The Greek word is “harpazos”. In Latin, it’s “raptura”, and it means “to be carried away to, or caught up to.” You’ve probably seen it translated as “Rapture”.
Without a doubt, the concept is quite… unusual. And it’s been bastardized by all types of fringe groups and cults, including the infamous Heaven’s Gate crew that committed mass suicide in order to “enter an alien spacecraft hidden behind the Hale-Bopp comet” back in 1997. (For the record, I don’t believe it went as planned. More on that later.)
In the Christian world, it actually refers to God removing His faithful from the Earth before He brings His judgement on it. The Bible references it in several places, but the clearest verses are from 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up [there’s that word, “raptura”] together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
There’s some debate about when this happens, but only in relation to the other events of the End Times. While some self-professed “believers” have claimed to have some special insight as to an exact day / time this will happen, Jesus says otherwise: “of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Mark 13:32 (Also for the record, I believe that claiming to know exactly when the events of Revelation will begin disqualifies anyone as a reliable source for Bible info.)
Personally, I firmly believe that God will remove His faithful from the world before He begins His judgment. There are a few reasons:
First, etymologically, the Greek word for “Church” is “Ekklisia” – the called out ones. The Greek prefix “ek” means “out of”. If the Church were to go through these trials, the phrase would be “dia klisia” – the called-through ones. In Revelation, the word “Church” (Ekklisia) is used 20 times. Nineteen times in Chapters 1-3, and then from Chapter 4 to Chapter 21 (during which God is unloading His judgment on the Earth), “Church” is not mentioned at all… not until Chapter 22.
Second, removing the faithful before God judges the world is much more consistent with His character. The Old testament is filled with examples of God not judging His people with the wicked:
- Genesis 6-9 – When God judged an evil world, He recognized that Noah was a righteous man, so He spared him and his family.
- Genesis 18-19 – When God judged Sodom and Gomorrah, He had His angels remove the only righteous people before destroying the towns: Lot, his wife, and their two daughters.
- Genesis 39-49 – God promises Israel (a.k.a. Jacob) that He will turn his descendants into a great nation, and God guides them through a seven-year famine.
That’s just the first book of the Bible. The list goes on.
Finally, the Bible verses that speak of Rapture really seem like it’s coming out of nowhere:
- 1 Corinthians 15:51 – “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’”
- 1 Thessalonians 5:9 – “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.“
- 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 – “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:1 – “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.’”
But as usual, God gives us some hope: John 14:1-3: At the Last Supper… “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
Translation: I will come again for you.
In multiple places, the Bible warns against being lethargic – being caught spiritually “asleep” when the End comes. Now, when COVID ripped across the planet, people were crawling out of the woodwork asking if this was the end of the world. As Revelation unfolds, God will unleash some pretty terrifying judgments on the world (including allowing an abyss to open up in the earth from which these locust-like demon things come flying out and torture people.) After witnessing that, do you think anyone will need to be told to “stay awake and keep watch”? I’m guessing not. The only way the Church would be caught off-guard is if they were lulled into the status-quo.
While Christians who study this stuff will disagree over when the Church is removed, all agree that at some point, it’ll happen. The most important thing, though, is that if you have not accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, you’re not getting Raptured.
Please don’t miss this: the bottom line is that the coming Judgment is so bad that God was willing to do just about anything to keep you from going through it: He would lay aside His glory, be born and take on human flesh, live an obedient life to the Father, fulfill 2,000 years of prophesy and law, bear our sins and the wrath we deserve, and then die a brutal death to shed blood and cover that law. And after it was all done, He rose again as proof that the payment was accepted. Now, he’s knocking on the door of everyone’s heart and extending an offer of God’s forgiveness, salvation, eternal life, and the promise that when you leave this Earth, you’ll be with Him in His Father’s house – not facing the coming judgment. All you have to do is accept the offer. God does not want you – or anyone else – to go through this judgment.
Why bring this up now?
