eastern sea"), in both summer and winter (Zechariah 14:8; Joel 3:18). Apparently Jerusalem will be elevated geographically. "The whole land, from Geba to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem, will become like the Arabab. But Jerusalem will be raised up and remain in its place, from the Benjamin Gate to the site of the First Gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the royal winepresses.

  3. Jerusalem will be inhabited; never again will it be destroyed. Jerusalem will be secure" (Zechariah 14:10-11; see Isaiah 2:2). Even deserts will blossom with flowers and will be well watered, no longer parched (Isaiah 35:1-2, 6-7).

  4. Israel will occupy the land God promised her, as specified in Genesis 15:18-21. This will include all the land from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates River (Ezekiel 47:21-22). This extensive territory includes present-day Lebanon and Syria, and parts of Jordan, Iraq, and the Sinai Peninsula, along with present-day Israel and land presently occupied by the Palestinians.

  5. The land of Israel will be divided into three parts:

    1. Seven tribes will occupy the northern part, consisting of Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, Reuben, and Judah (Ezekiel 48:1-7).

    2. The southern part of Israel will be devoted to the other five tribes, Benjamin, Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun, and Gad (Ezekiel 48:23-28).

    3. Between these northern and southern parts a large portion of land will be set aside as sacred to God, as described in verses 8-22. Priests will reside there, and the millennial temple ("the sanctuary," Ezekiel 48:8) will be there. In addition, property in Jerusalem will be designated for the prince, presumably David (Ezekiel 48:21-22).

18.5 Spiritual Characteristics of the Millennial Kingdom

The millennial kingdom is essentially a spiritual kingdom even though it exists in the realm of the earth. The spiritual characteristics are as follows:

  1. justice;

  2. righteousness;

  3. obedience;

  4. holiness;

  5. truth;

  6. mercy and tenderness; and

  7. fulness of the Holy Spirit.

18.5.1 Justice

When innocent people suffer and criminals go free, the hearts of people cry out for justice. Christ's rule will be characterized by perfect justice. Jeremiah tells of the day in these words: "A King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth" (Jeremiah 23:5). Isaiah speaks also of the day, as he states, "But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth" (Isaiah 11:4). Isaiah also gives the reason why Christ will be able to dispense justice of this kind: "He shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears" (Isaiah 11:3). Christ will make sure that His just decisions are effected, because "he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked" (Isaiah 11:4). No rebellion will be permitted and no bribes will be accepted. Every person will receive his just due.

18.5.2 Righteousness

Christ will rule in perfect righteousness. One of the problems in government today is the existence of unrighteous actions. A common term of the day is "credibility gap," and the reason is that public personnel have demonstrated a conduct which makes people suspicious. Graft, under-the-table trades, favoritism to people of power and wealth - all are prevalent today. But this will not be true under the rule of Christ. Isaiah writes, "Righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins" (Isaiah 11:5). A striking passage is found in Psalm 45:6-7: "Thy throne, 0 God, is forever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows." No reason will exist for a credibility gap during the Millennium.

18.5.3 Obedience

One essential purpose of the original creation was to establish a kingdom in which there was a complete and willing obedience on the part of the subject to God. The tree was placed in the garden as a test of this obedience (Genesis 2:16-17). Disobedience, soon followed. God did not surrender His purpose of bringing all things into subjection to Himself (Ephesians 1:9-10; Hebrews 10:9).

The doing of the will of God in the Millennium will be greatly facilitated for a number of reasons:

  1. Through fulfiliment of the new covenant, Israel will experience a renewed heart and mind that they may have God's law in their inward parts (Jeremiah 31:33).

  2. The Holy Spirit will be poured out upon all flesh to indwell, fill, and teach (Jeremiah 31:33, 34; cf. Joel 2:28-32; Ezekiel 36:25-31).

  3. Satan will be bound, evil doers will be cut off (Psalm 37:9-10; Jeremiah 31:29-30), and the wicked social, religious, economic, and political systems of the Satanic cosmos will be liquidated.

  4. Instead of disunity in Israel, unanimity will be such that they will see eye to eye again in Zion (Isaiah 52:8).

  5. Universal knowledge of the Lord will eliminate the inadvertent opposition to God's will through ignorance.

  6. There will be a wide-spread Gentile submission to the authority of Christ (Psalm 22:27-28; Malachi 1:11).

This perfect obedience will be another manifestation of the spiritual character of the Millennium.

