The rapture is one of the most famous, complex, and contentious images found in the Book of Revelation. We continue looking at principles and teachings surrounding Revelation’s treatment of the rapture. We see that God protects his people, he won’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear, and he has prepared us through trials for all that is to come. God is in control and in our corner. We must trust Him and remain faithful.
God delivers the godly
There’s a few more principles that are worth talking about when it comes to the rapture. Of course it’s a biblical concept. One principle is God delivers the godly from trials. Think about Lot and his family. Noah and his family.
There’s a verse that says that Israel has sinned. And God says, “I’m going to judge Israel.” And he comes down, and he says, you’re so bad! You’re so bad that even if Daniel, Job, and Ezekiel—I think it is—were here and in your midst right now, I would just take them out. I wouldn’t save everybody else because of them like I normally would. Usually ten righteous people is enough to preserve a whole land. But you’ve gotten so bad, I’m just going to take them out.
There’s this principle that God delivers.
God perseveres his people through trials
There’s a principle that God perseveres his people through trial. Think about Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a very godly guy. He went through the entire Babylonian exile. He was thrown in a pit.
You can go read Ezekiel. He went through the whole Babylonian exile. God has him do some really bizarre things like, lie on your side naked for six months and prophecy how bad it’s going to be, and only eat food that you cooked on dung. Really bizarre stuff to make a point to these people to try to get them to listen.
So sometimes God perseveres us through trial.
God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able
Another principle is 1 Corinthians 10:13. There’s no trial that God will allow that he doesn’t give us provision to resist. Well, what does that mean? If there’s no temptation but such as is common to man, and God is faithful that with the temptation will give us a way of escape, what does that mean? That means God is screening every trial that comes into our life to see if we can handle it.
If he lets a trial into our life, that means he screened it and approved it. That’s what that means.
So, God delivers his people. God perseveres his people. Those principles are not always compatible. They’re in tension with one another somewhat. When does he do which? Sometimes he does both at the same time. Noah was delivered, but I would say being in that boat for all that time, starting the earth over, was a trial in and of itself.
The righteous sometimes perish
Another principle is the righteous sometimes perish with, or at the hands of, the wicked. We saw this in the letter to the churches. Some of you are about to die. In fact, if we look at Revelations 6:9 real quick, and we’re in now the fifth seal, which is where we’re about to go….When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
In the throne room, under the throne, those who have been martyred saying, “We want justice!” Interesting. They’re aware of time. They’re tired of waiting. They’re asking for justice and vengeance on those who killed them. That’s a little different picture than you get of heaven, isn’t it?
And he says, just hang on a little longer because more of you need to die first.
Isn’t this what Jesus told his apostles? All of you are going to die except John. And they said, how come John doesn’t have to die? And he said, that’s none of your business. That’s my business! You go do your job. And they did.
God gets to decide. We need to be faithful.
You’ve got these three different principles. You know who gets to decide which one is in function and the priority at any point in time? Not me. God gets to decide.
There are raptures going on all over the place.
There’s raptures of the dead, the undead, and the forever dead. And they’re all happening. I don’t know exactly how that’s going to happen. You know what I do know? It’s really a good idea to be faithful and to be a great witness.
What should you hope for? You can make up your own mind. I’ll tell you what I hope for. I hope that I get raptured before all this bad stuff happens, and that I get to heaven, and I’m an overcomer. That’s what I hope.
General Booth’s vision
There’s something really interesting about this. This may surprise you some. I’m not alone. The guy that started the Salvation Army is a guy named General Booth, and he published a book of his visions. And one of his visions is a vision he said, I wasn’t sure whether to really publish this or not, but I think God wants me to, so he published it.
And he says he went to heaven, and it’s just this beautiful place. Amazing place. And he just started experiencing all these incredible things.
And this amazing creature comes up to him and says, “We heard you came, and I know you were on a block where my son was. Did you go witness to him and get him saved?” And he says, “Well, uh…” And this other guy, he already knows the answer, and he leaves.
Then it happens again. And he starts feeling kind of uneasy, I’m here, and I’m glad, but I sort of wish I had another chance at this.
Then this big parade comes, and it’s Jesus and all of his saints. And he’s astonished. And Jesus says, “You know, I wish you could join this, but you sort of didn’t get your job done.” And the guy says, “please, can I have another chance.” And Jesus says, “I’m going to send you back. This time, be a good witness.”
Now, in the case of General Booth, his calling was to be an evangelist. And he took that to heart, and he sold out. And he started this whole Salvation Army thing.
What we need to do isn’t always what we want to do
But I take that to heart. When I read I Corinthians 3, and I see the wood, hay, and stubble and all that, here’s what I think: I really want to be an overcomer, and I want to be raptured. But I think it would be better for me to be through the tribulation and die a martyr in the tribulation than to fail to be an overcomer and stand before the judgment seat of Christ; and know that I had this one time opportunity to know God by faith and exercise my gifts—and booted it.
That spiritual disappointment will be much worse than physical pain.
Maybe that’s what Jesus is showing us when he came from heaven and took on the form of a man and did something he didn’t want to do. Did he want to die on the cross? Did he want to go through all that pain? I think it’s clear to us from the garden of Gethsemane he didn’t really want to do all that.
But he did it for the joy set before him, and that was to do the will of his father. To disappoint his father was far worse than to avoid the pain.