Well, at this point in Revelation, there are no more mentions of the Church on Earth. The only – and final mention of the Church in the Bible – happens when it returns with Jesus. And so picking back up in Chapter 4 of Revelation, John is in heaven, and he sees… the Church. (Again, by “Church” I’m referring to the true believers in Jesus Christ. Not just people who are registered at a church, or people who wear the robes, but the believers. We all know there’s a difference.) He sees “ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” praising Jesus as the One who has “redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation…”
It’s in the presence of this multitude that Revelation Chapter 5 begins.
“And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?’ And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it.”
What’s up with the scroll?
This scroll represents the title deed to all Creation. (If you think back to Genesis, God gave Adam and Eve dominion over everything, and they forfeited it to Satan. Since then, Creation has been under Satan’s control. Jesus Himself acknowledged this, calling Satan “the ruler of this world” John 12:31. And during His temptation in the wilderness, Satan took Jesus “up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.’” (Matthew 4:8-9) Jesus never argued the point that Satan ruled the Earth. (Violence? Disease? Famine? Birth defects? Brought to you by Satan.)
And the writing on the back? There are really two interpretations to that:
The first signifies that it’s complete… there’s no more room to add anything. But, I think that’s a shallow reading of it.
The second interpretation is historical. In John’s time, when someone went into debt, they could “mortgage” their house, their family land, or themselves (as a servant) until the debt was paid. The terms would be written up on a scroll and sealed. Then on the outside of the scroll was the date and conditions whereby someone could “undo” the terms of that contract.
So, if it were a mortgage, the outside would contain info like, “Cory Kizielewicz’s mortgage, property address 123 Main Street, 30-year term began 2020 complete 2050.” The Jewish law (Leviticus 25:47) stated that a family member (and only a family member) could come and pay your debt for you. So, in this case, if I fell on hard times, my cousin could come and pay off my mortgage for me. You see this also in Jeremiah 32:1-15.
So in Heaven, there was no one who could redeem Creation back to God from Satan.
How did John respond?
“So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. But one of the elders [in Heaven] said to me, ‘Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.’ And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne… stood a Lamb as though it had been slain… He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.” Jesus, the Lamb slain, is the only one able to redeem the world. And the Church says…
The Church in Heaven says, “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation…”
Now, in Chapter 6, Jesus begins the process of “redeeming” the world back to God. As He opens each seal of the scroll, a new affliction falls on the Earth and those who still live there.
Okay, time out. Wait a minute. I thought Jesus was the mild-mannered, loving, friendly God who healed the sick and made the blind to see? Why is He now unleashing vengeance on the world? The short answer is: to be just. If He ignores all the evil in the world, He’ll be treating the evil the same as the good, and none of us (or Him) would consider that to be fair and just, right? Way back in Genesis, even Abraham pointed it out to God, “Far be it from you to do such a thing… treating the righteous and the wicked alike.” So to be just, God is punishing evil.
But wait, why doesn’t God punish Christians for the evil they’ve done? Ah, here’s the difference – when Jesus hung on the cross, He took the punishment that all of us (everyone, not just Christians) deserved. God remained just in punishing evil, but at the same time, that evil was “transferred” to Jesus so God didn’t have to punish us. It’s as if Jesus came by as one of our family members and paid the debt we owe. Or, in other words (2 Corinthians 5:21) “For He made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Jesus takes our sins, we get His righteousness as the Son of God… and all we have to do is accept the gift. Best. Deal. Ever.
As Jesus loosens each of these seals,
He begins what is known as “The Tribulation”, and it’s a seven-year period of untold death and destruction on the Earth. Half-way through that seven-year period, the anti-Christ comes into power (more on him later), and the following 3.5 years are even worse than the first. That final 3.5-year period (the second half of The Tribulation) is known as “The Great Tribulation.” By God allowing this to unfold, He’s giving the world that rejected Him exactly what they always wanted – to live in a world without God… and it’s going to be horrible. And it doesn’t just end quickly, like a meteor strike. No, God slowly turns up the pressure, trying to encourage everyone to turn away from their sins and accept His offer of forgiveness and redemption through Jesus.
