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The Pre-Tribulation Rapture - A Flow of End Time Events


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Great Tribulation

Abomination of desolation - The end of Mystery Babylon:

Recall that the Tribulation will begin with a covenant brokered by the antichrist with Israel. This covenant will later be broken by the antichrist by the "abomination of desolation":

Daniel 9:27 - "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."

The "abomination of desolation" will mark the middle of the 7-year Tribulation and the beginning of what Jesus said will be "great tribulation" (Matthew 24:21, Mark 13:19), or the darkest time in human history, when most of the world's population will die, as the worst of God's judgments fall on Earth, and the antichrist has global domination (Revelation 13:7). To find out what the "abomination of desolation" is, we need to look at a similar fulfilled prophecy in Daniel:

Daniel 11:30-31 - ...So he shall return and show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant. And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation.

The ruler of the Seleucid Empire, Antiochus Epiphanes fulfilled this prophecy in the second century B.C. The "abomination of desolation" was that Antiochus defiled the temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar. He also set up a statue of a Greek god in the place of the Most Holy. The "abomination of desolation" has not happened again since Christ reiterated Daniel's prophecy in His "Olivet Discourse":

Matthew 24:15 - 'Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand)..."

Scriptures show that a Jewish temple will stand in the last days and sacrifices will begin again (Daniel 9:27, Daniel 12:8-11, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, Revelation 11:1-2). The antichrist will fulfill this future prophecy by defiling the temple and stopping the sacrifices in the middle of the Tribulation. The antichrist will also exalt himself above God:

2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 - Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.

The antichrist's false prophet, a man who acts as a counterfeit of the Holy Spirit, will have an idol made in the image of the antichrist. The false prophet will command everyone to worship this "image of the beast":

Revelation 13:14-15 - And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.

The "abomination of desolation" will mark the point in the Tribulation when the antichrist begins to take full reign. Earlier we saw that the "Mystery Babylon" religion will be the tool Satan uses to bring the world together. The Bible tells us that before the antichrist has global dominion, the world will be under the leadership of ten rulers, or "horns." These ten rulers will eventually destroy the "Mystery Babylon" religion and hand their power over to the antichrist:

Revelation 17:15-17 - Then he said to me, "The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled."

I believe that the "abomination of desolation" and destruction of the Babylonian religious system will happen after the antichrist resurrects from the dead (Revelation 17:8). The world will be able to watch this happen via satellite technology, or the internet. It is not hard to see how the world will readily accept the antichrist as their god after they witness the antichrist's resurrection. I also believe the ten rulers will probably kill the Babylonian religious leaders when they destroy their religious system, based on the gruesome picture of them killing the Harlot, as shown above.

In spite of other religions being persecuted by the "Mystery Babylon" religion, the Jewish religion will apparently be protected under the covenant brokered by the antichrist, during the first half of the Tribulation. This is because we see that the sacrifices at the Jewish temple will continue until the antichrist terminates them in the middle of the Tribulation. After the antichrist defiles the Jewish temple, the false prophet will mandate the mark of the beast system to enforce, through vital economical means, worship of the antichrist (Revelation 13).

Those who become believers after the rapture will widely be martyred for their faith. During the first half of the Tribulation, those who persecute the Tribulation saints will be partakers in the "Mystery Babylon" religion:

Revelation 17:5-6 - And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.

But when the antichrist takes full control in the second half of the Tribulation, believers will then be overcome by the system of the Beast:

Revelation 13:7 - It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.

Resurrections in the midst of the Tribulation:

In the book of Revelation, there are two places where God takes people to Heaven, rapture-style, during the Tribulation. These passages have led to all sorts of speculation that the rapture of the Church coincides with one of these events, or both if they are concurrent. These two groups that go to Heaven are the two witnesses and the 144,000 sealed servants.

The two witnesses share their testimony for 1,260 days and then the resurrected antichrist overcomes them and kills them (Revelation 11:3-13). People from all over the world will be able to see their dead bodies via satellite technology, or the internet. Three and a half days later, God will resurrect the two witnesses and take them to Heaven:

Revelation 11:7-9 - When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also 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.

The third Jewish temple is standing before the two witnesses arrive on the scene (Revelation 11:1-2). It is unknown when the Jews will build the temple, except that it is standing by the middle of the Tribulation in order for the antichrist to defile it. Because the antichrist breaks the covenant when he defiles the temple, it is logical that the permission to build the temple will be in the covenant itself.

There is a notion based on John 5:43, that the Jews will initially accept the antichrist as their messiah before accepting the true Messiah, Jesus Christ. Because many Jews believe that the messiah will build the temple, based on Zechariah 6:13, it is quite possible that the antichrist will help construct the temple in the first part of the Tribulation, supporting the idea that the Jews accept the antichrist as their messiah.

In addition, there are some Jews who believe that after the war prophesied in Ezekiel 38-39 occurs, they will be able to build their temple. This is because Ezekiel is widely viewed as being chronological. Ezekiel 40-48 is about a future Jewish temple. If this is true, and the Ezekiel war is the same war described in the Seal judgments of Revelation 6, then the Jews may not construct the third temple until sometime into the first half of the Tribulation.

The Bible does not explicitly tell us when the two witnesses' ministry begins. Many people like to shoehorn their ministry into one half of the Tribulation or the other, based solely on the fact their ministry is the same day count (1,260 days) given for the second half of the Tribulation (Revelation 12:6). This is an assumption that is probably false.

