QUESTION: “WHAT IS THE TRIBULATION? HOW DO WE KNOW THE TRIBULATION WILLS LAST SEVEN YEARS?”
Answer: The tribulation is a future seven-year period of time when God will finish His discipline of Israel and finalize His judgment of the unbelieving world. The church, made up of all who have trusted in the person and work of the Lord Jesus to save them from being punished for sin, will not be present during the tribulation. The church will be removed from the earth in an event known as the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53). The church is saved from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 5:9). Throughout Scripture, the tribulation is referred to by other names such as the Day of the Lord (Isaiah 2:12; 13:6-9; Joel 1:15; 2:1-31; 3:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:2); trouble or tribulation (Deuteronomy 4:30; Zephaniah 1:1); the great tribulation, which refers to the more intense second half of the seven-year period (Matthew 24:21); time or day of trouble (Daniel 12:1; Zephaniah 1:15); time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7).
An understanding of Daniel 9:24-27 is necessary in order to understand the purpose and time of the tribulation. This passage speaks of 70 weeks that have been declared against “your people.” Daniel’s people are the Jews, the nation of Israel, and Daniel 9:24 speaks of a period of time that God has given “to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.” God declares that “seventy sevens” will fulfill all these things. This is 70 sevens of years, or 490 years. (Some translations refer to 70 weeks of years.) This is confirmed by another part of this passage in Daniel. In verses 25 and 26, Daniel is told that the Messiah will be cut off after “seven sevens and sixty-two sevens” (69 total), beginning with the decree to rebuild Jerusalem. In other words, 69 sevens of years (483 years) after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem, the Messiah will be cut off. Biblical historians confirm that 483 years passed from the time of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem to the time when Jesus was crucified. Most Christian scholars, regardless of their view of eschatology (future things/events), have the above understanding of Daniel’s 70 sevens. With 483 years having passed from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem to the cutting off of the Messiah, this leaves one seven-year period to be fulfilled in terms of Daniel 9:24: “to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.” This final seven-year period is known as the tribulation period “it is a time when God finishes judging Israel for its sin.
Daniel 9:27 gives a few highlights of the seven-year tribulation period: “He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” The person of whom this verse speaks is the person Jesus calls the “abomination that causes desolation” (Matthew 24:15) and is called “the beast” in Revelation 13. Daniel 9:27 says that the beast will make a covenant for seven years, but in the middle of this week (3 1/2 years into the tribulation), he will break the covenant, putting a stop to sacrifice. Revelation 13 explains that the beast will place an image of himself in the temple and require the world to worship him. Revelation 13:5 says that this will go on for 42 months, which is 3 1/2 years. Since Daniel 9:27 says that this will happen in the middle of the week, and Revelation 13:5 says that the beast will do this for a period of 42 months, it is easy to see that the total length of time is 84 months or seven years. Also see Daniel 7:25, where the “time, times, and half a time” (time=1 year; times=2 years; half a time=1/2 year; total of 3 1/2 years) also refers to “great tribulation,” the last half of the seven-year tribulation period when the beast will be in power.
For further references about the tribulation, see Revelation 11:2-3, which speaks of 1260 days and 42 months, and Daniel 12:11-12, which speaks of 1290 days and 1335 days. These days have a reference to the midpoint of the tribulation. The additional days in Daniel 12 may include the time at the end for the judgment of the nations (Matthew 25:31-46) and time for the setting up of Christ’s millennial kingdom (Revelation 20:4-6).
In summary, the Tribulation is the 7-year time period in the end times in which humanity’s decadence and depravity will reach its fullness, with God judging accordingly.
QUESTION: “WHEN IS THE RAPTURE GOING TO OCCUR IN RELATION TO THE TRIBULATION?”