18.5.4 Holiness

Adam, by creation, was given an untried innocence. This would have become holiness, without doubt, by obedience to the Lord. This innocence was lost by his act of disobedience. It is God's purpose to manifest holiness in His creatures in the kingdom. Holiness will be the great distinguishing characteristic of the Jewish people in all categories of their national life, a "holiness" not their own but imparted to them by Messiah who is in their midst, and possessed by them through a life of faith. See below scriptural descriptions:

  1. All those remaining in Zion shall be called holy, having had their filth washed away (Isaiah 4:34).

  2. A way of holiness will be raised up to allow the rest of the ransomed of the Lord to return to Zion (Isaiah 35:8-10).

  3. God will speak in holiness, allotting the land to His people (Psalm 60:6).

  4. The Lord will inherit Judah his portion in the land now rightly called holy (Zechariah 2:12), and Jerusalem shall be holy (Joel 3:17).

  5. A holy oblation dedicated to the Lord will be especially reserved for the sanctuary and its ministers (Ezekiel 45:1-5).

  6. The Lord will exalt His holy mountain (Psalm 48:1; Jeremiah 31:23; Isaiah 27:13) and establish His holy house, the law of which shall be holiness (Ezekiel 43:12).

  7. It shall be His dwelling and the place of the soles of His feet so that Israel shall no more defile His holy name forever (Ezekiel 43:7), and all nations shall know that the Lord, the Holy One is in Israel (Ezekiel 39:7).

  8. Christ will reign over the nations of the earth from the throne of His holiness (Psalm 47:8-9), according to the holy oath that sealed the Davidic covenant (Psalm 89:35-36).

  9. The priests will teach the people the difference between the holy and profane (Ezekiel 44:23), and they shall appear before the Messiah in holy array (Psalm 110:3).

  10. In that day upon the bells of the horses will be inscribed "HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD," and all the pots in Jerusalem and Judah shall be just as holy as the sacred vessels in the Lord's house (Zechariah 14:20- 21).

18.5.5 Truth

It is a cause of judgment that men "changed the truth of God into a lie" (Romans 1:25). Satan has been the father of lies from the beginning (John 8:44), and governments through all of history have followed his lead. But Christ, who is "the truth" (John 14:6), will provide truthful government in all respects. There will be the full manifestation of truth in the Millennium, which establishes further the essential spiritual character of that kingdom. The following is a summary of millennial truth:

  1. The little horn, who has cast truth to the earth (Daniel 8:12), will be vanquished by Christ in His triumph ant ride on behalf of truth, meekness and righteousne (Psalm 45:4).

  2. Christ, Jehovah's servant, will bring forth judgment unto truth (Isaiah 42:3) and reveal unto Israel abundance of peace and truth (Jeremiah 33:6).

  3. Truth shall be met together with mercy and spring out of the earth (Psalm 85:10-11).

  4. Israel shall say, "He hath remembered his mercy and truth toward the house of Israel; all ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God" (Psalm 98:3).

  5. The throne shall be established and Christ shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David (Isaiah 16:5).

  6. Faithfulness will be the girdle of His reins (Isaiah 11:5), and He will judge the peoples of the world with His truth (Psalm 96:10).

  7. Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city (Isaiah 1:26), for "Thus saith the Lord; I am returned to Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth" (Zechariah 8:3).

18.5.6 Mercy and tenderness

Still another area of high ideals includes mercy and tenderness. The world knows little of either. So often governments are cold and hard, especially toward the unimportant person. But a watchword of Christianity is an attitude of mercy and tenderness, and this will be carried out in the world at large when Christ rules. Isaiah states that this one, "who will rule so effectively, shall at the same time feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young" (Isaiah 40:11). To achieve a balance between mercy on the one hand and justice on the other is not easy. Good rulers have tried, but their lack of success has been more than apparent. The perfect harmony will be found and maintained by Christ.

18.5.7 Fulness of the Holy Spirit

One significant spiritual characteristic of the millennial kingdom will be the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the lives of people. Ezekiel speaks of the day as he depicts God saying, "And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes" (Ezekiel 36:27). Joel 2:28-29 is a key passage; God declares, "I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit." A partial fulfillment of this came at Pentecost (Acts 2:16-18). The greater fulfillment, however, is to come during the Millennium.

One major result of this outpouring of the Holy Spirit will be widespread salvation. People will place saving faith in Christ their King. The descendants of those who inherit the kingdom, will need to exercise this faith. The first inhabitants will already be saved, even before the kingdom's inauguration. Their children, however, will still be born in sin. The unrestricted presence of the Holy Spirit will lead them to trust Christ. Probably it will be as natural and easy to do this then as now it seemingly is difficult to do so. Isaiah sees himself living in that day, as he writes, "He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness" (Isaiah 61:10). Again, he declares that in that day the very walls of Jerusalem will be called "salvation" (Isaiah 60:18). Then men with joy shall "draw water out of the wells of salvation" (Isaiah 12:3).

Another significant result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will be the evidence of God's abundant grace. God will manifest His grace in numerous ways, and people will be aware of it and give thanksgiving accordingly. Zechariah declares that in that day God will "pour upon the house of David ... the spirit of grace" (Zechariah 12:10). Psalm 45 says of Christ the King, "Grace is poured into thy lips" (v. 2).