There is nothing prohibiting the ministry of the two witnesses overlapping the first and second halves of the Tribulation. This means we cannot pinpoint the timing of the 7th Trumpet judgment, which is concurrent with the two witnesses' resurrection. However, since it is likely that the Jews build the third temple sometime in the first half of the Tribulation, and the two witnesses arrive after the temple is standing, then their ministry would end sometime during the second half of the Tribulation, but before the Bowl judgments. I discuss this scenario in more detail in Revelation 11:3.

The other group of people whom God brings to Heaven during the Tribulation is the 144,000 sealed servants. We find that the 144,000 servants are "redeemed from among men" during the Tribulation as "firstfruits" (Revelation 14:1-4). At the beginning of this study, we saw that Christ was the "firstfruits" of our resurrection. To be clear, Christ is the first fruits of all those saved who have fallen asleep, including believers from all periods of time: The Old Testament, the Church Age, the Tribulation and beyond. Yet, we see that the 144,000 are first fruits to Heaven of a particular group of believers not part of the Church, which we will discuss in the next section.

Harvests of souls:

I think a study of the harvest cycle and the feasts of the Lord may shed some light on why John calls the 144,000 servants "firstfruits" in Revelation 14:4. As discussed earlier in this study, "firstfruits" are the first ripe fruits of the harvest that Israel gave to the Lord as a worship offering:

Deuteronomy 26:1-3, 10 - "And it shall be, when you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, and you possess it and dwell in it, that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground, which you shall bring from your land that the LORD your God is giving you, and put it in a basket and go to the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide.... I have brought the firstfruits of the land which you, O LORD, have given me. Then you shall set it before the LORD your God, and worship before the LORD your God."

The word "firstfruit" implies that the rest of the harvest will follow later. There are three major crops harvested in Israel: Barley, wheat, and grapes. God compares the grain and grape harvest to the harvest of souls in Revelation 14:14-20. We also find harvest imagery in several of the Lord's parables about the "kingdom of Heaven" in the gospels. So we see that the harvest of the grain and fruit represent harvests of souls for different people groups. Reaping the harvest ends in death, but Jesus is the first fruit of the resurrection to life of the souls harvested, for those saved in Him:

1 Corinthians 15:20-24 - But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.

So who are the people groups represented in the barley, wheat, and grape harvests? After Jesus rose from the dead, some of the Old Testament saints were also resurrected (Matthew 27:52-54). After a brief stop on Earth, Jesus brought these saints with Him to Heaven (Ephesians 4:8-10) and offered them to God, which fulfilled the Feast of Firstfruits offering (Deuteronomy 26). The general harvest of barley represents the souls who get reaped and die in Christ during the Church Age. The gleanings of the barley harvest represent those who are alive in Christ at the end of the Church Age when Christ calls the Church to Heaven in the rapture. Note that the gleanings were not reaped at the end of the harvest:

Leviticus 19:9-10 - When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the LORD your God.

This shows that a part of the barley harvest is not reaped in death, but part of the crop will still be alive to the end of the harvest. The following passage shows that the dead in Christ, or the souls reaped in the barley harvest, will precede the souls in Christ that were not reaped and are still alive as gleanings at the end of the barley harvest, when Christ calls the Church to Heaven in the rapture:

1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 - 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.

Incidentally, winnowing is the technique farmers use to harvest barley. The farmer takes a fork-like fan and tosses the grain in the air to separate the chaff. This winnowing technique illustrates Paul's description of the rapture in the passage above, where believers, represented by the grain, will meet the Lord in the air, effectively becoming separated from the unbelievers left on Earth, represented by the chaff.

In the parable below, Jesus shows that the wheat represents people who become believers in the Tribulation and enter the Kingdom at the end of the harvest:

Matthew 13:24-30 - Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, 'Do you want us then to go and gather them up?' But he said, 'No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn."

Jesus says that angels will burn the tares that grow up around the wheat, and then they will gather the wheat into the barn. To harvest wheat, farmers put the grain through a threshing device known as a "tribulum" that beats the grain to separate it from the chaff, which is a tough casing around the grain. Interestingly, "Tribulum" is the Latin word for "tribulation." In the parable above, the wheat represents the Tribulation saints who enter the Kingdom represented by the barn, and God's enemies are the tares that get burned in the fire which represents Hades. God's enemies are also represented by the grape harvest, whom God will crush like grapes in a winepress, as described in the following passage:

Revelation 14:17-20 - Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, "Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe." So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses' bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs.

After the barley harvest of souls ends, the harvest of wheat and grapes commences in the Tribulation. The main harvest of wheat represents the Tribulation saints who get martyred for their faith, and the main harvest of grapes are those who die as unbelievers in the Tribulation. The gleanings of the wheat and grape harvests are those who survive the Tribulation. The Lord judges these gleanings in the "Sheep and Goat" judgment after the Tribulation.

Jesus alludes to these soul harvests that have two different destinies in the "Olivet Discourse," where two men are in the field and two women are grinding at the mill at the time of Jesus' return, with one of each taken away. Those taken away die and go to await the last judgment (Matthew 24:40-41). Only the gleanings of the wheat harvest will enter the "Millennium," which we will discuss in a few sections.