Answer: The timing of the rapture in relation to the tribulation is one of the most controversial issues in the church today. The three primary views are pre-tribulation (the rapture occurs before the tribulation), mid-tribulation (the rapture occurs at or near the mid-point of the tribulation), and post-tribulation (the rapture occurs at the end of the tribulation). A fourth view, commonly known as pre-wrath, is a slight modification of the mid-tribulation position.
First, it is important to recognize the purpose of the tribulation. According to Daniel 9:27, there is a seventieth “seven” (seven years) that is still yet to come. Daniel’s entire prophecy of the seventy sevens (Daniel 9:20-27) is speaking of the nation of Israel. It is a time period in which God focuses His attention especially on Israel. The seventieth seven, the tribulation, must also be a time when God deals specifically with Israel. While this does not necessarily indicate that the church could not also be present, it does bring into question why the church would need to be on the earth during that time.
The primary Scripture passage on the rapture is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. It states that all living believers, along with all believers who have died, will meet the Lord Jesus in the air and will be with Him forever. The rapture is God’s removing His people from the earth. A few verses later, in 1 Thessalonians 5:9, Paul says, “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The book of Revelation, which deals primarily with the time period of the tribulation, is a prophetic message of how God will pour out His wrath upon the earth during the tribulation. It seems inconsistent for God to promise believers that they will not suffer wrath and then leave them on the earth to suffer through the wrath of the tribulation. The fact that God promises to deliver Christians from wrath shortly after promising to remove His people from the earth seems to link those two events together.
Another crucial passage on the timing of the rapture is Revelation 3:10, in which Christ promises to deliver believers from the “hour of trial” that, are going to come upon the earth. This could mean two things. Either Christ will protect believers in the midst of the trials, or He will deliver believers out of the trials. Both are valid meanings of the Greek word translated “from.” However, it is important to recognize what believers are promised to be kept from. It is not just the trial, but the “hour” of trial. Christ is promising to keep believers from the very time period that contains the trials, namely the tribulation. The purpose of the tribulation, the purpose of the rapture, the meaning of 1 Thessalonians 5:9, and the interpretation of Revelation 3:10 all give clear support to the pre-tribulation position. If the Bible is interpreted literally and consistently, the pre-tribulation position is the most biblically-based interpretation.
QUESTION: “WHAT IS THE MARRIAGE SUPPER OF THE LAMB?”
Answer: In his vision in Revelation 19:7–10, John saw and heard the heavenly multitudes praising God because the wedding feast of the Lamb—literally, the “marriage supper”—was about to begin. The concept of the marriage supper is better understood in light of the wedding customs in the time of Christ.
These wedding customs had three major parts. First, a marriage contract was signed by the parents of the bride and the bridegroom, and the parents of the bridegroom or the bridegroom himself would pay a dowry to the bride or her parents. This began what was called the betrothal period—what we would today call the engagement. This period was the one Joseph and Mary were in when she was found to be with child (Matthew 1:18; Luke 2:5).
The second step in the process usually occurred a year later, when the bridegroom, accompanied by his male friends, went to the house of the bride at midnight, creating a torchlight parade through the streets. The bride would know in advance this was going to take place, and so she would be ready with her maidens, and they would all join the parade and end up at the bridegroom’s home. This custom is the basis of the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1–13. The third phase was the marriage supper itself, which might go on for days, as illustrated by the wedding at Cana in John 2:1–2.
What John’s vision in Revelation pictures is the wedding feast of the Lamb (Jesus Christ) and His bride (the Church) in its third phase. The implication is that the first two phases have already taken place. The first phase was completed on earth when each individual believer placed his or her faith in Christ as Savior. The dowry paid to the bridegroom’s parent (God the Father) would be the blood of Christ shed on the Bride’s behalf. The Church on earth today, then, is “betrothed” to Christ, and, like the wise virgins in the parable, all believers should be watching and waiting for the appearance of the Bridegroom (the rapture). The second phase symbolizes the rapture of the Church, when Christ comes to claim His bride and take her to the Father’s house. The marriage supper then follows as the third and final step. It is our view that the marriage supper of the Lamb takes place in heaven between the rapture and the second coming (during the tribulation on earth).
