December 13

A Chronological Overview of the Book of Revelation

 

Revelation 1:19 (NASV)

 

  1. Write therefore the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall take place after these things.

 

We previously found that in this verse John helps us to understand how to interpret Revelation by giving a three-part outline of the book.  He makes very clear what he is speaking of.  Remember, one of the keys to understanding prophecy is to abide by the simple law: if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.  We don’t need to speculate about when these events will happen…John tells us.

 

Chapter 1            things which you have seen (that which he has just seen while in the Spirit)

 

Chapters 2-3      things which are (an overview of the present Church Age…and the different challenges that the church and Christians must face)

 

Chapters 4-22    things which shall take place after these things (those things which will happen in the future)

 

Once again, John gives us a very specific division in the outline of his book in…

 

Revelation 4:1 (NASV)

 

  1. 1. After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things."

 

After what things?  The things that happened in chapters 2 through 3.  The things that take place in chapters 4 through 22 will happen after the things in chapters 2 through 3.  There is the three-fold division of the Book of Revelation…exactly as John wrote it.

 

John writes Revelation in the form of a “Travelogue”.  What is that?  Let me give you an example:

 

For our 30th Wedding Anniversary, Patty and I decided to take a trip.  The deal was…I would plan the entire trip…and she wouldn’t know where we were going.  And, without her knowing about it…I had arranged for us to have a Wedding Vow Renewal Service back in Orlando where we lived after the trip was over.  So, I arranged for us to fly out of Orlando to Paris, France.  We were there for three days and then we flew to London, England.  Let me back up and tell you one thing…while were in Paris I had prearranged for a rental car so that I could take Patty to Verdun where she was born.

 

Notice carefully what happened in that story.  Parts of the story gave you a time line about what we did…a Chronology.  And other parts gave you additional information about events that happened during the trip…Content.  You could separate the content from the chronology and still have the time line of the story.  Now, here is an important point, don’t’ miss it.  At the first of the story I gave you some content about an event that happened at the end of the trip.  In other words, I got ahead of the story.  I told you about something that would happen later.  And, at the end of the story I told you about where Patty had been born.  Some content, information about her…that had taken place before the story ever even began.  The timeline is consistent…but the content I provide is dispersed at different places in the story…not always at the exact place where that event happened in the timeline.

 

That is what John does in the Book of Revelation.  He tells a story…a travelogue into the future.  And, as he is writing he sometimes gives information about people or events that yet to come…and, at times he gives additional information, content about people or events that have already happened.

 

Here is one of the keys to understanding Revelation…knowing which chapters are Chronological and which chapters are Content…and knowing where the Content chapters apply in the chronological flow.

 

There is one more thing you need to be aware of.  When God inspired to original writes of the Bible to sit down and pen the words of the Bible…there were no chapters or verses.  Those divisions of the Bible were added over time as a matter of convenience so that when people were speaking of a particular part of a book of the Bible they could easily direct other people how to find it...for example: the book of Romans, chapter 3, verse 2.  Adding chapter and verse divisions to the Bible is generally agreed to have become a practice in the early 1500s and there have been slight changes and variations made through the years.

 

But, for our purposes…the chapter breaks in the Book of Revelation serve us very well in identifying what kind of material we are dealing with.  Generally, the chapters fall into one of two categories.

 

Types of Chapters

 

Here is good way to visually imagine all of the content of the book of Revelation.  Basically, you can divide chapters 4-22 into two categories…

  • Chronology chapters that give us the timeline of events
  • Content chapters that give us additional information about the events and individuals

 

The Chronology Chapters are:

 

6 First Series of God’s Judgments…Seals

8-9 Second Series of God’s Judgments…Trumpets

16 Third Series of God’s Judgments…Bowls

19 The Battle of Armageddon

20 The Millennium

21-22 Eternity

 

They give us the timeline of the entire book.  Picture the Seal, Trumpet, and Bowl judgments as hooks on a coat rack in the hall at elementary school…they show us the flow of the book from beginning to end.

 

As we study the book…we can then hang additional material found in the Content Chapters at the appropriate point where the information or activity begins.