The 144,000 servants are the first fruits of the Tribulation saints, represented by the wheat harvest in Revelation 14:4. The reason the 144,000 servants are first fruits, is because they will get their resurrection bodies first, before the general resurrection of the Tribulation saints after the Tribulation (Revelation 20:4), which shows their resurrection has nothing to do with the resurrection of the Church at the rapture, because the Church is a different harvest from the 144,000 and Tribulation saints.

The following table summarizes the relationship between the harvests and the people groups they represent and their fulfillment in the feasts of the Lord:

Barley Wheat Grapes
Method of Harvesting Barley is thrown in the air with a winnowing fork to separate the chaff Wheat is threshed or beaten loose on a "tribulum" board before being winnowed Grapes are crushed
in a winepress to
extract the juice
Firstfruits Harvested Spring Late spring to summer Summer to fall
Firstfruits Feast Feast of firstfruits after the Passover (Leviticus 23:9-14) Feast of Pentecost (Leviticus 23:15-25) No firstfruits feast
End of Harvest Celebration The barley harvest ends around the Feast of Pentecost, but celebrated later at the Feast of Tabernacles or Ingathering in the fall (Leviticus 23:33-44) The wheat harvest ends in the summer, but celebrated later at the Feast of Tabernacles or Ingathering in the fall (Leviticus 23:33-44) Feast of Tabernacles
or Ingathering
(Leviticus 23:33-44)
Firstfruit Offering Prophetic Fulfillment Jesus' Resurrection *
(1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
and resurrection of the Old Testament Faithful
(Hebrews 11:13-40)
144,000 servants of God found in Heaven before the final harvest of souls (Revelation 14:4) None specified in Scripture
(Possibly the antichrist and his false prophet)
General Harvest of
Souls after the
Firstfruits Offering
Church harvest through
the "age of grace"
(John 4:35-36)
Tribulation saints harvested through the Tribulation
(Revelation 7 & 14)
God's enemies kill through the Tribulation and gathered in the winepress of God's wrath (Revelation 14:17-20)
Resurrection of the General Harvest of Souls The "dead in Christ" at the rapture
(1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
Tribulation saints resurrected after the Tribulation
(Revelation 20:4-6)
God's enemies get resurrected to second death in the "lake of fire" after the Great White
Throne Judgment
(Revelation 20:11-15)
Gleanings Believers alive at the rapture Tribulation saints who survive the Tribulation God's enemies who survive the Tribulation
* Jesus' resurrection is the firstfruits for all who have fallen asleep in Him (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).

The two witnesses:

So what about the two witnesses, who also go to Heaven before the end of the Tribulation like the 144,000 servants? Who are they? One possibility is that the two witnesses are two people like Lazarus, where God resurrects them to a mortal body and they die again after their testimony ends, with the most popular candidate being Moses. Another possibility is that the two witnesses are the only two men who never died - Enoch and Elijah. A strong case for Elijah being one of the two witnesses is found in the passages below:

Malachi 4:5-6 - Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.
Matthew 17:11 - Jesus answered and said to them, "Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things."

These passages show that Elijah will return before the day of the Lord to "restore all things" to the Jewish people, by turning their hearts to repentance like John the Baptist did before Jesus came the first time. What is not clear, is if Elijah comes back before "Daniel's 70th Week" begins, or if he returns sometime during the Tribulation before Jesus returns. Click here for more on this scenario.

As discussed in Revelation 11:3, the two witnesses' mission is to testify about God, go up against the beast, and preach against those who rebel against God. The sackcloth the two witnesses wear shows their sorrow over the world's lack of repentance. So it is possible that Elijah calls for repentance as one of the two witnesses. However, John the Baptist, who came in the spirit of Elijah, came to prepare the Jewish people for the coming Messiah, so it is possible Elijah comes on a separate mission to just the Jewish people, either before or during the Tribulation.

Incidentally, God withholds the rain for 3 ½ years during both Elijah's and the two witnesses' ministries. Many see this as circumstantial evidence for Elijah as one of the two witnesses:

Luke 4:24-27 - Then He said, "Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian."
James 5:17-18 - Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.
Revelation 11:3, 6 - And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.... These 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.

Other possible candidates are John the Baptist, who came in the spirit of Elijah (Luke 1:13-17), or Elisha, who was given a "double portion" of Elijah's spirit (2 Kings 2:9), who some believe might come back with Elijah as the other witness. I also would not rule out that these two witnesses are two unknown men chosen to serve in the spirit of Elijah, like Elisha and John the Baptist. Consider that Jesus said John the Baptist would have fulfilled the roll of Elijah had the Jews accepted him when He came the first time (Matthew 11:14, 17:12, Mark 9:12-13), even though John said he was not Elijah (John 1:19-27).

Some circumstantial evidence in favor of Moses being one of the two witnesses, is that he appears in the same passage that prophesies the return of Elijah before the "day of the Lord":

Malachi 4:4-6 - "Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse."

Other reasons supporting Moses as one of the two witnesses, is that he was in the transfiguration alongside Elijah (Matthew 17:3), and many believe that Moses and Elijah represent the two witnesses of God's Word - the "Law and the prophets" (Revelation 11:3). Also, some of the plagues God poured out on Egypt are the same as those He pours out on the earth during the ministry of the two witnesses. There was also a strange dispute over the body of Moses between Michael the archangel and Satan (Jude 1:9). Some suggest that God had Michael protect Moses' body for his future resurrection to a mortal body as one of the two witnesses. However, this limits God, in terms of having to protect a body to resurrect later, which doesn't make sense. I think it makes more sense that God prevented Satan from taking Moses' body so it couldn't be used as a relic in idolatrous worship like the bronze snake (2 Kings 18:4).