Attending the wedding feast will be not only the Church as the Bride of Christ, but others as well. The “others” include the Old Testament saints—they will not have been resurrected yet, but their souls/spirits will be in heaven with us. As the angel told John to write, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). The marriage supper of the Lamb is a glorious celebration of all who are in Christ! The Saints will be in spiritual body, they will no need for food.
QUESTION: “WHAT IS THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS CHRIST?”
Answer: The second coming of Jesus Christ is the hope of believers that God is in control of all things, and is faithful to the promises and prophecies in His Word. In His first coming, Jesus Christ came to earth as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem, just as prophesied. Jesus fulfilled many of the prophecies of the Messiah during His birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection. However, there are some prophecies regarding the Messiah that Jesus has not yet fulfilled. The second coming of Christ will be the return of Christ to fulfill these remaining prophecies. In His first coming, Jesus was the suffering Servant. In His second coming, Jesus will be the conquering King. In His first coming, Jesus arrived in the most humble of circumstances. In His second coming, Jesus will arrive with the armies of heaven at His side.
The Old Testament prophets did not make clearly this distinction between the two comings. This can be seen in Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7 and Zechariah 14:4. As a result of the prophecies seeming to speak of two individuals, many Jewish scholars believed there would be both a suffering Messiah and a conquering Messiah. What they failed to understand is that there is only one Messiah and He would fulfill both roles. Jesus fulfilled the role of the suffering servant (Isaiah chapter 53) in His first coming. Jesus will fulfill the role of Israel’s deliverer and King in His second coming. Zechariah 12:10 and Revelation 1:7, describing the second coming, look back to Jesus being pierced. Israel, and the whole world, will mourn for not having accepted the Messiah the first time He came.
After Jesus ascended into heaven, the angels declared to the apostles, “”Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven”” (Acts 1:11). Zechariah 14:4 identifies the location of the second coming as the Mount of Olives. Matthew 24:30 declares, “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.” Titus 2:13 describes the second coming as a “glorious appearing.”
The second coming is spoken of in greatest detail in Revelation 19:11-16, “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but him himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”
QUESTION: “WHAT IS THE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM, AND SHOULD IT BE UNDERSTOOD LITERALLY?”
Answer: The millennial kingdom is the title given to the 1000-year reign of Jesus Christ on the earth. Some seek to interpret the 1000 years in an allegorical manner. They understand the 1000 years as merely a figurative way of saying “a long period of time,” not a literal, physical reign of Jesus Christ on the earth. However, six times in Revelation 20:2-7, the millennial kingdom is specifically said to be 1000 years in length. If God wished to communicate “a long period of time,” He could have easily done so without explicitly and repeatedly mentioning an exact time frame.
The Bible tells us that when Christ returns to the earth He will establish Himself as king in Jerusalem, sitting on the throne of David (Luke 1:32-33). The unconditional covenants demand a literal, physical return of Christ to establish the kingdom. The Abrahamic Covenant promised Israel a land, a posterity and ruler, and a spiritual blessing (Genesis 12:1-3). The Palestinian Covenant promised Israel a restoration to the land and occupation of the land (Deuteronomy 30:1-10). The Davidic Covenant promised Israel a king from David’s line who would rule forever and; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. Jeremiah 31:31-34; giving the nation rest from all their enemies (2 Samuel 7:10-13).
