Deception, the Rapture, the Tribulation and the Testimony of Jesus
By Dene McGriff
Wow! That is a mouthful for a title. What on earth do all of these things have to do with one another? After having been a Christian for many years and involved in a prophetic ministry for the past 20 years, it seems there is a dark cloud hanging over the hearts and minds of Christians today. Just as the person who has not received Jesus and been born again is blind to their condition, so many Christians are blind in their perception if they are relying on their own understanding and haven’t received a revelation from God. This isn’t just my opinion. Many would agree that the Church of Laodicea resembles the Western Church today, “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). We are wealthy and have need of nothing but don’t realize our true condition. We are also blind to spiritual prophetic truth. The Barna Group and others document the continued fall of the institutional Church as our culture increasingly becomes post-Christian (see below chart).
The church in the Western World has changed a great deal in the past fifty years. It seems to be mirroring culture in its quest for money, security and entertainment - her spiritual vitality has really dissipated! The pastor serves up the same messages week after week and finds himself buried in the counseling and personal problems of the congregation in a effort to make better citizens out of folks or, at least, keep their marriages together and, if possible, to keep them out of debt! Few are really involved beyond the Sunday morning service. “Church” is out of habit or an attempt by families to save children from the prevailing secular culture. Hardly any churches address the subject of last days prophecy and if they do, it is with the promise that things are either going to improve or we are going to escape before the tribulation overtakes us.
Doug Woodward, Doug Krieger and I talked with scores of people at the Prophecy Conference who volunteered their feelings to us which went something like this: "Man, if I taught prophecy like this to my church (preachers) I'd be tossed out on my ear or kicked out of the church (congregants)."
Few are preaching the truth because they don’t even know it. Some pastors have been steeped in the liberal social gospel of involvement and improvement. Congregants are urged to elect representatives with their views and be a change agent. Others are taught the end may be near but the Church will be removed by a glorious rapture just before the “you know what” hits the proverbial fan! Prophecy is basically ignored. If we are gone, there is little personal relevance. Prophecy is seen as too scary, controversial, divisive and irrelevant to our daily lives.
Meanwhile, the typical “church goer” has little if any real relationship with the Lord. He goes through the motions but is too busy to get involved. He pays lip service to God by going to “church” once a week with a few prayers in between. Being involved in the “church” is seen as ushering, passing the offering plate or arranging the chairs rather than being really closely related to others and in daily ministry. “Christians” have been lulled to sleep by assurances from the pulpit. There is no corporate body life with daily mutual sharing and support...nor, for that matter, does the flock want to take "spiritual responsibility" for themselves - leave it to the preacher!
What is going to happen? Will things get better? Will there be a great revival? Will we escape by rapture? Or will Christians continue to fall away or wait for their “blessed hope” of an “any moment” rapture? Will there be a separation of the sheep and the goats, the wheat and the tares? Will there be civil war in the church where brother will turn against brother, mother against daughter? Will issues such as gay marriage, being pro-life or questioning America’s direction as a nation be considered hate crimes? Will churches divide? Will they turn people over to Homeland Security thinking they are doing God a favor? Will, as currently proposed by the California State Legislature, 501-c-3's (like the "xyz Discipleship Project" working with homeless people for Jesus - clothing them, feeding them and caring for their spiritual estate) lose their tax exempt status as a not-for-profit organization because they speak out of conscience regarding issues like the practice of homosexuality as a sin?
