The End Times Unraveled - Jerry McDermott -
I have often wondered about the various aspects of the Final Days and have thought other Christians might have the same query. Certainly, we have been asked, "Watta ya mean, The End Times?" Perhaps other terms might be more appropriate such as: The Last Days; The Last Generation; The End of the Age; Final Days; Jacob's trouble; Daniel's 70th Week; The End of Days; Armageddon; The Great Tribulation; Pre-Trib Rapture; The Second Coming; or Millennialism. All of these terms involve the science of Eschatology which is a study of the End Times, our topic today.
The Kingdom in the End Times
The biblical forecasts of the End Times being revealed almost every day should be reflected in growing fervor among believers in Christ. Traditionally, such events are strong at first, but fade soon afterward. An example is 911 fervor which soon faded after the first increase in church attendance. The happening is apostasy or the falling away. To avoid confusion, the falling away pertains to those who were never true believers.
"They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us" (1 John 2:19).
By contrast, the true believer experiences a lifetime of spiritual growth in their relationship with Jesus.
This nefarious army of devils and demons probably began when Satan and numerous angels were thrown out of heaven. The story is the classic result of pride over reason or good sense as Satan wanted to at least be equal to God. He is described as having everything someone created could have, yet he wanted more. His first scriptural reference is in the Garden of Eden where he is revealed as the master of deception.
While Satan is still practicing his major role in the End Times, Jesus has warned us about his threat: "Take heed that no one deceives you" (Matthew 24:14). This modern deception is the introduction of semi-"Christian" cults and watered-down preaching/teaching in traditional churches, as well as fostering the apostasy, and especially Replacement Theology. In addition, he is blatantly and obviously pushing occult practices as well as the wiccan and pagan temples and ceremonies. The most obvious is the rise of Satanic churches and "Christian" witches, obviously oxymorons. Our Lord summarized this evil empire so well in a prophecy given to me November 10, 2013: "Seek me and my kingdom as another kingdom is being raised to gather you in. Seek only me."
After Christ's second coming and the start of the millennium era, Satan will be imprisoned only to be released 1,000 years later. He will then form a huge army which is divinely defeated by heavenly fire. He will then be deposed forever, joining the Beast and the False Prophet already in the fire pits of Hell after the tribulation. The following are the various areas of "down there":
HELL is the common name for the place for those who are eternally lost.
GHENNA (aka Gehenna) is the permanent dwelling for lost souls and the scriptural name of Hell.
Hades is the temporary holding place where all pre-Resurrection humans were placed after death. It has two sections: one for evildoers (Tartarus) and one for the righteous (Sheol). The comfortable one was known as Abraham's bosom and was visited by Jesus after His death when He brought the righteous to heaven, so it remains empty.
By contrast, the wicked will remain in Hades until their judgment and condemnation to areas of Ghenna. This is an area of constant torment that most people call Hell. It is totally devoid of anything Godlike, especially heavenly goodness. It is also called the second death where eternal separation from God occurs. It is the term for the eternal loneliness by separation from God.
Early Birth Pangs
Jesus proclaimed, "If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand" (Mark 3:24). You do not have to look further for an example other than the two American political parties and the recalcitrant Republicans among the Senate and House. The divisional aspect is almost universal and pervades politics as well as American History, anti-Semitism, atheism, and the profound lies against our Constitution and our Judean/Christian founding. This negativity is something we have to live with each day, a pre-Rapture tribulation for believers.
Jesus predicted these things would happen which was related in Matthew Chapter 24. Yes, they had to happen as they are the preliminaries to the Rapture and continue after the Rapture. In addition, Paul gave Timothy a prophetic warning of the end-time culture which is being fulfilled every day in our era (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
At the Last Supper, the apostles had mixed feelings. While they were gathered together to celebrate the feast of Passover, there was sadness. This was due to the recent knowledge that Jesus was due for death by the Roman cross. While Jesus tried to calm their dilemma by revealing that He would return for them to join Him in heaven, they did not understand.
Are we in the same situation of disbelief that we are heavenly bound? Yes, some people are not confident that they have a heavenly future. Others pick apart the Rapture, claiming it is a myth, or scoffing at the probability. The third predicament is the forsaking of the word itself or its translation, thus abandoning this revealed truth altogether.
To eliminate confusion between two major events: in the Rapture we go up (heaven bound); in the Second Coming, we come down after seven years in heaven (earth bound). Jesus has rescued us from the second death by His passion and resurrection. In a like manner, the Rapture rescues us from many potential deaths in the seven-year Tribulation. In neither case do we experience the wrath of God which happens throughout the Tribulation.
