The Bible is an amazing Book. When one considers the amazing miracle that we call the Bible, it is the most remarkable Book ever compiled. The Bible is actually a divine library of 66 books, some of considerable size - others no larger than a small tract. These books were written by more than 40 authors, over a period of more than 1,600 years, most of whom did not know the other authors. The writers wrote in various lands, from Italy in the west to Mesopotamia and possibly Persia in the east.
These writers were a heterogeneous array of people, not only separated from each others by hundreds of years and hundreds of miles, but belonging to the most diverse walks of life. They came from all walks of life and wrote at different times, on three continents - Asia, Africa and Europe in three languages - Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.
In their ranks we have……
" A tent-making Rabbi,
" And a gentile physician.
And yet, for all of that, there is an amazing unity that binds the whole together. Nowhere in the whole realm of literature is there such a book, showing such diversity, and yet, from cover to cover, there are no contradictions.
With this book we call the Bible, it is truly easy to see the signature of God all over it. While these many authors wrote about hundreds of different and often controversial subjects, you can see one underlying theme from Genesis in the Old Testament to the Book of Revelation in the New Testament. That theme is actually double-pronged:
-- The coming of the Savior to pay the price of sin,
-- and His return to bring a climax to this world's history.
More than 25% of the Bible, when written, predicted events before they occurred. And God's batting average is very impressive. He has never been wrong. Through the centuries history has proven the absolute accuracy of God's predictions of the future. Since God knows the end from the beginning - and since He is in control of the universe - only He can accurately foretell future events.
The greatest single theme in Biblical Prophecy is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. While there are more than 300 prophecies in the Old Testament that foretold the first coming of Christ, there are almost 8 times that many which speak of His second coming. The remarkable number of prophetic passages about the Second Coming emphasizes the vital importance of this event in God's plan. It is significant that the Bible's very first and last prophecies refer to the Second Coming.
CAN YOU THINK OF WHAT IS THE VERY FIRST PROPHECY UTTERED BY MAN?
It may surprise you that the earliest prophecy by a man is recorded in one of the last books of the New Testament. It is found in the book of Jude, who was the brother of Jesus. He makes reference to a prophecy given by Enoch, and is recorded in Jude 14.
Jude 14 NKJV
14 Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints.
The very last prophecy in the Bible is also about the 2nd coming of Christ. It was recorded by the apostle John in the next to last verse in the Bible. It is found in Revelation 22:20.
He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming quickly." Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
Just 8 verses earlier, the Lord said, in Revelation 22:12 NKJV:
12 And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.
These verses records the final message of Christ to His Church that is recorded in the Bible.
A moment ago, I asked you what the earliest prophecy given by a man, and took note of the prophecy by Enoch. Now I want to ask you another related question.
WHAT IS THE EARLIEST BIBLICAL PROPHECY, CHRONOLOGICALLY, OF ALL
Genesis 3:14-15 NKJV
14 So the LORD God said to the serpent: "Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel."
The very first prophecy in the Bible is given by God to the old serpent, the devil. This prophecy, really, has two parts to it.
Part one is that the serpent would no longer walk upright, but would crawl in the dust.
Part two prophesies the great tension between the Devil and the woman as well as between her seed and his seed.
WHO IS THE SEED OF THE WOMAN?
I believe there is no doubt that the seed spoken here is the earliest mention of a coming Redeemer to pay the price of man's sin. Her seed, without a doubt, is a reference to Jesus, the Messiah.
WHO IS THE SEED OF THE SERPENT?
The first plausible answer is to take "his seed" as a reference to all peoples who follow his leading. But the wording seems to imply a single person, both in the seed of the woman and the serpent. Let me pose something for you to think about. Could the seed of the serpent be the Antichrist, and this prophecy be predicting Christ's ultimate defeat of Satan when the Antichrist is conquered by Christ at his return at Armageddon? Just something to think about.
Given the preponderance of prophecy in the Word of God, it is incredible that any believer would avoid it. Furthermore, given God's attention to this subject, why would anyone want to avoid it.
