RAPTURE & TRIBULATION – AN ILLUSTRATION OF A JEWISH WEDDING
As I have discussed in previous postings the Tribulation starts after the Rapture, where Christ comes and takes His church from earth to be with Him in heaven. The Bible teaches that this present age, the Church Age that started at Pentecost nearly 2000 years ago, will end with the Rapture, followed by the seven-year Tribulation period, which will end with the Second Coming of Christ to earth. Some people argue that the Tribulation period will begin before the Rapture. However, Scripture clearly says, “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1),” and I believe the Church will not experience God’s wrath and the judgement that God has planned for that time period in dealing with the unbelieving inhabitants of earth. Why? (1) At the Rapture, Jesus comes for His saints (we meet Him in the clouds). At the Second Coming, Jesus comes back from heaven with His saints. (2) At the Rapture, Jesus comes with a blessing for His saints. At the Second Coming Jesus brings judgement for those who have rejected Him. (3) At the Rapture, Jesus doesn’t come to earth. At the Second Coming, Jesus’s feet touch down on the Mount of Olives, and He will reign on earth. (4) The Rapture can happen at any moment, but we know the Second Coming will happen seven years later.
This warning bears repeating once again regarding the tribulation of the end days and if He did not intervene, Christ said that “Unless those days be shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s (Jewish remnant) sake those days will be shortened (Matt. 24:22).” Just prior to this statement Jesus said, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been seen since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be (v.21).” This prophecy could not have been fulfilled by any previous persecutions on humanity because it is clearly stated that it will be ended by the Second Coming of Christ. Adding up the numbers in the book of Revelation, we are looking at over one half of the world’s population, some 4 billion will die. There never has been a time like this and there never will be another calamity like the Tribulation. It will be the greatest period of suffering the world has ever known. It will be the ultimate “future shock.” The Old Testament prophets mentioned it at least 49 times, and its mentioned at least 15 times in the New Testament. The Bible teaches that the Tribulation (the seven years, 70th week of Daniel) is a time of preparation for Israel’s restoration and conversion. It is referred to in Scripture as “the time of Jacob’s distress (Jeremiah 30:7).”
Think! Except for these end times, when has mankind held the capacity to destroy all flesh? Never! It’s only been since World War II and specifically in the last 70 years with the advent of modern nuclear, chemical, and now “radiological” weapons that this could be possible. We live in an age when all of these are available. Nuclear weapons alone possess the capability, with the stockpiles that currently exist, to wipe out all mankind many times over. Here’s an example of what I read the other day: “Just three of these thermal nuclear warheads have enough force to literally flatten the state of New York and 20 would kill every living thing from the southern tip of Florida to northern coast of Maine. Casualty rate for all living things is 100% for centuries.” Yet, Christ predicted this nearly 2000 years ago.
Let me make this clear to everyone as there is some confusion amongst churches. Christ’s body of believers, the Church, will not be present on earth during the Antichrist’s reign in the Tribulation. This is confirmed by the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians and by John in the book of Revelation. John records Christ’s words: “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 (Rev. 3:10).” You see, if you know the Lord, there is no need to worry because Christ said, “For God did not appoint us to wrath…. Therefore comfort each other (1 Thess. 5:9, 11).” It is no coincidence that the gospel was preached around the world precisely at the time when weapons of mass destruction became available, proving correct the timing of Christ’s warning about the danger to the survival of all humanity.
THE PURPOSE OF THE TRIBULATION
While there are actually several purposes. One of the major Divine purposes for the Tribulation is the conversion of the Jewish remnant to faith in Jesus as their Messiah. This will take place throughout the Tribulation, but by the end of the seven-year period the entire number of the elect remnant will become converted to Jesus. The Lord will chasten that nation of Israel during this time. Scripture says, “Only I will not destroy you completely. But I will chasten you justly and will by no means leave you unpunished (Jer.3 30:11).” This chastisement will result in Israel’s conversion: “And you shall be My people, And I will be your God (Jer. 30:22)” Jeremiah says that these things will occur “in the latter days (Jer. 30:24).” So, as you can see the main purpose of the Tribulation is to bring Israel to national repentance. Many Christians are surprised to learn that the Second Coming is also a rescue event. Jesus will return to planet Earth in order to rescue the believing Jewish remnant that is on the verge of being destroyed by the Antichrist during the campaign of Armageddon.