While Jesus talked about rescuing His people, it was revealed to Paul by Christ himself that He would summon the living and dead believers to join Him in the clouds. Once gathered there, we would always be with the Lord. Notice the word "always." It does not mean forever in heaven because seven years later at the end of the Tribulation, we will come back to earth with Jesus for the Millennium reign.
The Marriage of the Lamb
This heavenly event takes place in heaven before the Second Coming of the Lord. Paul speaks of the church as the Bride of Christ where Jesus is the bridegroom (Ephesians 5:23-24). The terminology is likened to a Jewish wedding, culminating with the indissoluble unity between the Bride and the Bridegroom.
Marriage Feast of the Lamb
This is the celebration of the marriage of the Lamb and His church. It takes place on earth after the Second Coming. An angel told John to write: "Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Revelation 19:9).
How can you describe it, for heaven IS truly the HEAVEN! Our Lord knows we are curious, so He described it in Revelation 4:21 and 22:1-6. There is no light in heaven, for the glory of the Lord illuminates it. Perhaps you will see the green rainbow reflecting on the crystalline golden roads (Revelation 4:3). We will sing and adore our Lord with the choir of angels, interact with others, and learn from Jesus.
As far as what gifts we will exhibit with our heavenly bodies, scripture already gives us a clue. Jesus was transported from Jerusalem. "Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee" (Luke 4:14). In the story of Phillip and the eunuch, Phillip was caught away by the Spirit of the Lord to Azotus (Acts 8:39-40). Hopefully, we will be able to use the gift of the Spirit to move about as Jesus did. He also moved through doors or walls (John 20:19).
In Heaven, we will know our family and friends, but what about knowing Moses, Abraham, or the prophets and apostles? Regardless, how will we recognize anybody in this vast number of saints? I do not think we will wear a name tag for eternity. Again, we can turn to scripture. How did Peter, James, and John recognize Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration of Jesus? There weren't any drawings, paintings, or mosaics of them. The answer could be mental telepathy or a Word of Knowledge as the Old Testament heroes were introduced. Will we learn a new language, perhaps Hebrew? Or will we retain our earthly language and other people understand us by the Holy Spirit's gift of understanding. I also believe we will interact with angels, but how will we learn to cavort with them?
New Testament Judgments
The Historic Judgment
From the beginning, upon death, people were sent to either of Hades' two locations. Believers were sent to a comfort zone, and unbelievers or sinners to a pre-hell existence. The saved area was emptied when Jesus took them to the third heaven called Paradise at His ascension just as Jesus told the good thief, "Today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). Since the Ascension of Jesus, the souls of believers that have passed go directly to Paradise. The non-believers who died throughout history will be removed from Hades to appear at the Great White Throne Judgment after the Millennium period before being sentenced to the lake of fire.
The Judgment Seat of Christ (Bema Seat)
This event takes place in heaven after the Rapture. Rather than a judgment by trial, Jesus reviews the depth of our earthly Christian life. The purpose is an awards ceremony with distinct rewards including five crowns given for exemplary Kingdom endeavors. This is also known as the BEMA Judgment, the word originating from the Greek word for the winner's platform. Note that the rewards are only given to believers, as un-believers are not present (Psalm 62:12). The Bema Judgment is often called the Doctrine of Rewards. However, it is not about sin as all the people assembled have accepted salvation by the Lord's activities. Some are given rewards; others will be aware of what they could have done in their earthly existence. Regardless, all will receive heavenly eternal life with Jesus.
At the end of the Tribulation, Jesus and the armies of heaven are mounted on white horses to battle the army of the Anti-Christ (Revelation 19:11-14). Both the anti-Christ and the False Prophet will be captured and thrown into the lake of fire. Their army will be slain by Jesus as the Word of God (Revelation 119:20-21).
The Goat & Sheep judgment
This judgment takes place after the Great Tribulation. Jesus uses animal references as He judges the goats (those condemned) versus the sheep (those saved). The souls of the people who were martyred in the Tribulation due to their belief in Christ will go directly to be with Jesus. Their bodies will be resurrected when Christ returns to earth at the end of the Tribulation.
The Judgment takes place in Jerusalem where Jesus sits on His throne in the temple. The sheep at the right hand are saved, and the goats at the left hand are sent to everlasting punishment (Matthew 25:31-46). The ones saved will join the Millennium with normal human bodies while the Raptured people will have heavenly bodies. It should be interesting.
The White Throne Judgment
This heavenly convocation is a required gathering for unbelievers who have refused the life that the Son of God offered for redemption. In fact, Jesus proclaimed the differences: "He who overcomes shall inherit all things and I will be his God, and he shall be my son" (Revelation 21:7). He also declared that the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the fiery lake which is the second death (Revelation 21:8).