He could have called ten thousand angels at any time, and they would have just gotten him out of it.
I think there’s a principle there for us.
And we can bring it to today. We don’t have to worry about the tribulation. Are there uncomfortable things that God is calling you to do? Are there painful things God’s calling you to do with your gifts? Better do them. Better do them. Much better to suffer some physical discomfort now than to forever know that your opportunity to exercise your faith—you’ll never have that opportunity again.
So, faith, hope, and love only one remains, love. You can’t have faith in what you see, and you can’t hope for what you have. That’s not going to be part of the second life.
I just think it’s important for us to have some humility when we get to prophecy. I don’t know about the rapture. I don’t know how many there are, who’s going to go, or when it’s going to happen. I do know God is calling us to be watchful and faithful. That’s really clear.
And I know these principles.
The four horsemen of the apocalypse tell us that God is in control
The key thing I know, which we can get into very quickly this morning, just maybe just for a second is the four horsemen of the apocalypse tell us exactly what is important, which is God is in control.
The first seal
So here we are. We’ll do these real quick. The first four seals. Revelation 6:1. Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals—so here we are unrolling the scroll. We break a seal and see part of the story. Break another seal and see part of the story—and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, “Come and see.” And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.
The second seal
When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come and see.” Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.
The third seal
When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come and see.” So I looked, and behold a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.”
The fourth seal
When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come and see.” So I looked, and behold a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.
These are the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Apocalypse is a Greek word. It comes from the Greek word apokalyptica, which means uncovering. If you have something covered with a blanket and you uncover it, you can see what’s underneath. It reveals it. So the English translation of apokalyptica is revelation. And so this term apocalypse is also used for this revelation.
It’s come to mean something really bad that’s happened, because these four horsemen cause really bad things to happen. You see it.
Now I want you to notice these phrases. In verse two: A crown was what? Given. By whom? Yeah, it’s coming from the throne room. We are still in the throne room.
Look at verse 4: and it was granted.
And look at verse 8: Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given—Why do you need to give Death power? Apparently, Death has to have permission to act on anybody. That’s a comforting thought, isn’t it? It is to me.
Death by the sword
So Death has had permission. In this case, Death has permission to destroy a fourth of the earth. With what? A sword. Well, you have a crown given to this person to conquer. How do people conquer? With violence usually, right? And, sure enough, there’s a sword that people kill one another with. So Death is granted to use people to conquer, to kill one another.
Death by hunger
And how else? With hunger. This term a quart of wheat for a denarius. A quart of wheat is about enough for one person to survive for a day with minimal activity. A denarius is a day’s wage. So we are spending all of our money just for food now. Food is very scarce. There’s great scarcity on the earth. So a lot of people will die from war.
What does war always create? Famine. Because you destroy the crops, you destroy the environment. And so power was given to them over a fourth of the earth to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.
Death by sickness
So with death, maybe there’s sickness. Which usually goes with war as well.
You know the Peloponnesian War is a famous war. The Athenians blockaded themselves up, and they thought they were invulnerable because they had these gates from the city down to the sea coast. And they thought, “we can survive a siege indefinitely.” But they imported the plague. And they were all confined behind these walls, and they all died of the plague.
So that’s not an unusual thing to happen either in a war situation.
Death by beasts
It’s curious though that beasts kick in as well. I looked at this term beast, and the snake that Paul shook into the fire is this same word. So this could be poisonous snakes, poisonous spiders. I don’t know what this is. It could be that coyotes and bobcats go crazy. I don’t know what happens.
But apparently this is happening. And a fourth of the earth! This is a lot of people. Today that would be two billion people dying. That’s a lot of people.
The fifth seal
We are now having authorization for all this really, really bad stuff to happen. And we just saw it, the cry of the martyrs, the fifth seal, and the martyrs say, “but you haven’t taken out the ones that did this to us yet.” Which shows you that there’s this tremendous desire for justice in heaven. So our desire for justice? It’s because we’re made in the image of God. And God never says don’t seek justice. He says don’t seek justice on your own. Leave it to me.
And in this life God has said, the way I’m doing justice in this life is through government. I’ve given government to you to execute wrath on evil. That’s what government’s role is.There will come a day when the wrath of God is going to be executed upon people directly. And this is it.
The sixth seal
We see in the sixth seal, which we’re about to get to, we’ll see this. Look at 6:15. And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man—anybody left out? That’s everybody, isn’t it? They—hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
Notice what happens in this great tribulation period. There’s a total elimination of atheism! Everybody knows what’s happening. The wrath of the lamb is taking place. Isn’t it fascinating that they don’t ask for mercy? They just ask to be hidden from it. Because they know nothing can stand in its way.
This is the wrath of God. The wrath of God brings justice because we have to have justice before we can have restoration. And the ultimate end of Revelation is total restoration of all creation and a complete remaking of the earth in a way that the earth is restored to what it was originally intended to be.
So, the apocalypse has begun. Crowns are given, powers granted, and really bad stuff starts to happen. Next time, I’ll go over this a little bit more, and we’ll pick up and talk about some things like, when these voices come and say come, where does he go? And some things that I think you’ll find interesting. Then we’ll go into the rest of these seals.
And remember the seven seals, the seventh seal is seven trumpets. The last three trumpets are three woes. The last trumpet creates seven bowl judgments. And then the end will come. And that’s where we’re headed.