Changing the Argument
The timing of the rapture is one of the most hotly debated topics among Christians who care about prophecy. But I would submit the rapture is not the issue. The real issue has everything to do with the Testimony of Jesus on the earth. Just like the “pro-choice” hammer the “pro-life” people on the abortion issue saying that the mother should have final say as to what she does with her body. Few Christians change the argument to “pro-life” or “pro-death”. In the same way, I will argue that the issue is “pro-testimony” – God needs both Israel and the Church present during the tribulation because they are His workmanship, His glory on the earth as a testimony to the earth and the heavens. Christians have a difficult time seeing this. Some say Israel lost out and the Church has inherited all their promises and others say the “Church Age” will be over, believers will rapture, and Israel will wrap things up. Either one of these two positions, as we will see, has the effect of removing one or the other key players/witnesses in this grand finale. I would change the argument. The issue should not be the rapture because it will happen when it happens. There is no argument there. The issue should be whether God needs His two peoples present as a witness and testimony. We will examine the Scriptural precedents that are largely ignored or written off as “tribulation saints.”
Those on the side of the pre-trib rapture have come up with dozens of reasons why a secret rapture will occur. A straight forward reading of the major relevant passages show the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the Church being caught up to meet Him in the air occurs at the end of the Tribulation, just before the judgments and the millennial reign of Christ (e.g. Matthew 24:3-31); of course, to get out of this conundrum, many pre-tribbers say that Jesus' remarks in Matthew 24 are written to the Jews only, and not to future believers in Jesus (i.e., Gentiles, in particular). There is no secret rapture, no silent disappearance of the saints, no pilotless airplanes falling from the sky found in Matthew 24 or Luke 21. In fact, we see the church/saints throughout the Book of Revelation giving testimony to the very end!
One major drawback with the rapture teaching is that it gives the church a false sense of security. Corrie Ten Boom blamed this teaching for the wholesale slaughter of Christians in China because the church was misinformed, unwarned and ill-prepared. The other major difficulty is this: Does God really have two peoples, Israel and the Church, which represent His testimony on the earth and to the heavens. There are two major schools of thought in the church today: one is that Israel has been replaced by the Church and is of no importance...even in her status of "unbelief." The other has the Church age ending via the rapture leaving only the Jews to finish up the last seven years of the tribulation. We will get into this in detail. Either extrimity removes one of God’s peoples and their testimony, frustrating the Eternal Plan and Purpose of the Almighty.
The Testimony of Israel
The entire Bible is about God’s interaction with man who was made in His image, the fall of man and the plan of redemption coming through Abraham’s descendents. The Old Testament goes to painstaking lengths to chronicle every event and prophecy leading up to the first coming of the Messiah. He comes through His people, Israel, and the line of Judah in particular. He chose His people Israel to be a testimony to the nations. He warned them clear back in the first few books of the Bible, a blessing and the curse lay before them, a blessing if they obeyed Him and a curse if they didn’t - especially, in reference to Eretz Israel (the LAND of Israel - viz., they would be removed from the land if they disobeyed and returned to the land to declare His faithfulness and covenant-keeping promises made to the patriarchs). These promises foresaw their dispersion and regathering. There is little doubt, Israel is the nation God has chosen to bring us the Savior the first time, and figures prominently in His return the second time as well; e.g., how can the Jews welcome their Messiah on that day unless they be in the land and declare: "Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the LORD!" The whole Bible is about His peoples: Israel and the Church. A third of the Bible is related to end times prophecy concerning Israel and the Church.
The testimony of Israel is to the nations in a physical sense. Most of the Jews in Israel are secular. Some Christians point out that they are in “unbelief”. Of course, what else is news? But as we read in Romans 11, they will recognize the Messiah when He returns and all Israel is saved. Christians who can’t conceive of the fact that unbelieving Jews have a chance seem to forget that we were once strangers from God and even when we were yet enemies and unlovely, He loved us and gave Himself for us...we were "enemies of God, without hope - alienated from the promises and commonwealth of Israel." Why do we expect Jews to be undeserving when none of us merit God’s favor? It is easy for those of us in the church to forget our condition. But God has not given up on Israel.
