Jesus then makes clear that He will come again, in glory, at the end of the times of tribulation described so vividly in John's retelling of the vision Jesus gave him in the Book of Revelation (Matthew 24:29-30 ESV, with my emphasis added):
“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Matthew 24:36 ESV) “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak.” (Matthew 24:15-18 ESV) [Note: This and other clues referred to in the two previous posts on the Great Tribulation indicate that there will first have to be a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem.] “And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:11-12 ESV) “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14 ESV) [Compare Rev 14:6: “Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.”]
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.This event will happen, however, very suddenly: “For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:27 ESV) Compare the elements of Jesus’ description of his parousia with the John’s description of the events following the breaking of the sixth seal (Rev 6:12-17 ESV):
When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”Compare also these passages with those in the Old Testament -- starting with the ancient words of the prophet Joel:
The Day of the LORD (Joel 2:1-2, 3:14-16 ESV)
Blow a trumpet in Zion;(See also the other OT “Day of the LORD” passages -- Amos 5:18-20, Zeph. 1:7, 14-18, Ezek. 30:3, Obad. 15, and Mal. 4:5 referenced on pp. 7-8 of the second downloaded handout for this series.)
sound an alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
for the day of the LORD is coming; it is near,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness!
For the day of the LORD is near
in the valley of decision.
The sun and the moon are darkened,
and the stars withdraw their shining.
The LORD roars from Zion,
and utters his voice from Jerusalem,
and the heavens and the earth quake.
But the LORD is a refuge to his people,
a stronghold to the people of Israel.
In John’s Book of Revelation, this “Day of the LORD” commences with the blowing of the last (seventh) shofar, which is the signal for the seven angels to empty their seven bowls of the wrath of God upon the unbelievers who have survived all the wars, earthquakes, famines, plagues and other catastrophes up to that point (Rev 11:15-19, and ch. 16).
This time there will be no survivors. All who refuse to repent undergo the most disastrous calamities, cursing God the whole time, until at the end they are slain by the Lord Himself at his triumphant second coming, to become carrion food for all the remaining birds of the earth. The Beast and his False Prophet, who led the unbelievers into resistance, are cast into the everlasting lake of fire (Revelation 19:17-21 ESV):
Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.It is a terrifying finish to such an awful Tribulation. Jesus makes clear, however, that those who have remained alive and faithful to him up to that point will be spared what the unbelievers go through, in words that follow immediately after those quoted above as Mt 24:29-30. For in Mt 24:31, Jesus says (my emphasis):
And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.There is your “Rapture” -- notice how it dovetails neatly with Paul's description of the same event in 1 Cor. 15:51-52 (my emphasis again):
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.See also Paul's description of the Rapture in 1 Th. 4:14-17, quoted in the third post of this series. It, too, dovetails with the passages just quoted.
Jesus and Paul both tell us, therefore, that the part of the Tribulation which Christian believers will be spared is its final days, when God's wrath spills out upon those left on earth. There is no warrant, as I have pointed out in describing the many passages that refer to the deaths of believers during the days of the Antichrist and his False Prophet, and the rewards which those who die for their faith will receive in heaven, for assuming that Christians will be raptured before the Great Tribulation begins.
To teach otherwise, I submit, is to become one of those “many false prophets [who] will arise and lead many astray,” as Jesus predicts in Mt 24:11. Moreover, such a false assurance, when it proves to be untrue, may well be the occasion for the “falling away” of many believers predicted for the start of the Tribulation in Mt 24:10. (If, on the other hand, I am wrong in my reading of the passages about the Rapture in relation to the Tribulation, then at least it will not matter -- Christians will be saved before having to undergo any of the Tribulation! But the same is not true the other way around.)
Chapter 20 of John’s Book of Revelation is our only source for the events that will take place after Jesus’ parousia (Rev 20 ESV):
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.The final part of John's vision, recorded at the Messiah’s own command, describes “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1-8 ESV):
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”And thus we conclude this series of posts covering the End Times, as related in his own words by Jesus to his disciples, and as shown by Him to his faithful servant, John (Rev 22:20):
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.”With John, we may therefore say in closing: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
A blessed and merry Christmas to you all.