Tag Archives: The Rapture

Is the premise of the “Before the Wrath” DVD biblical?

Comparison of some teachings promoted by the “Before the Wrath” DVD with what the Bible actually says.

(And why “After the Wrath” seems to make more sense)

by Dick Lentz

(All Scriptures cited come from the NIV2011 version of the Bible) 

I recently watched a DVD titled, “Before the Wrath.” It is a high-quality video produced and distributed by Ingenuity Films that compares the meal Jesus and His disciples shared the night before He was crucified with a marriage betrothal. It then suggests that Jesus’ second coming and the rapture of the Church will be comparable to a Galilean wedding.

Although I liked one of the premises this video reinforces, that Jesus’ followers will one day be gathered so they can be with Him, an event many Christians call “The Rapture,” I found the Scriptural basis for some of its conclusions to be questionable. I will point out some of them in the post below and at the end note why I feel it’s important to note these.

What meal was Jesus celebrating?

“Before the Wrath” alleges that Jesus’ disciples would have associated the meal they shared with Jesus the night before He was crucified with a traditional Galilean betrothal ceremony. And so, one of the things that first needs to be established is the type of meal the Bible says that Jesus actually shared with His disciples that evening.

Here is what Matthew wrote about this:

17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

18 He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. (Matthew 26:17-19)

There is no question when noting the portions underlined in the passage above that the meal Jesus shared with His disciples the night before He was crucified was a Passover dinner.

Passover was a reminder of what God did to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. The account of this is found in Exodus 11 — 13. After Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites go, God informed Moses that He was going to cause the firstborn male of every family and their livestock to die. The Israelites would be spared however if they killed an unblemished one-year-old lamb, spread its blood on the doorposts of their homes, then cooked and ate the meat of the lamb along with some unleavened bread. God then told them to remember this event annually during a celebration called “Passover” to commemorate the day the angel of death passed over those who trusted that the blood of a lamb would save them.

Jesus compared what was going to happen to Him to a Passover lamb. Just as the shedding of a Passover lamb’s blood spared those who trusted that this was sufficient to save their firstborn, so would the shedding of His blood spare those who trusted that this was sufficient to secure their eternal salvation.

Here is what Matthew wrote about this:

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:26-28)

When Jesus’ disciples looked back at this, Jesus wanted them to remember what He did so that they could be forgiven of their sins – so that their sins could in effect be “passed over.”

The early Christians understood this and celebrated something we now call “communion” in order to be reminded of the significance of what Jesus did to secure their forgiveness. Here’s what Paul wrote about this:

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

Neither Jesus nor Paul associated the meal Jesus shared with His disciples the night before He was crucified with a wedding betrothal. The meal was simply a reminder of the “passing over” that occurred when the angel of death spared the firstborn of those who trusted in the blood of the Passover lamb and that a similar “passing over” would occur to those who trusted in the blood of the Lamb of God for their forgiveness.

What covenant was Jesus’ establishing?

“Before the Wrath” not only suggests that the meal Jesus shared with His disciples the night before He was crucified was comparable to a Galilean wedding betrothal, it proposes that the covenant Jesus was referring to when He shared the cup of wine with His disciples was one a bridegroom would offer to his bride on the night of their formal engagement.

Most accounts of the meal Jesus shared with His disciples do say that Jesus associated the cup of wine He offered to His disciples with a covenant. Matthew for example wrote this:

27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:27-28)

Luke added “new” to this association when he wrote this:

20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. (Luke 22:20)

And Paul wrote this when reminding the Corinthians what they were to remember when they celebrated the Lord’s Supper:

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

I believe the “new covenant” both Jesus and Paul were referring to comes from this passage in Jeremiah:

27 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will plant the kingdoms of Israel and Judah with the offspring of people and of animals. 28 Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the Lord. 29 “In those days people will no longer say,

‘The parents have eaten sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’

30 Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes—their own teeth will be set on edge.

31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,”
declares the Lord.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.

I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more
.” (Jeremiah 31:27-34)

The above was prophesied at a time when the Jews were under national judgment for their corporate sin. The city of Jerusalem was under siege and would soon be destroyed by the Babylonians. God was promising that there would come a day when the Jews would no longer be judged as a nation for their sins but instead would only be judged individually for them. God said that there would come a day when He would make “new covenant” with His people (vs. 31), a day when He would “forgive their wickedness” and “remember their sins no more” (vs. 34).