The main argument for Enoch being a candidate for one of the two witnesses, is because he and Elijah were the only two people who never died. Many refer to Hebrews 9:27, which says "it is appointed unto man to die once." I believe that this is more of a proverb, not an absolute when you consider the several cases in Scripture, like Lazarus, where people died, but rose again to a mortal body and then died again later. Besides, God will take a whole generation of believers alive in the rapture that will not see death (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).

Paul tells us that God took Enoch alive so he wouldn't see death (Hebrews 11:5). I believe Enoch is a picture of the rapture of the Church. If the purpose of Enoch was to not see death because he was a pattern for those in the Church that will not see death, it doesn't make sense that he will have to die later.

Two other possible candidates for the two witnesses are the disciples John and James, whom Jesus called the "sons of thunder" (Mark 3:17). I find it curious that John, being one of the "sons of thunder," heard seven "thunders" utter some things that he was not to share when writing the book of Revelation years later (Revelation 10:4). Right after John hears the "thunders," God tells John that he would prophesy again (Revelation 10:11). Then in Revelation 11:1, John measures the temple. After that we see that the two witnesses prophesy for 1,260 days (Revelation 11:3). The following passage may support John and James as candidates for the two witnesses:

Luke 9:51-56 - Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?" But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them." And they went to another village.

The two witnesses will consume their enemies with fire, just as James and John wanted to do:

Revelation 11:5 - 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.

This next passage is even more curious:

Mark 10:35-45 - Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, "Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask." And He said to them, "What do you want Me to do for you?" They said to Him, "Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory." But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" They said to Him, "We are able." So Jesus said to them, "You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared." And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

Who will be at the right and left hand of Jesus? The two witnesses:

Zechariah 4:11-14 - "What are these two olive trees - at the right of the lampstand and at its left?" And I further answered and said to him, "What are these two olive branches that drip into the receptacles of the two gold pipes from which the golden oil drains?" Then he answered me and said, "Do you not know what these are?" And I said, "No, my lord." So he said, "These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth."
Revelation 11:3-4 - And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth." These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth.

Going back to the passage in (Mark 10), James and John requested the positions to the right and left of Jesus. Jesus tells them that those positions are not His to give. Presumably, these positions are given by the Father. It is also interesting that James and John were thinking about how great they would be if they had the positions to the right and left of the Lord. Jesus turns this around on them and says that those who will be great will be servants and slaves. Incidentally, the two witnesses are servants of the Lord. I do not necessarily believe that James and John will be the two witnesses, but I find it interesting that they want to consume their enemies with fire and take the positions at Jesus' right and left side, just like the two witnesses.

Lastly, some believe that Zechariah himself tells us who these two witnesses are:

Zechariah 3:1-5 - Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. And the LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?" Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel. Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, "Take away the filthy garments from him" And to him He said, "See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes." And I said, "Let them put a clean turban on his head." So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the LORD stood by.
Zechariah 3:6-10 - Then the Angel of the LORD admonished Joshua, saying, "Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'If you will walk in My ways, and if you will keep My command, then you shall also judge My house, and likewise have charge of My courts; I will give you places to walk among these who stand here. 'Hear, O Joshua, the high priest, you and your companions who sit before you, for they are a wondrous sign; for behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH. For behold, the stone that I have laid before Joshua: Upon the stone are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave its inscription,' says the LORD of hosts, 'And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day. In that day,' says the LORD of hosts, 'Everyone will invite his neighbor under his vine and under his fig tree.'"
Zechariah 4:1-7 - Now the angel who talked with me came back and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep. And he said to me, "What do you see?" So I said, "I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps. Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left." So I answered and spoke to the angel who talked with me, saying, "What are these, my lord?" Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, "Do you not know what these are?" And I said, "No, my lord" So he answered and said to me: "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' Says the LORD of hosts.'Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone With shouts of "Grace, grace to it!"'"
Zechariah 4:8-10 - Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying: "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; His hands shall also finish it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you. For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the LORD, which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth."
Zechariah 4:11-14 - Then I answered and said to him, "What are these two olive trees - at the right of the lampstand and at its left?" And I further answered and said to him, "What are these two olive branches that drip into the receptacles of the two gold pipes from which the golden oil drains?" Then he answered me and said, "Do you not know what these are?" And I said, "No, my lord." So he said, "These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth."

Many believe that Joshua, being both the high priest and having the name of the coming Messiah (Joshua and Jesus are transliterations of the Hebrew name Yeshua, which means "the Lord saves"), and Zerubbabel, being both of the seed of David and ruler over Judah, together represent the messianic, high priest, royal blood line, and kingship of the Savior. It would be fitting that these two men empowered by the Holy Spirit (the oil), who oversaw the building of the temple the first time, would return to survey the Tribulation temple, as they start their ministry described in Revelation 11:4. On an endnote, with all these possible candidates, the two witnesses' identity will remain a mystery until they arrive.

An angel will proclaim the Gospel to the world:

We discussed earlier how the Lord gave the Church the "great commission" to spread the Gospel to the world. When the Church goes to Heaven via the rapture, the work to spread the Gospel will continue through the 144,000 servants (Revelation 7) and the two witnesses (Revelation 11).