At the second coming, these covenants will be fulfilled as Israel is re-gathered from the nations (Matthew 24:31), converted (Zechariah 12:10–14), and restored to the land under the rule of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The Bible speaks of the conditions during the millennium as a perfect environment physically and spiritually. It will be a time of peace (Micah 4:2–4; Isaiah 32:17–18), joy (Isaiah 61:7, 10), and comfort (Isaiah 40:1–2), no poverty and sickness (Amos 9:13-15) The Bible also tells us that only believers will enter the millennial kingdom. Because of this, it will be a time of complete righteousness (Matthew 25:37) obedience (Jeremiah 31:33), holiness (Isaiah 35:8), truth (Isaiah 65:16), and the knowledge of God (Isaiah 11:9, Habakkuk 2:14). Christ will rule as king (Isaiah 9:3–7; 11:1–10). Nobles and governors will also rule (Isaiah 32:1; Matthew 19:28), and Jerusalem will be the political center of the world (Zechariah 8:3).
Revelation 20:2-7 gives the precise time period of the millennial kingdom. Even without these scriptures, there are countless others that point to a literal reign of the Messiah on the earth. The fulfillment of many of God’s covenants and promises rests on a literal, physical, future kingdom. There is no solid basis for denying the literal interpretation of the millennial kingdom and its duration being 1000 years
QUESTION: “WHO WILL OCCUPY THE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM?”
Answer: There will be two distinct groups occupying the Earth during the millennial kingdom “those with glorified bodies, and those with earthly bodies who lived through the tribulation and on into the millennial kingdom. Those with glorified bodies consist of the Church, receiving glorified bodies at the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:21-23, 51-53), and those who are resurrected after Christ returns to Earth (Revelation 20:4-6). Those who have earthly bodies can be subdivided into two groups: believing Gentiles and believing Jews (Israel).
In Revelation 19:11-16, we find the return of Jesus Christ to Earth, known as His second coming. The rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53) is an appearing of Christ in the air, not His second coming. I mention this to make a distinction between the rapture and the second coming of Christ. There is no mention in Revelation 19-20 of any kind of rapture event. The implication is that saints who are on Earth when Christ returns will remain on Earth to enter the millennial kingdom in their natural bodies. If the rapture or any kind of event where a living believer receives a glorified body were included in the second coming of Christ to Earth, one would expect to find reference to such a major event in Revelation 19. But no such reference is to be found. The only event that results in believers receiving glorified bodies is found in Revelation 20:4-6 where those who became believers during the Tribulation and were killed because of their faith are resurrected. It is also believed that at this same time Old Testament saints will be resurrected, also receiving glorified bodies (see Daniel 12:2).
Matthew 25:31-46 is another passage that should be considered. This passage is commonly called the separation or judgment of the sheep and the goats. The sheep and goats refer to righteous and unrighteous Gentiles. Christ will judge the unrighteous Gentiles (goats), and they will be cast into the lake of fire for eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46). Therefore, no unbelieving Gentile will survive to live on into the millennial kingdom. The righteous Gentiles, or sheep, will live on into the millennial kingdom. They will give birth to children and will populate the Earth. However, these are not the only ones who will be producing children during the millennial kingdom.
The impression is given that when Christ returns, all Israel will trust in Him (Zechariah 12:10). They, too, will not receive glorified bodies (as did those who were rapture prior to the tribulation and those resurrected afterward). They also will produce children during the millennial kingdom.
So, believing Gentiles, Israel, and resurrected/rapture believers (all of whom have glorified bodies) will occupy the Earth. It should be noted, however, that believers with glorified bodies will not be reproducing. There is no marriage after this life (Matthew 22:30).
Children born during the millennial kingdom will have the responsibility of faith in Christ as all people of past ages have (faith in Christ since His coming; faith in God before “Genesis 15:2-6; Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 3:20). Unfortunately, not all of the children that are born during the millennial kingdom will come to faith in Christ. Those that do not will be led away by Satan into rebellion against God at the end of the millennial kingdom when Satan is let loose for a short time (Revelation 20:7-10).
For a further look at this subject (who will live into the millennial kingdom), look also at the following passages: Isaiah 2:2-4; Zechariah 14:8-21; Ezekiel 34:17-24; Daniel 7:13-14; Micah 4:1-5.
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