A third result will be that people will be led to live righteous lives. It has been noted that Christ will rule righteously. But also people at large will be led to follow His example, as the Holy Spirit prompts and inspires to that end. Ezekiel says directly that as a result of God putting His spirit within the people of the day, they will walk in His statutes and keep His judgments (Ezekiel 36:27). This will bring the people to remember their "own evil ways, and [their] doings that were not good" (Ezekiel 36:31). Zephaniah describes the result with these words, "The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid" (Zephaniah 3:13).

18.6 Conditions Existing Within the Millennial Kingdom

Much Scripture is devoted to describe the blessing and glory poured out upon earth through the beneficence of the Lord Jesus Christ in the millennial kingdom. The conditions will be existed within the millennial kingdom are summarized below:

  1. Justice. There will be the administration of perfect social justice to every individual (Isaiah 9:7; 11:5; 32:16; 42:1-4; 65:21-23; Jeremiah 23:5; 31:23; 31:29-30). For instance, people will be able to enjoy what they earn for themselves, without others taking it from them. Writes Isaiah, "And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat" (Isaiah 65:21, 22). The poor will not be exploited by the rich. The psalmist speaks of the day, saying, "He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor" (Psalm 72:4; cf. vv. 12-14). The need of the individual, even if he has little strength or talent, will not be lost in the interest of society, for "a bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench"; but instead Christ will "bring forth judgment unto truth" (Isaiah 42:3).

  2. Peace. The cessation of war through the unification of the kingdoms of the world under the reign of Christ, together with the resultant economic prosperity, since nations need not devote vast proportions of their expenditure on munitions, is a major theme of the prophets. National and individual peace is the fruit of Messiah's reign (Isaiah 2:4; 9:4-7; 11:6-9; 32:17-18; 33:5-6; 54:13; 55:12; 60:18; 65:25; 66:12; Ezekiel 28:26; 34:25, 28; Hosea 2:18; Micah 4:2-3; Zechariah 9:10). There will be no war during the millennium. War has been the scourge of history, but this will not be true then. Isaiah states: "Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end" (Isaiah 9:7). Micah specifically declares of that day: "They shall beat their swords into plow shares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nations shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Micah 4:3). Hosea speaks of that time when he writes, "In that day ... I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely " (Hosea 2:18). A by-product of this peace will be the absence of fear. Micah states, "But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid" (Micah 4:4).

  3. Joy. The fulness of joy will be a distinctive mark of the age (Isaiah 9:3-4; 12:3-6; 14:7-8; 25:8-9; 30:29; 42:1, 10-12; 52:9; 60:15; 61:7, 10; 65:18-19; 66:10-14; Jeremiah 30:18-19; 31:13-14; Zephaniah 3:14-17; Zechariah 8:18-19; 10:6-7).

  4. Holiness. The theocratic kingdom will be a holy kingdom, in which holiness is manifested through the King and the King's subjects. The land will be holy, the city holy, the temple holy, and the subjects holy unto the Lord (Isaiah 1:26-27; 4:3-4; 29:18- 23; 31:6-7; 35:8-9; 52:1; 60:21; 61:10; Jeremiah 31:23; Ezekiel 36:24-31; 37:23-24; 43:7-12; 45:1; Joel 3:21; Zephaniah 3:11, 13; Zechariah 8:3; 13:1-2; 14:20-21).

  5. Glory. The kingdom will be a glorious kingdom, in which the glory of God will find full manifestation (Isaiah 24:23;4:2; 35:2; 40:5; 60:1-9).

  6. Comfort. The King will personally minister to every need, so that there will be the fulness of comfort in that day (Isaiah 12:1-2; 29:22-23; 30:26; 40:1-2; 49:13; 51:3; 61:3-7; 66:13-14; Jeremiah 31:23-25; Zephaniah 3:18-20; Zechariah 9:11-12; Revelation 21:4).

  7. Full knowledge. The ministry of the King will bring the subjects of His kingdom into full knowledge. Doubtless there will be an unparalleled teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit. (Isaiah 11:1-2, 9; 41:19-20; 54:13; Habakkuk 2:14).

  8. Instruction. This knowledge will come about through the instruction that issues from the King (Isaiah 2:2-3; 12: 3-6; 25:9; 29:17-24; 30:20-21; 32:3-4; 49:10; 52:8; Jeremiah 3:14-15; 23:1-4; Micah 4:2).

  9. The removal of the curse. The original curse placed upon creation (Genesis 3:17-19) will be removed, so that there will be abundant productivity to the earth. Animal creation will be changed so as to lose its venom and ferocity. (Isaiah 11:6-9; 35:9; 65:25).