Hebrews 10 refers to this passage in Jeremiah when it describes the effect of Jesus’ death. After noting that the sacrifices the priests performed were insufficient to forgive sins as, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (vs. 4), it says, “We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (vs. 10), as well as, “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (vs. 14).

This portion of Hebrews 10 concludes with this:

15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds

17 Then he adds:

“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”

18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

The verses underlined above are direct quotes from Jeremiah 31:27-34. What this indicates is that the new covenant Jeremiah spoke of was put into effect when Jesus was crucified. Based on this, it’s my conclusion that the covenant Jesus was referring when He shared the “cup of the covenant” with His disciples was not a marriage covenant but was the new covenant of forgiveness God promised through Jeremiah.

Who is the bride of Christ? And when will His marriage take place?

Although I believe that the comparison of the meal Jesus’s shared with His disciples the night before He was crucified to a Galilean wedding betrothal to be questionable, one of the main points of “Before the Wrath” is to offer support for the belief that the Church, who many consider to be the bride of Christ, will be taken from the world (raptured) before the period when God exercises His wrath upon those who have rejected Him.

There are a couple reasons I find this conclusion flawed. First, as I noted in a previous blog titled, “The Church may not be the bride of Christ,” the Bible does not explicitly state anywhere that the Church or that Christians in general are the bride of Christ. There is ample evidence however that the bride of Christ is Israel. Here are some verses I cited in support of this:

1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth, ”for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. (Revelation 21:1-2)

9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (Revelation 21:9-14).

The passage above identifies Jesus’ bride as the city of Jerusalem. But I don’t believe that this means that the city itself is Christ’s bride. I believe it is who the city represents. And it seems to me that who the city represents is indicated by what is on its gates: it is the twelve tribes of Israel (vs. 12).

The conclusion that Jerusalem, which the above passage says is Jesus’ bride, represents the Jews is consistent with this statement Jesus made a few days before He was crucified:

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Matthew 23:37-39)

Jesus wasn’t accusing the city of Jerusalem of killing the prophets in these verses. He was accusing the people of the city – the Jews – of doing so. And He was indicating that He would not see them again (the Jews, not the city), until they acknowledged that He is Lord, an event that seems to be fulfilled when Jesus finally sees Jerusalem, His bride, coming down from heaven in Revelation 21:2.

A second reason I find the conclusion that the Church will be raptured “Before the Wrath” to be questionable is noting when Jesus’ wedding takes place as well as when His bride is revealed.

Here’s where Jesus’ wedding feast is mentioned in the book of Revelation:

6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

 “Hallelujah!
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.

8 Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.” (Revelation 19:6-8)

What occurs in these verses comes right before the final destruction of the end-time “beast” and those who follow him, events described in Revelation 19:11-21. But note that though the time for the wedding has begun and the bride is ready that the Lamb does see His bride “coming down from heaven” until the events prophesied in Revelation 21:1-14 take place. This lends support for my conclusion that Jesus will not join with His bride, whomever it may be, until nearly all the events in the book of Revelation have occurred, including those typically associated with the final period of wrath.

Rather than joining with His bride “Before the Wrath”, it seems to me that Jesus will not meet His bride until after it.

Why it matters

Even though “Before the Wrath” may be biblically questionable, does it matter? After all, the intent of the video is to strengthen our confidence that Jesus will return someday so that we can be rescued from the trials and tribulations of this world. And that’s a good thing. It’s also consistent with Jesus’ promise that a time will come when He will wipe every tear from our eyes, a time when “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4). But the means in which “Before the Wrath” reinforces this comes at the expense of what I consider to be some essential biblical truths.

The first truth that gets lost in the midst of comparing the meal Jesus shared with His disciples the night before He was crucified with a Galilean betrothal is the actual purpose and effect of Jesus’ death. Jesus died so we could be forgiven for our sins. When we celebrate communion by eating the bread and drinking from the cup of the covenant, we do so to remember why Jesus was crucified. Doing so for any other reason takes something away from the message of salvation and what Jesus did to secure our redemption. Believing when we celebrate communion that we are drinking from a wedding cup is not only questionable; it takes our focus off of the explicit things both Jesus and Paul said we are to remember.

