“Harpazo” is the Greek word used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 which means “to snatch or catch away” and “conveys the idea of force suddenly exercised” Vine’s Expository Dictionary. “Rapture” is taken from the Latin translation of that word.
Scripture itself best explains the “rapture”.
Just before His crucifixion Jesus tells His disciples that He will come back to take them to where He is:
JOHN 14:2-3 “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."
Jesus will come in the clouds. When Jesus is before the Sanhedrin just before His crucifixion, He tells Caiaphas, the high priest, the teachers of the law and the elders:
MATTHEW 26:64 "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. "But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." (See also Mark 14:61-62)
Angels tell His disciples how He will come back to earth–in the same way He left:
MARK 16:19 “After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.”
LUKE 24:50-51 “When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.”
ACTS 1:10-11 “After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "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."
Jesus has John write these words to the church:
REVELATION 1:7 “Look he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be. Amen”
Everyone will see Jesus coming in the clouds, including the Jews—“those who have pieced him”.
Most people on the earth will be terrified when they see Jesus come in the clouds. They have rejected Him, and they know that now will be judgment:
REVELATION 6:15-17 “Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the 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 their wrath has come, and who can stand?’”
But those that have believed in Him will rejoice when they see Him. It is a great comfort to know that Jesus is coming back for them:
TITUS 2:13 “while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,”
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is the principle passage concerning the rapture of the church:
1 THESSALONIANS 4:13-18 “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.”
Paul wants to reassure the Thessalonians that they do not have to worry about “those who fall asleep”–those who die. Jesus explained to His disciples that for those who love Him, death is like sleep:
JOHN 11:11-15 “After he had said this, he went on to tell them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up."
His disciples replied, "Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better." Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
Those who have died believing in Christ will rise to meet Him in the air. Jesus will come “with a loud command, the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God”. Those who are still alive who belong to Jesus will come together with those that have died and meet Jesus in the air. At that time His children will be with Him forever.
When Jesus comes down from heaven to rapture the saints, there will be “the voice of the archangel”. Although there may be others, Michael is the only angel called an archangel in the Bible (Jude 9). He is assigned to the nation of Israel, is mentioned at the time of the rapture (Daniel 10:21 12:1) and is in a battle against Satan in the end times (Revelation 12:7-9).
“The trumpet call of God” is the same event as the “the last trumpet” in another major passage about the rapture–1 Corinthians 15:
1 CORINTHIANS 15:42-54 “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.
I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed– in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."
Here again, death is called sleep. After we have woken from sleep (or are raptured) at “the last trumpet”, we will be given “a spiritual body”.
The last trumpet was sounded before the final victory in the battle of Jericho:
JOSHUA 6:16 “The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, "Shout! For the LORD has given you the city!”
The “trumpet call of God” or “the last trumpet” is not the final trumpet sounded during the end time scenario (there are the seven trumpet judgments among other trumpet calls), but it is the final victory of the believers who will now leave the sinful world.
Paul is telling the Corinthians that we will be changed instantly at the time of the rapture to inherit an imperishable, immortal body. We won’t all sleep (die), but we will all be changed. As we saw in I Thessalonians 4, those that are asleep (have died) will rise first to meet Jesus in the air. It seems those living at the time Jesus returns will never see even the first death:
JOHN 3:51 “I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death", is referring to the second death:
REVELATION 2:11 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.”
REVELATION 20:6 “Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.”
REVELATION 20:14 “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.”
REVELATION 21:8 “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."
The first death for Christians is sleep. When they wake they will be in the presence of Jesus. The Apostle Paul said:
PHILIPPIANS 1:21-23 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;”
God calls the death of His children precious:
PSALM 115:16 “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.”
Since 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is a predominant passage on the rapture, let’s examine it in the light of the context of 1 Thessalonians. Each chapter in 1 Thessalonians ends with a reference to the coming of the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 1:9-10
Paul tells the Thessalonians that all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia are talking about their faith in God. Note the relationship between the rapture (“wait for his Son from heaven”) and the wrath of God (“Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath”):
1 THESSALONIANS 1:9-10 “for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead–Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.”
Jesus will rescue us from the coming wrath when He returns in the clouds. What a wonderful promise!
As explained in The Rapture Question Answered Plain & Simple by Robert Van Kampen this is NOT the same promise that Jesus gives to the faithful church at Philadelphia:
REVELATION 3:10 “Since you have kept my commands to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come the whole world to test those who live on the earth.”
The “hour of trial” is the persecution by the Antichrist. Jesus “will also keep you from”–protect some of the faithful believers in the midst of that persecution. A verse with a similar idea is:
2 PETER 2:9 “…then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment…”
The persecution of Antichrist will be:
MATTHEW 24:22 “…cut short…for the sake of the elect” when Jesus comes in the clouds and rescues us from the coming wrath.
1 Thessalonians 2:19-20
1 THESSALONIANS 2:19-20 “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.”
It was because of Paul that the Thessalonians heard about Jesus. According to this passage the crown in which we glory in when Jesus comes is believers that we have helped in some way to accept Jesus’ gift of forgiveness and an eternal home in heaven.
