May 18, 2024

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May 18, 2024

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In-Depth: A Preview Of The Future That God Has Planned For Us

The theme of the book of Revelation is this: The end of your life as you know it is coming soon. That end will come either through your death or through the return of Jesus Christ, but your life is about to undergo a big change. And the knowledge that your life is going to end should affect how you live right now.

What is the future that God has planned for us? Many Christians get confused about the end times. Let’s simplify the subject of Bible prophecy by looking at a preview of God’s plan.

The Church Age

The first event in Bible prophecy is the Church Age. The Church Age is the period from Pentecost until the Rapture during which Gentiles are invited to participate in the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant. God issued an invitation to Abraham and his descendants, the Jews, to be in a covenant relationship with Him. But Israel temporarily rejected that invitation when they rejected Christ. So God extended His invitation to include non-Jews, that we might be saved. This is the period we are living in right now, when God has temporarily set aside Israel and has invited everybody to be part of His covenant blessing.

Make no mistake: God is not finished with Israel. In Romans 11:125, Paul said, “God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be!… A partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” When the Church Age ends, God will finish His dealings with Israel.

The Rapture of the Church

The Church Age will end at the Rapture of the Church. The Rapture is the snatching away to Heaven of all Christians before the Tribulation begins. Paul described it in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17“The Lord Himself will descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.”

There are four elements of the Rapture: First of all, the Lord will descend from Heaven. He descends into the air, not to the ground.

Second, the dead in Christ will be raised. Who are the dead in Christ? It’s every believer who has died since Pentecost. When Christians die, our bodies remain on earth but our spirits go to be with the Lord. Paul said, “To be absent from the body [is] to be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). But our bodies won’t stay on earth forever. At the Rapture, the graves will be opened and the bodies of the saved will be raised.

Third, Christian who are alive at that time will meet the Lord in the air. There will be a generation of Christians who never experience death; they will be caught up to meet the Lord.

Fourth, our bodies will be changed from mortal to immortal. Paul said, “This mortal [body] must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53). Your body may be suited for this world, but it’s not suited for the next world. At the Rapture, we will receive brand-new bodies from God that are free from pain, suffering, and sickness.

The Rapture is the next event on God’s prophetic timeline. There are no prophecies that have to be fulfilled prior to the Rapture. It could happen at any moment.

The Tribulation

The Rapture of the Church will be followed by the Tribulation. The Tribulation is a seven-year period that will begin when the world leader known as the Antichrist signs a peace covenant with Israel, and it will end with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This is the final seven years of earth’s history.

There are two purposes for the Tribulation. First, it will be a time of salvation for Jews and Gentiles. Many people will be saved, Jews and Gentiles alike, during these final seven years. It’s a sign of God’s mercy. He wants to save as many people as possible. Second, it will be a time of condemnation of unbelievers.

Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ

The Tribulation will be followed by the Second Coming of Christ. This is the visible return of Jesus Christ to establish His kingdom on the earth. At the end of the seven-year Tribulation, all the world forces will assemble on the plain of Megiddo in Israel to wage war and overthrow the Antichrist. This final world conflict is called the Battle of Armageddon.

As the world forces are fighting the Antichrist, suddenly the heavens will part and the Lord Jesus will appear. Revelation 19:11-16 says: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King Of Kings, And Lord Of Lords.”

The Second Coming is different from the Rapture. In the Rapture, only believers will see the Lord; at the Second Coming, everybody will see Him. At the Rapture, Christians will meet the Lord in the air; at the Second Coming, His feet will touch the ground. This is the visible return of Jesus Christ.

The Millennium

The Second Coming of Christ is followed by the Millennium. The Millennium is a thousand-year period during which Christ will reign on the earth. This is the time when God will fulfill His promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 of a land, seed, and blessing where Messiah will rule on the throne of David from Jerusalem.

Revelation 20:1–3 says: “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.”

With Satan bound for a thousand years, part of the curse of sin will be removed, but not all of it. This is the time Isaiah 65 describes, when people will live to be at least one hundred and won’t have difficulty with thorns and thistles. It is a renovation, not a recreation of the earth.

Satan Released and the Final Rebellion

At the end of these thousand years, Satan will be released for a little while. Why would God let him go? Here’s why: Only believers enter the Millennium. You and I will enter the Millennium in the new, resurrected bodies we received at the Rapture. Resurrected bodies don’t reproduce, but natural bodies do. People who are saved [and were not killed] during the Tribulation will enter the Millennium in their natural bodies. That means they will be able to have children.

It is important that every person be given a choice whether to follow Jesus. So God will loose Satan for a short time; and amazingly some children who were born and grew up during the Millennium will choose to follow Satan instead of Jesus. That is the final rebellion.

The Great White Throne Judgment

God puts an end to this rebellion at the Great White Throne Judgment. This is God’s final judgment against all unbelievers who have ever lived. Revelation 20:13 says, “The sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.” When unbelievers die, their spirits go to Hades. Jesus talked about it in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man died and went to Hades, and he said, “I am in agony in this flame” (Luke 16:24). Hades is a place of intense suffering for the unsaved until their final judgment.

At the Great White Throne Judgment, unbelievers will be judged by their works. Revelation 20:13 says, “They were judged every one of them according to their deeds.” Why are they judged by their works? Unbelievers say, “I don’t need the forgiveness of Jesus Christ; I’m good enough to get into Heaven.” So God says to them, “Fine. I’ll judge you by your works.” Unfortunately, the standard by which God judges is the perfection of Jesus Christ. And by that standard, “all fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

The result of this judgment is eternal condemnation. Revelation 20:14-15 says, death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Unbelievers are not destroyed when they are judged; they suffer forever and ever. The horrible truth about Hell is this: When you have spent three trillion years in the agony of Hell, you will not have reduced by one second the amount of time you have left. That is the fate of everyone who dies without trusting in the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

Eternity Future

After the Great White Throne Judgment, we enter eternity future. This is the permanent state of believers inhabiting the new Heaven and Earth, and unbelievers inhabiting the Lake of Fire. In 2 Peter 3:7 and 10, Peter explained the present Heaven and earth will be destroyed by fire. John said in Revelation 21:1, “I saw a new Heaven and a new earth; for the first Heaven and the first earth passed away.” We’re not going to spend eternity floating around someplace. The earth will be recreated to the state God originally intended it to be. In the New Earth, God will “wipe away every tear from [our] eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (v. 4).

That is the future God has planned for those who know Jesus Christ.

Are You Ready?

How should that affect how we live today? One day, the Bible says, the trumpet will sound, the heavens will part, and we will see the King of kings and Lord of lords. When that happens, tragically, many Christians will be embarrassed by their lives. They will be clothed in immorality, greed, and personal ambition instead of being clothed in the righteous acts of the saints.

Let me ask you this: when you meet God face to face, either through your death or through the Rapture, will you be embarrassed about the life you have lived up to this point? If so, now is the time to make those changes that will ensure you are ready on your coming appointment with God. That’s why Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:11-12, “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God…”

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