In my opinion, already fulfilled prophecy is quite possibly the greatest internal evidence of the divine inspiration of the Bible. You just don't see these kinds of prediction in the writings of any other major world religion.
Ten months ago, in our first two lessons of this series on the End Times, I showed you a chronological overview of what the Bible tells us about the last days. I would like to review it once again.
In the past 10 months, we have covered a lot of territory. Many of the events in this overview will now be more familiar than they may have been at the time. As we look at the overview once again, some of the events will be more securely defined in your minds. For those who have come into our series mid-stream, the overview will serve to help bring you up to date.
The first chart of this overview will show two major locations:
-- Heaven and Earth.
1 Thess. 4:16-17 tells us…….the Lord will descend……from heaven…..
The Lord will descend with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God. The dead in Christ will rise first, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
WHAT IS THIS EVENT MOST OFTEN CALLED?
ONCE WE HAVE MET CHRIST IN THE AIR, WHERE DO WE GO?
We all go to heaven with Him. He takes us to his Father's home.
In last week's lesson, we read John 14:1-3, and identified it as describing the Rapture. In that Passage, Jesus said that prior to the Rapture, He would be preparing a place for his Church. When He returns to get us at the Rapture, we go to the place He has been preparing for us.
ONCE THE CHURCH HAS BEEN TAKEN TO HEAVEN, WHAT HAPPENS ON EARTH?
Shortly after the rapture of the Church,…….there will be the beginning of a period of turmoil such as this world has never seen.
WHAT IS THIS PERIOD KNOWN AS?
IF CHRIST HAS MET US IN THE AIR AND TAKEN US WITH HIM TO HEAVEN, WHEN DOES HE EVER ACTUALLY COME TO THE EARTH?
It is after this tribulation time when Christ come back to earth. (Matthew 24:29-30) Not everyone sees him at the Rapture. But here, all eyes will witness his return.
HOW LONG AFTER THE RAPTURE DOES CHRIST'S COMING TO EARTH OCCUR?
DURING THE 7 YEARS THAT WE ARE IN HEAVEN WITH CHRIST, WHAT
EVENTS TAKES PLACE THERE?
Two things occur in heaven while we are there with Christ.
1. The Judgment Seat of Christ.
The Judgment Seat of Christ is not an event where all the bad you have ever done is revealed. This is a judgment where believers are rewarded for faithfulness.
2. The Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-8)
This is a wedding feast. On earth, these could go on for days, according to Jewish customs. This is a feast to celebrate the marriage of the Lamb, who is Jesus Christ, and the bride, the Church.
We have not studied these two events as yet, but we will in a later lesson. We will probably include the Judgment Seat of Christ in a lesson which covers all the judgments.
IF THE "DEAD IN CHRIST" HAVE BEEN RESURRECTED AT THE RAPTURE, WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE UNGODLY DEAD?
WHEN ARE THEY RESURRECTED?
Those who have died without knowing Christ as their personal savior, are not resurrected for another 1,007 years. (Rev 20:4-6)
IS CHRIST ALONE WHEN HE COMES BACK TO EARTH?
All the saints that were caught up to meet Christ in the air, at the Rapture will accompany Him back to earth.
Jude 14 NKJV
14 Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints.
Now let's go back to Revelation 19, in the verses following the record of the Marriage Feast.
Revelation 19:14 NKJV
14 And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.
Earlier in the chapter, Revelation 19:6-9, we learn who these are that are clothed in fine linen, clean and white. They are the Bride of Christ, who is celebrating her marriage to the groom, Christ, at the wedding feast.
Also, this group may includes Old Testament saints and Tribulation saints that have died. We will cover these armies of saints more fully in our next lesson.
AT THE TIME CHRIST COMES TO EARTH WITH HIS SAINTS, WHAT IS TAKING PLACE ON EARTH AT THAT VERY MOMENT?
The Battle of Armageddon will be at its height.
Revelation 16:16 NKJV
16 And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.
WHAT DOES CHRIST DO IMMEDIATELY UPON ARRIVING ON EARTH?