In the last few sections, we saw that God calls both of these groups of men to Heaven at some point during the Tribulation. After the departure of the 144,000 servants and the two witnesses, God will send an angel to fulfill the "great commission," who will proclaim the Gospel to every one left on Earth at the end of the Tribulation:

Revelation 14:6-7 - Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth - to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people - saying with a loud voice, "Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water."

The last judgments poured out:

After the angel preaches the "everlasting Gospel" to the world, God will pour out the last of His Tribulation judgments (Revelation 14:6-7). These last judgments are the Bowls judgments, named so because of the unimaginable calamity that will be "poured out" on Earth.

The second and third Bowl judgments, where all the bodies of water turn to blood show that God is reserving these judgments for the very end of the Tribulation (Revelation 16). Man will have a matter of days, to maybe a few weeks to survive after the world's water sources become unusable. Unless Jesus returns to Earth shortly after the Bowl judgments, there will be no survivors left:

Matthew 24:21-22 - For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the 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.

Babylon destroyed:

Recall from earlier, Revelation 17 describes the "Mystery Babylon" religious system and its destruction, when the antichrist begins to take control over the world. Revelation 18 speaks of a different Babylon. This Babylon will be the capital of global commerce, and the headquarters and throne of the antichrist's rule.

In recent years, ancient Babylon has emerged as a potential tourist city. Before the United States helped to liberate Iraq, Saddam Hussein had poured millions of dollars into the renovation and rebuilding of many of the ancient artifacts and ruins in Babylon. The current government plans to continue to rebuild the ancient city.

According to Revelation 18, Babylon will become a very great city and sea port during the Tribulation, which may mean that the city will become a sprawling metropolis all the way to the Persian Gulf. This leads some to believe that the return of Christ is decades away because of the many years it typically takes to build a city. However, the United Arab Emirates built the great city of Dubai in just a few years - not decades. This proves that it is possible to build a great city in short order with enough money, the right technology, and enough manpower.

On the heels of the fifth Bowl judgment, when an angel pours out darkness on Babylon (Revelation 16:10-11), the city will be utterly destroyed and burned to the ground. This is God's judgment on the world's greed:

Revelation 18:9-11 - "The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, 'Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.' "And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore."

Number of martyrs complete:

After Jesus breaks the fifth Seal judgment, He tells the martyrs that a specific number of fellow servants must die before He takes vengeance for their deaths (Revelation 6:9-11). The passage below shows the Lord reaping the last of these martyrs:

Revelation 14:14-16 - Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, "Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe." So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.

Recall from our harvest discussion, that the wheat harvest represents the Tribulation saints and reaping means death. In context with the previous verse shown below, we see that Jesus Himself will harvest these souls and reap them unto death just before He returns:

Revelation 14:13 - Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, "Write: 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.'" "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them."

Jesus will break the 5th Seal judgment that signals the unrestrained martyrdom of His saints (Revelation 6:9-11), but later take vengeance on Babylon, destroying both the "Mystery Babylon" religion and the city and headquarters of the antichrist for killing His saints during the Tribulation:

Revelation 18:10, 20 - ...Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.... "Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!"
Revelation 19:1-3 - After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, "Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God! For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her." Again they said, "Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!"

Recall, that the Church cannot be on Earth when evil goes unrestrained, because the restraining work of the Holy Spirit through the Church ceases after the rapture, which will lead to the unrestrained martyrdom of the saints at the beginning of the Tribulation.

2nd Coming of Jesus and Restoration

Jesus will return from His Wedding:

When Jesus returns at the end of the Tribulation, He will come from a wedding:

Luke 12:35-37 - "Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them."

This passage only makes sense if Christ returns from His own wedding. The servants are the Tribulation saints who will look forward to partaking in the "Marriage Supper of the Lamb," or the wedding reception on Earth of Christ's marriage to the Church in Heaven. The Bridegroom and His bride will return to Earth after the Tribulation to celebrate the marriage supper with the Lord's servants, who are the Tribulation saints invited as guests to the reception.

There is a parallel to the marriage supper in the "Jewish Wedding Tradition." In this tradition, the bride and bridegroom consummate their marriage for seven days in a room the groom builds on the father's house. The wedding party usually feasts at the father's house outside the wedding chamber during the week. Then there is a reception to celebrate the marriage and introduce the new couple after the consummation period, at the end of the week. Jesus hinted at this wedding tradition when He told His disciples He would come back for them and take them to a place He is preparing for them in His Father's house:

John 14:1-3 - "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."

The consummation between Jesus and the Church takes place in Heaven, before the 2nd Coming of Jesus, because when He returns, the Church is no longer called His "bride" - she is now His "wife":

Revelation 19:7-8 - "Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready." And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

Today the Church is in-dwelt and sealed with the Holy Spirit as a pledge of marriage to Christ. At the consummation, the Church will become one in Spirit with Christ:

1 Corinthians 6:15-17 - Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For "the two," He says, "shall become one flesh." But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.

The Old Testament saints are the friends of the Groom (John 3:29.) Along with the Church, they are also in the Father's house in Heaven like the family and friends in the "Jewish Wedding Tradition," as we see both groups around the throne of God in the Father's house in Heaven during the Tribulation.