Zechariah says, “And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it” (Zechariah 12:3). To this day, Israel is a miracle, not because they are better or righteous but because God chose them. Isaiah 45:17 says, “But Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation” - and Zechariah 12:2 says: “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem.” Psalm 2 is even more specific regarding Israel's relationship to the coming Messiah - the Gentile World Powers have no idea that their hatred toward Israel is their hatred toward the Messiah, the Son - O that they would embrace the Son, then their hatred toward Israel would vanish:
Why do the Gentiles rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Messiah, saying, 'Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.' He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: 'Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree of the Lord: The LORD has said to Me, You are My Son, today I have begotten you. Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter's vessel.' Now therefore, be wise, O kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss (lit. "embrace") the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.
God has been dealing with his people for over 4,000 years and their very existence makes them the lightening rod of attention for the whole earth. God is not done with them and they are an integral part of His eternal plan and purpose. They figure prominently in the end as His testimony to earthly kingdoms - EVEN IN THEIR UNBELIEF! So why do some Christians want to ignore Israel?
Replacement Theology – Israel Removed – no Witness
From the beginning of church history, there has been jealousy between Christians and Jews. Historically, early Christians began to embrace the notion that God was finished with Israel. Today, some still believe Israel is lost because they rejected Christ and the Church replaced them and took all of their blessings. Paul sees this issue clearly in Romans 11 and cautions the church to remember they have been grafted into the olive tree that is Israel and not to be arrogant. He even reminds us in Romans 11:11-25 that one day all Israel will be saved.
Those who accept replacement theology believe that Israel is unimportant. They have lost their blessing and their covenants. They are in unbelief and only matter if they are saved and absorbed into the body of Christ, the Church, with no real identity of their own. Some even believe the Jews today are false Jews, pretenders or Satan’s agents - viz., "the synagogue of Satan." Others believe the tribes were scattered around the world and that we European stock are the “New Israel” of God (replacing "Israel of the flesh"). All that is left is the Church, but not to worry, these folks are mostly amillennial meaning the millennium is symbolic and the church is in the 1,000-year Rule and Reign of Christ already. The long and the short of it is that Israel is not a factor. It is gone, kaput, and it doesn’t matter what happens to it. The Church has replaced Israel and taken all of its promises - this doctrine is called the "continuation of the community of grace" in that there is only one group of redeemed people on the earth; the Church, therefore, is that people and Israel is, therefore, the Church or the "true Israel of God." But this is exactly what Paul warned about in Romans 11. We are not saying that Israel is deserving of God’s blessing but neither are we. They are still God’s chosen people and they are still willing to die for that little strip of land in Israel...call it "misplaced nationalism" - God, we believe, calls it one of His Two Witnesses!
So in these various scenario, the witness of Israel is removed. Now we turn to the dispensational view of the last days.
Dispensational View – the Church and the Witness Removed
The Dispensational view believes there was an era in which God dealt with Israel for 2,000 years (from Abraham to Christ). Then the 2,000 year Church era began. Once they came up with the doctrine of the pre-trib rapture, the Church was gone, so they said that ended the Church dispensation...that got (to this day) a lot of Christian folks upset, especially those who embraced the notion that God was through with the Jews and now, more so, God could care less about that sliver of land on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea.
If the Church is gone, then the Church era or dispensation is as well; thus, attention turns back to Israel to finish up the last seven years of the tribulation. There are variations but basically they see Israel, and possibly 144,000 Jewish evangelists, being the witnesses during the final seven-year tribulation along with some “tribulation saints” from the people left behind who get saved. They say the Church is not appointed to wrath so it is removed. (I Thess 5:9) The rapture is the end times Christian’s “Blessed Hope.” They say that after Revelation 4, the Church is never mentioned because it is gone, other than a few “tribulation saints” who get saved after the rapture. They say "gone" even though the "seven golden lampstands" in Revelation 1 are clearly the "churches" but the "two golden lampstands" of Revelation 11 (same Greek word) are not the Church? So let’s take a look at this issue.