Five things are mentioned, four of which take place if fairly short order. The fifth takes a little time to complete. The first four things that happen quickly are:
1. He destroys the armies of the Antichrist.
Returning again to the sequence of events portrayed in Revelation 19.
Revelation 19:19 NKJV
19 And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.
The beast is the Antichrist. He is often referred to in this manner in the book of Revelation. And he is making war against the one sitting on the horse, and against his army. According to verse 11, earlier in the chapter, we know that the person sitting on the horse is Christ. And his army are the saints, clothed in white which accompany him back to earth.
Revelation 19:21 NKJV, tells us the action Christ takes.
21 And the rest [that's all the armies of the Antichrist] were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.
So one thing that happens upon Christ's arrival to earth, is the destruction of the armies of the Antichrist.
Again, return to the sequence of events in Revelation 19 for the second thing Christ does..
2. The Antichrist and his right-hand man, the False Prophet, are cast into the lake of fire.
Revelation 19:20 NKJV
20 Then the beast (that's the Antichrist) was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.
Here we have the second thing that occurs when Christ arrives. The Antichrist and the False Prophet will be cast alive into the Lake of Fire.
Now for the third thing Christ does in short order.
3. Satan is put in chains and cast into the bottomless pit
With point #2, we have completed Revelation, chapter 19, and now, with point #3, we begin chapter 20.
Revelation 20:1-3 NKJV
1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;
3 and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.
So, this is the 3rd thing that happens. An angel, having a chain, binds Satan and throws him into the bottomless pit.
4. The fourth thing that takes place after Christ returns to earth is to deliver the Jews from their persecutors.
This will take place both in Israel and Edom (Jordan). This may be part of item #1, above.
5. The fifth thing that takes place after Christ returns to earth is the setting up of His (Christ's) kingdom here on earth for 1,000 years.
We find that in the next verse.
Revelation 20:4 NKJV
4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
That is as far as we will carry our review of the chronological order of events. We have looked at the sequence of prophetic events from the present time up to when Christ established his millennial kingdom on earth. We will cover that event and subsequent ones as we continue our study of End Times.
>When it comes to understanding biblical prophecy, there are 3 major issues that account for the different positions held by Christians.
1. Method of interpretation - whether literal or figurative.
2. Distinction between the prophecies related to the Jews and the Church.
3. Distinction between the Rapture and the Second Coming.
We are currently studying the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Therefore, issue number 3, above, is of vital importance. If we do not make a definite distinction between the Rapture and the 2nd Coming, our interpretation of what the Bible says concerning each of these events will be faulty.
One thing that distinguishes the pre-millennialist from all other millennial views is: ALL premillennialists take the position that the 2nd Coming of Christ occurs in stages. And all but the Partial Rapturist believe there are two and only two stages.
Those two stages are called:
o Rapture - where the Church rises to meet Christ in the air,
o Revelation - where Jesus comes all the way to earth.
When we studied the Rapture, we spent considerable time to ensure we fully understood that there are two separate events or stages, separated by a period of time. So let's review what we learned at that time about this distinction between the Rapture and the Revelation.
At this time, I won't go back and review all the different positions held by Bible-believing Christians as to when the Rapture will occur. I do want to show you the position that we believe, and which I have already included on the charts of our overview.
WHAT DO PRE-TRIBULATIONISTS BELIEVE ABOUT THE RAPTURE?
1. The rapture occurs prior to the 7-year tribulation.
That means, the Church will not go through any of the Tribulation. Once we meet Christ in the air, we are taken to heaven.
2. The Church and Israel are distinct from each other.
God has a separate and distinct prophetic future for each of them. This is the only position that makes that distinction.
3. The Church is also distinct from the Tribulation saints.
That is, people will become Christians during the Tribulation, but they will not be part of the Church - the Bride of Christ.
4. Both halves of the Tribulation experience the Wrath of God.
5. This view, and only this view, holds the Rapture to be imminent.
--- that it could happen at any moment.
