We continue to look at Revelation’s prophecies, exploring one of the most famous and contentious images in Revelation: the rapture. The Scriptures invite us to wait in expectation for the coming of Christ. As we wait, we are to grow in sanctification and become more like Jesus. Christians have nothing to fear. God is in control. He is our source of hope. And when the end comes, the fullness of his joy will be revealed.
In this episode what we’ll do is cover a topic that most of you seemed to be very interested in last week after we finished—which is the rapture—and then cover the four horsemen of the apocalypse which is the somewhat famous scene from Revelation.
But first let’s review the last episode. Last episode we showed that this Revelation that we’re looking at takes place during a seven-year period. That seven-year period begins when there’s a contract, a treaty, a covenant between the antichrist and the nation of Israel.
The antichrist, or the beast, is a leader of some version of the Roman confederation. We know that from Daniel, there are four kingdoms. There is Babylon, Persia, Greece, and then Rome. And Rome is described as this kingdom that’s more vicious and more destructive than any other, but also very brittle. If you’ll think about the Roman Empire, it never actually got defeated; it just broke into pieces. Then it keeps reconfiguring itself, and then it breaks into pieces again.
In Daniel we saw that this seven-year period is called the 70th week. There’s a prophecy of weeks of years. That came about to Daniel when he was praying to God and saying, “I had read, God,” Daniel was saying, “I’ve read the prophecy of Jeremiah, and here we are in exile in Babylon away from Jerusalem that’s in desolation; and you have prophesied through the prophet Jeremiah that this is going to last for 70 years, and we’re coming up on the end of the 70 years. Lord, please forgive us and restore.”
Gabriel comes down and he says, I’m going to give you the answer. The answer is, there’s going to be a complete restoration. In fact, everlasting righteousness is going to come in. The anointed one is going to be placed on the throne. All things are going to be restored to Israel including the city is going to be reconstructed. But, that’s going to happen in 70 sevens or 490 years.
So the answer to the end of the 70 is 70 sevens.
Then the angel goes on to describe that 69 sevens are going to happen and then Messiah will be cut off. Then the 70th seven will happen and there’s going to be an abomination of desolations, and that abomination of desolations is going to take place, and there’s going to be tremendous destruction.
It’s a very confusing answer to Daniel because he says, yes, there’s going to be a restoration, but there’s also going to be another destruction. And then, that’s going to all be part of a complete restoration that brings in everlasting righteousness and Messiah on the throne even though during it, Messiah is cut off.
It’s 483 years and Messiah is cut off, and then seven years, and then there is everlasting righteousness brought in.
The time of the Gentiles
What we know is there’s this huge gap between the 483 years and the 7 years. And that is called the time of the Gentiles.
Messiah is cut off
For the nation Israel the clock is ticking when the edict goes out to rebuild the walls, and then the clock stops when Messiah is cut off, when Jesus is cut off. And that could be different times during Jesus’ ministry. We don’t know what the exact time….It could be when Jesus says, from now on I’m going to tell parables lest you return. It could be when Jesus came into the city. It could be when Jesus was crucified. We don’t know the exact dates.
But Messiah was cut off. And now that clock is stopped. The stopwatch is stopped. It will start again when there’s a treaty between the antichrist—which will be some leader in some reconfiguration of the Roman powers. We’re still in the Roman era. Then this seven-year period will start.
The Great Tribulation
In the middle of the seven years, there will be another abomination of desolations, just like there was in Antiochus Epiphanes, which took place as a precursor. And when this takes place—it will be some sort of a desegregation of the temple, so the temple will have to be rebuilt. And when that takes place, then the period that Revelation calls the Great Tribulation will begin. And it’s three and a half years.
We actually don’t see in the book of Revelation any mention of seven years. We see the mention of the Great Tribulation. We see a mention of three and a half years. It’s talked about several times.
So to piece together that this is the seven years of Daniel, what we did is we looked at Matthew 24 that shows Jesus saying the Great Tribulation will begin when the abomination of desolations spoken of in Daniel takes place.
Then we went and looked and saw Daniel’s abomination of desolation takes place in the middle of the seventieth week which is a seven-year period. Therefore, we deduce that Revelation is taking place during this seven-year period.
The sign that’s pointed to, is never the contract, other than in Daniel, the covenant. Because this covenant—governments are making covenants all the time, it would not necessarily even be a public covenant. But apparently this abomination of desolation will be very public. And that will be the time when you know, okay, this is it, this is the last three and a half years.
What about the rapture?
So we’re in this seven-year period, and one of the questions people have is, what about the rapture? Well, Revelation doesn’t talk much about the rapture as I think you meant it when you were asking it. But there are a couple of raptures in Revelation, so let’s look at that first.
The resurrection and rapture of the two witnesses
In Revelation 11:11 we see a rapture. It’s actually in verse 12, but let me give you the context. There are two witnesses that God sends to testify against the world, and they are untouchable. They try to kill these guys; they can’t touch them.
