"THE WRATH OF GOD-WHEN IS IT?"
In chapter two we left off discussing the opening of the fifth seal of Revelation which results in the increasing persecution and martyrdom of the faithful by the Antichrist. God's children will suffer during ‘great tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time’(Matthew 24:21) after the Antichrist is revealed at the mid-point of Daniel's Seventieth Week (Matthew 24:15; Daniel 9:27). However, it is the opening of the Sixth Seal and its results that underscore where we are in God's prophetic timetable, for the opening of this seal brings about the great heavenly sign which occurs before the Day of the Lord according to the prophet Joel 2:31.
This seal as described in Revelation 6:12-17 is the most significant of all that precede for it binds together all of the passages that mention these great wonders in the heavens, the darkening of the sun, the moon becoming as blood, and the stars falling unto the earth. Being preceded by a great earthquake (Revelation 6:12) these events are without a doubt the planet-shaking acts of the Creator God of heaven as He signals the advent of His wrath, the impending Day of the Lord judgment!
And, if the wrath of God is about to come (Revelation 6:16,17) we know and have been promised that before it begins we, the born-again believers, will be raptured, rescued, taken out, removed to safety by the Lord Jesus just as He promised!
"And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there you may be also."(John 14:3)
"For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation (deliverance) by our Lord Jesus Christ."
(I Thessalonians 5:9)
These have got to be some of the most important promises the believer is given! This marvelous, miraculous removal of the saints will indeed take place just before the wrath of God is poured out upon an unbelieving world! Yes, the Lord Jesus Christ will come in the clouds just as He promised in His chronological teaching of the end times (Matthew 24:29-31).
God's pattern of delivering His own and immediately judging the wicked has been His way in the past and, praise His holy name, it will continue to be His way in the future:
'And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given n marriage, until the day the Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot, they did eat, they drank, they bought, they solk, they planted, the builded, But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.' (Luke 17:26-30)
These accounts of Noah and Lot's family's deliverance from God's judgment are compared to Jesus' Coming to rapture and deliver the saints from the devastating persecution of the Antichrist and the future impending wrath of God. He will deliver the saints the same day God's wrath/The Day of the Lord begins, right after the wonders in heaven which occur at the opening of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12,13).
This is exactly what God did in the case of Noah and Lot. When they were removed to safety He began His destructive judgment upon the wicked. These heavenly wonders are the final, major signaling event to the persecuted believers of that day that Jesus is coming soon, for God's wrath/Day of the Lord is just about to begin!
This event (The opening of the Sixth Seal and the ensuing heavenly wonders) will take place during Daniel's Seventieth Week some time after the beginning of the Great Tribulation which begins at the mid-point of Daniel's Seventieth Week.
The Lord Jesus, in response to the disciple’s questions: "when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?" (Matthew 24:3) gave very specific, chronological and detailed answers to His disciples.
Throughout Matthew 24 He used the words: "then...v.9; then...v.10; then...v.14; when...v.15; Then...v.16; For then...v.21; Then...v.23; Immediately after...v.29; then...then...v.30; When...v.33" which clearly show His purpose of unfolding a clear and accurate timetable for "end of the world"(v.3) events providing even the newborn believer with answers concerning the end of this age and the judgment of the world/the Day of the Lord which immediately follows!
This significant chapter of the Bible, Matthew 24, must not be chopped up into bite size sections pulling out a few verses here or there and applying them to different people and different times! No, the Lord gave a precise understandable timetable for the end times that any born-again believer can understand whether a newly saved babe in Christ from the far reaches of an isolated mission field, or a seasoned Bible prophecy professor of a university, this passage rings with the simplicity that is typical of our Lord Jesus Christ!
In this most vital chapter Jesus begins His conclusion in (v.29) with these words: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days..." referring to the days of the "great tribulation" (v.21). It would seem that we are now at the end of Daniel's Seventieth Week because it is now "after" the great tribulation which traditionally has been defined as 3-1/2 years in length.
However, the next thing to occur is "the sun be darkened, and moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven and the powers of heaven shall be shaken" which we have rightly determined to be the pre-cursor of the wrath of God/Day of the Lord.
How can it be possible that we are at the end of the Great Tribulation but only at the beginning of the God's wrath/Day of the Lord? The answer is quite simple if we examine closely the Lord's words concerning the Biblical length of the great tribulation in (v.22).
God in His great mercy shortens the Great Tribulation which is in reality the fierce persecution of the Antichrist, in order that His elect, the saints, might be delivered (by rapture). The Great Tribulation is not 3-1/2 years in length as many present-day Bible teachers/prophecy experts assume.
The Bible does not record its exact length for it is an unknown length of time which the Lord determines! As the pioneers of the return to Biblical end times prophecy (Van Kampen and Rosenthal) have both emphasized, this shortening of the Great Tribulation is one of the important keys in understanding God's timetable of end time events.
This important fact allows and in fact clearly teaches from the mouth of our Lord Himself that we, the Church, will experience the full and mighty persecution of the Antichrist just as the majority of the early church fathers believed. We, the end times Church, will go through the wrath of Satan (Revelation 12:12) but we will not experience the wrath of God, no, we will be raptured the same day God begins His unprecedented judgment of the world! Hallelujah, what a Saviour!