6. Believers of the Church Age are judged in heaven following the Rapture, but the Nations & Israel will be judged at the Second Coming of Christ to the earth.
7. This position takes the most literal interpretation of prophetic scriptures.
In all five positions held by pre-millennialists, all believe that the "revelation," that is, the actually return of Christ to this earth, occurs at the end of the Tribulation. That event brings this horrendous period to a close. We all agree on this point. It is the timing of the Rapture where the differences will be found.
Some students of Bible prophecy strongly object to the notion that the rapture of the Church and the Second Coming are distinct events separated by 7 years. They contend that this is teaching two future comings of Christ, although, in their opinions, the Bible only presents one event. The best way to resolve this issue is to set what the Bible says about these events side by side to see if they are describing the same occurrence.
BESIDES THE TIMING, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MAJOR DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE RAPTURE AND THE REVELATION?
1. In the Rapture Christ comes FOR His Church (John 14:3, 1 Thess 4:16-17)
1. At the Revelation, Christ comes WITH His Church. (Jude 14-15, Rev. 19:14, Col. 3:4)
2. In the Rapture, Christ comes unannounced as a thief where only his own see Him. (1 Thess 4:16-17)
2. In the Revelation, Christ comes openly - every eye shall see Him. (Rev. 1:7, Matt. 24:30)
3. In the Rapture, Christ comes to reward the saints (1 Cor. 3:14, 2 Cor. 5:10)
3. In the Revelation, He comes to judge the nations. (Matt. 25:31-46, Rev. 19:15)
4. In the Rapture, we rise to meet him in the air (1 Thess. 4:17)
4 In the Revelation, He stands upon the Mount of Olives. (Zech 14:4, Rev. 19:11-21)
5. In the Rapture, Christ comes as a Bridegroom (Matthew 25:6)
5. In the Revelation, He comes as a King. (Rev. 19:16)
6. In the Rapture, His appearing is the hope of the Church (Titus 2:13)
6. His appearing is the hope of Israel Joel 3:16
7. At the Rapture, His coming will be a "day of rejoicing." (1 Thess. 2:9)
7. At His revelation, His coming is a "day of wrath" and "a
day of distress, darkness & gloom" (Zephaniah 1:15, Rev. 6:17)
8. During the Rapture, a resurrection occurs in this event (1 Thess. 4:13-18, 1 Cor. 15:51-54)
8. At the Revelation, no resurrection mentioned in Rev. 19:11-21 or Matt. 24:29-31
9. At the Rapture, no angels are sent to gather the people. Resurrected people do not need angels to help them.
9. During the Revelation, angels are sent forth to gather people together for judgment. (Matt. 13:39, 41, 49, 24:31, 2 Thess. 1:7-10)
10. At the Rapture, a MARRIAGE is about to occur: marriage of the Lamb in
heaven after the Rapture.
10. At the Revelation will be WAR: Marriage is followed by war on earth at 2nd coming.
11. At the Rapture, no mention of Satan
11. At the Revelation, Satan bound for 1,000 years
12. The Raptured not mentioned in the O.T. at all.
12. The Revelation is mentioned many times in the O.T.
13. The Rapture involves only Believers (John 14:1-3; 1 Cor. 15:51-55; 1 Thess. 4:13-18)
13. The Revelation involves the whole world - Jew and Gentile (Matt. 24:1- 25:46)
I think you can see that the differences between the passages describing the Rapture and those describing Jesus' second coming suggest that they are not the same event. Each of these two events involve separate participants, as well as different times, purposes, and locations.
The purpose of the Rapture is entirely different from that of the Second Coming. When He come to earth, Jesus will come back to judge and reign over the earth. In the Rapture He will come to take his own Bride out of the world and take them to his Father's house These two events have nothing in common except that both are referred to as a "coming."
I have often heard prophecy teachers say, "There are no more prophecies that must be fulfilled for the Rapture to occur." While the statement is accurate, it is also misleading and implies an untruth. It implies that there were, at some time past, signs or prophecies that must be fulfilled before the Rapture can take place, but that are now fulfilled, leaving no others to be fulfilled. That would be untrue.