Okay, so what do the seven seals have in store for the Earth?
First Seal – The Conqueror
In Revelation, all we’re told about this conqueror is “He… sat on [a white horse, and] had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.” The Book of Daniel, however, identifies this conqueror as someone you may have heard of: the anti-Christ. (We’ll look at him more closely in Chapter 13. Keep reading.) But at this point, the anti-Christ goes out and conquers a few other countries.
Second Seal – Warfare
A rider on a red horse (the color of blood) goes out and has the “power to take peace from the earth.” Most likely, this refers to the wars that come when the anti-Christ takes over the other nations. 1 Thessalonians 5:3 actually warns the world about this time specifically: “For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.” This second seal also states that the anti-Christ “was given a great sword,” which could be referring specifically to a nuclear weapon, or just an ability to kill great numbers.
Third Seal – Scarcity on Earth
This is marked by a black horse. John hears “a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, ‘A quart of wheat for a day’s wage, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wage…’” With lots of war and bloodshed comes supply chain issues, scarcity, and inflation. (Much worse than what we’re seeing now.) Since early 2020, the Middle East and east Africa have been facing swarms of locust that are raising alarms about food insecurity. Curiously, the locusts are staying south of Israel.
Fourth Seal – Widespread Death on Earth
Death goes forth, riding a pale [sickly] horse, and “the grave” (Hades in Greek, Sheol in Hebrew) followed him. “And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.” In other words, a quarter of the people on Earth die. Currently, that would be almost 1.5 billion people post-Rapture. Why did God only take ¼? So the ¾ remaining can see what’s happening, and they still have an opportunity to repent and turn to God.
These are the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”
Fifth Seal – the Martyrs Cry out for Justice
We learn more about these martyrs in Chapter 7, but they are people who returned to God during this tribulation, and they were killed for their faith. They ask God “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” God gives them honor, and someone/something tells them that “they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.” In other words, “sit tight. Not everyone who will turn back to God has yet done so. More will turn back to God, and more will be martyred.”
Sixth Seal – Cosmic Disturbances
The sun goes black, the moon goes red, and the “stars” fall to earth. “…And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!’“
The Greek word used here for “star” is “aster”, which means “star, or luminous body”. (“Aster-oeides” means, “star-like”, and we spell it as “asteroid”.) In 2020, NASA failed to detect an asteroid that came closer to Earth than the moon; it was larger than a house. Asteroid 2020GH2.
If you look in the book of Joel 2:31, written about 900 years earlier, he adds more detail to the same cosmic disturbance: “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.”
But then in the next verse, Joel adds: “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved…”
Don’t miss that: as everyone on Earth is clawing over one another to find a hole in the ground to hide in, anyone who turns to Jesus and asks for His mercy will be spared. And that is probably the most consistent theme of Revelation: turn back to God and avoid His judgment.
In Chapter 7, we seem to get a break in the action, where John is pulled back to see God’s bigger picture. And there are “…four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree.” With no wind, you disrupt the weather, hold back the rain, and the world becomes… stifling. Almost unlivable.
Another angel comes and says to those holding back the winds, “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” (Verse 3) So during all this trouble, these “servants” have repented of their sins and received Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The Bible says these people number 144,000: 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. (These are known as the “Tribulation Saints.”) Not only have they repented, but they are metaphorically on fire for Jesus – so much so that they get martyred for their beliefs… and testimony. We see the beginnings of this now with the movement to spread Christianity in Israel. I love this part of the book, because amid all the chaos and destruction, God always protects His followers before He brings judgement.
This is neither the first nor last time we see references to “marks on foreheads”. Most Christians have heard of the “mark of the Beast”, placed on foreheads or right hands as a sign of allegiance to the anti-Christ, but there’s also a much earlier reference in the book of Ezekiel, 640 years before John wrote Revelation.