 

So, if we add the Content Chapters into the Chronology Chapters we see it this way…

 

Chronology Chapters

Content Chapters

6 First Series of God’s Judgments…Seals

7 4 Angels of Judgment, 144,000 Jewish Evangelists, multitudes of Worshippers

8-9 Second Series of God’s Judgments…Trumpets

10 The Little Book

11 Temple measured, 2 Witnesses martyred, 7th Trumpet

12 The War Between God and Satan

13 The Antichrist and the False Prophet

14 144,000 in Heaven, Last Invitation of the Gospel, Warning to not Worship the Beast, Final Harvest of the Earth

15 Seven Angels with Plagues, Worship of Those Saved during the Tribulation, Holy of Holies opened

16 Third Series of God’s Judgments…Bowls

17 The World-Wide Religion

18 The One-World Government

19 The Battle of Armageddon

20 The Millennium

21-22 Eternity

 

THE KEY EVENTS OF CHAPTERS 4-22

 

Let’s do a quick synopsis of the entire Book of Revelation.  We will look at The Key Events in Chapters 4-22.

 

THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH

(includes all believers of the Church age)

 

"Rapture", in the context of eschatology, is an English word derived from the Latin rapio, "caught up" [1] as found in the Vulgate rendering of 1 Thessalonians 4:17.[2][3]

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapture#Etymology)

 

1 Thessalonians 4:17 (NASV)

 

  1. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

 

Someone says, “The word ‘rapture’ is not in the Bible.”  Well, they are wrong.  It is in the Bible…just not in the English translation.  The word “rapture” is a theological term that is used to identify a particular incident in the Bible.  That being…the moment when Jesus Christ comes back in the clouds and all believers are literally “caught up”, “lifted up” to Him in the sky.

 

The rapture:

  • the next major event that will take place in prophetic history is the rapture
  • at this time in history…Christ will come in the clouds…not back to the earth…and all believers, both living and deceased…will be caught up to Him in the clouds
  • everything necessary to happen has already happened...nothing else is left...nothing else remains
  • nation of Israel is now established

 

Ezekiel 37:21-28 told us that Israel must return to the land before the Messiah could return.  At the time, around 597 BC, Ezekiel was in Babylon.

 

On May 14, 1948, Israel once again became a nation.  Ezekiel’s prophecy was fulfilled.

 

June of 1967 was the beginning of the Six Days War.  In those few, short, dramatic days were on the verge of over running Egypt.  On June 7, the Jews captured the Old City of Jerusalem.

 

      Israeli General Mushe Dyan said, “We have returned to our holiest of holy places, never to leave again.”

 

Luke 21:24 says that the Messiah will come when…

 

the time of the gentiles fulfilled

 

Since June 7 of 1968…the time of the gentiles has been quickly coming to its end.  There is nothing…absolutely nothing that must happen before the Rapture takes place.

 

7 YEARS OF TRIBULATION

 

The Rapture of the Church will issue in the beginning of what is referred to as the Tribulation period.  7 years of Tribulation…7 years of God’s judgments…7 years of war, famine and death…7 years of martyrdom…7 years of world struggle.

 

At this time, a man will arise on the world scene as a leader to a place of prominence and power that the Bible refers to as the Antichrist.  According to Daniel, chapters 2 and 7, he will be from the area of Western Europe and will lead a group of nations that are geographically located in the same area that the ancient Roman Empire was located.  He will quickly come on the scene and will gain power on a world scale...uniting the governments of the entire world under one umbrella organization or world governing body…a “one world government.”  His power will result from three primary areas: political, religious and commercial.  Each of these has one soul purpose, to advance his control and dominance over the earth for his master, Satan.

 

How does he accomplish this?  What events precipitate his ability to come to power?  Allow me to briefly summarize:

 

1-the spiritual vacuum left after the rapture...he claims to have all the answers.  He will propose an amalgamation of religions, New Age philosophy including channeling and reincarnation, along with Secular Humanism.  He will play off the media's emphasis on "Extraterrestrials"…people, beings from other planets.  The fear that we are under imminent threat of attack by aliens.  He will establish a world religious organization that will incorporate all religions into one, ecumenical body led by a False Prophet who will perform amazing miracles.  Particularly his own resurrection after he receives a deadly wound to his head.

 

2-the world is looking for a great leader.  A Superman motif.  A man who can unite all the political and philosophical ideologies of the world into a single, composite, workable system.  Such is his tremendous charisma that he will be idolized and people will begin to worship him as the savior of the world.

 

3-the source of his power is Satan.  He does not necessarily know that he is under the influence of Satan at first, but when he rises from the dead there will be no mistaking it.  And, at the three-and-one-half year mark…Satan will be cast down to earth where he will totally, completely possess the Antichrist.

 

4-the need for a unifying principle…a world government.  A "New World Order" will arise.  A system that will do away with all needs for sanctions, taxes, etc. and allow all countries to freely pursue trade and build a strong economic, commercial system.

