Summary: Ever wonder about the Great Tribulation? We launch into a two part series on the prophecies and timings - and answer the question: will Christians go through it?
13 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. 14 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. 15 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. 16 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. 17 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. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.
Unfortunately, the subject of this paragraph is anything but encouraing to a lot of Christians. Controversy over the Rapture, as it called, springs up all the time - causing for deep divisions between Christians.
It’s such an important event, and yet so little referenced in the Bible, that I thought it would be helpful to run through exactly what the Rapture is, and what the various views about its occurrence are.
As we begin - I want to discuss briefly some different ways of interpreting the Bible, prophecy, and the Book of Revelation. Not everyone believes the way that I do - and good Christians can disagree on many of these points.
A recent paper I was given says there are seven ways to interpret the Book of Revelation. I’ll list them for you briefly:
Preterist - It all happened in the 1st century
Church History - the book charts the course of church history
Idealist - It’s all symbolism
Dispensational-futurist - It’s all future prophecy
Classical Futurist - All future except the letters to the churches
Eclectic - There are truths in the book but no way is all right (and all ways are some right)
I don’t think my position, and that of Calvary Chapel, is any of these. Perhaps then I would call it the Dual Fulfillment position.
I believe that Revelation was relevant to the audience at the time - and to the churches. I think that these were real letters to real churches at the time, but I think it also teaches us spiritual values and contains a great deal of symbolism. AND - I do believe that the prophecies in this book will also be fulfilled literally in the future. There are examples all over Scripture of prophecies that were fulfilled both near when they were made and much later in the future. That leaves room for those who think the Revelation was all fulfilled in the 1st century, but also those that believe that it is yet to be fulfilled. By the way - I don’t see how you can interpret Rev 21-22 any other way than in the future.
Also as a part of our discussion is The Great Tribulation.
The Great Tribulation is found referenced in only Revelation 7:14 by name - but refers to a seven year period of time just prior to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. It is a time of great turmoil on the earth - and is a time when the Anti-Christ, a world figure who is filled with the spirit of Satan himself, rules the earth.
A third aspect is The Millennium.
The Millennium is found referenced in Revelation 20 - during this period of time, Satan will be bound and Jesus will rule with the Saints on earth after His return.
We’re going to get into more of this during our study in 2 Thessalonians but what sets the stage for all of this discussion is found in the Book of Daniel. It is upon this foundation that all discussions of the end times are built.
Daniel has prayed to the Lord - repenting for the sins of Israel that cast had them out of the land and into Babylon. This prophecy was written about 539BC.
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.
25 "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. 26 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. 27 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."