The dilemma with the dispensational view is that it removes God’s people (i.e., the "Church") at the most critical time in history. If you take the Church out of the world, you eliminate the spiritual testimony of Jesus on the earth (other than newly saved “tribulation saints” somehow getting saved through 144,000 Jewish evangelists?). The idea that people who find themselves “left behind” and suddenly get saved and become mighty evangelists (Jewish to boot) is frankly not very believable. They will say: “This is exactly what happens and with God all things are possible.” Yes, technically true but not the way God works. Anyone who has been “born again” realizes that we enter a lifelong process of gradual, day by day transformation, the renewing of our minds, beholding and reflecting as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, being changed into His image by the Spirit of the Lord. (II Cor. 3:18). This is a process and we are His workmanship having this treasure in earthen vessels (II Cor. 4:7). God goes to a lot of trouble and daily transformation to bring Christians to maturity; to a point where He can use them and shine through them. So now, why on earth would God want to remove His living expression (viz. the "Image of Christ" - the Church) from the earth? By the way, a better word for post-trib rapture is pre-wrath rapture. We have much Scriptural evidence that the Lord returns at the final trumpet, the church raptures and then the wrath of God is poured out in the bowls of wrath during the 30 days following the Seventieth Week of Daniel. This point is either not understood or unfortunately ignored by proponents of the pre-trib position.
For nearly two thousand years real Christians have suffered and died for their faith. If you are not convinced, please read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs or Miller’s Church History and you will see that the ultimate testimony of the Church has been their willingness to pay the ultimate price or ...
“...looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. 36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted,[f] were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us. (Hebrews 11:35-40)
Why is the lukewarm Laodicean Western Church so fixated on not suffering? Perhaps we have too much of a stake in this world? As Ruth Graham said (paraphrasing), “If God doesn’t judge America (and the Church – my words) He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.” I will agree with the pre-tribbers that the Church will not suffer the wrath of God, but it has never been exempt from the refining fires of God (Rev 3:18 and I Cor 3:12-14) or persecution from the enemy.
By the way, the real fate of the Church in Laodicea is as follows: The Romans came to this trading center of great wealth that happened to have a cold water well on one end of town and a warm well on the other which flowed into a lukewarm pool in the center of town. The Roman soldiers gathered the church elders and told them that they would have to worship Caesar or else ("Hey, what's wrong with throwing in a little grain offering into the fire and showing the Emperor no hard feelings?"). After discussing about it they decided they could actually do that and besides, since the alternative was terminal you might say, how could a little grain offering to the Emperor be all that compromising? A young boy in the church objected, saying that if he had to suffer in the Roman fires that he would be going to a much better place if he did not worship the Emperor - you see, he just couldn’t deny the Lord. The elders agreed and they were slaughtered in the town's square - the whole Church in Laodicea was martyred for Christ ... their smoke ascended as a "sweet smelling savor unto the Throne of God and the Lamb!"
All over the world today, Christians are being killed for their faith...look what's happening to the churches in Egypt going up in smoke! Why should the Western Church be spared? If the Church is removed from the earth during the tribulation, there is no spiritual witness unless you believe the unbelievable story that 144,000 Jewish evangelists and ipso facto “tribulation saints” will take over. There are many theories about what happens to these “Johnny come lately’s” but I would ask, why would God remove his “A Team” – those saints He spent so many years preparing and working on? Some say there won’t be much of an “A Team” so who gets raptured in any event? Some say only the deserving “overcomers”. So is there a split rapture? Multiple raptures? Multiple Second Comings? Wow! This is complicated and even convoluted.
To me it seems very clear that there are saints in the middle of the Tribulation. The only way proponents of the pre-trib rapture can get around it is to say that passages such as Matthew 24 only refer to Jews because the church is gone. No, there is only one going up to meet the Lord in the air and that is when He comes in the clouds with a great shout, trumpet, signs in the heavens (hardly a secret event) Matthew 24:29-31 says,
29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
There is only one coming, and one rapture. Now let’s examine the presence of the church in the midst of the tribulation and their testimony.