 

5-he claims to have all the answers to the world-wide problems of over-population, pollution (acid rain, greenhouse effect/ozone layer, rivers/lakes/oceans, nuclear wastes and by-products, etc.), global warming, poverty, world hunger & starvation

 

6-the fear of total annihilation by nuclear war.  He will have a Peace Initiative…a plan, that though it will require enforcement…will rid the world of its fear of self-destruction

 

Antichrist will sign a Covenant with Israel…according to Daniel 9:27.  This will signify the beginning of the Tribulation period.  3 1/2 years after he signs the Covenant he will break it.  This will coincide will his own willful destruction of the World Religious system that he and the False Prophet have developed.  Their usefulness is gone and now he will want to become the absolute sovereign dictator of the world.  Two important events will happen at this 3 1/2 year period.  First, Antichrist will suffer a head wound.  He will either die and be brought back to life.  Or possibly, die and be brought back to a new variation of life through integration of the human body and computers.

 

For an interesting article on this see:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2344398/Google-futurist-claims-uploading-entire-MINDS-computers-2045-bodies-replaced-machines-90-years.html

 

Or, he will feign death and claim to have been brought back to life.  At this time he will be completely possessed by Satan…who has been finally and irrevocably cast down to the earth.  After this, he will proceed to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and desecrate it, claiming himself to be god.  This is called the "Abomination of Desolation" (Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; Matthew 24:15; Luke 21:20-26; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).

 

God sends 3 sets of Judgments on the earth

 

Beginning soon after the Rapture God will send three sets of consecutive judgments on the earth.  These Judgments are 3 successive series of events that God directs to bring His judgment upon the earth.  The Seals occur during the first 3½ years of the Tribulation.  The Trumpets occur during the second 3½ years, taking up most of that time.  The Bowls take place at the end of the 7 years of Tribulation…perhaps within the last 6-12 months...happening very quickly (the 7th Trumpet begins the Bowl judgments near to the end of the Tribulation period…10:6-7; 11:15).  With each successive set of Judgments three things happen: they increase in intensity, they happen quicker, and are more specifically directed towards those who follow the Antichrist.

 

These judgments are meant to (1)-turn men to God by revealing His sovereignty over all events, and (2)-show by example, through temporal judgment of sin, what the eternal consequences of sin are.

 

Time and again the judgments of God are sent to turn men from their sin to Him.  And yet, time and again they turn away.  In chapter 6, verse 7 we find that one quarter of the population of the world dies as a result of the fourth bowl.  But instead of crying out to God it says…

 

Revelation 6:15-17 (NASV)

 

  1. Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16. and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17. for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?"

 

In chapter 9, verse 19, during the Trumpet judgments, another one third of the remaining world population dies.  Again there is a negative response…

 

Revelation 9:20 (NASV)

 

  1. The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk;

 

Finally, in chapter 16 we find the 4th, 5th, and 7th Bowl judgments.  The response of the people is…

 

Revelation 16:9,11,21 (NASV)

 

  1. Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory.
  2. and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds.
  3. And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe.

 

Antichrist's Wars

 

Antichrist and Israel at war with Russia #1

 

Very soon after Antichrist comes to power Russia will shake things up by attacking Israel (Ezekiel 38-39).  Their primary motivations will be (1) the seemingly defenseless position of Israel, and (2) since Russia will be experiencing economic collapse, the presence of vast mineral resources in Israel.  It has been estimated that the value of the minerals in the Dead Sea have a value of approximately $1-2 trillion.  Also, there is vast research now underway to discover still undiscovered oil fields in Israel.

Russia's allies will be (Ezekiel 38:5-6):

  • Persia (modern Iran)
  • Ethiopia (modern northern Sudan)
  • Put (modern Libya)
  • Gomer (modern eastern Turkey)
  • Togarmah (modern Turkey, near Syria)

 

God will intervene and supernaturally destroy the Russian army as it invades Israel.  Antichrist will have made some lame attempt to intervene but will have been unsuccessful were it not for God's intervention.  Antichrist will somehow claim the victory for himself.

 

During perhaps the second to third year there will begin to occur a number of physical disturbances.  This is the 6th Seal Judgment.  John speaks of this Judgment when he writes…

 

Revelation 6:12-14 (NASV)

 

  1. 12. I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; 13. and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. 14. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

 

These events, plus the instability among world nations resulting from the war between Antichrist and his revived Roman Empire and Russia will begin to cause more problems for Antichrist.  Very soon he will be fighting for his life to hold it all together.

 

Antichrist and Israel at war with Russia & Egypt #2 (Daniel 11:40-45)

 

The second war will be towards the end of the 7 Years of Tribulation.  Egypt (the King of the South) along with its allies Libya and Ethiopia (modern Sudan) will attack Israel from the south, while Russia (the King of the North) attacks from the north.  Antichrist will first attack Egypt and destroy it.  But rumors of the Russian armies advance and new rumors of the advance of an Asian army ("from the East") will cause him to retreat back into his headquarters in Israel.