The Old and New Testaments teach that before Christ can return to earth for His millennial kingdom the nation of Israel must be converted to Jesus as their Messiah and call on Him to save them. This is taught throughout the Bible (Lev. 26:40-42; Jer. 3:11-18; Hosea 5:15; Zech. 12:10; Matt. 23:37-39; Acts 3:9-21). Only by faith in the Son of Man can Israel be regenerated. Only by calling upon the name of the Lord can Israel be saved spiritually. Only by the return of the Son of Man can Israel be saved physically. Yet, that is exactly what will occur in the future in the Tribulation period. The Lord Is setting the stage for these future events since He has brought His chosen people, after being scattered around the world for 1900 years, back to their land in anticipation of both the purging of the non-elect and the redemption of the elect remnant.
The fact that the last 3 ½ years of the Tribulation is also called the “time of distress for Jacob (Jer. 30:7)” indicates that although the entire world will be involved, the purpose of the tribulation primarily relates to Israel. The overall purpose of the Tribulation is to finish the work of Daniel 9:24: to bring Israel as a nation to their God by bringing them to their Messiah. As in most of God’s dealings with Israel, this is unfortunately best accomplished through the discipline of hardships. Despite the horrors of the Tribulation, 144,000 Jews will come to a saving relationship with Jesus and witness to the world, drawing many in to accept Christ (Rev. 7:1-8; 14:1-5).
WHO ARE THE 144,000 MENTIONED IN REVELATION?
During the Tribulation, God will send His two witnesses into the world to prophesy and perform mighty miracles. There will also be 144,000 Israelis “sealed” for God’s service during this period (Rev. 7:4). The 144,000 Israelites will become evangelists and there shall be a great harvest of souls during these terrible tribulation days. Just imagine the impact these 144,000 spirit filled individuals will have on the world and the magnitude of the revival that will take place during the Tribulation. They are 144,000 of all the 12 tribes of the children of Israel – 12,000 from each tribe (Rev. 7). They will be preserved, sealed, and protected by God so that they cannot be killed by the Antichrist while they complete their service to God. People will hear their message, and many will be saved. This is further confirmation that there will be many new believers during this time. And, just as in the early days of the faith after Christ’s resurrection, many will be martyred because of their belief.
Due to the 144,000 Jewish (witnessing) evangelists, we read in Revelation 7:9 that a great multitude of individuals are redeemed during the tribulation coming from all nations, tribes, people, and tongues. This is a scene in heaven. They stand before the Lamb in white robes indicating that they too have been saved by the blood of the Lamb. Along with all the angels and the 24 elders, representing the Church, this great multitude praises the God of our salvation and the Lamb.
John’s question concerning the origin of this numberless multitude, one of the elders gives the noteworthy answer, “These are they who come out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (7:14).” What a wonderful picture of God’s mercy. Although the Tribulation is a time of judgement, yet it will be a time of salvation as well. A number of God’s elect out of Israel will be redeemed with an innumerable multitude of Gentiles from around the world. Isn’t God gracious? In the midst of justice is found His salvation, for through the Tribulation come those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb – the Tribulation Saints (both Jews and Gentiles).
*Now we know who the 144,000 evangelists are and what their mission is, and the question that needs to be asked is: “Why?” Why would God need 144,000 Jewish (witnessing) evangelists going around the world preaching Jesus Christ? Is that not the role of the church? Mid-trib and post-trib believers seriously need to ask themselves this question. The answer is very simple: The Church is no longer on earth during the seven-year Tribulation period but has been caught up and taken away by the Bridegroom, Christ Jesus (1 Thess. 4:16-17). Every believer knows that the Church’s primary role is to draw people to Christ but because the Church is taken to heaven before the Tribulation God will go all out to draw people to Himself using the 144,000 Jewish evangelists in the first 3 ½ years of the Tribulation. This is how the unbelieving inhabitants on earth will hear the gospel during the Tribulation.
THE TWO WITNESSES OF THE TRIBULATION
Who are the two witnesses spoken of in the book of Revelation that will preach the gospel during the Tribulation? The Bible doesn’t specify who these two witnesses are, and I know there are a lot of people that believe it will be Moses and Elijah, but I believe they are Enoch and Elijah, the two prophets that didn’t experience physical death but were taken up to heaven. I believe that God took these two men up to heaven in order that He might send them back to earth to witness for Him for the last 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation where they will be put to death by the Antichrist after their mission has been accomplished. In the book of Genesis, Moses sent plagues against Egypt and here in the book of Revelation we also see these two witnesses sending plagues to the unbelieving world and antagonizing the Antichrist.