In Ezekiel’s day, God had allowed Jerusalem to be besieged by Babylon as punishment for centuries of idolatry. (Even the temple priests were bringing pagan images into the temple to worship them.) Ezekiel got to see what was going on in the spiritual world, and how it played out in the physical world:
Ezekiel 9 God had just finished showing Ezekiel all the dark and secret sins of the religious leaders – and their wives, children, and friends.
“Then [God] called out [to angels] with a loud voice, saying, ‘Let those who have charge over the city draw near, each with a deadly weapon in his hand.’ And suddenly six [angels] came from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with his battle-ax in his hand. One [angel] among them was clothed with linen and had a writer’s inkhorn at his side…” (The Bible does not say who this is. Some people think it is a pre-incarnation appearance of Jesus Christ.)
“… [God] called to the [angel] clothed with linen, who had the writer’s inkhorn at his side; and the Lord said to him, ‘Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it…’”
The word used here for “mark” is the Hebrew letter “tawv”. It’s the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, signifying “completion”. The way the Hebrew alphabet characters are drawn has changed over the centuries, but in Ezekiel’s day, the letter would have looked like our lower case “t” – a cross.
“…To the others [God] said in my hearing, ‘Go after him through the city and kill; do not let your eye spare, nor have any pity. Utterly slay old and young men, maidens and little children and women; but do not come near anyone on whom is the mark; and begin at My sanctuary.’” And so the angels went out and killed… with the “sword (of the Babylonian soldiers), the pestilence, or the famine.” Those with the mark were spared.
Also in this chapter, God lays out exactly who the 144,000 tribulation saints are – they are all Jews. (Not Jehovah’s Witnesses, no matter what they say.)
As John records the 12 Tribes of Israel, he lists them not in their birth order… so what?
Here are the twelve names as John lists them, and the meanings of their names:
- Judah – praise
- Reuben – look, a son
- Gad – a troop comes
- Asher – happy
- Naphtali – wrestling
- Manasseh – forgetting (or one who causes to forget)
- Simeon – hearing
- Levi – joined
- Issachar – reward
- Zebulun – dwelling
- Joseph – he will add
- Benjamin – son of the right hand
Tied together: “Hooray! Look, a son is coming, someone to fight for us. We’re happy. But we struggle, and forget. Hearing God’s word, we’re joined to Him, and our reward is to be joined to Him, in His dwelling place, called as His children.”
And after these 144,000 tribulation saints come into heaven, “a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” also join them in Heaven.
Chapter 8 begins with the opening of the Seventh Seal – a prelude to the Seven Trumpets. (If you recall, God’s judgements begin with the Seven Seals, then the Seven Trumpets, then finally the Seven Bowls. Each step ratchets up the intensity / severity.) And seven is always the number of completeness or perfection… referencing the end of something.
When the Seventh Seal is opened, Heaven is silent for about a half hour.
Seven angels are then given seven trumpets. (In Israel’s history, trumpets have been used to gather the people of God. In Exodus 19, they announced God’s coming. In Joshua 6, trumpets took down the walls of Jericho. In Nehemiah 4, they were also used to gather for war.
As these trumpet judgments roll out, we don’t know the frequency or timing. They could be immediately after each other, they could be several months apart, or a mix of both.
- 1st Trumpet – hail and fire, (and blood) 1/3 of the trees die, and all green grass (including wild grass for animal grazing) dies.
- 2nd Trumpet – 1/3 of the sea goes bad (the language literally means, “becomes blood”), and 1/3 of all living creatures in the sea die. At the same time, 1/3 of all ships are destroyed. (Why blood? God gives the world what they ask for: the wars, abortion, celebrating violence… This world loves to see blood. So, just as God punished Israel for their idolatry by giving them over to Babylon (a country saturated with idols), God will give the world plenty of what it loves… blood.
- 3rd Trumpet – something falls out of space and contaminates 1/3 of the water. It could be manmade, it could be (super)natural – the Bible doesn’t specify.