 

      All of these armies will begin to amass in and around Israel for the largest, bloodiest conflict of all history.  Battles will begin as all of these nations converge on Israel…but suddenly Jesus and His army will descend from Heaven.  All the armies of the world will unite and turn to attack those of Heaven.  This is known as the...

 

Battle of Armageddon

 

So named because this great, final and decisive battle will occur at Har Magedo…or, the Mount of Armageddon.

 

SECOND COMING OF CHRIST

 

When Christ arrives for this battle…this is what is typically referred to as the “Second Coming of Christ.”  When He came earlier at the Rapture, He came only to the clouds.  However, now He literally comes back to the earth.  After a decisive victory at the Battle of Armageddon, Jesus will go to Jerusalem to establish His throne on earth.  Ezekiel tells us that when Jesus returns to Jerusalem He will enter it through the Eastern Gate, also called the Golden Gate…

 

Ezekiel 43:1-4 (NLT)

 

  1. After this, the man brought me back around to the east gateway. 2. Suddenly, the glory of the God of Israel appeared from the east. The sound of his coming was like the roar of rushing waters, and the whole landscape shone with his glory. 3. This vision was just like the others I had seen, first by the Kebar River and then when he came to destroy Jerusalem. I fell face down on the ground. 4. And the glory of the Lord came into the Temple through the east gateway.

 

One author has described this interesting event this way…

 

Jesus will cross the Kidron Valley and enter the Temple Mount through the Eastern Gate just as He did on Palm Sunday some two thousand years ago.  The prophet Ezekiel proclaimed that the promised Messiah would enter the Eastern Gate of the Temple Mount into the rebuilt Third Temple (Eze.43:1-5).  The Prophet had told Israel that this Eastern Gate (it was originally called the Golden Gate because it was covered in a golden colored bronze) would be sealed in the future, to preserve it for the entrance of the coming Messiah (Eze. 44:1-2).

 

Twelve hundred years ago the Muslim scholars were aware of the ancient Jewish prophecy of the coming Hebrew Messiah - who would rule the world after entering the Temple Mount through the Eastern Gate - and in hopes of preventing the Messiah from fulfilling prophecy they sealed the gate. Ironically by sealing the gate they were fulfilling prophecy.  During the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent (1520-1566), they rebuilt the gatehouse and the walls of the Eastern gate as it is seen today.  In their religion walking through a graveyard would defile a priest or holy man.  To prevent this prophecy of restoring Israel from coming true, they built a large graveyard in front of the Eastern Gate, hoping this would prevent the Messiah from walking through the gate and fulfilling the prophecies.  To be doubly sure to prevent the Messiah from entering the gate, the Arabs placed the graves of several children on the ground only inches from the huge foundations stones of the gate.

 

Jesus the Messiah, then King of Kings over the entire Earth, will return riding a Heavenly White Horse, with His Heavenly Army to supernaturally vanquish the evil forces (Rev.19:11-21).  The book of Zechariah 14:1-8, written in 520 B.C.E., describes the Messiah descending from the heavens.  He will descend to Earth and set foot on the Mount of Olives, opposite the Temple Mount.  Then a great earthquake will split the earth from the Dead Sea in the east through the Mount of Olives to the Mediterranean Sea in the west.

 

It is interesting to note here, that a U.S. Geophysical survey team in 1967 analyzed the Mount of Olives.  They discovered a geological fault line running from the Dead Sea behind the Mount of Olives all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.  They stated a tremendous shock would cause an open fault line to appear, just as prophesied twenty-five hundred years ago in Zechariah 14:4.  The geological fault line along which this split occurs has been discovered and runs from the Mediterranean east to the Dead Sea. Its presence prohibited the Intercontinental Hotel (now called the Seven Arches Hotel) from being built on the brow of the Mount of Olives as originally planned. It was re-located to the south and built on more stable ground where it stands today.

 

Twice this century an attempt to open the Eastern Gate had failed.  First, on December 9, 1917 the Grand Muffti, the Arab leader of Jerusalem, decided to open the gate.  He ordered the other gates to Jerusalem sealed to stop the approaching allied Army led by British General Allenby.  Since he needed one gate open, he ordered his workers to open the sealed Eastern Gate.  As they began their work, General Allenby had his biplanes fly over Jerusalem dropping leaflets asking the Arabs to "Flee Jerusalem."  The Muslims had a prophecy, stating, they would never loose the holy city, until they were asked to leave by a prophet of Allah.  When the Arabs saw General Allenby's name on the leaflet, they interpreted it as meaning Allah's prophet, then they fled the city without a shot being fired.