Witness and Testimony
The whole earth and Satan are coming to trial. In Revelation 1:2 it talks about John’s “witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw”. As we shall see below the testimony of Israel refers to Jews who have the “word of God”. God gave Moses and the prophets His word which they kept and preserved. He gave the Church the “testimony of Jesus”. We will see these two mentioned in similar context such as those who sing the Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb. These are His two peoples – physical and spiritual. The only way to get rid of the Church or Israel is to twist the Word and make it say things that are not clearly intended. For those who continue in this error, they do so at their own peril.
Modern theologians defend the pre-trib rapture position vehemently. Did it really come about from a vision of Margaret McDonald, a young farm girl in 1830 rural England and was later picked up by the famous Brethren preacher John Nelson Darby and popularized in the Scofield Reference Bible? We do know that seminaries and Bible Schools across the western world picked up on the "secret rapture of the church" prior to the commencement of the final week of Daniel's prophecy of the Seventy Weeks. It soon developed into an entire body of teaching called dispensationalism. Regardless of this "apparent association" (McDonald-Darby) - and the historicity of it may never be known - that said, may I give you a fairly unbiased view of the controversy as authored by the web-site: APOSTASY NOW. Notwithstanding whether or not Margaret McDonald was pre-trib, or some say post-trib, the "doctrine" was somehow embraced by Darby.
Now, as mentioned previously, once the Church was gone before the "tribulation period," the Church era had to be over and Israel had to pick up the ball so a whole body of teaching that ignores the plain straightforward reading of the Bible was developed (e.g., If the Church is gone, then who are the so-called "tribulation saints" and the vast multitude that gets saved by the "blood of the Lamb" during this time - you know, "those who overcome the Beast, his Image and his Mark" and are clearly said in Revelation 20 to "rule and reign with Christ a thousand years"?). Again, how can regeneration occur without the Holy Spirit's impartation of Life and more abundantly?
This partly explains why the average person has an aversion to prophecy and considers it best left up to the experts who are glad to expound their version of truth to the flock. One good thing to come out of dispensational teaching is that Israel (which had been written off by the Catholic and Reformation Churches) was returned to prominence but the Church was removed as a witness during Earth's most prophetic hour. The only way to counter the Scripture below is to dismiss it as references to “tribulation saints” who are saved after the rapture or Israel alone. We will see this just doesn’t fit.
Doug Krieger has dealt extensively with this issue in Chapters 5 and 6 of an ebook titled “Unsealing the End of Days” for a clear Biblical understanding, and recently in an article titled, “The Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb” which clearly deals with the two people groups – physical and spiritual, Israel and the Church.
There is ample evidence in the book of Revelation alone that the Church and Israel go through this period together. Let’s look at some examples:
- Revelation 1:9 refers to those who have the “Word of God” and the “Testimony of Jesus”. We will see this further on where Israel has the Word and the Law, and the Church “the testimony of Jesus.”
- Revelation 6:9 “I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.” This shows Israel and the Church together again.
- Revelation 7:4-9 The first group of 144,000 from the twelve tribes of Israel. Then it shows another great multitude: “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Verses 9-17 obviously refers to the Church and verses 4-9 refer to Israel.
- Revelation 12:17 “And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Again, the same relation – the commandments and the testimony, Israel and the Church.
- Revelation 14 The second group of 144,000 refers to the Church, those who washed their robes in the blood of the lamb. These are the redeemed, the first fruits of many brethren.
- Revelation 15:3 Here are both groups together: They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying.” They are singing two different songs: Israel is singing the Song of Moses and the Church the Song of the Lamb.
- Revelation 20:4 “And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years”. Again we see two groups here – those beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the Word of God. We also see that this is a great court room and there are two witnesses and judgment is committed to them.