  10. Sickness removed. The ministry of the King as a healer will be seen throughout the age, so that sickness and even death, except as a penal measure in dealing with overt sin, will be removed (Isaiah 3:24; Jeremiah 30:17; Ezekiel 34:16).

  11. Healing of the deformed. Accompanying this ministry will be the healing of all deformity at the inception of the Millennium (Isaiah 29: 17-19; 35:3-6; 61:1-2; Jeremiah 31:8; Micah 4:6-7; Zephaniah 3:19).

  12. Protection. There will be a supernatural work of preservation of life in the millennial age through the King (Isaiah 41:8-14; 62:8-9; Jeremiah 32:27; 23:6; Ezekiel 34:27; Joel 3:16-17; Amos 9:15; Zechariah 8:14-15; 9:8; 14:10-11).

  13. Freedom from oppression. There will be no social, political or religious oppression in that day (Isaiah 14:3-6; 42:6-7; 49:8-9; Zechariah 9:11-12).

  14. No immaturity. The suggestion seems to be that there will not be the tragedies of feeble-mindedness nor of dwarfed bodies in that day (Isaiah 65:20). Longevity will be restored.

  15. Reproduction by the living peoples. The living saints who go into the Millennium in their natural bodies will beget children throughout the age. The earth's population will soar. These born in the age will be born with sinful nature, so salvation will be required (Jeremiah 30:20; 31:29; Ezekiel 47:22; Zechariah 10:8).

  16. Labor. The period will not be characterized by idleness, but there will be a perfect economic system, in which the needs of men are abundantly provided for by labor in that system, under the guidance of the King. There will be a fully developed industrialized society, providing for the needs of the King's subjects (Isaiah 62:8-9; 65:21-23; Jeremiah 31:5; Ezekiel 48:18-19). Agriculture as well as manufacturing will provide employment.

  17. Economic prosperity. The perfect labor situation will produce economic abundance, so that there will be no want (Isaiah 4:1; 35:1-2, 7; 30: 23-25; 62:8-9; 65:21-23; Jeremiah 31:5, 12; Ezekiel 34:26; Micah 4:1, 4; Zechariah 8:11-12; 9:16-17; Ezekiel 36:29-30; Joel 2:21-27; Amos 9: 13-14).

  18. Increase of light. There will be an increase of solar and lunar light in the age. This increased light probably is a major cause in the increased productivity of the earth (Isaiah 4:5; 30:26; 60:19-20; Zechariah 2:5).

  19. Unified language. The language barriers will be removed so that there can be free social intercourse (Zephaniah 3:9).

  20. Unified Worship. All the world will unite in the worship of God and God's Messiah (Isaiah 45:23; 52:1, 7-10; 66:17-23; Zechariah 13:2; 14:16; 8:23; 9:7; Zephaniah 3:9; Malachi 1:11; Revelation 5:9-14).

  21. The manifest presence of God. God's presence will be fully recognized and fellowship with God will be experienced to an unprecedented degree (Ezekiel 37:27-28; Zechariah 2:2, 10-13; Revelation 21:3).

  22. The fulness of the Spirit. Divine presence and enablement will be the experience of all who are in subjection to the authority of the King (Isaiah 32: 13-15; 41:1; 44:3; 59:19, 21; 61:1; Ezekiel 36:26-27; 37:14; 39:29; Joel 2:28-29; Ezekiel 11:19-20).

  23. The perpetuity of the millennial state. That which characterizes the millennial age is not viewed as temporary, but eternal (Joel 3:20; Amos 9:15; Ezekiel 37:26-28; Isaiah 51:6-8; 55:3, 13; 56:5; 60:19-20; 61:8; Jeremiah 32:40; Ezekiel 16:60; 43:7-9; Daniel 9:24; Hosea 2:19-23).

It should be recognized that these matters will be accomplished without great change in the normal conditions of human life. Basic structures and institutions of society will probably continue. Life styles and patterns, with individuals manifesting their distinct personalities, will remain. People will eat, sleep, earn a living, marry, have children, and finally die. There will be cities, farms, schools, industries, and stores. The difference will consist in the presence of proper, enjoyable relationships among people and especially toward God.

18.7 Government of the Millennial Kingdom

One of the basic questions regarding the Millennium is the nature of the government which will be inaugurated. What will it be like? How will it operate? Who will comprise its personnel? The Scriptures have much to say concerning these matters. This section, is a detailed description of the government of the millennial kingdom, is divided into the following five major parts:

  1. Christ will be King;

  2. Relationship between David and Christ;

  3. King over Israel;

  4. King over the Gentiles; and

  5. Glorified saints will rule with Christ.

18.7.1 Christ will be King

The first point to notice is that Christ will serve as the supreme, absolute Ruler. This was foretold to Mary by the angel Gabriel, when announcing the birth of Jesus: "The Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father D