 

The second time was, on June 5, 1967 when King Hussain of Jordan was planning a construction project in the old city of Jerusalem next to the Temple mount.  This construction project would have closed the Magreb Gate, (the gate that the Arab pilgrims were using) so he ordered the Eastern Gate opened.  As the workers prepared to do their work, Israeli aircraft preemptively responded to the Arab war preparations, and as the Six Day War began, the workers dropped their tools and fled from their work on the Eastern Gate.  As prophesied, the gate still remains sealed to this day, clearly shows us that YAHWEH is in charge and HE works in mysterious ways.

 

Do you get the picture here?  In 520 BC, Zechariah prophesied that when the Messiah, Jesus, returned to Jerusalem that He would come from the east…cross over the Mount of Olives…pass through the Kidron Valley…and enter the city through the Eastern Gate.  Muslim scholars read this Old Testament prophecy…and it worried them.  So, 1,200 year ago they closed the Gate by bricking it over and then they put a graveyard right in front of it.  It they couldn’t stop the Messiah with a wall of bricks…they felt that they could stop him with a cemetery of dead bodies that would make him ceremonially unclean.  Something no self-conscious Rabbi would ever do.

 

But there was one problem.  They didn’t read far enough in Zechariah.  Because Zechariah goes on to say that when the Messiah arrives there will be a great earthquake.  That earthquake will cause the ground to literally split apart from north to south…and running east to west.

 

Zechariah 14:4 (NASV)

 

  1. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.

 

So, when Jesus begins His entrance into Jerusalem…not only will the gate be wide open…but the graves will be completely removed!

 

MILLENIUM

 

Jesus will establish His Kingdom and will reign on earth for 1,000 years.  At this time, the bodies of all those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior…from all of the ages…will be resurrected and rejoined to their spirit.  We will stand before Him to be judged and rewarded for our service to Him…and then we will live with Christ for 1,000 years here on earth.

 

At the beginning of the Millennium, Satan will be cast into the Bottomless Pit.  At the end of the Millennium he will be set free for a short time.  During that time he will attempt once again to rally a force behind him to overthrow the Kingdom of God…but God will seize him and cast him into the Bottomless Pit for all of eternity.

 

JUDGEMENT

 

At the end of the Millennium the dead…non-believers of all ages...will be resurrected.  Then there will be a judgment of the lost of all the ages at the Great White Throne…after which they will be sent into the Bottomless Pit for all of eternity.

 

ETERNITY

 

Finally, we believers are taken to the New Heaven and New Earth where we will live eternally in the presence of God.

 

Revelation 4

 

Jesus is Sovereign over the Future (Revelation 4-22)

Revelation 4-5         The Rapture of the Church and the Scene in Heaven (the beginning of the 7 years of Tribulation, ch. 4-19)

 

Revelation 4:1-The Rapture of the Church

John is now instructed to write about things that will happen in the future.  The phrase "after these things" means after the time of the existence of the church on earth.  This is commonly referred to as the “church age” and it extends from the Day of Pentecost, when the church was established, until the Rapture (see above), when the church is taken up with Christ.  It is significant that the term “church” is never used in chapters 4-19, the period of judgment.  John sees "a door standing open in Heaven" and is told to "come up here".  This too shows us that it was not a current, historical setting on earth that he was to write about...but something that could only be seen through a vision of the future from Heaven.  These words signify the rapture of the church.  The Rapture is an extremely important Biblical truth…and, it is often misunderstood.  So, let’s give it some careful consideration.

 

What Will Happen at the Rapture?

 

Let’s begin by identifying four things that will happen simultaneously when it takes place.

 

There will be the return of Christ…not to the earth, but in the clouds, in the sky

 

The rapture is one of the key events in world history.  The word "rapture" is not used in the Bible.  It is a theological term that comes from the translation of I Thessalonians 4:17 in the Latin Vulgate (383-405 A.D., the official Roman Catholic version of the Bible).  It literally means "caught up", "snatched".

 

  1. 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.

 

The rapture speaks of the time when Christ will come in the sky, in the clouds at the beginning of the Tribulation period.  The rapture takes place 7 years before the Second Coming of Christ to the earth (at the Battle of Armageddon).

 

There will be a rapture of living believers

 

At that time all living Christians will be caught up to Him in the sky…raptured…and He will then take them with Him to Heaven.

 

There will be a resurrection of sleeping (dead) believers

 

At this time, the bodies of those Christians who have already died will be resurrected as well.