The ministry of these two witnesses for the Lord is outstanding. They will have power (1) to kill their enemies with fire, (2) keep it from raining for 3 ½ years, (3) turn the waters to blood, and (4) bring plagues upon the earth. However, when they have finished their ministry “the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcoming them, and kill them (11:7).” But remember up to this point they are invincible. Nothing happens to these two witnesses until they have finished their testimony. Nothing can thwart the purposes of God. But, as in the case of many other great prophets of God, when their ministry is finished, God permits their enemy to overcome them.
As if their murder isn’t enough for this godless beast, the Antichrist, he also allows their dead bodies to lie in the street of Jerusalem. You can imagine the hatred that would allow these two bodies to lie in the street until the stench is unbearable. So great is the antagonism to their preaching of repentance that the whole earth will “rejoice over them, and make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth (11:10).” Can you just imagine, the death of these two witnesses invoking rejoicing throughout the earth to such an extent that a holiday is proclaimed, and that they that dwell on the earth send gifts to one another in exultation over the death of these two prophets.
It’s what happens next that puts the fear into all the inhabitants of earth. The forces of Satan and the inhabitants of earth will not have long to glory in their deaths because after 3 ½ days “the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them (through a worldwide televised event – CNN, NBC, etc.). And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them (11:11-12).” Here is another great victory for God. So great is the impact of this resurrection to life “that in the same hour as the two witnesses ascend to heaven, a great earthquake destroys 1/10 of the city of Jerusalem and 7000 men are swallowed up and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven (11:13).”
Think! Now, how can this scene be possible when this was written over 1900 years ago? Well, naturally it will have to be by television. You see, the Bible spoke of television 1900 years ago before man had even invented it. Television has made this passage of Scripture real and possible. You see, only God knows the future and why prophecy is 100% accurate. Now, through the medium of satellites circling the globe it’s possible to transmit live pictures and voices to anyplace in the world instantaneously.
THE SCENE IN HEAVEN – THE HEAVENLY HALLELUJAH CHORUS
The Tribulation end is near. Excitement and expectancy are in the air. John records, “And I hear, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife (the Church) has made herself ready (Rev 19:6-7).” In conjunction with this great sound of praise is the marriage supper of the Lamb. Gathered around the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, are those who are His bride. Since the true Church of today is the Bride of Christ, this scene must take place in heaven. At the rapture of the Church, prior to the Tribulation period, we are joined in marriage to the Bridegroom – Jesus Christ. Now the wedding supper or feast (which always followed the wedding ceremony by a space of time) takes place.
In a celebration, we who are the saints of God, raptured up to heaven before the Tribulation, stand before the Lord as bride before bridegroom arrayed “in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints (Rev. 19:8).” From our vantage point in heaven, we join in praising the Lord of Glory, for the great harlot has been overthrown (Babylon, the Great).
After the marriage supper of the Lamb the stage is set for the most dramatic entrance in history “when heaven opens” we notice that Christ is sitting on a white horse which obviously is a warhorse since He is coming to conquer His enemies (Rev. 19:11). With the tone of Revelation changed from somber to jubilant, the way is prepared for the Second Coming of Christ! He is about to come as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev. 19:16). In verse 14 we see that Christ is accompanied by “the armies in heaven, clothed in white linen, white and clean, following Him on white horses.” Besides heavenly angels these armies are no doubt made up also of the saints “clothed in fine linen,” but it is noteworthy that they are not required to fight. The Lord Jesus defeats His foes unaided by the Word coming out of His mouth – “For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast (Psalm 33:9).”
What a joyous day that will be when the seven years of Tribulation are ended, judgement upon the earth is over, and Jesus Christ comes as the Prince of Peace to reign in peace during the Millennium (1000-year reign of Christ Jesus on earth). In Matthew 24:29-30 we read about the sign of His coming: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days (the 7-year Tribulation period) 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. 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.” Then when He descends, “He will send His angels” throughout the earth to “gather together His elect” people, believing Israel, to the land of Palestine. From all corners of the earth, they will gather to greet their Messiah and then enjoy His glorious Millennial reign. Hallelujah.
ILLUSTRATION OF A JEWISH WEDDING
The Jewish wedding ceremony is an excellent example or illustration of the Rapture (Christ coming for His church) and the seven years we spend with Christ in heaven during the tribulation.