- 4th Trumpet – 1/3 of the sun, moon, and stars go dark. So, 1/3 of the day was dark, and 1/3 of the night was dark. (No idea what that will look like. It could be something polluting the atmosphere and darkening the sky by 33%, or something else entirely.) Again, why 1/3? One-third faces judgement, two-thirds have a chance to repent.
I think most people can understand the reasoning behind God judging people. But some struggle with why God is destroying these things on Earth?
If you think back to God bringing the Israelites out of Egypt, and the 10 Plagues He brought upon the country, (Exodus 7), each plague showed God overcoming all 10 of the things the Egyptians worshipped – the Nile, frogs (Heqet), the sun, Pharoah himself, etc. You can see them all here. By God destroying these things that people “worship” – the earth, the sea, water (as “one of the four elements”), the sun/moon/stars – God is showing that he’s above all of them.
Ominously, the chapter ends with another angel warning those “that dwell upon the Earth” that what comes next is even worse.
- The 5th Trumpet
Here’s the text: “Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit. Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them.”
So here, a demon is given permission to open up an abyss that reaches to the center of the Earth.
This abyss is sometimes described as “bottomless.” Physically, the Earth’s core could still be nickel or iron, as assumed by most scientists. Revelation could likely be talking about the spiritual realm. Regardless, at the center of the Earth, the gravitational pull would be the same on all sides, making it feel like every direction is “up”, and thus it’s literally a “bottomless pit”. When God told Job about “the wellsprings of the deep”, no one knew what He was talking about until 4,000 years later when in 1977 we finally made a deep-water sub that could go down to the bottom of the sea. Lo and behold, they found wellsprings in the deep. If you remember Matthew 8:31, when Jesus drove out a multi-demon named “Legion”, they didn’t want to go into this pit – he/they preferred to enter the pigs nearby.
Smoke comes out of the pit and darkens the sky. Some type of demon-locusts come out, with stingers like scorpions (plus some type of armor and attractive quality about them. Joel’s description from 900 years earlier matches.) They inflict painful wounds on people (well, only those who haven’t turned their hearts to God.) And the pain is so severe that people will try to kill themselves, but “In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them.”
Imagine what the emergency rooms will be like then? Overflowing with people who’ve been zapped by these things, plus countless people who are maimed and disfigured by botched suicide attempts. Oh, and all the Christians currently working in the healthcare industry are gone.
So imagine for a minute that you’re living in this time. You’ve become a believer in Jesus and asked Him for mercy; your friends have not. You’re all sitting around trying to enjoy a few minutes of friendship away from chaos, and a swarm of these locusts descend on your cook-out. Everyone gets horribly stung except you. I’m willing to bet that everyone there starts asking why?
Interestingly, this “torment” the locusts are allowed to do (for 5 months) is the Greek word “basanizo”, which means, “to examine by torture”. So, as these things torture people, they’re pushing them toward… a confession. What confession? My guess: “Jesus, you are the Messiah. Please forgive me for my sins.”
But wait. There’s more.
- 6th Trumpet
Four demons are released from the Euphrates River, and they kill 1/3 of all people left. (The Euphrates that we know goes from Turkey, through Syria, then Iraq, then the Persian Gulf. Later in the book of Revelation, the Euphrates will dry up and clear the way for an invading army from the East. Revelation says that it will be an army of 200 million, wearing breastplates of red, blue, and yellow. Currently, China is the only country that could muster an army of that size. Revelation provides more on that in Chapter 16.)
Pause here. At this point, half the world’s post-Rapture population has been killed.
And God has done it in a way that shows that He is Lord God over everything else that people worship:
- Worshipping people: I think people are generally good. Revelation 6:4 ” And it was granted to the one who sat on [the horse] to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another”
- Worshipping animals: This world really belongs to the animals, and we as humans are just guests. Revelation 6:8 “…They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.”
- Worshipping the planet: our Earth Mother will always provide for us. Revelation 8:7 “And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.”
- the oceans: Revelation 8:8-9 “…And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. And a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.”
- the waters: Revelation 8:10-11 “…And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water… A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter.”