1 Thessalonians 3:13
Jesus is coming with His holy ones:
1 THESSALONIANS 3:13 “May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.”
According to these passages that “his holy ones” are His messengers, the angels. Myriads will come with Him when He comes for those that believe in Him:
JOB 15:15 “If God places no trust in his holy ones, if even the heavens are not pure in his eyes,”
PSALM 89:5-7 “The heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones. For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD? Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings? In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him.”
DANIEL 4:17 " `The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men.’”
ZECHARIAH 14:5 “You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.”
JUDE 14-15 “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him."
Much of 1 Thessalonians 5 concerns end time events:
1 THESSALONIANS 5:1-11 “Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
The “day of the Lord” will come like a “thief in the night” (Matthew 24:43; Luke 12:39; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3, 16:15), but those that believe in Jesus (“sons of the light”) will not be surprised. We are to be “alert and self-controlled”. We can study the Bible and watch the signs. We will know the approximate time Jesus will come back. No one knows the day or hour (Matthew 11:27, 24:36 Mark 13:32), but as the time approaches it will become clearer.
In this passage the Day of the Lord and the rapture appear to come at the same time. We will not “suffer wrath” (Day of the Lord) even though Jesus appears “like a thief in the night” (rapture).
The Day of the Lord and the rapture are linked in:
1 THESSALONIANS 1:10 “and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead–Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.”
Jesus rescues us from the coming wrath or the Day of the Lord.
The Day of the Lord and the rapture are linked in 1 Corinthians 1:4-9:
1 CORINTHIANS 1:4-9 “I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way–in all your speaking and in all your knowledge– because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”
We “eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed” (rapture). We will be kept “strong to the end”, so we “will be blameless on the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
1 THESSALONIANS 5:23-24 “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”
Jesus will keep us “blameless” if that is our desire. And it will be our desire if we are His children:
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Philippians 2:12-13
1 Peter talks about what we should be because we will face Jesus when He comes back:
1 PETER 1:6-7 “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
1 PETER 1:13 “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
1 Peter 4:13 “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”
2 Thessalonians, also, speaks often about the rapture.
2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.”
After the rapture “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels” those who do not accept Jesus as Lord will be punished.
Another very important passage concerning the rapture (especially the timing) is 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12:
2 THESSALONIANS 2:1-12 “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”
Notice the similarity between “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him” (v. 1) and “will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” 1 Thessalonians 4:17. This is the rapture of the saints.
2 Thessalonians was written shortly after 1 Thessalonians because those at Thessalonica received a message that the day of the Lord had already come. They were“easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come” (v.2). Why would it disturb them if they thought the Day of the Lord had come? They lived in great persecution—it seems Paul comforted them with explaining and reminding them over and over of Jesus’ coming. They would know the Day of the Lord and the rapture of the saints were to come at the same time. They thought they had missed the rapture!
Paul explains that two events have to happen before the Day of the Lord:
"the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed,” (v. 3). The rebellion, which has to occur before the Day of the Lord and the rapture, is explained in Matthew 24:
MATTHEW 24:9-13 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
The Antichrist or “the man of lawlessness” also has to be revealed before the Day of the Lord and the rapture can occur: “the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” (vs.3-4). He is revealed as whom he is when “he sets himself up” in the Jewish temple proclaiming to be God.
The timing of the rapture centers around a seven year peace treaty. The pretribulation theory is the belief that the rapture will occur before the seven years, the mid-tribulation theory is the belief that the rapture will occur at the midpoint of the seven years, the posttribulation theory is the belief that the rapture will occur at the end of the seven years and the pre-wrath theory is the belief that the rapture will occur during the last half of the seven year period. It will occur at a "day or hour" Matthew 24:36, 50 25:13 Mark 13:32 Luke 12:46 which only God the Father knows, after the time of great distress when the Antichrist will persecute the Church (after the Jews have gone into hiding). It is called the sixth seal rapture theory or the prewrath rapture theory because of the belief that the rapture will occur shortly before the wrath of God is released on the ungodly. The prewrath view is very scriptural and is what is presented in this article.
The Coming Prince by Sir Robert Anderson is an analysis of the following passage. This passage gives a panoramic view of history and explains this seven year peace treaty:
DANIEL 9:24-27 “Seventy `sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city 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.
Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven `sevens,’ and sixty-two`sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two `sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 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."
A ‘seven’ is generally accepted to be a period of seven years in this passage. All except one ‘seven’ has already happened. Verse 27 has not been fulfilled.
"Your people" is Daniel’s people–the Jews. The "holy city" is Jerusalem.
This prophecy covers the time period from when the angel Gabriel gave the prophecy to Daniel until the time Jesus sets up His kingdom. It is generally accepted that "the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem" occurred when King Artaxerxes sent Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2). When "the Anointed One will be cut off" is when Jesus is crucified. That is also when the time clock of "sevens" stopped with an undisclosed time gap between the sixty-nine ("seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens") and the final "seven".
The Roman Emperor Titus destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD—“The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary”. That is why it is believed the Antichrist, the final world ruler who will oppose all that Christ is and yet will in many ways copy Him, will come from the former Roman Empire, although there is an incomplete understanding of what the Roman Empire would be today.