At the 2nd Coming, the Church will return dressed in fine linen (Revelation 19:7-8). The fine linen, symbolizing the righteous acts of the saints, shows that the Church will already have been at the "Judgment Seat of Christ" long before returning to Earth with Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

So we see that the Tribulation saints are the guests invited to the "marriage supper," the Church is the bride, and the Old Testament saints are the brethren and friends of the Groom in the parable at the beginning of this section. The saints, or "armies" in Heaven will return with Christ to celebrate the "marriage supper" with the saints on Earth who survive the Tribulation:

Revelation 19:7-9, 14 - "Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready." And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!'" ...And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.

Angels gather the "elect" at the Great Trumpet:

When Jesus returns to Earth after the Tribulation, He will send angels to gather His "elect":

Matthew 24:31 - 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.
Mark 13:27 - And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.

The term "elect" in Scripture describes the following groups:

Which group does Jesus reference in Mathew 24? Obviously it is not the Messiah, and it is not angels either, as they are the ones gathering the "elect." The following parallel passages show that Israel is the group representing the gathered "elect." (Note the verses that call the Church the "elect" do not have any parallels to Matthew 24:31):

Matthew 24:31 - 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.
Isaiah 65:9 - I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah an heir of My mountains; My elect shall inherit it, and My servants shall dwell there.
Deuteronomy 30:1-4 - "Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God drives you, and you return to the LORD your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, that the LORD your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the LORD your God has scattered you. If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you.
Isaiah 11:12 - He will set up a banner for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.
Isaiah 27:12-13 - And it shall come to pass in that day that the LORD will thresh, from the channel of the River to the Brook of Egypt; and you will be gathered one by one, O you children of Israel. So it shall be in that day: The great trumpet will be blown; they will come, who are about to perish in the land of Assyria, and they who are outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem.

The purpose of this gathering is for the Lord to give Israel their inheritance promised to Abraham:

Genesis 17:7-8 - "And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."

We can also see that the Church and the Tribulation martyrs are not the "elect," based on the order of events. First, angels gather the "elect" as Christ is coming on clouds:

Matthew 24:30-31 - 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. 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.

Then we see the Church coming with Christ, dressed in fine linen. This event is not the rapture because the Church is not gathered by angels like the "elect," but by Christ Himself (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17):

Revelation 19:11-14 - Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.

After that, the Tribulation martyrs get resurrected after the 2nd Coming - they are not gathered before the Lord returns like the "elect":

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.

Some believe that the "last trumpet" at the rapture is the "great trumpet" for the gathering of the "elect." The first time we see God speaking with a trumpet sound is when God spoke to Israel at Mount Sinai, after leaving Egypt:

Exodus 19:16-20 - Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice. Then the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.

The second time we see God speaking with a Trumpet is in the following Psalm, which describes the final gathering of Israel to receive their inheritance when the Lord returns to rule on Earth, which takes place at the "great trump," as we saw earlier in Isaiah 27:12-13 and Matthew 24:30-31:

Psalm 47:1-9 - To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph! For the LORD Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth. He will subdue the peoples under us, and the nations under our feet. He will choose our inheritance for us, the excellence of Jacob whom He loves. Selah God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with understanding. God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne. The princes of the people have gathered together, the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; He is greatly exalted.

The only other time Scripture explicitly says that God speaks like a trumpet is in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, where God calls the Church up in the rapture. So if the "first trumpet" is God's call to gather Israel to meet God at Mount Sinai, then the "last trumpet" is God's call to gather the Church in the air to meet Jesus in the clouds, and the "great trumpet" is the final gathering of God's people on earth to receive their inheritance.

For what it's worth, in Jewish tradition, during the 30 days leading up to the Feast of Trumpets, there are over 100 blasts blown on the shofar, or ram's horn. There are four types of trumpet blasts. The last type is a single blast known as the "Last Trumpet" of the 30-day period signaling the beginning of the feast. The last type of trumpet sound is also known as the "Great Trumpet," which the Jews sound again on the Day of Atonement. So even according to Jewish tradition, the "Last Trumpet" and "Great Trumpet" are not for the same event.

The "Great Supper of God" and defeat of the antichrist:

Jesus will return to Earth accompanied by the armies of Heaven. As we discussed in the last few sections, the Church will return to Earth with Jesus as His Wife (Revelation 19:8) among the armies in Heaven clothed in fine linen:

Revelation 19:11-14 - Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.

Jesus will return in righteous judgment. The following passages describe the grape harvest, where Jesus will tread the winepress of the wrath of God. Recall that the grape harvest represents the Lord's enemies who reject Him:

Revelation 14:17-20 - Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, "Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe." So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses' bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs.
Isaiah 63:2-6 - Why is Your apparel red, and Your garments like one who treads in the winepress? "I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with Me. For I have trodden them in My anger, and trampled them in My fury; their blood is sprinkled upon My garments, and I have stained all My robes. For the day of vengeance is in My heart, and the year of My redeemed has come. I looked, but there was no one to help, and I wondered that there was no one to uphold; therefore My own arm brought salvation for Me; and My own fury, it sustained Me. I have trodden down the peoples in My anger, made them drunk in My fury, and brought down their strength to the earth.

Revelation 16:13-16 and 19:19 show that demonic spirits gather the nations to the place called Armageddon to battle for the antichrist against Christ. Zechariah 14:2 tells us that they will try to take Jerusalem. This age-old battle for the Holy City will finally come to an end when Jesus returns. The antichrist's armies will perish by God's Word, which is sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12):

Revelation 19:15 - Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
Revelation 19:21 - And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.