- Worshipping astrology: it was written for me in the stars. Revelation 8:12: “And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night.”
…just as He did when He brought Israel out of Egypt. Through each plague, God showed that He reigned completely over what the Egyptian people worshipped.
So let’s say you survived…. all that stuff. Verse 20:
“But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.”
If you saw all these things happen, what would it take? These people will have watched society crumble around them. They likely would see new Christians escaping these horrific affliction (which they had to endure), and yet they harden their hearts and shake their fists at God. Especially if they had a copy of the Bible, and they read it like a checklist of what was going on around them, you’d think they’d change their tune.
And by the way, in all of this, children are still alive. It’s one thing to face all these things as an adult, but to watch your kids go through them because you’ve held back the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and wanted them to “find their own religion”? How many times do you see children suffering for the poor choices of their parents? Heartbreaking.
And it sounds like Hell on Earth, right? Well, it kind of is. The difference is that during The Tribulation, God’s grace and mercy is still available to you. There’s still a chance to repent. How? How would you escape this if you found yourself here? Joel 2:12-13 “’Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’ So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.”
Before the 7th Trumpet, “an angel” comes (verse 6-7) and swears an oath to God that “there should be delay no longer…” God’s ultimate judgment upon the world is coming.
Remember, the only reason God hasn’t judged the world yet is out of love and mercy. He’s patient. Patient for what? Giving the God-rejecting world time to repent and turn toward him so they don’t have to face His judgment. When you think about how many times in human history God could have said, “nope, that’s enough evil” and just wiped from existence everything in the universe, you realize that God is extremely patient. But, in the end, God must judge the world. And when He does, His judgment is… final.
In Revelation 11, John is given a measuring rod and told to “Rise and measure the temple of God… but leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles.” Interestingly, the exact location where the ‘court outside the temple’ is located is currently occupied by a Muslim mosque. (For reference, Islam started in 610 AD.) John is writing this around 90 AD. The Second Temple was destroyed 20 years earlier (70 AD), but the angel of God says, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there.” So for John to measure “the temple”, a third temple needs to be there.
The Temple Mount Faithful is a modern-day Israeli movement to rebuild the temple. According to their literature, they’re all ready and waiting. They have the utensils for the worship service, and everything is “standing by”, ready to be used as soon as the temple is built.
So, where will this temple be, and why haven’t the Israelis built it yet? Both questions kind of overlap…
Biblically, the Third Temple must be on the same site as the first two, called the Temple Mount. Right now, the Temple Mount is controlled by the Muslims, and geopolitically, there’s no way they’d let the Jews build a temple there. In fact, since 692 AD, one of Islam’s holiest sites, the Dome of the Rock, has been the only prominent structure on the Mount. Whenever it gets built, the Third Temple will align with the Eastern Gate to the ancient city of Jerusalem. (Follow the red arrows in the pictures below.) Fortunately, the site where the exact temple must be built misses the Dome of the Rock, which makes things a little easier. Importantly, that means that the Third Temple and the Dome of the Rock could be standing at the same time, both on top of the Temple Mount.
The red arrows point through the Eastern gates to the site of the Third Temple, currently the Dome of the Spirits, also called the Dome of the Tablets. (As in, the two tables of the Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses.)
And that line about “…leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles”? The Court of the Gentiles was to the South of the first two temples… where the Dome of the Rock now currently sits.
Why does this matter? Because it’s a major prophecy about the End Times, and it’s a key predictor of the anti-Christ. Again, we’ll see more in the next post, but one of the key identifiers of the anti-Christ is that he’ll confirm (not necessarily create) a seven-year peace agreement with Israel. Likely, that peace agreement will allow for the building of the Third Temple. With the temple standing again, the Jews can resume the practice of animal sacrifice. At half-way through that seven-year period, the anti-Christ will stop the sacrifices, go into the inner most (and most sacred) place of the Temple, and demand that people worship him.