At the beginning of that final seven years, Israel makes a covenant with the Antichrist and “many” other nations:
“He (Antichrist) will confirm a covenant with many for one `seven.’…” Daniel 9:27
Israel will make a covenant with the Antichrist and the “many for one ‘seven’. Isaiah (God) says about Israel:
ISAIAH 28:15 “You boast, "We have entered into a covenant with death, with the grave we have made an agreement. When an overwhelming scourge sweeps by, it cannot touch us, for we have made a lie our refuge and falsehood our hiding place.”
Israel fell into this deception because she rejected Jesus when He came to them:
ISAIAH 28:16-17 “So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed. I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line; hail will sweep away your refuge, the lie, and water will overflow your hiding place.” (see also 1 Peter 2:6)
MATTHEW 23:37 LUKE 13:34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”
After 3 ½ years the Antichrist will take control of the temple in Jerusalem, and following the pattern of Antiochus Epiphanies IV who ruled from 175-163 B.C. will desecrate the temple. Historians tell us that Antiochus sacrificed a pig on the altar and set up a statue of Zeus:
“… 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,… " Daniel 9:27
“The man of lawlessness” (Antichrist) will be revealed in the middle of the seven year peace treaty (2 Thessalonians 2:3). Israel will realize at that time evilness of this man:
“…until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” Daniel 9:27
Jesus Himself will destroy the Antichrist.
The middle of the seven-year peace treaty is called “the abomination that causes desolation”:
DANIEL 11:31 "His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation.”
MATTHEW 24:15 "So when you see standing in the holy place `the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel–let the reader understand—”
“The abomination that causes desolation” is the time when “the man of lawlessness”(Antichrist) “…will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4.
Israel will be utterly helpless:
ISAIAH 28:15-18 “Your covenant with death will be annulled; your agreement with the grave will not stand. When the overwhelming scourge sweeps by, you will be beaten down by it.”
The last half of the seven years is often referred to in the Bible. It is referred to as time, times and half a time (3 1/2 years):
DANIEL 7:25 “He (Antichrist) will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time.”
DANIEL 12:7 “The man (angel) clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, “It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people (Jews) has been finally broken (they are helpless), all these things will be completed (Jesus will return, redeem the Jews and set up His kingdom).”
REVELATION 12:14 “The woman (Israel) was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s (Satan indwells the Antichrist) reach.”
It is referred to as 42 months (3 1/2 years):
REVELATION 11:2 “But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months.”
It is referred to as 1,260 days (3 1/2 years):
REVELATION 11:3 “And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”
REVELATION 12:6 “The woman (Israel) fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.”
Jesus Himself will have to defend Israel. Finally they will recognize Him as their Messiah:
ZECHARIAH 12:3-10 “On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations… And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.”
Only then will many Jews recognize Jesus for who He is.
An angel tells Daniel that when Israel has finally realized that she can do nothing, she will be redeemed:
DANIEL 12:7 “The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, "It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed."
The severe persecution of the saints by the Antichrist begins at “the abomination that causes desolation” which occurs at the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th week. The rapture (when those who believe in Jesus will meet Him in the air) will come during the final 3 ½ years (no one knows the exact time) before Jesus will redeem Israel.
The severe persecution of the Antichrist will not last the complete 3 1/2 years. It appears that people will come to believe in Jesus after the rapture because there will be saints on the earth after the rapture:
DANIEL 7:25 “the saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time.”
The rapture is probably close to the end of the age–the time those who do not accept Jesus will be removed from the earth and the time when the Antichrist (1st beast) and false prophet (2nd beast) will be thrown into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 19:20). Between the rapture and the end of the age is “God’s wrath” or “the day of the Lord” which includes the trumpet and bowl judgments.
To return to the discussion of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12:
Something holds back the Antichrist’s full unleashing of evil:
“And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way” (vs. 6-7).
Because of Paul’s vagueness–obviously the Thessalonians understood: “Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?” (v. 5), and because it is unique to this passage of Scripture it is difficult to know for certain who is the one who holds back the secret power of lawlessness. The two predominant views are that it is (1 the Holy Spirit indwelling the Church (which leaves at the rapture) and (2 Michael, the archangel.
Arguments for the Holy Spirit indwelling the Church include:
First, Christians are the light of the world. If the Church leaves, evil will be free to excel:
MATTHEW 5:14 “You are the light of the world…”
Second, one purpose of the Holy Spirit is to expose the guilt of the world. The Holy Spirit is everywhere for all time, but He came in a special way at Pentecost. If He leaves (in the Church), guilt will not be exposed and is free to go unchecked:
JOHN 16:8-11 “When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt (or will expose the guilt of the world) in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”
However, what makes the Holy Spirit indwelling the church impossible is the order of events in this passage—the one who holds back the secret power of lawlessness has to be removed before the rebellion and the man of lawlessness is revealed:
"that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed" 2 Thessalonians 2:3
This has to happen BEFORE the rapture.
Also, the fact that the Church—ekklesta is feminine and “one who holds him back” (v. 7) is masculine adds to the evidence that the Holy Spirit indwelling the Church is not HE who “is taken out of the way”.