Finally they do. They kill them. And their bodies lie in the street for three and a half days. There’s all this world-wide celebration going on because these two guys are killed. Kind of like we celebrated when Osama Bin Laden was killed. The world is going to celebrate because these two witnesses are killed. They have been pronouncing destruction on the earth and withholding of rain, and everybody knows it’s coming from them. So when they die, the world is glad.
So verse 11. Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them—here they are in the street, and suddenly they are resurrected—and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 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.
The resurrection and rapture of Jesus
What does that remind you of? Jesus. It’s just like Jesus. Jesus was raptured. Raptured just means to be caught up, you go from here to there. Beam me up. You’re beamed up. That’s the only part of Star Trek that hasn’t happened yet. But it will! See, it’s coming.
So they get beamed up and everybody’s, “Oh my gosh!” So, this is one type of rapture that has happened. This is the second time. So Jesus is resurrected and then raptures. And then these two witnesses are resurrected and then are raptured.
Elijah and Enoch are raptured without resurrection
There are two other people who have been raptured. But they weren’t resurrected. Who are they? Elijah and Enoch. One before the flood and one after the flood. There’s two examples of a rapture without a resurrection, and there’s two examples of a rapture with a resurrection. One has happened, and one is yet to come with these two witnesses.
So there’s four different raptures, and there are two different kinds.
The rapture of the beast and the false prophet
Let me show you another rapture that I think arguably takes place, and this is in Revelation 19:20. The war is taking place when Jesus comes back now as the conquering king that Israel was expecting him to be in the first place. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast—the beast and antichrist are the synonyms—and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.
I would argue this is another rapture. They go straight from earth right into the lake of fire without even passing through death. We’re used to the body and the spirit being separated. And at the end there’s going to be a resurrection of everybody. There’ll be a very different outcome for the redeemed and the non-redeemed.
But the beast and the false prophet, they don’t even die. They just go straight to the lake of fire. The interesting thing about this is if you look at Daniel 7, which I think is worth turning over there, Daniel 7:8, you’ve got this beast. It’s the fourth beast again, which I would say was Rome. It has ten horns. It says in verse 8. “I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up from among them—this would be the antichrist—before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words.
I watched till thrones were put in place,
And the Ancient of Days was seated—so here we are, the thrones. We keep being in the throne room.
His garment was white as snow,
And the hair of his head was like pure wool.
His throne was a fiery flame,
Its wheels a burning fire;
A fiery stream issued
And came forth from before Him.
A thousand thousands ministered to Him;
Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him.
The court was seated,
And the books were opened.
I watched because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame—in the throne room. Coming from the throne.
We have this very, very fascinating image because in Revelation, the river of life comes from the throne, and it flows through the street, and the tree of life is on either side. So from the throne comes the lake of fire that the beast and the false prophet go directly into, and from the throne comes the river of life that provides life to the earth. Interesting, huh?
Is God the source of all things? It does make sense to me.
The rapture of the wicked
There’s another kind of rapture that is the rapture of the wicked. There may be a mass rapture of the wicked.
Let’s look at Matthew 13:40. You know this as the parable of the tares. And Jesus is explaining the parable. And in verse 40 we see that the tares—Therefore as the tares—a tare looks just like a wheat plant, but it doesn’t have a kernel of grain in it. The husk is empty. You can’t really tell the difference until you see the product, the fruit. So in verse 40—as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness—
So who’s gathered up, the fruitful ones or the unfruitful ones? Unfruitful. The tares are gathered up and thrown into the furnace. Interesting, huh?
A possible rapture of unrighteous Jews
That could be a rapture of unrighteous Jews. And it’s possible that that is how Romans 11 happens.
Let’s look at Romans 11:20. Romans 11 is the restoration-of-Israel chapter. He’s talking here about not boasting against the olive tree and the branches of the olive tree that are Israel just because they were cut down and we, the wild olive tree, the Gentiles, were grafted in. Don’t be arrogant because of that. That’s happened as a consequence of their unbelief, he says.
Verse 18. Do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.
We are a part of Israel. We are a part of Judaism. We came in and were grafted in.
Verse 19. You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” I’m replacing them, right? No.
Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. But do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.
There are consequences to unbelief. The consequence is not to be unborn after you’ve been born. Being born is something that’s a gift. It’s irrevocable. That’s a gift that’s irrevocable. But we can take our blessing and throw it away by our actions.
Verse 22. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell
If we skip all the way down to verse 25. For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion—fortunately that’s not a problem for us, being wise in our own opinion, right? —that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
So this time period between the 480th year in the 70 weeks prophecy of Daniel, where the time of the Jews stops and the time of the Gentiles begins, that is still the period we’re in. But that period will come to an end. It will come to its fullness. And then the seventieth week will start, and the Jewish calendar starts back up again.
He says blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved—that’s an interesting statement. All Israel will be saved. You ask well how’s that possible? Well one way is, the tares are harvested and thrown into the fire so that all that’s left are the redeemed Jews. Maybe.
Maybe there’s not only a rapture of the wicked beast and false prophet, there might also be a rapture of the Jews who see Jesus and see all this stuff happen and still won’t come to him. Maybe that’s what happens. Could be.