The second truth that gets lost is Jesus’ warning that Christians will experience, witness, or be affected by nearly all of the events described in the book of Revelation. I wrote about this in a prior post titled, “Warning to Christians: We may be here for the duration,” a post based on the parable of the wheat and weeds in Matthew 13:24-30. In that post I noted Jesus’ statement that the good seed and the bad seed – Christians and non-Christians – will share the same field until the moment the harvest takes place. This means that both groups will experience the same trials, troubles, and tribulation until the very last moment. Spending too much time hoping for an early or quick release from this world can result in unrealistic expectations and a lack of preparation regarding the difficulties the Bible says we are destined to experience as we wait for Jesus to return.

The third truth that I believe gets lost is Jesus’ heart for the unsaved. At one point “Before the Wrath” depicts a groom entering his wedding banquet with his bride and guests and after doing so, shutting the door behind him and refusing to let anyone else in. Although it’s true that someday it will be too late for the un-redeemed to come to Jesus, one thing I’ve found consistent in Scripture is Jesus’ constant and passionate desire to seek and save the lost. A more accurate image of this is not the closed door of a wedding banquet depicted in “Before the Wrath” but the open door found in this verse:

20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. (Revelation 3:20)

I believe that the door is always open for the lost to be redeemed. And I also believe that this door will not be closed until the very last moment, after most of the events prophesied in the book of Revelation have taken place.

Here’s a verse that seems to confirm this:

6 Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. 7 He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (Revelation 14:6-7)

The event prophesied above occurs near the end of what I consider to be the second account of the return of Jesus in Revelation, right before the final harvest –  before the final “hour of judgment” (vs. 6). What this indicates to me that Jesus will do everything He can to bring the fallen into His realm, even up to the last moment of this world’s life. And if it’s Jesus’ desire to continually keep the door open to the lost – to keep asking to be invited in – to always be looking for ways to share the Gospel to the unsaved – perhaps that ought to be our focus as well.

And that is how I see it today

Warning to Christians: We may be here for the duration! – Matthew 13:24-40

What the parable of the wheat and tares – the wheat and weeds – may be telling us about the end times and what we can expect to experience as we wait for the return of Jesus:  Matthew 13:24-30; Matthew 13:36-43; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10; Revelation 14:14-20

By Dick Lentz

(All Scriptures cited come from the NIV2011 version of the Bible) 

Many Christians believe that though they can expect trials and troubles in this life that they will be spared from the ones reserved for the end-times, a period some call the great tribulation. Some believe that they will be taken from the world before the great tribulation by an event called the rapture and that what follows will be a period of intense trial and judgment for those left behind.

As I’ve noted in prior posts, I believe that Jesus will return only once and that when He does that it will result in immediate, permanent, and dire consequences for those unprepared for His return. I also noted in a post titled, “When Jesus returns, it won’t be Christians who are taken away,” the basis for my belief that those taken when Jesus returns will not be Christians but will be those who, according to Luke 17:27, are destroyed on that day.

Based on this and passages I discussed in prior posts, I believe that Christians will experience or witness most if not all of the events the Bible says will characterize the end-times including those described in the book of Revelation.

There is at least one end-time passage that seems to confirm my conclusion about this. It is the parable of the wheat and weeds found in Matthew 13:24-30. I have found this passage to be one of the most enlightening regarding when those who are followers of Jesus can expect to be separated from those who aren’t – when they can expect to be gathered to Jesus –  and the implication this has for those waiting for His return.

The wheat and weeds will be in the field together until the harvest 

Here is the parable:

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” (Matthew 13:24-30)

Here is Jesus’ explanation of it:

36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear. (Matthew 13:36-43)

Jesus compared the good seed in this parable – the wheat – to the “people of the kingdom” (vs. 38). I believe this is referring to those are faithful followers of Jesus and remain so until the end when the harvest takes place. I believe that the weeds – the “seeds of the evil one” (vs. 38) – are those who are not followers of Jesus or worse, are enemies of Jesus or those who follow Him. Note that though the servant wanted to pull the weeds prior to the harvest (vs. 28) that the field’s owner said that the separation of the weeds from the wheat would not take place until the whole field is harvested (vs. 29-30). It would be at that time and not before that the weeds would be collected and burned, and the wheat gathered and brought into the barn.