A strong case can be made that Michael, the archangel is the “one who holds him back”. Michael is the only archangel mentioned in the Bible (Jude 9) and the prince of Israel (Daniel 10:21, 12:1). We know that Michael’s work is to hold back or restrain the forces of evil. The angel Gabriel told Daniel that he would return to fight the evil force of the princes of Persia and Greece:
DANIEL 10:21 “but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince.”
This is the classic passage of the rapture in the Old Testament, and Michael is standing back when it happens!
DANIEL 12:1-4 “At that time (when the Antichrist is unleashing his power—Daniel 11:36-45) Michael, the great prince who protects your people (the Jews), will arise (Arise–Amad–stand still or fast.). There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then (great tribulation). But at that time (the general time frame) your people (believing Jews and Christians—at the time of Daniel there were no Christians)–everyone whose name is found written in the book (Lamb’s book of life—Psalm 69:28 Philippians 4:3 Revelation 3:5 13:8 17:6 20:12 20:15 21:27) will be delivered (rapture). Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life (when “the dead in Christ will rise first…to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 ), others to shame and everlasting contempt (at a time later than the rapture). Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge."
Notice the timing–those who awake to everlasting life will be judged 1,000 years before those who awake to shame and everlasting contempt. But 2 PETER 3:8 “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day”. That the righteous and the wicked would be removed from the earth within a few years of each other and later judged is probably all that needed to be known at the time of Daniel.
Jesus says the same thing in the New Testament:
JOHN 5:28-29 "Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out–those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”
Another passage that gives evidence that Michael the one who holds back the secret power of lawlessness is Revelation 12.
REVELATION 12:7-9 “And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down–that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”
The time when the Antichrist is “revealed” (in the middle of the seven-year peace treaty) is when Michael and his angels fight Satan and his angels and Satan is cast down to earth:
REVELATION 12:13-14 “When the dragon (devil) saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman (Israel) who had given birth to the male child (Jesus). The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time (3 ½ years—always used in speaking about the last 3 ½ years of the final seven year period before Jesus sets up His kingdom), out of the serpent’s (Satan’s) reach.”
“And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming” (v.8). Jesus will destroy the Antichrist when He comes, some time after the rapture. Because so many important events occur at this time, it is difficult to determine the time frame.
The Antichrist and false prophet will perform miracles (Revelation 13:13, 16:14), which will deceive those who do not know the truth of Jesus Christ. How important to know and study the truth so we won’t be deceived!:
2 THESSALONIANS 2:9-12 “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”
Matthew 24 is worth studying in greater detail since it is the passage (as is Mark 13 and Luke 17:20-37, 21:5-36) where Jesus answers His disciples’ questions about the end of the age;
MATTHEW 24:1-8 “Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. "Do you see all these things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down." (This happened in 70 AD.)
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"
Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, `I am the Christ, ‘ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” Wars, famines and earthquakes will increase at the time of the end, but this is just the beginning of the end."
When the Antichrist, Israel and “many” sign a peace treaty, we know that in seven years Jesus will set up His kingdom:
DANIEL 9:27 “He will confirm a covenant with many for one `seven’…”
The Antichrist will come to power and “many will turn away from the faith”:
MATTHEW 24:9-12 “Then you (many disciples of Jesus through the ages besides those living at the time of the end) will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other (probably rebellion– “…for that day will not occur until the rebellion occurs…” 2 Thessalonians 2:3), and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:1-12
Exactly in the middle of the seven years (3 ½ years) the Antichrist or:
2 THESSALONIANS 2:3 “…man of lawlessness…” will be revealed as Satan possessed, completely against Israel. He is the:
REVELATION 13:1-2 “…beast coming out of the sea…The dragon (Satan) gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority.”
This will be the time when the Antichrist:
DANIEL 7:21 “was waging war against the saints and defeating them.”
The Antichrist breaks his covenant with the Jews and attacks Jerusalem:
DANIEL 9:27 “…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 following verses explain the time of great tribulation. Especially be against Jews and Christians will be persecuted:
MATTHEW 24:13-28 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel–let the reader understand (Daniel 9:27, Daniel 11:31 is an event which foreshadows Matthew 24:15)— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now–and never to be equaled again (also Mark 13:19). If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, `Look, here is the Christ!’ or, `There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect–if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time (this will be a deception that will fool anyone who does not stay close to Jesus).
So if anyone tells you, `There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, `Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather."
Matthew 24:28 has a very different meaning from Luke 17:37 (a different question asked at a different time and a different meaning to the words). Matthew 24:28 is probably referring to the time of Revelation 19:17-18:
REVELATION 19:17-18 “And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.”
The “distress of those days” is not the same as the time of God’s wrath. God’s wrath or the Day of the Lord begins “immediately after the distress of those days” when Jesus appears in the clouds and the saints are raptured or taken out of the world:
MATTHEW 24:29-35 “Immediately after the distress of those days (distress caused by the Antichrist) ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
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. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (other passages that tell of the events at the time of the rapture are Isaiah 13:9-10, 24:21-23, 34:4; Joel 2:10, 2:31, 3:15 Mark 13:24-27 Luke 21:27 Acts 2:20 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, 5:2 2 Peter 3:10 Revelation 6:12-7:1).