The dead non-believers will be resurrected to appear before Christ who will judge them. In addition, any unbelievers alive at this time will be part of the throng and also be judged. The absence of your name in the Book of Life means a condemnation and being thrown into the lake of fire. There will be degrees of punishment. The judgment for each is qualitative depending on the depth of unforgiven sinfulness. You can avoid eternal damnation by repenting of any sins; believing in Jesus Christ; and inviting Him to be Lord of your life before your passing. As a Born-Again Christian with infilling of the Holy Spirit, you will be led to further repentance, a change of mind and actions.
The Great Tribulation
Just by itself, the word tribulation is enough to cause concern. The dictionary describes it as grievous trouble, severe trial or suffering. While all of these meanings are part of the subject, they still do not represent the horror that is coming. Perhaps the prophecy of Jesus will convey the terrifying meaning: "For then, there will be great tribulation such as not been since the beginning of the whole world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved, but for the elect's sake, those days will be shortened" (Matthew 24:21-22 and Daniel 12:1-3).
Revelation begins with Jesus evaluating the seven churches. His remarks of the Laodicean church are prophetic as He says they are neither hot nor cold, which fully describes the churches of our era as well. In this book formerly called The Apocalypse, next relates John being brought to heaven as Jesus says, "Come up here and I will show you what must take place in time to come" (Revelation 4:1b). John then relates the events of the seven-year Tribulation including the Great Tribulation which starts after 3-1/2 years.
These seven years take place after the Rapture but the scriptures are silent about the exact timing of the Rapture. Therefore, we do not know whether it is days, months, or years from now. Regardless, some individuals have attempted to come forth with dates that are obviously spurious since it has not happened.
The Tribulation or suffering of this era is initiated when the Anti-Christ makes a peace treaty with Israel, only to be broken after 3-1/2 years. The book of Revelation gives a complete rendering of this era with the seals, trumpets, bowls, and incredible characters. The full seven years includes the wrath of God for not accepting His Son. During the Tribulation there are 144 Jewish missionaries formed as twelve from each tribe to preach that Jesus is the Messiah. They are protected from any harm by the Lord.
Joining the 144,000 in the first part of the Tribulation are two heavenly prophetic witnesses with awesome power. These two witnesses will be killed by the anti-Christ at the midpoint of the Tribulation, and their corpses will be viewed by the world for 3-1/2 days. They are then resurrected and ascend to heaven. The last 3 ½ years is the Great Tribulation, when events are amplified. The anti-Christ will proclaim himself to be God and cause all to take his mark of worship or be killed.
The major war in this era is Armageddon where the forces of evil come against Israel and God. Jesus returns with us and defeats this vast army from every nation.
The Second Coming
This is the big M, the Millennium or one-thousand-year reign of Jesus in Jerusalem as King of kings and Lord of lords. He rules over all nations in the new millennial temple after defeating the evil warriors. The anti-Christ is not Satan but is used by him for the evil empire of the anti-Christ and the False Prophet, both of whom are sent to hell after their defeat at Armageddon. The thousand years are exemplary for all the good things promised Raptured believers for eternity. In addition, those believers who survived the seven-year Tribulation will live in the Millennium.
Commentary on the Millennium
Since the Millennium is in the future, is it important to us today? Yes, our position in the judgments is contingent on our conduct in our era, the present time. Paul confirms this in a letter to Timothy that if we died with Jesus, we would live with Him; and if we endured, we would reign with Him. Likewise, if we dismissed Him, He will dismiss us (2 Timothy 2:10-13).
The Last War
With the termination of the Millennium, Satan will be freed and deceptively influences a vast number of people to join him in a war against God. The vast army is destroyed by fire, and they and Satan are sent to hell for eternity.
Revelation describes everlasting life as everything new and closeness with God. John relates that he saw a new heaven and a new earth, as the first had passed away along with the seas (Revelation 21:1). He also described the New Jerusalem coming down from Heaven. He exclaimed, "Behold the tabernacle of God with men. God Himself will be with them and be their God (Revelation 21:3). For eternity we will enjoy peace and freedom, basking within the glory of God and actually having companionship with our Lord.
This has been a brief summary of the timing within the End Times. "But as it is written, eye has not seen, or ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things God has prepared for them that love Him" (1 Corinthians 2:9). However, Jesus did tell us that "In my Father's house there are many mansions" (also translated as rooms or dwellings). Interesting that house is singular whereas mansions is plural. Is Jesus describing the enormous New Jerusalem building? Is the building so vast as being necessary as there are that many saints in heaven? Or is our humble abode indeed mansion-size?