 

Paul spoke of the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians  4:13-18.  Believers had voiced a concern for those believers who had already died.  They were afraid that these people would not go to Heaven.  These verses are Paul's response.

 

In verse 15 Paul uses the word “sleep” to describe Christians who die before the rapture.  We learn two theological truths from his use of this word…

 

  1. It is not an end to existence…someone who is asleep still exists

 

This concept of death is emphasized in the wonderful word early Christians adopted for the burying places of their loved ones. It was the Greek word koimeterion, which means "a rest house for strangers, sleeping place." It is the word from which we get our English word cemetery. In Paul’s day, this word was used for inns or what we would call a hotel or motel. We check in at a Hilton Hotel or a Ramada Inn expecting to spend the night in sleep before we wake up in the morning refreshed and raring to go. That is exactly the thought Paul expressed in words such as koimao and koimeterion. When Christians die, it's as if they are slumbering peacefully in a place of rest, ready to be awakened at the return of the Lord. The words have great import, for they convey the Christian concept of death, not as a tragic finality, but as a temporary sleep…

Here the apostle was telling both the Thessalonians and believers today that it's not enough simply to passively understand what was just explained about the Rapture, Christian death, and the Resurrection. Our understanding should spur us toward a certain action-to “comfort one another.” And in the preceding verses he gave exactly the kind of information that makes true comfort possible. When believers suffer the loss of family members or dearly loved friends, we have in Paul's descriptions of Christian death and resurrection all that is needed to comfort each other in these losses. Christian death is not permanent; it is merely a sleep. A time is coming when we and our loved ones will be reunited in a rapturous meeting, when Christ Himself calls us out of this world or out of our graves to be with Him forever in an ecstatic relationship of eternal love. Nineteenth-century Bible teacher A. T. Pierson made this interesting observation about these things:

It is a remarkable fact that in the New Testament, so far as I remember, it is never once said, after Christ's resurrection, that a disciple died—that is, without some qualification: Stephen fell asleep. David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God fell asleep and was laid with his father. Peter says, "Knowing that I must shortly put off this my tabernacle as the Lord showed me." Paul says, "the time of my departure is at hand." (The figure here is taken from a vessel that, as she leaves a dock, throws the cables off the fastenings, and opens her sails to the wind to depart for the haven)...The only time where the word "dead" is used, it is with qualification: "the dead in Christ;' "the dead which die in the Lord."8

As Pierson implies, Christ abolished death so completely that even the term death is no longer appropriate for believers. That is why Paul wrote that we should comfort one another with reminders that for Christians, what we call death is nothing more than a temporary sleep before we are called into our uninterrupted relationship with Christ forever.

(What in the World is Going On?, David Jeremiah, pp. 103,111-112)

 

When the word “sleep”, in the New Testament, is used of death, it is used only in relation to the death of believers—never of unbelievers.

(The Final Countdown, Charles Ryrie, p. 82)

 

  1. It is a temporary condition…they will wake up, arise…they will not be left out

 

Notice what Paul says in verse 15…

 

  1. 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, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.

 

The word “precede” comes from the Greek word “phthano”.  It means “come before, precede.”  When the Bible was translated years ago into what we call the King James Version the word used was “prevent.”  At that time the word prevent meant “to go or arrive before.”  Today, that same word usually means “to keep from happening.”  The emphatic point that Paul is making in this verse is that we will “by no means precede those who are asleep” in Christ.  In other words, there is no way that we will go to Heaven without those believers who have already died.

 

This passage explains that both living & dead believers shall receive a glorified body

 

1-Those that are dead…their body will be raised from the grave back to life…resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:35-50)

 

2-Those that are living…their body will be translated, changed (1 Corinthians 15:51-58)

 

There will be a reunion between believers and the Lord

 

  1. 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.

 

What is the Timing of the Rapture?

 

It is not the same as the Second Coming.

 

The Bible teaches that the rapture takes place immediately before the Tribulation…

 

Dwight Pentecost (Things to Come) identifies 28 reasons why the Rapture must come before the Tribulation Period.  John Walvoord (The Rapture Question) identifies 50 reasons.  Here are a few…

 

  1. The literal interpretation of the text…the structural outline of Revelation
  2. The absence of the church…from the beginning of chapter 4 through chapter 18 there is no more mention of the church in the book of Revelation.
  3. The nature of the tribulation
  4. The necessity of an interval time (between the Rapture and the Second Coming)
    • believers are pictured as being in Heaven—24 Elders, bride
    • the Marriage of the Lamb to the church takes places during the Tribulation
    • the identification of the various times of judgment (1 Corinthians 3:14-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Peter 5:4; Matthew 25:31-46)
  5. The removal of the Holy Spirit (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8)
  6. The promises to the church (John 14:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; Revelation 3:10)
  7. The imminence of Christ’s return (1 Thessalonians 5:6)
  8. The contrasts between the Rapture and the Second Coming

