History’s Timeline Going Forward

The apocalypse is in the air! That statement has been uttered many times over the course of many years. It was the Apostle John, before the second century had dawned, who said, “Little children, it is the last time.” (I John 2:18) Another Apostle, Paul, had the last time on his mind when, writing to his protégé, Timothy, he said, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.”(I Tim.4:1) Paul evidently thought that admonition was relevant to the young Timothy and that the last times were even then imminent. It has, of course, been two thousand years since those last-time alerts were sounded, which, to the Bible-believer, only means that it is that much closer now than when John and Paul sounded the warnings! With that in mind, note with me the order of events that Scripture affords us of what will happen in the end of this age—the who, when, what and where of it, if we may:

  • The Rapture of the Church is the next eschatological event that the Church anticipates, day by day. No signs need be fulfilled before Jesus’s coming in the air for the Church in fulfillment of His Upper Room promise, “I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:3). This event, the calling up and catching away of the Church, both the “dead in Christ” and those who are alive at His coming, is called the “Blessed Hope” of the believer. (Tit. 2:13). It will be announced by the sounding of a trumpet (I Cor. 15:52). When it happens, all who have accepted Christ as Savior, from the Day of Pentecost until that moment, shall be resurrected and raised up or, if alive at that time, will follow in order the resurrection and raising of the dead saints, to be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air. Their bodies—in “a moment, in the twinkling of an eye”—will be instantly glorified and made in the likeness of Christ’s glorified body. (I Cor.15:51-54; I John 3:2)
  • Sometime following the Rapture of the Church, a seven-year period of tribulation will begin to play out upon the whole earth. Israel as a nation will enter this seven-year period having signed a (false) peace treaty with the Anti-Christ—which he, the “man of sin,” will break at the half-way point of this period known as “The Tribulation.” When that half-way point occurs, the Anti-Christ will unmask his identity and try to eliminate all Jews (not succeeding, though, as Israel will be divinely protected by God). The last half of the “Seventieth Week of Daniel” Jesus calls the Great Tribulation, and death and devastation will rule upon the face of the whole earth. A rapid-fire series of divine judgments, called the Seal, the Trumpet and the Bowl judgments  will bring crushing pain worldwide as God pours out His wrath upon the world. (Revelation, chs. 6-19) Chapters 24 and 25 of Matthew offer further clarification—in Jesus’ own words—of this future period, ending in the gathering and judging of the nations, including Israel, as Jesus comes to establish His millennial kingdom.
  • The 2nd Coming of Christ, not to be confused with the Rapture of the Church. In the Rapture, Jesus will come in the air for the Church; in the Return, He will come to the earth with the Church. There will be battles, as the Anti-Christ and his forces assemble in Megiddo to oppose this coming King. But Christ will prevail and the Devil will be cast into a bottomless pit, bound there for 1,000 years as Christ rules and reigns from Jerusalem, with His saints, during this edenic-like, renovated world. (Rev.20:1-10)
  • Armageddon, Phase 3: At the conclusion of the 1,000 years, Satan will be loosed from the bottomless pit where he had been bound. In one last desperate attempt, he will once again deceive millions of earth’s inhabitants—declaring that he, not Jesus, is the rightful ruler of the earth. Mounting this final coup against God, Satan will be once-and-for-all defeated and cast into the Lake of Fire where he, with the Beast and the False Prophet—the unholy triune—will spend eternity. The earth will be destroyed by a universal conflagration, making way for the coming down from God, out of heaven, a new heaven and new earth complete with the New Jerusalem. (Rev.21:1,2)
  • The Great White Throne Judgment: When Satan shall have been cast into the Lake of Fire, a great judgment will take place, known as the Great White Throne Judgment, at which time all the unsaved dead, of all time, will be resurrected to stand before the judgment bar of God. All whose names are not found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (and there will be none!) will be cast into the Lake of Fire, their eternal abode. (Rev.20:11-15)
  • A new heaven and new earth will come down from God, out of heaven, and the eternal abode of the saints of God will be in place. This place, set forth in Revelation 21 and 22, will be beautiful and blessed beyond our ability, in our finiteness, to comprehend.  We will live in peace with Jesus forever in a place where there will be no time, no tears, no death, no crime, no sin of any kind, no sun nor moon—because Jesus will be the SONLIGHT of Heaven.

The above gives the interested reader a basic outline of future events.  There will be other judgments, on which I did not elaborate, including the Judgment Seat of Christ at the Rapture, for Church-age saints; and the Judgment of Israel and the nations at the time of Christ’s 2nd coming. Old Testament saints will be resurrected at the close of the Tribulation, as well as Tribulation martyrs. (Dan. 12:1-3) There are many other blanks one could fill in and, though I do not expect to be able to answer every question or concern, please feel free to reply with your questions or comments. I know that in matters of eschatology, good men will differ in matters of interpretation, so if you disagree with my outline, I am OK with that. We can agree to disagree.

Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” (Matt.24:42); “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” (Matt.25:13)

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