“If we take “this generation” in Matthew 24:34 to mean the same thing it does in Matthew 23:36 and elsewhere—rebellious and unbelieving Jews as epitomized by their leadership, then we can make sense of it in the context of Bible prophecy. Jesus is predicting that the Jewish leadership and most of their followers would remain on the scene of history and remain in their unbelieving condition until the prophecies in Matthew 24:1-33 have come to pass. They will then pass away. How and why? Because Messiah will return and bring judgment on the unbelieving, banishing them from His Kingdom and will gather together the believing remnant and “all Israel will be saved.”” Critical Issues comentary
We do NOT know the time of the rapture, although we know it will be within the last 3 ½ years. This passage describes the rapture:
MATTHEW 24:36-51 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father (Mark 13:32). As it was in the days of Noah (Luke 17:26-27 1 Peter 3:20 2 Peter 2:5), so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark (both Noah, Genesis 6, and Lot, Genesis 19, were rescued just before the wicked were destroyed); and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left (Luke 17:34-35).
Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief (Mark 13:32-24 1 Thessalonians 5:2 2 Peter 3:10 Revelation 16:15) was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, `My master is staying away a long time (2 Peter 3:3-9),’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (This servant thinks he is okay in his relationship with God yet ends up in hell!).” Matthew 24:37-51
Luke 17:20-37, 21:5-36 are not quite the same as similar passages in Matthew and Mark. Especially “they will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations” refers to 70 AD when the Roman Emperor Titus destroyed the temple and the Jews were scattered. However, other parts of this passage could be also foreshadowing the time of the end. The passage that is different from Matthew and Mark is quoted below:
LUKE 21:12-34 “But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will result in your being witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. By standing firm you will gain life.
When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
God will give us words to say when we are brought before kings and governors on account of His name. We must stand firm though many, even from our own families, will betray us. Much evil will come against us, but no matter what happens we can know that all things work for the good of those who love Jesus. Nothing can separate us from His love:
ROMANS 8:28-39 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
2 Peter 3 tells us about that time period:
2 PETER 3:3-13 “First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, "Where is this `coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.
Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”
This passage is unclear as to the exact time and meaning of the earth being destroyed by fire. The timing is “the day of the Lord” or “the day of God”, but there is disagreement as to how long that “day” will be. We do know that it will mean the end of the wickedness of this world and will bring “a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness”. We learn that we can speed His coming by living “holy and godly lives”. Perhaps this is because God does not want “anyone to perish” so the sooner He can get His work done on earth, with our help, the sooner He will come.
Paul’s letters to Timothy also speak of "later times" or "last days":
1 TIMOTHY 4:1 “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.”
Many false christs and prophets will appear and deceive many (as mentioned in Matthew 24). The world will be so evil in the last days that we must be constantly on alert. There will be many false prophets and teachers, but those who believe in Jesus will recognize them. Still, we must be careful not to be deceived in any way:
"Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." 1 Timothy 4:16
2 TIMOTHY 3:1-9 “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God– having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth–men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.”
We can be reassured and thankful that God’s grace will keep His children in those days.
Revelation is future, making it difficult to understand. However, as we get into the last seven-year period and need to understand the timing of events more precisely, God will reveal them. If Bible prophecy is interpreted correctly, in the exact way God intended, there is no contradiction, and everything will fall into place.
Where does the rapture fit into the book of Revelation?
REVELATION 6:12-7:1 “I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. (signs accompany the rapture and the Day of the Lord–Isaiah 13:9-10, 24:21-23, 34:4 Joel 2:10, 2:31, 3:15 Matthew 24:29-31 Mark 13:24-27 Luke 21:27 Acts 2:20)
Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! (the reaction of the inhabitants of the world when they see Jesus and know at His wrath is coming) For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?"
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree.”
The rapture takes place at the sixth seal. There are seven seal judgments, then seven trumpet judgments, and finally seven bowl judgments. Each set of judgments gets more severe and each lasts for a shorter length of time.
The first seal judgment probably begins at the time of the seven-year peace treaty. Since the seal judgments last longer than the trumpet and bowl judgments, the middle of the seven year peace treaty is probably the time of the fifth seal:
REVELATION 5: 9-11“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.”
At the mid-point of the seven years (3 ½ years) the Antichrist turns against the Jewish nation and sets up an “abomination of desolation” Daniel 9:27, 11:31, 12:11 Matthew 24:15 Mark 13. He does this in the temple (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12). He turns against the Jewish people, and when he cannot harm them, He persecutes the Church:
The sixth seal and the rapture happen sometime after the middle of the seven-year period. Then the raptured saints appear in heaven:
REVELATION 7:9-17 “After this (after the sixth seal when God’s wrath is mentioned and after the 144,000 Jews have been sealed to keep them from harm during God’s wrath) I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."
All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!"
Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes–who are they, and where did they come from?"
I answered, "Sir, you know."
And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, "they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
This is a great multitude praising God. They have just come out of the great tribulation of the Antichrist.
Again in Revelation 19:1-9 we see the church in heaven.
REVELATION 19:1-9 “ After this (after Babylon is destroyed during the last bowl judgment on earth) I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:
"Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute (Babylon) who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants."
And again they shouted: "Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever."
The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: "Amen, Hallelujah!"
Then a voice came from the throne, saying: "Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!"