Jesus after His resurrection, He left His bride (the Church) on earth and ascended to heaven to be with His Father. Jesus left to prepare a place for His bride, the Church. This is referenced in John 14:2-3, “In My Fathers house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
In ancient times regarding the Jewish wedding tradition, it was customary for the bridegroom to go to his father’s place (heaven in Jesus’ case) to start preparing a place for his bride (the Church in Jesus’ case) by adding on an addition to his father’s house for his bride. Sometimes it could be a new home or a new addition to his father’s home, but it would be on the family property. It was the father of the groom (God the Father in Jesus’ case) who determined the timing – the father would tell his son when he could go and get his bride. It was important that this new home or new addition would be up to specs to meet the honor of the father’s stature as it would be the home used in the continuation of his family. Neither bride nor groom knew when the father of the groom would say that this new home was “good enough,” so they both needed to be ready. When the father (God in this case) was satisfied with the home his son (Jesus in this case) built for his bride (the church) he would say, “Okay, son go get your bride.” In this case Christ’s coming for His church (the rapture) and taking her home to heaven.
Now the community and the bride knew the year and the approximate month, but the day and hour were unknown. So, in Matthew 24:36, when Jesus said to His disciples, “But of that day and hour no one knows, no, not even the angels of heaven but the Father alone” does not mean Jesus is ignorant of His return, but rather submissive and respectful to His Father’s authority.
There is a lot more that could have been added to this posting if space would have permitted but I did, however, want to leave you with this one last analogy of how the seven-year tribulation period, God’s wrath on earth, perfectly correlates with the Jewish wedding ceremony.
During the seven days of the Jewish wedding festivities and celebration at the groom’s father’s house, the bride and groom remained hidden in the bridal chamber. At the conclusion of the seven days (consummating the marriage) the groom would bring his bride out of the bridal chamber with her veil removed, so that all could see who this bride was. Now, how does this correlate to Scripture? After the Rapture the Church (the bride of Christ) will remain out of sight, hidden in heaven for a period of seven years then after this period of time Christ will bring His Church out of Heaven in His Second Coming at the conclusion of the seven-year Tribulation period in full view of all who are alive on earth, so that all can see who the true church is (Col. 3:4).
IN SUMMARY: The present Church Age of the past 2000 years is our betrothal period. Scripture clearly teaches the church is Christ’s bride, which He lovingly and sacrificially purchased with His blood. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit secures our position. We know from Scripture that the first step in the wedding has already taken place. The marriage covenant was established at the First Coming of Christ. Whenever a person places their faith in Jesus Christ, they enter into this covenant (the New Covenant) and become part of His bride (the Church). Since the ascension of Jesus following His resurrection, He has been at His Father’s house preparing the bridal chamber.
As we, the bride of Christ, wait eagerly for the Bridegroom we know that just as the Jewish bridegroom returned for his betrothed, Jesus will return for us at the appointed time. In the same way that the Jewish groom’s arrival was preceded by a shout, so Christ’s arrival to take the Church to heaven will be preceded by a shout (1 Thess. 4:16). Similar to the Jewish bride’s return with the groom to his father’s house after her departure from her home, the Church will return with Christ to His Father’s house in heaven after she (the Church) is snatched from the earth to meet Him in the air. This is known as the rapture (snatching away) of the Church to heaven. It tells us in Scripture, “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. 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 (1 Thess. 4:16-17; & John 14:2-3).
Our Bridegroom Is Coming Soon. Are You Ready?
God will use the Tribulation to force man to choose between Him or the Antichrist. He will give everyone around the globe one last opportunity to accept or reject Him. The Tribulation will make it clear that there is no middle ground; no one can sit on the fence when it comes to their status with God.
God always has a purpose for everything He does. The Tribulation is when the wrath of God is poured out on the unbelieving inhabitants of the world that has rejected Him. The world will experience disasters, famine, war, pain, and suffering which will wipe out half of the world’s population before the Second Coming of Jesus. Now do you see why God refers to the Rapture as the “Blessed hope.” Why? Because God’s wrath in the Tribulation to come is so horrible. Yes, we the church, will miss every part of the terrible Tribulation but people need to understand and be forewarned that we will probably go through some of the worst days we have ever seen in our generation or our parent’s generation before we are Raptured, and the Tribulation starts.
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