What identifies this as an end-time passage is Jesus’ statement, “The harvest is the end of the age” (vs. 39). Based on this, it seems to me that the event these verses are describing takes place when Jesus returns to judge the wicked and reward the righteous. It also seems to me that no separation of the wheat from the weeds will take place prior to this.

What this indicates to me is that followers of Jesus and those who are not will be in the world together until the very end. And just as wheat and weeds that share the same field will experience the same events that affect the entire field, so it will for those living together in this world. All will experience the same events that are common to all whether they are Christians or not.

One thing I find interesting about the parable of the wheat and weeds are the similarities between its description of the harvest and the description of the one found in this passage in Revelation:

14 I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15 Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.16 So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.

17 Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, “Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.” 19 The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. 20 They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia. (Revelation 14:14-20).

As I noted in a prior post titled, “The three accounts of the return of Jesus in the Book of Revelation,” I believe that there are three different accounts of the return of Jesus in Revelation: the first in chapters 5-11, the second in chapters 12-14, and the third in chapters 15-19. Revelation 14:14-20 falls at the end of what I consider to be the second account of Jesus’ return in Revelation. Note the parallels between what is found in this passage in Revelation and the parable of the wheat and weeds:

  • Both describe a harvest that takes place in the end times (Rev. 14:15; Matt. 13:30,39).
  • Both note that angels are the harvesters (Rev. 14:17-19; Matt. 13:41).
  • Both note that this harvest will be a time of judgment (Rev. 14:19; Matt. 13:41).
  • Both use fire as a symbol of God’s judgment (Rev. 14:18; Matt. 13:42).

Based on this, I believe that these passages are referring to the same event.

Blazing fire and powerful angels

Another thing I find interesting about the parable of the wheat and weeds is where the image of the wicked being thrown “into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:42) shows up elsewhere in Scripture. “Weeping and gnashing of teeth” is for example the fate of:

  • bad fish that have been caught in a net along with good fish (Matthew 13:50).
  • those who come to the king’s son’s wedding banquet without proper clothing (Matthew 22:13).
  • the servant who is unprepared for the return of his master (Matthew 24:51).
  • the servant who didn’t invest what his master gave him (Matthew 25:30).

The “blazing furnace” in Matthew 13:42 could be the “lake of fire” found in this passage in Revelation:

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)

This fiery furnace could also be what’s being described in this passage in Malachi:

1 Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. 3 Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 4:1-3)

And it could be what is being described in passage in 2 Thessalonians as well:

6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might. 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you. (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).

Based on the similarity between the images used in these passages and the ones found in the parable of the wheat and weeds, I believe they are referring to the same event.

I find two other things of interest regarding the passage in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10. First, it mentions that “powerful angels” (vs. 7) will accompany Jesus when He comes to “punish those who do not obey God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (vs. 8). Perhaps their role at this time is similar to the role they play in the harvest described in both Revelation 14:14-20 and parable of the wheat and weeds. But this passage also reveals that though God promises to pay back those who trouble us (vs. 6) and to give relief to those who are troubled (vs. 7), this will not happen until the day Jesus returns to punish “with everlasting destruction” those “who do not know God do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (vs. 8-9).

Relief is coming. But it is not coming until the very end.

What this means for us

When I consider the parable of the wheat and weeds and the other passages that seem to be referring to the same event, it leads me to one simple but sobering conclusion: Although Jesus promises to return and gather His followers to Him some day, it seems to me that this event will not occur until the final harvest takes place. And it will be at that time and not before that faithful followers of Jesus will be separated from those who aren’t and will be relieved of the trials and tribulations of this world. In the meantime, Christians and those who are not are going to be in the same field. And they will remain so until the very end, experiencing both the good and bad that is common to all.

But if there is no pre-harvest separation between Christians and those who aren’t – if no pre-harvest gathering is going to take place – what implication does this have for those living in this pre-harvest field? What does this mean for us?

First, I think that we need to focus more on how to endure trials rather than our desire to be rescued from them. Wars, plagues, famines, natural disasters, and financial upheavals affect everyone. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. These things happen whether you are a Christian or are not. What’s different is not what we experience. It’s our perspective. We know that all trials are temporary and that what happens in the long term will be much better as long as we endure and remain faithful to God until the end. This should result in hope – a confident assurance that some day things will be better. This should motivate us to persevere knowing that what lays ahead is worth waiting for.