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)
Then the angel said to me, "Write: `Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ " And he added, "These are the true words of God."
After the saints are raptured they attend the marriage supper of the Lamb. They also seem to have appeared before the Judgment Seat of Christ because they have received “fine linen”.
The New Testament states that a day is coming when believers:
“must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” 2 CORINTHIANS 5:10.
We will stand before a righteous and holy God, yet One who loves us dearly. Although the following passage is not about this future judgment, it sums up the character of God:
“Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God…” Romans 11:22
Christ will judge the raptured believers (“the living and the dead”) at “his appearing”. He "will reward each person according to what they have done”:
1 TIMOTHY 4:1“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom…”
MATTHEW 16:27 “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.”
LUKE 14:14 “and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
1 CORINTHIANS 14:23 “But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes,
those who belong to him.”
REVELATION 22:12 “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.”
The Judgment Seat occurs in the heavenlies during the interim between the Rapture of the saints as described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and the descent of the Lord Jesus in glory as described in Revelation 19:11-21.
Revelation 19:8 indicates that when the Lord Jesus descends in glory at the end of the age, His Bride (the church) already will have received her reward:
REVELATION 19:8 “Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)” She will have been given “fine linen”". The phrase “righteous acts of the saints” refers to those elements of believer’s lives and service that God has tested in the fire and found acceptable—those elements with which the bride adorns herself at the marriage banquet:
REVELATION 19:9 “Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’…”
Believers will stand before Jesus soon after the rapture. The Judgment (bema) seat of Christ is exclusively for believers. Unbelievers will be judged one thousand years later at the “great white throne”. Those whose names are NOT written in the book of life are judged later as explained in Revelation 20:11-15.
REVELATION 20:11-15 “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”
The bema seat judgment of the righteous who have believed in Jesus is not the same as the “great white throne" judgment.
At the time the New Testament was written, the bema was a raised platform, usually mounted by steps, and used to make public announcements and reward prizes. In the Grecian games, the umpire or referee sat on a bema seat; from that seat he rewarded the contestants who had run well enough to obtain prizes. Paul uses the illustration of receiving the prize to demonstrate our Christian life:
1 CORINTHIANS 9:24 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize."
We are to “run” (live by serving God) “in such a way as to get the prize” (heaven and heaven’s rewards).
The bema seat is a prominent elevation from which honor was awarded or withheld was used by Paul in Romans 14:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:10.
ROMANS 14:10 “…For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.”
2 CORINTHIANS 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
What is being decided at the Judgment Seat of Christ is not the eternal destiny of those being judged. To him who has believed Jesus Christ:
ROMANS 4:4-6 “his faith is credited as righteousness”.
Heaven will be the destiny of all who believe:
EPHESIANS 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…”
TITUS 3:5 “he saved us, not because of righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy…”
God has ordained that the sins of believers will be forgiven and forgotten:
PSALM 103:12 “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
HEBREWS 10:17 “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”
He will remember our sins no more.
The Judgment Seat of Christ will be for the rewarding or withholding of believer’s rewards:
MATTHEW 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
MATTHEW 6:4 “so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. “
MATTHEW 10:41 “Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward.”
MATTHEW 16:27 “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.”
2 JOHN 8 “Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.”
REVELATION 11:18 “The nations were angry, and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your people who revere your name, both great and small—and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”
Jesus will be the Judge. He asserted that the Father:
JOHN 5:22 “…had entrusted all judgment to the Son…”
The apostles acknowledge Jesus as 2 TIMOTHY 4:8 “…the righteous Judge…”, and ACTS 10:42 “…the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.”
He 1 PETER 1:17 “…judges each man’s work impartially…”
He will judge in perfect truth—He knows everything:
HEBREWS 4:13 “…Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
He alone is qualified to sit in judgment. He is God from eternity so He can judge with perfect authority:
JOHN 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
God the Father and God the Son do everything in perfect unity:
MATTHEW 28:18 “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
MARK 2:6-7 “Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Also see LUKE 5:21)
JOHN 5:18-19 “For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
JOHN 14:10 “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The Words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.”
JOHN 17:1-2 “…Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.”
PHILIPPIANS 2:5-11 “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority…And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
Because He chose to become a man and become “obedient to death” and he has HEBREWS 5:8 “…learned obedience from what he suffered…”, He can judge with perfect righteousness, yet with sympathy.
2 CORINTHIANS 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
This verse affirms that the purpose of the bema seat is to reveal the true heart of each believer. (The verb appear means “to be made manifest, laid open for all to see.”) The term translated “bad” in this verse is unusual; it denotes not moral corruption or intrinsic evil but that which is useless, vile, hopelessly good for nothing.
Our individual works will be the basis for judgment. Jesus says:
REVELATION 2:23 “…I will repay each of you according to your deeds.”
Paul contrasts such works as “wood, hay or straw”, which the fire of divine scrutiny would consume with “gold, silver, costly stones”, which such a fire would refine.
1 CORINTHIANS 3:11-15 “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.”
This suggests a narrow escape–no doubt this person will be ashamed “before him at his coming.”
1 JOHN 2:28 “And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. “
The point is that the Judgment Seat of Christ will demonstrate that some works, though superficially noble and selfless, were born of wicked motives. These will be discarded as worthless.