The Two Witnesses
We will come back to Revelation 20 in a moment but I saved the best example for last. Revelation 11 is the middle chapter in the Book of Revelation and the one that pulls it all together because it speaks of the Two Witnesses: “And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God] of the earth”. (Rev 11:3-4). Other writings referred to in this article go into detailed explanations from both the Old and New Testaments as to the identity of the two witnesses but to briefly summarize (Zechariah 4 and Romans 11 as an example): Israel is identified as the Olive Tree. In Revelation 1-3, the church is clearly identified as the Lampstands. In Revelation 11 we see Two Olive Trees and Two Lampstands representing two corporate entities - each being a witness (2 is the number for witness in the Bible).
Verse 7 of Revelation 11 tells us that “when they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them”. Now if these were two people such as Moses and Elijah as some claim, a bullet to the head would do them both in. But it says the Beast makes war with them (as in a global campaign). You hardly need to make war with two people. Daniel 9:27 confirms this saying “Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate (i.e., DESOLATOR).” The Antichrist makes a covenant with Israel, breaks the covenant in the middle of the week (after three and a half years), the abomination of desolation occurs and he turns on Israel and the Church. This chronology is explained in great detail in the Antichrist, Reflections on the Desolator.
Most pre-tribbers are told that the two witnesses are Moses and Elijah although there are other theories. I was recently talking to someone and I told her a simple bullet to the head would take care of both of them. “Oh but they have heavenly bodies,” she said. Then how could they be killed and their body lie "in the street of the great city" (Please note: "Great City" is NOT a reference to Jerusalem, the Holy City - for "specifically" our Lord was crucified "outside the camp" - not in Jerusalem proper, but in that "Great City" which I believe is a "first mentioning" of Babylon the Great in the Revelation) for three and a half years? I then went into the fact that "two" indicates corporate testimony and the olive tree and lampstand clearly refer to Israel and the Church.
We see the bodies of the two witnesses in the street of the Great City, and the Antichrist makes war with them and overcomes them. This is where the witnesses overcome as in Revelation 12:11 referring to the Church, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” Then we come to the end of the chapter, Revelation 12:17: "And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” We again see Israel, those who keep the commandments of God and the Church, those who have the testimony of Jesus. The Beast is after both Israel and the Church as we see in Chapter 11, making war with both witnesses.
So there you have it – many verses showing the same exact theme – the two witnesses: Israel and the Church. Why is this so important? Because we are His corporate peoples and the New Jerusalem is a picture of his ultimate bride – a blend of Israel and the Church, the prophets and the apostles, the twelve tribes and the twelve apostles, the churches, the foundations (the Church) and the gates of the city (Israel).
The Ultimate Reward
I have saved the best for last. There are some Christians that are so wedded to the idea of the pre-tribulation rapture, they argue furiously with you for daring to take away their “blessed hope.” I have asked why they should escape suffering and persecution considering this has been the lot of the true Church from the very beginning? Well the Church isn’t “appointed to wrath” - they always respond. (As pointed out earlier their understanding is lacking of the concept of the pre-wrath rapture and that the wrath of God is poured out in the last 30 days (unto the 1,290th day of desolation), if you would, the terminus or beyond Daniel's Seventieth Week (the second half of the 1,260 days) into what is known as the "75-days" (Daniel 12:11-12). God has never spared the Church from tribulation in the world or persecution from Satan..."In the world you shall have tribulation" - John 16:33). Well, I say, I guess you are going to miss out on the greatest reward of all. Revelation 20:4 above says that he saw the souls of those beheaded during the Tribulation. I guess that can’t be you. Right? You are gone. You have escaped, right? You left before the tribulation, right? Let’s see who was beheaded: it looks like saints who stood for the Testimony of Jesus and Jews who stood for the Word of God. It looks like those tribulation saints made out okay after all. So you're going to "rule and reign with Christ a thousand years" - so, as it turns out there are two sets of those who shall rule and reign with Christ a thousand years: 1. Those that kept their heads on; and 2. Those who lost their heads! I hate to sound so crass - but re-read Revelation 20 and you'll be shocked to find that those who you might have thought were going to be "temple servants" in the literal kingdom turn out to be the ones who are ruling and reigning with Christ a thousand years.
