The Gathering/ Pastor Barry: This I Believe Series #9: Our Reward (to hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM)
Every study of doctrine must have its eschatology (theology of the final destiny of the soul and of humankind), but let me begin with a word of caution as we enter this area of study. Apart from the belief that Christ will return for His church and bring us into eternity with Him, the specifics of eschatology is not essential to salvation. It is certainly no reason to break fellowship with a believer who holds a different view point. A misplaced emphasis on eschatology can cause such problems as:
Passivity—Eschatology can lead to inactivity. We must remember, as the end draws near, to be focused on our call as Christians to share the gospel and not how to store up things so that we can survive. Misapplication—Be careful not to misread scripture and therefore misapply it. Not everything in the Bible is about end times. Misplaced Focus—We must not become so excited about end times study and material that it becomes our entire focus with Jesus and others. Misreading—We must be careful not to misread the scriptures or the newspaper in light of our eschatological views. Tragedies are not to be seen as wonderful events of prophetic fulfillment but as opportunities to reach the lost with compassion. Misrepresentation—With every false prediction the credibility of believers and the claims of Christ become weakened. Christians are mocked for silly end times hysteria and the cause of Christ is harmed.
The Rapture 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, Matthew 24:36-44
So as we study eschatology carefully, we begin by dividing it into two parts: general eschatology (the future of the world) and personal eschatology (the future of the individual). We will begin with general eschatology and the time line (chronologically) of future things as revealed in God’s word:
The Rapture of the church is the next event on God’s calendar. Some Christian denominations do not teach the rapture; however, the majority of the evangelical world does and so do we. The word “rapture” is not found in the Bible; however, the description is. The actual word “rapture” comes from the Latin Vulgate Translation of the word phrase found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (“caught up”= rapio: to catch up or snatch away). This is when the church is taken up into Heaven by Christ preceding God’s wrath upon the earth (The Great Tribulation). There is disagreement among Christians regarding the timing of the rapture. Some believe it will occur before the beginning of the seven-year tribulation (pre-trib) while others believe it will take place after the first 3 1/2 years (mid-trib). Still others hold to an after tribulation rapture (post-trib). The rapture and the second coming of Christ are often confused. At the rapture Christ comes for His saints (Church); at His second coming He comes with His saints (Revelation 19:14). Believers who have already died are with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:1-8), those who are who are then living will meet the Lord (and them) in the air. This will all occur in a moment, in a “twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). The second coming occurs after the great tribulation (Revelation 6–19). The rapture occurs before the tribulation and rescues believers from God’s judgment upon the earth “for God has not destined us for wrath”(1 Thessalonians 5:9, Revelation 3:10). In Matthew 24:36-44 Jesus describes this event to His people. We are to be watchful for His coming rather it be pre-trib, mid-trib or post-trib. He is coming again!
The Wrath Of God Matthew 24:21, Revelation 7:9-10, 13-14, 11:1-4
The Tribulation period follows the rapture of the Church. When the church is gone from the earth the man of sin (Antichrist/ the Beast/ 666: unholy trinity= Satan, Antichrist, False prophet) is revealed. This will be a world leader who is possessed by the Devil. The first 3 1/2 years of his reign will be deceptively peaceable ushering in a following 3 1/2 years of God’s terrible wrath upon the earth (Matthew 24:21, Revelation 8:6-9:21, 16:1-21). During this time men will not be able to buy or sell without a mark that the antichrist issues (likely an RFID [Radio Frequency Identification] chip implanted under the right hand or forehead: Revelation 13:16-18). Receiving that mark will bring irreversible damnation (Revelation 14:9-11) . During this time a great multitude of people will come to Christ and be martyred for their faith, joining the church in Heaven (Revelation 7:9-10, 13-14). Many Jews will also come to know Christ as their Messiah after mistakenly going after the antichrist who sets himself up to be worshipped in the newly built Temple. God will provide two indestructible witnesses during this time who will prophecy for 3 1/2 years (1, 260 days: Revelation 11:1-12) near the temple in Jerusalem.
Christ’s Return and His Earthly Reign Revelation 19:11-21, 20:1-3
The end of the great tribulation will leave 1/3 of the earth destroyed (Revelation 8:7) by fire and a tenth of Jerusalem destroyed by an earthquake (Revelation 11:13). For some cause the armies of the earth will gather in Palestine in an area called Megiddo near the Mediterranean Sea to wage war. Perhaps they are wanting to execute the Jews who have refused to take the mark of the Beast. Our perhaps the world’s tracking systems have intercepted what Revelation describes as the armies of Heaven coming with Christ (Revelation 19:11-21). Jesus returns to the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:3-4) as prophesied and the earth will split as The Battle of Armageddon ensues; however, it will be over quickly. Christ destroys the armies with “the sword of His mouth”. It will be a slaughter that runs blood as high as a horses bridal for a distance of one hundred and eighty miles (1,600 stadia: Revelation 14:20) and then Satan will be bound for 1000 years as Christ rules and reigns on the earth for a millennia. This act fulfills the Messianic prophecies (Isaiah 11:5-9) and demonstrates what earth was meant to be in Eden. The Church, in glorified bodies will reign with Christ during this time.
The Final Judgment Revelation 20:7-15
It is hard to fathom, but Satan is released and deceives one last time to be quickly devoured with those stupid men who rise up in rebellion against Christ (Revelation 20:7-10). At last comes the Great White Throne Judgment. This is the judgment of the damned when all of the unsaved are sentenced to Hell for eternity. A place never meant for man. Any who go there have only themselves to blame for God has done everything to dissuade them.
Our Great Reward (Heaven) Revelation 21:1-8, 22-27, 22:11-13,20-21
At long last shall come our great reward! “A new heaven and a new earth!” Eternal life with Christ and His people forever more, but wait…hasn’t that begun even now for we who believe? It surely has, but then we will see Him as He sees us (1 Corinthians 13:12). Then we will not be tempted to ever stray from what He has worked so graciously for us to possess. Amen!