 

Rapture                                                         Second Coming

A mystery                                                       Clearly predicted

Translation of all believers                         No translation at all

Translated Saints go to Heaven                Translated Saints return to earth

Earth not judged                                          Earth judged and righteousness established

Imminent, at any moment                           Follows definite predicted signs, including the Tribulation

Not in Old Testament                                  Predicted often in Old Testament

Believers only                                               Affects all of humanity

Before the day of wrath                              Concludes the day of wrath

No references to Satan                               Satan bound

Christ comes for His own                           Christ comes with His own

He comes in the air                                     He comes to the earth to Mt. of Olives

He claims His bride                                     He comes with His bride

Only His own see Him                                Every eye shall see Him

Tribulation begins                                        Millennium begins

Believers are judged                                   Gentiles & Israel judged

Creation is unchanged                               Creation changed

Israel’s covenants unfulfilled                    All of Israel’s covenants are fulfilled

No program for evil                                      All evil is judged

Church…“the Lord is at hand”                  Israel…”the kingdom is at hand”

 

How Will Jesus Come at the Rapture?

 

1-He will come personally…He will not send a human representative or an angel.

  • 1 Thessalonians 4:16-"the Lord Himself"
  • John 14:3,4-"I will come"
  • Revelation 22:7-"I will come quickly"

 

2-He will come literally (not symbolically)…This is not just symbolic language trying to communicate something that the writer was uncertain about.

  • Acts 1:11-"This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven."

 

3-He will come visibly

  • 1 John 3:2-"we shall see Him just as He is"
  • Revelation 1:7-"every eye shall see Him"

 

4-He will come gloriously

  • Matthew 16:27-"glory of the Father"
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9-"own glory"
  • Matthew 25:31-"the Son of Man comes in His glory"

 

5-He will come suddenly…without warning.

  • 1 Thessalonians 5:2,3-"the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, 'Peace and safety!' then destruction will come..."

 

6-He will come quickly…it will be over fast…there will be no time for a change of heart, a new decision...no chance for a sudden conversion at that moment.  It will be too late to leave at the rapture.  This will not be a slow procedure of events.  It will start suddenly.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:52-"in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye"

 

The whole procedure will be instantaneous, not gradual!  The Greek word translated “moment” is the term from which our word atom comes.  Because when the atom was discovered it was thought to be indivisible, it was named “atom.”  Even though it has been split, the term atom still means “indivisible.” Here it indicates that the Rapture (including both the dead and living saints) will take place in an indivisible instant of time.

(The Final Countdown, Charles Ryrie, p. 81)

 

7-He will come unexpectedly

  • 2 Peter 3:3,4-"mockers...'Where is the promise of His coming?'"
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:2,3-"the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, 'Peace and safety!' then destruction will come..."
  • Matthew 24:44-"for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will"

 

8-He will come decisively

  • 1 Corinthians 15:52-"at the last trumpet; for a trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed."

 

9-He will come certainly…Jesus ties the certainty of His coming…to the certainty of His very existence as God.

  • Revelation 1:1-"I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

 

10-He will come shortly…imminence…He is coming soon

  • Revelation 1:1-"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must shortly take place…”

 

…the phrase “at the last trump” reminds us of its finality.  After the trumpet sounds, there will be no time to prepare, for the changes will occur instantly.  There will be no second chance for those who, up till then, have refused the grace of God.

(The Final Countdown, Charles Ryrie, p. 81)

 

Revelation 4:2-11-The Throne of God

John was "in the Spirit"...no longer seeing an earthly scene, but a Heavenly scene.  Keep in mind that the theme of Revelation is the sovereignty of God.  He is in control of everything and John is about to give us a forward look into history.  These will be terrible days…many millions of people will die.  It is sometimes asked if people will be able to be saved during the Tribulation period.  The answer is, “Yes”.  However, due to the nature of those days…it will be extremely difficult for those who decide to accept Christ as their Savior.  And, as the seven years progress…the persecution of these believers will intensify.  So, it is wonderfully assuring and comforting that before God reveals what will happen during that timeframe…that He first reminds us that He is still in control even during that timeframe.  This Scene in Heaven is meant to stimulate faith, trust, and worship of Him.  So that those who are saved during the Tribulation period will know and be reassured that He is in control.