Another possible rapture
Revelation 18:4 might be a rapture. There’s this announcement that Babylon has fallen and a pronouncement of judgment on the nations who have rejected the ways of God. In verse 4 it says, And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her.
That could be that they’re going to come out by death and then come back and conquer. But it could also be a rapture that he’s saying, I’m taking you out now, for believers during the tribulation.
God’s will: Your sanctification
None of those verses are actually the verses that most people who believe in a rapture point to. Let’s look at those. I Thessalonians 4:13-17. This is in the context of Paul talking about the will of God, actually, in chapter 4 verse 3, it says, “For this is the will of God.”
If you ever have someone come to you and say, “I just want to know God’s will,” just turn to this verse. This is the will of God, your sanctification. That’s what God’s will is. We always know that’s what God’s will is.
It’s funny how we get tripped up on making circumstantial decisions, and what we’re usually thinking is, which circumstance can I choose that will get me what I want, because what God wants is for me to get what I want. See, it’s like Santa Clause. I’ve just got to find the right Santa, sit on the right knee, and then I will get the toy I want. That’s the way we usually think.
But the Bible’s real clear. The will of God is that we become all that we can be. And circumstances are not all that important. What we do in the circumstances is what’s important.
Hope after death
He’s talking about our sanctification. And then he gets to verse 13, and he says, But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep—those who are dead in Christ—lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.
You’re doing all this work. You’re being sanctified. Whatever circumstances you’re in, you’re being faithful in those circumstances. But, I don’t want you to be without hope. Because those who have gone before and are already dead, they have hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
Bring with him to where? That’s a really interesting image, right? Here’s Jesus bringing with him people that have already died. To something. To some place. Maybe that’s when he comes back on his white horse.
The Thessalonians rapture
For we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 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.
Here you have both kinds of raptures. One is the Jesus-two-witnesses rapture where they resurrect and then are raptured. The other is the Enoch-Elijah kind, where you don’t die in the first place and you’re raptured. And they’re both happening, just one right after the other.
First is the Jesus-two-witness one, and right after is the other.
And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
The comfort is that there’s hope for all. There’s hope for all. Those who precede us in death, we have the same hope.
Nobody knows when it is
The other main verse that people look at is I Corinthians 15. While you’re turning there, I’ll mention that in I Thessalonians 5:1, just going on from the verses we’re in, it says, But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourself know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.
He makes this point that there’s this rapture, but then he says nobody knows when it is. So bear that in mind as we look at I Corinthians 15:51.
The last trumpet
Behold, I tell you a mystery—he says—We shall not all sleep—not everybody’s going to die—but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
There is a promise of rapture, and that’s the Enoch-and-Elijah kind. But, we have then this very interesting thing where this says at the last trumpet, and 1 Thessalonians says no man knows the hour. Well, what is this last trumpet? It could be the last trumpet of the age of the Gentiles or some other trumpet we don’t know about. But if it’s the last trumpet of Revelation, then it’s going to be in a time era where the abomination of desolation has happened. Which is it? Or is it both?
You see how many different things are going on here?
For those who eagerly wait
Let me make one other point to you. All of these things sound like all believers are going to be resurrected, the dead and the non-dead. But let’s look at Hebrews 9:28. And this is representative. There’s a lot of verses that say things like this. So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. In this case, we’re talking about salvation from our bodies and being here on earth and the presence of sin essentially.
That sounds like the appearing of Jesus is only for those who are specifically waiting for him. And you can find a lot of verses like that.
So what is it? Which one is it, would be our typical way of thinking about it.
The people missed the big picture
Here’s my answer. Look at John 7:40. Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, “Truly this is the Prophet.” The Messiah. The Anointed One. The Christ. Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Will the Christ come out of Galilee? Has not the Scripture said the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” So there was a division among the people because of him.
Here are people rejecting Jesus as the Christ because of prophecy. Were they wrong or right about the prophecy? They were correct! But what did they miss? All the rest of the picture, right? Because Jesus was out of Bethlehem. But he was not of Bethlehem. He was a Nazarene. He was, but he wasn’t. He was born there, and he was of the house of David. Yet he was a Nazarene and came from Galilee. Because there were two sets of prophecies that said different things. And this was an amazing way they both came true. And they didn’t see the whole picture.
The point is to be ready
Here’s what I’m going to tell you: It may be all these things, plus a ton more. The point isn’t to figure out when is the rapture and who’s going to go. The point is, be ready all the time! The whole point of Revelation is, I want you to be a great witness because the ramifications of not being a great witness are huge. And the ramification of being a great witness is huge for you, and for me, and for the world. That’s the point. The point is not to figure out how this is going to come together.
You know there’s this little point we’ll get to where the seven thunders say something. And God says, “Don’t write that down!” And it’s kind of funny because people say, “Well, this is what they said.” Don’t you know that you don’t know what they said? Isn’t that really clear? I think the reason God put that there is to say, “I’m not telling you everything.” I’m telling you enough where you know what to do. Because remember what Revelation is? Read, understand, do. That’s the point. What does he want us to do? Be great witnesses.