Second, when we experience shared trials, our focus should be more on how to be salt and light to those struggling alongside us than on our desire to escape. If it’s true that we’re all in this together – that whatever happens to “them” also happens to “us” – then we ought to see shared trials as opportunities to bring the knowledge of Jesus to others through the way we respond to our own difficulties as well as to the ones others are experiencing.

Finally, no matter what happens, we need to heed the words of Jesus when He said this:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

Perhaps the best way to live in the field while waiting for the harvest is to be found at all times doing those things that are commendable in the eyes of Jesus.

And that is as I see it today.

The three accounts of the return of Jesus in the Book of Revelation.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-15; Revelation 11:15-18, 14:14-20, 20:4-6

How noting what symbols are used in end-time passages can help identify which are referring to the same event.

By Dick Lentz

 (All Scriptures cited come from the NIV2011 version of the Bible)

In some of my prior posts regarding end-time passages, I noted that if the same symbol shows up in different end-time passages that those passages are most likely describing the same event. In this post I will use a variation of that principle to point out some symbols I found significant in a single passage that describes an end-time event, to note some other passages where these same symbols occur, and to determine from this what event these passages are most likely referring to.

A loud command, a voice of an archangel, and a trumpet call – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

I’ve underlined the symbols I found significant in the above passage. Before discussing these, I’d like to make some comments about the context.

It seems that the Christians Paul was writing to in Thessalonica were a bit confused about some of the events that would precede or accompany the return of Jesus. It seems that they thought that those who are “asleep” (Christians who die before the return of Jesus) would not be resurrected from the dead when Jesus returns. This was causing them a bit of grief.

Paul wanted to correct their thinking about this. He noted that all Christians, those alive and dead, will meet Jesus in the clouds when He returns. He also said that those who are still alive when Jesus returns will not precede those who are asleep. Christians who are dead when Christ returns will be resurrected first and will be joined when they meet Jesus in the air by Christians who are alive at that time.

One thing interesting to note is the corrective nature of this passage. Paul said that these believers were “uninformed about those who sleep in death”; they were confused about the fate of Christians who die before Jesus returns. One of Paul’s goal in writing to them was to clarify what would happen to believers who are “asleep” so that those alive wouldn’t be uninformed or confused about this.

The corrective nature of this passage is something that seems to characterize many if not all passages that describe end-time events. It seems when reading these passages and noting their context that there was something the hearers or readers did not understand about end-time events and that their misunderstanding of them was resulting in an inappropriate response. The speaker or writer responded by providing information that would hopefully correct their thinking about the end-times so that they would no longer be confused or their response incongruous.

Here are the symbols in this passage I want to note:

  • Jesus comes down from heaven. (vs. 16)
  • This will be accompanied by a loud command, a voice of an archangel, and a trumpet call. (vs. 16)
  • The dead in Christ will rise – they will be resurrected – and along with those alive will meet Christ in the clouds. (vs. 16-17)

I will now note some other end-time passages where these same symbols are found.

An angel, a trumpet, and some clouds – Matthew 24:30-31

30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they 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 loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (Matthew 24:29-31, NIV)

I discussed this passage a bit in a prior post titled, “Jesus’ return will be visible to everyone.” I noted in that post that when Jesus returns that “all the peoples of the earth [will] see Him coming on the clouds of heaven” (vs. 30). This seems to indicate that Jesus’ return will not be a secret. It will be visible to everyone.

Here are some symbols in this passage that are also found 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:

  • The people of the earth see “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven” (vs. 30); 1 Thessalonians 4:16 says, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven.
  • This will be accompanied by angels who sound a loud trumpet (vs. 31); 1 Thessalonians 4:16 says that the coming of the Lord will be accompanied by “the voice of an archangel” and “the trumpet call of God.”
  • Jesus will gather the elect from everywhere (vs. 31); 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 indicates that when Jesus returns that the dead in Christ will rise first but that all believers, alive or dead, will be caught up to meet Him in the air.
  • Jesus is seen coming on the clouds of heaven (vs. 30); 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says that all believers will be caught up in the clouds and will meet Jesus in the air.