Around this time, God gives power to two witnesses to prophesy for those first 3.5 years… 1260 days (according to the Babylonian calendar, the standard at the time, which had 360 days in a year). (These two witnesses had been prophesied earlier in Zechariah 4, 520-518 BC.)
These prophets have power to do amazing signs: (verses 5-6) “And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. These [prophets] have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.
“When they finish their testimony, [the anti-Christ] will … kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city where… our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three and a half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.”
With our current 24-hour news cycle and the proliferation of smartphones with cameras, it’s now possible that everyone in the world (or at least, people in every country) will be able to see these two bodies lying dead in the streets in real time. Until recently, that was impossible.
But then… verse 11: “Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.”
Time out. 100 years ago, when you read this chapter, the people of Israel were still scattered around the planet, not in their homeland. There was no way for the entire world to see a global event, especially in real time. For the first time in history, our generation can see this happen streamed live. We also live in a world with deep fake technology, so that even if someone watched a dead person literally come back to life on all major news sources, people would still be skeptical. If you’ve never seen a deep fake video, watch this closely. Makes me think of Matthew 24:4: “And Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you…’”
And an earthquake killing 7,000 in Israel? That’d have to be huge. Well, check out this article from Oct. 23, 2013 – The title: “Israel earthquake could kill 7,000, disaster forecasts claim.” From the text, “… Israeli Home front minister Gilad Erden orders national disaster exercises as fears grow of major quake following six tremors… An estimated 7,000 people could be killed, tens of thousands injured and a further 200,000 left homeless if a powerful earthquake struck Israel, a government minister has warned following six separate tremors over the past week.”
Gee, does that number sound familiar?
Revelation 11 closes with the seventh angel sounding his trumpet… and we get a parenthetical set of scripture to show us (once again) what happens in the Heavenly realm – to see how it corresponds to what John sees in the Earthly realm. First, we see people in Heaven praising God, saying, “We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty… the nations were angry, and Your wrath has come… [to] destroy those who destroy the earth.”
Then, in Revelation 12, we’re introduced to three “characters” – The Woman, the Child, and the Dragon, and this gets a little confusing trying to sort out who/what/when it’s talking about. Just remember, it’s a heavenly explanation of what’s happening on the Earth.
It begins with John seeing “a great sign… in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.”
Everyone asks, “who is the woman?”
Some say Mary. This passage gets read a lot in Catholic churches, particularly on holy days that honor Jesus’s mother Mary.
After all, when Mary gave birth to her first child (Jesus), the dragon (Satan, working through King Herod) tried to kill Jesus. The Three Wise Men didn’t tell Herod where to find the child, and Herod just decided to wholesale slaughter all the boys in Bethlehem who were born about the same time as Jesus.
But, reading ahead to verse 13, “Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child.” It doesn’t make sense that it would be Mary – because at this point in time, Mary’s no longer on the Earth. Either she had already been assumed into Heaven (as the Catholic church holds), or she has already died in faith as a Christian and is safely in Heaven. Either way, it doesn’t make sense that the devil (here, recently cast down to Earth) would persecute a being in Heaven.
Another common interpretation (and one that makes the most sense to me) is that “the woman” is the nation Israel. If you look back at Genesis 37:9, Joseph (not Jesus’s Earth-father. Think “coat of many colors”) “dreamed still another dream [where] …the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to [him].” The sun and moon referred to his parents (who were patriarch/matriarch of the nation of Israel), and the “twelve stars” refers to the 12 tribes of Israel. Jesus’s mother Mary was from one tribe (Judah), not all 12.
Okay, but what about “the child”? Answer: the Messiah, a.k.a., Jesus’s Second Coming.
And the dragon? The anti-Christ. Verse 3: “And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems (crowns) on his heads.” The “sevens” refer to completeness, and heads/diadems refer to authority, so this being has complete authority. Historically, “horns” refers to nations. (In the next chapter, the anti-Christ goes forth from 10 nations.)
So, as Israel the nation is about to bring forth the Messiah (the second time), 1. Israel undergoes “labor pains” (conflict, disease, or other hardship), and 2.) in some form, Satan is poised to destroy Israel so it cannot bring forth the Messiah as the scriptures say.