As for the Jews, remember Romans 11:25-32:
“For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;7 For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”28 Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, 31 even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. 32 For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.” God hasn’t broken His promises with His people.
So if Christians are gone and raptured during the tribulation, it doesn’t seem to be possible for them to be counted among those who are beheaded during it, who didn’t worship the Beast or his Image or take the Mark of the Beast. It looks like the tribulation saints and Jews get the ultimate reward of being able to rule and reign with Christ for 1,000 years. Obviously that is not what we believe. Both witnesses are present. Revelation 12:11 quoted above: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” It looks like a small price to pay to be able to rule and reign with Christ for 1,000 years. This reward is not necessarily for just the “tribulation saints” but the true believers that showed their willingness to pay the ultimate price during the first half of the tribulation when God was separating the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the chaff, the true believers from the phony believers, those sheep who knew the Shepherd's voice during the second half of the Seventieth Week of Daniel, when being persecuted by the Antichrist meant to "rule and reign with Christ a thousand years" (John 10:16).
Deception of the Last Days
In fact the stakes are high for Christians. If you carefully read Matthew 24 it appears that the first half of the tribulation prior to the Abomination of Desolations (Matthew 24:9-14) is characterized by Civil War within the Church where brother is turning against brother and father against son. Not only are Christians bucking the politically correct culture, they know that there is no hope in the present world system. This is where those who have walked with the Lord and know His voice will be separated from the self-righteous, religious, lukewarm Christians who think they know it all and are convinced their brethren are making a big mistake in "bucking the system." When the Antichrist signs a Defense Treaty (Affirmation of the "Unbreakable Alliance") with Israel, the real believers will understand what is happening and be persecuted by those who think they are doing God a favor. Why wouldn’t they support a treaty with Israel? Remember, deception is the characteristic of the tribulation. Only those Christians who have a real relationship with the Lord and the revelation (being "illuminated by the Holy Spirit") to understand what God is saying prophetically to the Church in the last days through the "Scripure of Truth" (Daniel 10:21) will understand what is really going on. Prophecy is written for those in the last generation to read and understand. There will be no excuse for those in this last generation.
Daniel was befuddled by the heavy visions that God was giving him. He was clearly upset and didn’t have the capacity to understand these things that were to take place nearly 2,500 years in the future. So God says,
7 Then I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever, that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished.
8 Although I heard, I did not understand. Then I said, “My lord, what shall be the end of these things?”
9 And he said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. 10 Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.
11 “And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days. 12 Blessed is he who waits, and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days.
13 “But you, go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days.” (Daniel 12:7-13)
Notice that it mentions the three and a half years when the power of the holy people will be shattered. Daniel asks in essence, how is this going to turn out? God’s answer is interesting. His people need to be purified but the wicked will do wickedly and won’t understand. Again we see the abomination of desolation. But God tells Daniel just rest and you will receive your inheritance at the end of days. Now, why has there been such a problem understanding Bible prophecy? Note Verse 9 of Daniel 12 where it says “the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.” This knowledge is meant for those who have a “need to know” as we used to say in the intelligence community. The generation that is alive from 1948 to the present, once Israel returned to the land and became a nation...This generation has a “need to know.” Now God is ready to reveal the secrets to His people, but only to those with open hearts and minds and receptive spirits. This comes by revelation, not by sermons or books. It is revealed to you by God Himself. You can read these words and it can go in one ear and out the other. You can read and totally disagree because this is simply not what you have been taught. Don’t take my word for it. Seek the Lord and listen to the still small voice.
4 But you, O Daniel, shut up the words and seal the Book until the time of the end. [Then] many shall run to and fro and search anxiously [through the Book], and knowledge [of God’s purposes as revealed by His prophets] shall be increased and become great. (Daniel 12:4 - Amplified Version)
It is for that reason that John says seven times in his letters to the seven churches in the second and third chapters of Revelation, “He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”
Dene McGriff, Sacramento, August 2013