Yes, the Lord will rapture his own the same day His wrath the Day of the Lord begins. But, some would argue that Matthew 24:27-31 is not teaching the rapture, but instead is teaching His coming at the battle of Armageddon. Although we have proven otherwise above, let us examine the classic rapture passage found in I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and compare it with Matthew 24:27-31. It will be evident that when Paul wrote the I Thessalonians 4:13-18 passage he had his eye on Jesus' Matthew 24:27-31 rapture teaching.
'For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.' (Matthew 24:27-31)
'But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleepl For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.' (I Thessalonians 4:13-18)
There are four distinct elements found in both passages that bind them together as one. First of all the word
"coming" used in both passages is identical. It is the Greek word 'parousia' meaning 'an arrival and continuing presence' describing the second coming of our Lord to rapture the church.
We must remember that His second coming will be somewhat different than His first for He now possesses a glorified body with the ability to appear and disappear in miraculous ways just as He did during His forty day ministry on earth after His resurrection. This will be the manner in which He will be come and be present at different times during the last days of the age and the end of the world, the Day of the Lord.
The second word that is common to both passages is "clouds". This word is also used in two other specific rapture passages:
'But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken, And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall He send His angels, and shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.' (Mark 13:24-27).
'And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars, and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shakenl And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory, And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh.' (Luke 21:25-28)
All four of these rapture passages teach us that the Lord will come in the clouds, not to the earth, when He comes to miraculously deliver us from the wrath of the Antichrist's persecution. The Lord will send His "angels" to "gather together the elect" according to Matthew 24:31 which agrees with I Thessalonians where the "voice of the archangel" is evident.
Mark 13:27 also records this rapture truth as the "angels" will be the active agents of God during the end times. They are not only active in the gathering of God's people at the rapture, but they also will be carrying out the Day of the Lord judgments at the command of God.
The last of the four words found in both passages is one of truly great significance. The "trump of God" is seen in
I Thessalonians 4:16 and in Matthew 24:31 "a great sound of a trumpet" also accompanies our Lord's coming. I Corinthians 15:51, 52 also an unmistakable rapture passage gives added insight to this subject:
"Behold I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."
The rapture parallels in this passage are manifold: The mystery Paul was unveiling was the rapture, He says we shall receive a glorified body in and instant, but first the dead (in Christ) will be raised, and second we (those who are alive and remain) shall be changed. But, he also includes the trumpet, "the last trump".
The very last trump the believer will hear will be the one that is sounded by God at the rapture, signaling the ingathering of His own, and also sounding the alarm for the impending day of God's wrath for the great Day of the Lord is come. (Joel 2:1; Zephaniah 1:14-16)
These four words: coming, clouds, angel, and trumpet underline the Lord's teaching in Matthew 24:27-31 and parallel Paul's teaching in I Thessalonians 4:13-18. Both of these passages are obviously describing the Lord's coming to rapture the saints, not His return at the battle of Armageddon which is the last event of the Day of the Lord judgment. This harmony of Scripture truth supports and undergirds the teaching of Mark, Luke, John and the Old Testament prophets as they combine to unfold God's timetable for the end of the age.
Can we really know exactly when the Lord will return to rapture His own? No, we can not know the specific "day and hour" (Matthew 24:36). However, the Bible does tell us we can and should know "the times and the seasons" which is referring to the general, not specific, period of time (I Thessalonians 5:1-10).
The Lord Jesus, after answering His disciples' questions by laying out the end times events in chronological order, told them: "When ye shall see all these things (Matthew 24:4-29), know that it is near, even at the doors."(Matthew 24:33) speaking of His coming to rapture the church and the end of the world.
So, the answer to the question "The Wrath of God-When is it?" can be answered by summarizing the Lord's teaching in Matthew 24:4-41. In v.4-26 the events which are also described in the first five seals of Revelation 6 take place portraying the rise and powerful rule of the Antichrist including the mid-point of Daniel's Seventieth Week and the Great Tribulation.
When the Lord shortens the Great Tribulation He will come to rapture the saints (v.27-41) the same day He begins to pour out His wrath which is the great and terrible Day of the Lord which is signaled by the opening of the sixth seal revealing the 'wonders in the heavens' which point to and precede the wrath of God, the Day of the Lord.
The ensuing trumpet and bowl judgments including the battle of Armageddon which brings the Day of the Lord judgment to an end will follow sequentially after the opening of the seventh seal. The seven year period known as Daniel's Seventieth Week will end before the Day of the Lord judgments are complete. This in brief is how God's timetable of end times events will unfold.
However, the born-again believer is admonished by the Lord Jesus Christ 'take heed that no man deceive you, (Matthew 24:4); to 'know that it (His coming) is near' (Matthew 24:33) and to 'watch' (Matthew 24:42) in view of the nearness of His Coming for the signs of the 'end of the world' are increasingly evident in these momentous days in which we live, underlining the believers responsibility to obey the Lord's urgent commands to live holy lives for Him and reaching out to those who know not Christ, witnessing, warning and winning the lost whom He came to save!
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