Based on the similarity in the description of the events in Matthew 24:30-31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, I believe that they are referring to the same event – the second coming of Jesus. If this is so, then it makes sense that what follows the event described in Matthew 24:30-31 also follows the event described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. As I noted in a previous post titled, “When Jesus returns, it won’t be Christians who are ‘taken away,’” as well as another one titled, “Could the parable of the thief in the night be a warning to Christians?” it’s my contention that what follows Jesus’ return will be immediate, dire, and permanent consequences for those unprepared for it. This makes sense when you consider the warnings found in the parables recorded in Matthew 24:36 — 25:46. It seems when noting these that there will be no second chance – no period of years – for those who aren’t prepared for Jesus’ return to get themselves right with Him once this event takes place. It’s my belief that it’s a “once-and-done” event.

The last trumpet – 1 Corinthians 15:51-52

51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52) 

I won’t elaborate on the context of these verses in this post. But they are the end of a chapter that explains why the resurrection of Jesus is both a historical and eternal imperative. What I want to note here are some symbols in these verses that also occur in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:

  • In an instant, an event takes places that will change every Christian including those who are dead. Those who are dead will be raised – they will be resurrected (vs. 52); 1 Thessalonians 4:16 says that when the Lord comes that the dead will rise first.
  • This event occurs when “the last trumpet” is sounded implying that there are some other trumpets that precede it (vs. 52); 1 Thessalonians 4:16 notes that a trumpet call occurs when the event it is describing takes place but does not indicate that there are any that precede it.

Because of the similarity of the symbols in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, it is my belief that they describing the same event. If this is so, then they are referring to the same event described in Matthew 24:30-31 as well.

The final trumpet – Revelation 11:15-18 

Since 1 Corinthians 15:52 says that believers in Christ will all be changed when the last of a series of trumpets is sounded, a reasonable question is if these trumpets are described elsewhere in Scripture and if so if what happens after the last one is sounded. I believe that the answer to this is found in these verses:

Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them.

7 The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down on the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.

The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, 9 a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

10 The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water— 11 the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.

12 The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night. (Revelation 8:6-12)

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1 The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. 2 When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. (Revelation 9:1-2)

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13 The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the four horns of the golden altar that is before God. 14 It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” (Revelation 9:13-14)

The prophecies in this portion of Revelation begin with a vision of seven angels, each with its own trumpet (8:6). What follows is a description of what happens after each of these trumpets is sounded.

The following verses describe what happens after the seventh and final trumpet is sounded:

15 The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:

The kingdom of the world has become
the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah
,
and he will reign for ever and ever.”

16 And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying:

“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
the One who is and who was,
because you have taken your great power
and have begun to reign.

18 The nations were angry,
and your wrath has come.
The time has come for judging the dead,
and for rewarding your servants the prophets
and your people who revere your name,
both great and small—
and for destroying those who destroy the earth.” (Revelation 11:15-18)

I’ve underlined the portions of the above passage I want to highlight. Here’s what I found significant:

  • An angel sounds a trumpet – the final one of seven – and loud voices in heaven are heard (vs. 15); 1 Corinthians 15:52 says that at the last trumpet we will be changed; Matthew 24:31 says that Jesus’ return will be accompanied by angels and a loud trumpet call; 1 Thessalonians 4:16 says that the Lord will come from heaven “with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God.”
  • After the seventh (and final) trumpet is sounded, this passage indicates that the kingdom of our Lord will be established (vs. 15), that Jesus’ reign will begin (vs. 16), and that the time for judging the dead and rewarding God’s servants will occur (vs. 18). This is similar to the description in Matthew 25:31-46 of the judgments and rewards handed out when Jesus returns to sit on His throne and separates the sheep from the goats. Here’s a portion of that passage:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. (Matthew 25:31-33)

Revelation 11:18 says that the nations will be angry when the event described in that passage occurs, perhaps because God’s wrath is about to be exercised on those who didn’t trust in Jesus or who rebelled against Him; Matthew 25:31 notes that a gathering of the nations will occur when the event it is describing takes place.

The above  reinforces my contention that the four passages discussed so far in this post, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Matthew 24:30-31, 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, and Revelation 11:15-18, are all describing the same event.

The passage in Revelation 11:15-18 presents an interesting challenge if this is so. The prophecies in Revelation 4 — 20 are often interpreted as if they are a chronological description of end-time events. If this is so, then concluding that Revelation 11:15-18 is referring to the second coming of Jesus is problematic as it is somewhere in the middle of the events described in Revelation 4 — 20. But it is my contention that Revelation 4 — 20 is providing us with at least three different accounts of Jesus’ return and the events that precede it. The first account may be in chapters 4-11, the second in chapters 12-14, and the final in chapters 15-20. If this is so,  then Revelation 11:15-18 is at the end of the first of these three accounts.