The Bible teaches that the Rapture is both without sign and is imminent. That means there will be absolutely no signs to tell us when it will occur, because the Church is to expect Christ at any moment. For the Church, the Rapture is the next event on their prophetic timetable. I believe that Christ wanted His bride to understand that He could come for her at any moment. That is, Christ's coming should be considered "Imminent," and without warning. You cannot hold any other view than the one we have seen today, and believe Christ could return at any moment. Rather, you would be looking for other events to occur first.
Any signs given to us in the Bible to show that we are close to the coming of Christ are all given with the Revelation in view. There are a number of signs given to us with regard to Christ coming to set up his kingdom. Christ gave some of the many signs of His coming in Matthew 24 --- things like "wars & rumors of war, earthquakes, famines, etc."
Some additional signs of the coming of Christ, found in the rest of the Bible, are:
o Rebirth of the nation of Israel (Isaiah 43:1-7; Jer. 16:15, 31:10, Amos 9:14-15).
o The alignment of the nations around Israel. --- Russia, Chine, Europe, Arabs.
o Rise in occultic practices (1 Tim. 4:1-2)
o Increased travel and knowledge (Daniel 12:4).
o Rise in Anti-Semitism (Zechariah 12:3).
o Automobiles [fast chariots with lanterns to light the way] (Nahum 2:4)
o Airplanes [men flying as birds] (Isaiah 31:5).
o The dessert of Israel blossoming like a rose (Isaiah 35:1)
All of these signs are related to the Revelation, not the Rapture. Of course, as the signs for the Revelation accumulate, as they are doing today, eventually the Rapture must take place, for it occurs prior to Christ's coming to the earth. If we think the signs in the world today point to a soon return of Christ to this earth, then it means that the Rapture of the Church must be even that much closer. If a biblical passage speaks of the coming of Christ and it ties that event to other events on earth, then it is talking about the Revelation, not the Rapture. Let me give you an example.
Matt 24:29-31 NKJV
29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
31 And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
The Post-Tribulationist takes this event to be the Rapture, and since it clearly states that this event follows "immediately after the Tribulation," then here is proof of the Post-Tribulation Rapture position. Nowhere in the full context of this Passage do we find things that we know a Rapture must include. In all the great amount of detail that Matthew presents, nowhere is a resurrection from the dead mentioned at all. Additionally, we don't see anything like a Rapture occurring, where saints are taken to heaven or even just caught up to meet Christ in the air. And this portion of Scripture, along with Revelation 19, are the most detailed accounts given with regard to the Second Coming of Christ.
I would suggest that this Passage is speaking of the Revelation, where Christ comes to earth to set up His millennial kingdom. That event more closely is represented by the phrase in verse 30, where we are told that his coming is with "power and great glory."
His power is seen as He leads the armies of heaven, and makes a quick end to the Battle of Armageddon, after which the Antichrist and the False Prophet are cast into the Lake of Fire, and Satan is bound in chains and cast into the bottomless pit.
Also, this is when His glory will be displayed, as He quickly establishes Himself as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords on earth where He in all His glory will reign with justice and equality for 1,000 years.
Again, I think a good rule to use is this. If a passage speaks of the coming of Christ, and ties that event with any other event on earth, then it is talking about the Coming of Christ to earth at the end of the Tribulation and is not talking about the Rapture.
In our lessons on the Rapture, we studied dozens of Passages, and none of them tied the Rapture to any other events. For instance, consider John 14:1-3, 1 Cor. 15:20-57, and 1 Thess. 4:13-18, which collectively provide an enormous amount of information about the Rapture and never once links it to another event.
I truly believe that Christ wanted us to think He could come at any moment, and that can only happen if it is NOT linked to any other event, which we might use as a sign of the rapture. I also believe that by not linking the Rapture to any other event, then every generation since Christ left, could say, "He just may come in my lifetime."