Unlike the "Marriage Supper of the Lamb," this great supper of God is not a meal to look forward to:

Revelation 19:17-18 - Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, "Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great."

After the battle for Jerusalem, the antichrist and his false prophet will both be captured, and are the first ones sent to their eternal destiny of the lake of fire:

Revelation 19:20 - Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.

Satan bound:

After the Lord defeats the antichrist and his armies, Satan will be bound and put into the bottomless pit in preparation for Christ's thousand-year reign, also known as the "Millennium":

Revelation 20:1-3 - Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he will be released for a little while.

It is clear from the passage above that one of the purposes of the "Millennium" is to test man. Thus far, man has not been able to live according to God's standards. Adam and Eve blamed Satan for their temptation when they rebelled against God. During this thousand-year period, Satan will be unable to tempt or destroy. Neither will man be able to blame unbelievers for leading them down the wrong path, as God will eradicate all unbelievers before the "Millennium" begins. Also, Jesus will be on Earth ruling in the flesh, so there will be no more foolish unbelief of God. Man will either choose to follow God or they will follow their own rebellious heart. As we will see later, man will ultimately fail the test and rebel.

The "Sheep and Goat Judgment" - Believers enter the Millennium:

As was just mentioned in the last section, there will be people who will survive the Tribulation and live on into the "Millennium" in mortal bodies. Christ will gather the nations together when He returns to Earth at the end of the Tribulation, and judge the people who survive on how they treated Israel during the Tribulation:

Joel 3:1-2, 11-16 - "For behold, in those days and at that time, when I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; they have also divided up My land.... Assemble and come, all you nations, and gather together all around. Cause Your mighty ones to go down there, O LORD. "Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, go down; for the winepress is full, the vats overflow - for their wickedness is great." Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon will grow dark, and the stars will diminish their brightness. The LORD also will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; the heavens and earth will shake; but the LORD will be a shelter for His people, and the strength of the children of Israel.

Then the Lord will separate the righteous and unrighteous survivors into separate groups. This gathering and separation is the "Sheep and Goat Judgment" described in the passage below:

Matthew 25:31-34, 41 - When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world....' "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'"

Recall that the picture of the harvest shows the survivors of the Tribulation as the gleanings of the wheat and grape harvest. Most of the harvest occurs throughout the Tribulation to the climatic Armageddon campaign. The gleanings of the grape harvest receive the same fate as the rest of God's enemies - eternal punishment. The gleanings of the wheat harvest will go on to live into the "Millennium," as demonstrated in the parable of the "wheat and the tares," where God's enemies are tares instead of grapes in this illustration:

Matthew 13:24-30 - Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, 'Do you want us then to go and gather them up?' But he said, 'No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn."'"

It is important to realize that Scripture clearly teaches that there are people who live in mortal bodies in the "Millennium." This piece of the prophetic puzzle goes a long way in disproving the widely held belief among many Christians that the rapture coincides with the 2nd Coming of Jesus. This one element of needing mortal believers to populate the "Millennium" unravels the basic premise of a post-Tribulation rapture. If Jesus comes back and destroys all His enemies, and all believers receive their glorified bodies when He returns to Earth, then no one will be left to populate the "Millennium." Therefore, the Church must be raptured to Heaven before Jesus returns to Earth in the 2nd Coming..

The Tribulation martyrs resurrected:

Before the "Millennium" begins, there is a judgment for the Tribulation saints martyred for their faith. This judgment is different from the "Sheep and Goat Judgment" because it involves a resurrection. Also note that Jesus is not judging, but commits judgment to those who sit on thrones:

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.

Recall back to our discussion of the elders, they are not only kings and priests, but they will also sit on thrones and judge the world and angels (Revelation 4:4, 1 Corinthians 6:2-3, Daniel 7:9-10). Therefore, the elders who represent the Church will judge the Tribulation martyrs. After their judgment, the Tribulation martyrs will be given a special place in the Kingdom as priests:

Revelation 20:6 - ...but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

Scripture tells us that the Tribulation martyrs will be part of the first resurrection:

Revelation 20:4-6 - ...And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power....

It is important to understand what taking part in the "first resurrection" means. As we have discussed throughout this study, the Church cannot be on Earth during the Tribulation because the dispensations of grace and judgment cannot work concurrently. Also, God calls the two witnesses and the 144,000 servants to Heaven at some point during the second half of the Tribulation. Now we see that the Tribulation martyr's resurrection happens after the Tribulation is over.

It is scripturally impossible to put these resurrections all in the same event. Therefore, it only makes sense that the "first resurrection" is the first of its kind. If there is a first kind of resurrection, it follows there is at least one other kind of resurrection. As we will see later in the "Great White Throne Judgment," this second type of resurrection is to second death. Therefore, the "first resurrection" is to life. (See chart: "Resurrection and Judgments").

"Marriage Supper of the Lamb":

Recall that when Jesus returns it will be from His own wedding. The servants in this passage will be Tribulation saints who are watching for the Lord to return in the 2nd Coming:

Luke 12:35-37 - "Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them."