Pay close attention to what John sees...

  1. God seated on His throne in Heaven (:2-3).  His appearance is like “jasper stone”…crystal clear and of inestimable value; like a “sardius”…blood red, signifying royalty.  There was a “rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance”…perhaps speaking of the complete faithfulness of God (Genesis 9:11-17).

 

  1. And there was a rainbow around the throne: The throne is surrounded by a green-hued rainbow (in appearance like an emerald). The rainbow is a reminder of God's commitment to His covenant with man (Genesis 9:11-17).
  2. Around this setting of all sovereignty, power, authority and glory - this setting of the throne of God - God has placed a reminder of His own promise to never destroy the earth again with water, a promise that directs His sovereignty, so that it is not capricious or against His promises.
  3. A throne says, "I can do whatever I want, because I rule." A promise says, "I will fulfill this word to you, and I cannot do otherwise." A rainbow around the throne is a remarkable thing, showing that God will always limit Himself by His own promises.

iii. Trapp on the rainbow: "Which is signum gratiae et foederis, a sign of grace and the covenant of mercy, which is always fresh and green about Christ's throne of grace."

  1. The believer glories in the sovereignty of God, because he knows that God's sovereignty is on his side. It means that no good purpose of God relating to the believer will ever be left undone.
  2. "Oh! Child of God! Thy heavenly Father in his sovereignty, has a right to do with you, his child, as he pleases, but he will never let that sovereignty get out of the limit of the covenant. As a sovereign, he might cast you away, but he has promised that he never will, and never will he. As a sovereign, he might leave you to perish, but he has said, 'I will not leave thee nor forsake thee.' As a sovereign, he might suffer you to be tempted beyond your strength, but he has promised that no temptation shall happen to you, but such as is common to man, and he will with the temptation make a way of escape." (Spurgeon)

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Revelation 4,

https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Rev/Rev_4.cfm?a=1171003

 

  1. 24 "elders" seated on thrones situated around the throne of God (:4)

 

  1. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones: Before the elders catch John's eye, he noticed the twenty-four thrones they sat on. These twenty-four elders sit on lesser thrones, around the throne. Later we will hear their song of worship (Revelation 4:10-11).
  2. On the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting: Who are these twenty-four elders? Commentators debate whether they are glorified human beings or angelic beings. On balance, the certainly seem to represent God's people.
  3. Elders represented the people of God, especially in the Old Testament. The 24 courses of the priesthood represented all the priests (1 Chronicles 24), and the 12 tribes and the 12 apostles represent all the faithful.
  4. In Revelation 5:9-10, the twenty-four elders sing a song of praise to Jesus, and they cry out: For You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood, out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation. In that passage, the twenty-four elders are clearly speaking as representatives of all God's people, of the great company of the redeemed.
  5. Clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads: The white robes and crowns of the elders seem to indicate that they are indeed human beings - in glory, of course.
  6. Angels are sometimes presented in white robes or garments (Mark 16:5; John 20:12; Acts 1:10), but saints also have white robes (Revelation 6:11, 7:9, 13-14) as a picture of their imputed righteousness (Isaiah 61:10, Revelation 3:5-18). However, we never see angels crowned, but believers are and will be (1 Corinthians 9:25; 2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 5:4).
  7. Therefore, redeemed, glorified man sits enthroned with Jesus. On lesser thrones, to be sure, but thrones none the less. We are joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), and we will reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12).

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Revelation 4,

https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Rev/Rev_4.cfm?a=1171003

 

  1. the judgment of God proceeding from the throne with perfect, complete knowledge (:5)
  2. a sea of glass around the throne (:6)…this has been variously interpreted, but is often accepted to speak of the accessibility of God that is provided through the cleansing and washing of the Word of God (Ephesians 5:26; 2 Corinthians 3:18; James 1:23)
  3. 4 "living creatures" (:6-8)..."like" a lion, calf, face of a man, flying eagle...each having 6 wings and being full of eyes...constantly praising God.  These could be angels (probably cherubim, Ezekiel 10:15-20), or they could be representative of the characteristics of God since they are said to be in the "center" of the throne (:6).

 

For a more detailed explanation of the “living creatures” see:

https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Rev/Rev_4.cfm?a=1171003

 

  1. the living creatures and the elders leading all of Heaven in worship (:8-11).

 

Prayer: Lord, please help me to constantly keep this vision of You...seated on Your throne, ruling all of the universe...in my heart and mind.  You are eternally and completely sovereign over all of the universe.  There is nothing that escapes Your knowledge (:5).  You are worthy to receive glory, and honor, and power!

 

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