And the next verse (4), “His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.” Most people believe this “third of the stars” refers to the other angels that Satan deceived into following/worshipping him instead of God. They became fallen angels, which we know as “demons”. (That still leaves 2/3’s left… twice as many good angels as bad. And by the way, these angels could have seen God – I wonder what the devil promised them to get them to turn away from God and start following him.)
To escape this Satan-inspired persecution, Israel (a.k.a. “the woman”) flees to the wilderness… Want to know where they go? Look back at Daniel 11 for the area around Israel that will be left undisturbed by the anti-Christ. Verse 41: “He (the anti-Christ) shall also enter the Glorious Land [Israel], and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape from his hand: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon.” Today, we know this area as modern-day Jordan.
Jordan is the only country in the area that will escape the war that Satan will bring during this time. Interestingly, Jordan was one of the first (and few) countries in the area to create a true peace agreement with Israel. When the Jordanian king Hussein bin Talal signed his treaty with Israel in 1994, he didn’t ask for any land. He wanted a peace deal with Israel for the sake of having a peace deal with Israel. And now in Revelation, Jordan is the only country spared from Satan’s wrath. It’s as if God is blessing those who bless Israel.
Revelation also gives us a behind-the-scenes look into what’s going on in Heaven as all this unfolds: “And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.” The Book of Daniel (12:1) also explains, “At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book.”
So the books of Daniel and Revelation were written 600 years apart, but they tell the same story, and it unfolds (and ends) the same way: Satan loses.
That’s important for two reasons. First, to all those who follow Satan or Satanism, it does not end well for you or your “church”. If Satan can’t defeat fellow angels (and loses a battle to Michael), how does he expect to overthrow God the Creator?
Also, with Satan thrown out of Heaven, he ends up on the Earth, and he’s really ticked off about it. He then turns his anger against Israel, and thus begins what’s known as Jacob’s Trouble (Jeremiah 30:7).
Jacob was one of the Jewish patriarchs, and a grandson of Abraham. At one point in Jacob’s life, God in human form came to Jacob, and the two wrestled. After the wrestling match, (Jacob refused to give up, until eventually God dislocated his hip), God gave Jacob the name Israel. From then on, whenever the Bible speaks favorably of God’s chosen people, the name “Israel” is used. Whenever the Bible refers to the unbelief, stubbornness, or sinfulness of God’s chosen people (or how they wrestle with God), the name “Jacob” is used. This period is called “Jacob’s Trouble” because those who still don’t turn back to God face some very, very difficult times.
So Satan is finally kicked out of Heaven… verse 12:
“Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them!” (…because they no longer have to deal with Satan and his incessant lies, blasphemy, boasting, etc. The name “Satan” means “the Accuser of the Brethren”, and Bible describes him as standing before God day and night, pointing out all the bad things about people. Could you imagine how annoying that would be to listen to? It’d be like being around literally the worst person in the world, who literally never shuts up.) But Satan has to go somewhere, and unfortunately, God sends him to the Earth. It’s not clear in what form, or if he’s in any way visible – likely not – but that does not stop him from unleashing his destruction on the Jewish people.) “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”
With Satan now “living” on the Earth in some form, he still tries to destroy Israel. In this case, with some sort of flood. (Historically, Satan has been trying to destroy Israel since the Garden of Eden. After all, if he can do that, he can disprove God’s promise of deliverance for the Jewish people.) As the nation of Israel flees, somehow, the Earth absorbs the floodwaters, sparing Israel.
There is a note in here about Israel being “given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness” (verse 24). We have no idea what that means. Some think it’s a reference to passenger cargo ships. Others think it’s a reference to the USA. Others think it’s a reference to some other country, as the Bible sometimes describes kingdoms as eagles. No one knows, but I’m sure it’ll be obvious when it’s happening.
So when the Israelites escape, Satan is, well, really really ticked off, and he unleashes his anger on whoever else he can find.