Basically, we will be judged on our faith—what we have done for Jesus because we believe and obey Him:
1 PETER 1:5 “These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
Disobedience will produce shame:
1 JOHN 2:28 “And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.”
Wasted opportunities to serve and honor Jesus can never be fully regained, as shown in a parable which Jesus told:
LUKE 19:20-26 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’
His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’
Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’
‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’
He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.”
Criteria for judgment may be found in the “crowns” that are identified in the New Testament:
(1) the incorruptible crown for those who run the race of life acceptably:
1 CORINTHIANS 9:25 “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”
(2) the crown of life for those who resist temptation:
JAMES 1:12 “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”
(3) the crown of rejoicing for those who reach others for Christ:
1 THESSALONIANS 2:19 “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?”
What rejoicing there will be when we see those whom we have had a part of their having eternal life!
(4) the crown of righteousness for those who anxiously await the coming of Christ:
2 TIMOTHY 4:8 “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
(5) the crown of glory for the faithful undershepherds:
1 PETER 5:4 “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”
The word for “crown” in each of these passages is stephanos, the victory wreath given either to signify triumph in the games (1 Corinthians 9:25) or as a public honor for a distinguished act of courage. Such a crown is not valuable in itself; it is precious, however, because it reveals the delight of the judge who awarded it. The crowns promised to faithful believers—those seen on the heads of the worshipers surrounding Yahweh’s throne (Revelation 4:4) and which those worshipers ultimately cast before the throne of the Lamb (Revelation 4:10) are stephanoi, laurel wreaths granted faithful believers by a righteous and loving judge:
REVELATION 4:4 “Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.”
REVELATION 4:10 “the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne…”
By contrast diadem (also translated crown in most English versions in Revelation 19:12) speaks of a kingly crown:
REVELATION 19:12 “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 he himself.”
Jesus wears this crown.
Some Christians feel that striving for rewards—struggling for maturity for the sake of being honored and rewarded at the bema seat—is self-serving and an unbiblical concept. In answer to this confusion:
First, the Bible is explicit: There WILL be a day of accounting.
Second, the issue is not COMPETITION but FAITHFULNESS.
Third, the rewards believers seek are a greater capacity to serve and honor God in the Kingdom to come.
The misconception of heaven as a place of uninterrupted indolence contributes to the idea of rewards as selfishness. The life to come, however, is a busy, productive Kingdom ruled over personally by Jesus. Faithfulness in the life we are now living will produce maturity and selflessness and qualify us for greater responsibility in that eternal Kingdom. Sin will have been removed from the human experience, so there will no longer be jealousy or resentment. But there will be varied capabilities to serve and honor the King. A true heart of love for that King should cause us, in this mortal life, to long for and strive toward serving Him to the best of our abilities, so we will be unashamed when He returns and can receive bountifully from His hand at the bema seat.
Let us be able to look forward to Christ’s appearing so we can say as Paul did:
2 TIMOTHY 4:8 “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
Throughout Scripture the Church is referred to as the bride of Christ. The whole book Songs of Songs symbolizes Christ’s love for His church as His bride.
Isaiah compares the joy he has for God and that God has for Israel as the joy a bridegroom has for his bride:
ISAIAH 61:10 “I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
ISAISH 62:5 “As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.”
Jeremiah tells how God laments over Israel who once loved Him as a bride her husband:
JEREMIAH 2:2 “‘I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert, through a land not sown. “
JEREMIAH 2:32 “Does a maiden forget her jewelry, a bride her wedding ornaments? Yet my people have forgotten me, days without number.”
Paul compares Christ’s relationship withHis church to the relationship a husband should have with his wife:
EPHESIANS 5:25-33 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
The Church will come “down out of heaven” as a bride. the “wife of the Lamb”:
REVELATION 21:2 “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
REVELATION 21:9 “One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”
The Church has the mind of the Spirit in wanting all to share in their joy:
REVELATION 22:17 “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”
At the end of the age, when Christ returns for His bride, the Church can finally rejoice in the wedding supper of the Lamb:
ISAIAH 25:6-9 “On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine–the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.
In that day they will say, "Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation."
The Bible often talks about a banquet, sometimes referring directly to it in relation to the marriage supper when Jesus is with His Church:
SONG OF SONGS 2:4 “He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love.”
The following parables tell about the Marriage Supper of the Lamb:
MATTHEW 22:2-14 "The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
Then he sent some more servants and said, `Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’
But they paid no attention and went off–one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
Then he said to his servants, `The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. `Friend,’ he asked, `how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.
Then the king told the attendants, `Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
For many are invited, but few are chosen."
God has prepared a banquet for His Son Jesus. The people that were first invited refused to come (Jewish people, although they will someday accept the Gospel:
ROMANS 11:26 “…all Israel will be saved…”)
Some were not interested or too busy with work, and some even mistreated and killed those who invited them to a banquet! How illogical to reject the free gospel of Jesus Christ!
Good came out of the Jewish people rejecting Jesus:
ROMANS 11:11 “…because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.”