One thing interesting when considering this is to note what’s found at the end of what I consider to be the third account in Revelation of Jesus’ return and the events that precede it.

The first resurrection – Revelation 20:4-6

4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4-6)

The event described in the above passage occurs after some verses that describe some of the final battles of the end-times. What follows these battles is a time of judgment preceded by the resurrection of who had remained faithful to Jesus in this life but who died before He returned.

Could it be that this “first resurrection” (vs. 5) is the same resurrection noted in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 as well as 1 Corinthians 15:51-52?

Could it be that the judgment that takes place at this time (vs. 4) is the same judgment described in Matthew 25:31-46 as well as in Revelation 11:15-18?

Could it be that the kingdom established at this time (vs. 6) is the same kingdom and reign Revelation 11:15-18 says begins at that time?

Based on the symbols in the above passage and their similarity to the ones in some of the passages discussed earlier this post, it is my belief that it is describing the same event.

Before I conclude, I want to note what is described at the end of Revelation 12 — 14, a passage that I consider to be the second account in Revelation of Jesus’ return and the events that precede it.

A time of harvesting – Revelation 14:14-20

14 I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15 Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.16 So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.

17 Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, “Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.” 19 The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. 20 They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia. (Revelation 14:14-20)

I discussed what precedes this passage in as earlier post titled, “The Mark of the Beast may be an in issue only for Christians.” What I want to note here are the symbols I found significant in this passage:

  • One who is “like a son of man” is seated on a cloud. It’s most likely in context that the son of man in this passage is referring to is Jesus. Note it’s similarity to how Matthew described the return of Jesus when he wrote, “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven … and they [will] see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 24:30)
  • What the son of man is doing is harvesting the earth; He is exercising His wrath. I believe this means that He is judging the world.

What’s interesting is the similarity of the description of what happens in the above passage with what is being described in this one:

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

      “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” (Matthew 13:24-30).

Note that some type of harvesting takes place in both passages and that the consequences seem to be permanent. Matthew elaborates by noting in verse 30 that that though there will be negative consequences for the “weeds” (they will be burned) that there will be positive ones for the “wheat” (it will be brought into His barn).

I believe it’s reasonable to conclude that Revelation 14:14-16 as well as well as Matthew 13:24-30 are referring to same event. And due to some similarities between Revelation 14:14-16 and the other passages discussed earlier in this post, I believe it’s reasonable to conclude that all the passages discussed in this post are describing the same event as well – the second coming of Jesus.

Why it matters

It is my conclusion when considering the above passages as well as ones discussed in some of my other posts that Jesus will return only once; and when He does, although it will result in wonderful rewards for those who have been faithful to Him, it will also result in immediate, dire, and permanent consequences for those unprepared for His return. Furthermore, as I noted in a post titled, “Could the parable of the thief in the night a warning to Christians,” it seems that the ones being warned to be prepared for Jesus’ return are those who are followers of Christ and not unbelievers. What I haven’t discussed so far is why these warnings may be needed.

Many Christians seem to believe that when times get tough – when it seems that the world is on the verge of falling apart and they are facing increasing persecution for their faith – that these are signs that the return of Jesus is imminent and that they will soon be snatched from the world by Him so that they won’t have to experience the terrible events that will characterize the end-times. This could result in anguish if events don’t turn out as expected or complacency if they feel they don’t have to do anything in preparation for His return.

Although I agree that all Christians will meet Jesus in the air someday, based on my understanding of Scripture, I don’t believe this will take place until very near the end of a period of intense persecution accompanied by increasing degrees of suffering caused by man, nature, and God. What the writers of the Bible were urging Christians to do when they experienced these terrible times was to be patient, to remain faithful, and to be found at all times doing what is commendable in the eyes of Jesus.

Although I’m looking forward to the day when I will be with Jesus, I’ve concluded that my focus while I wait for that day needs to be on how Jesus wants me to live in the meantime. And since He could return at any time, it’s imperative that I am committed to doing what is commendable in His eyes at all times.

And that is how I see it today.