The Tribulation saints will look forward to the day that they sit down at the marriage supper as guests to celebrate the Lord's union to the Church. Most believe the marriage supper will fulfill the Feast of Tabernacles. When the harvest of souls is over, it will be time to celebrate. This is the only feast that the Bible specifically says the nations must celebrate during the Millennium (Zechariah 14:16). It seems fitting that the marriage between the Lord and the Church will become the greatest annual celebration of the "Millennium" and beyond.

Restoration period before the Millennium:

Daniel 12 suggests that there will be a period of 75 days between the end of the antichrist's rule and the beginning of the Millennium. Revelation 12:6 shows that when the Jewish remnant flees after the "abomination of desolation," God will protect them for 1,260 days. I think it is a fair assumption that when the 1,260 days are up, it will coincide with the return of Jesus and the end of the antichrist's rule, which is 42 months (Revelation 13:5), and 1,260 days is precisely 42 thirty-day months.

Daniel also gives us two more day-counts from the "abomination of desolation":

Daniel 12:11 - "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. Blessed is he who waits, and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days."

These day-counts are 30 and 75 days beyond the 1,260 days of the "Great Tribulation." Between the Feast of Atonement and Chanukah (or Hanukkah) there are 75 days. This has led many to believe that the Tribulation will end on the Feast of Atonement and the "Millennium" will begin on Chanukah (or Hanukkah) 75 days later, also known as the Feast of Dedication which commemorates dedication of the 2nd Temple after the Greek desecrated it.

However, the significance for 1,290 days isn't clear, which is 30 days after the Tribulation ends. One suggestion is that the 1,290 days falls within an average Jewish calendar day count of 1269 to 1301, for the three and a half-year period, depending on if you include a leap month, or not. In other words, the length of the Tribulation would have been 1290 days, if Christ does not come back and "shorten" the days to 1260 (Matthew 24:22, Mark 13:20).

One interesting thing to note, 30 days after the Feast of Atonement is the anniversary date that God told Noah to get into the ark before the flood (Genesis 7:1-11). I'm not sure what the significance would be to the 1290 days with regard to the flood, but it is interesting nonetheless.

I believe this 75-day period after the Tribulation is a "restoration period." During this time, a number of activities will likely take place. The "Sheep and Goat Judgment" and the resurrection and judgment of the Tribulation martyrs will occur right after the Armageddon campaign. The "Marriage Supper of the Lamb," will follow on the Feast of Tabernacles, five days later. Also, Ezekiel 47-48 shows that the Lord will allocate the inheritance God promised Abraham to the Jewish remnant, which might happen during this "restoration period."

Jesus will build a new temple when He returns (Zechariah 6:13), which might be dedicated on Chanukah (or Hanukkah), also known as the Feast of Dedication, 75 days after Jesus returns. Ezekiel 40-46 goes into great detail about the temple and the sacrificial system that will be re-instituted in the "Millennium." Many believe that the purpose for the sacrifices in the "Millennium" is commemorative of the sacrificial work that Christ finished on the cross, since the sacrifices will no longer be needed as a covering for sin.

There will be major restoration of the earth itself. God will lift the curse He put on the earth at the fall of man. There are many passages about the "Millennium" in the Old Testament, but the following concisely describes the earth's restoration:

Isaiah 65:17-25 - "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people; the voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, nor the voice of crying. "No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; for the child shall die one hundred years old, but the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people, and My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth children for trouble; for they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them. "It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain," says the LORD.

In summary of fulfillment of the fall feasts, I believe that the Feast of Atonement will mark the end of the "Great Tribulation" and the return of Jesus. The Feast of Tabernacles fulfillment would likely be in the "Marriage Supper of the Lamb." That leaves the Feast of Trumpets.

The Bible tells us that the Feast of Trumpets is simply "a Sabbath rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation" (Leviticus 23:24). We aren't given much information on this feast to know what its future fulfillment will be. Some believe that the rapture will fulfill this feast. I do not hold to this, but I do not rule out a partial fulfillment in the rapture. Jesus fulfilled the spring feasts all at once in the same year, so I do not see there being a 7-year gap between fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets and the Feast of Atonement. Another possibility for fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets is the following:

Revelation 11:15-19 - Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!" And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: " We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come, Because You have taken Your great power and reigned. The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, And the time of the dead, that they should be judged, And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, And those who fear Your name, small and great, And should destroy those who destroy the earth." Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.

This is the 7th Trumpet judgment, after God resurrects the two witnesses and takes them to Heaven. The sounding of the last Trumpet judgment is the announcement that Jesus is about to return to destroy the kingdoms on Earth and begin His Kingdom. This is the "coronation of the king," as demonstrated with the blowing of trumpets when Joash was proclaimed king (2 Kings 11:12-14). If the 7th Trumpet is the "last trumpet" traditionally sounded on the Feast of Trumpets, then the Bowl judgments of Revelation 15 & 16 would be poured out during the next ten days, before Jesus physically returns on the Feast of Atonement.

Interestingly, the Jews call the days between Trumpets and Atonement the "days of awe." The Bowl judgments will be so devastating that man will have a matter of days to weeks to survive. This seems to fit that the Bowl judgments would be poured out during the ten "days of awe," before Jesus returns on the Feast of Atonement, and not over the course of several months, or years. This would also support the two witnesses' ministry covering most of the second half of the Tribulation. The chart below shows this suggested timeline:

Two Witness' Ministry and Fulfillment of the Feasts

Click here, for further commentary on the two witnesses' ministry.


 
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