So everyone is invited:
“…He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
A man had failed to wear wedding clothes. He has tried to get into the banquet by his own righteousness, but the Bible says:
ISAIAH 64:6 “…all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…”
The Bible does associate the wedding clothes at the marriage feast of the lamb with righteous deeds:
REVELATION 19:7-9 “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints. Then the angel said to me, "Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’
However, these righteous deeds are done through the guiding and power of the Holy Spirit (all because of Jesus):
John 3:21 “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
Unlike the man without proper wedding clothes, we who believe in Jesus can be sure that He has paid the penalty for our sins by His blood shed on the cross, and we will be welcomed into the Marriage Supper of the Lamb:
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus” Hebrews 10:19
The servants were to throw this man “…outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” This place of "weeping and gnashing of teeth” is mentioned a number of other places:
MATTHEW 8:12 “But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
MATTHEW 25:30 “And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
MATTHEW 13:41,42 “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
MATTHEW 13:50 “…and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
This man is a hypocrite—he only pretended to be a believer:
MATTHEW 24:51 “He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
This man, though perhaps called a "servant" of Jesus, is not ready for His return:
LUKE12:46 “The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.”
Just because a person says he is a Christian or even thinks he is a Christian does not mean that he is a Christian:
MATTHEW 7:22-23 “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.”
However God wants us to be confident of our salvation if we know Him:
PHILIPPIANS 1:4-6 “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
MATTHEW 25:1-13 "At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight the cry rang out: `Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, `Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
`No,’ they replied, `there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
Later the others also came. `Sir! Sir!’ they said. `Open the door for us!’
But he replied, `I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’
Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”
The oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit, which we must have in order to attend the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. Those welcomed into the Marriage Supper of the Lamb are like the five “wise” virgins. We must be “wise for salvation” as Paul describes Timothy:
2 TIMOTHY 3:15 “how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Through “faith in Christ Jesus” we are sealed with the Holy Spirit:
EPHESIANS 1:13 “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,”
EPHSIANS 4:30 “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
LUKE 14:16-24 “Jesus replied: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, `Come, for everything is now ready.’
But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, `I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
Another said, `I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
Still another said, `I just got married, so I can’t come.’
The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, `Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
`Sir,’ the servant said, `what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
Then the master told his servant, `Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’ "
Many people will not attend the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, not because they were not invited, but because they put other things before God. The message is similar to that of Matthew 22:2-14.
LUKE 17:35-48 "Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them (perhaps Jesus will wait on believers in some way at the marriage supper of the Lamb). It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."
Peter asked, "Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?"
The Lord answered, "Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, `My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.
That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
This parable tells us to be ready for the "master to return from the wedding banquet" (there are various stages of the Jewish wedding). It stresses the “thief in the night” theme of Jesus’ coming and the importance of being ready whenever He returns. The message is similar to Matthew 24:4–25:13.
We must not be like the servant who “says to himself, `My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk.” It is a serious matter that the disobedient servant will be assigned a place with the unbelievers.
The following passage seems to express a similar thought:
John 15:5-6 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.’
It will be a characteristic of the end times that people will not expect Jesus to return:
2 PETER 3: 3-7 “First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”
We must always be ready to stand before God to be judged. Those that have accepted Jesus will be in heaven, but they will be rewarded according to what they have done with what they have been given.
It has been suggested that Jesus will not go to war until one year after the marriage supper of the Lamb for the following reason:
(1 Jesus will fulfill all the law:
MATTHEW 5:17-18 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”
(2 The Old Testament law states:
DEUTERONOMY 24:5 “If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.”
This is only a suggestion, but if it is true, after the rapture and Judgment Seat of Christ, there will be one year “honeymoon” before Jesus sets up His kingdom on earth and goes to war against His enemies.
Being raptured at the sixth seal judgment would leave the trumpet and bowl judgments to come on the earth. It appears that Jesus sets up His kingdom at the seventh trumpet:
REVELATION 12:15-19 “The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.”
And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great— and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”
Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm.”
It is possible the bowl judgments or seven last plagues and the battle of Armaggedon will occur during the 30 day period or 45 day period after the 3 ½ year period (time, times and half a time, 42 months, 1,260 days) when Jesus sets up His kingdom:
DANIEL 12:11-23"From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.”
The saints are certainly His called, chosen and faithful followers:
REVELATION 17:14 “They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings–and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers."
Most likely, they will follow him into the final battle.
At the battle of Armaggedon the “armies of heaven” will be riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen. There will be no need to get their robes dirty because Jesus will strike down the nations with the sword of His mouth:
REVELATION 19:11-21 “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 he 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.
And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, "Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great."
Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.”
The Marriage Supper of the Lamb if not the same as “the great supper of God”, although the saints will participate in both, probably just observing “the great supper of God”. The Marriage Supper of the Lamb will happen probably at least a year before “the great supper of God”. It will be a time of great rejoicing, great celebration. Besides seeing Jesus, saints will see lived saints that have died before them and saints from all the ages. This rejoicing will go on for eternity, but it appears that beginning at the time of “the great supper of God”, there will be work to do, also.
After the final battle of Armaggedon, saints know what they will be doing for the first thousand years:
REVELATION 6:20 “…they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.”
All of creation is waiting for Jesus to come back when His children will come into the glorious freedom He has for us:
ROMANS 8:18-21 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
Eternity will be exciting!