Before we start exploring God’s symbolic references to the Church outside of chapters 2 and 3 of The Revelation of Jesus Christ, we will integrate key elements studied so far of the end-time Scriptures, attempting to tie up any loose ends. We will also address Jesus’s Olivet discourse on the end-times. I welcome your heart-felt questions, but please first take the time to genuinely study all parts written to date and to look over the charts on the two websites referenced herein while seeking the Holy Spirit with whom we are anointed to learn all truth (1 John 2:27). Thank you!
May God grant us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in order to better know Him and His end-time purposes for us as we set ourselves away from distractions, quiet our souls, and press into Him with everything that we have. Amen.
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Sequence of some end-time events
In studying a bit of Revelation chapter 3, the pinnacle of revelation given Paul in prison, and visions given Daniel in exile, we’ve come to see the exalted heavenly position of the overcoming church remnant after she suffers persecution sufficient enough to turn lukewarm Laodiceans into either enduring Philadelphian overcomers or unrepentant apostates (see Eph. 4:11-13; also Part 5: The Overcomers).
As Israel, the non-overcoming church members, and the Gentiles remain behind for their testing/judgment during Daniel’s 70th ‘week,’ the overcoming church remnant will be adjuncts to God’s throne, the very criterion for the destruction and removal of the antichrist (see Part 6: The Thrones and the Court). Evil will be displaced from the heavenly realms by our very presence once our marriage to our Bridegroom is finally consummated in His Father’s house (see Part 4: The Bride of Christ and chart of Scriptures relating to the Jewish wedding custom).
God’s sequence of events is provided us in Paul’s two letters to the godly Thessalonians. Paul spent only three weeks with these saints (Acts 17:3), yet we see that he had taught them about the two phases of Christ’s Second Advent, things we presently have difficulty apprehending! Obviously we must employ divine power to demolish strongholds (2 Cor. 10:4-5 NIV), preconceived constructs, and pay attention to what Paul explains in these two short epistles.
Within them, Paul instructs that God first rescues us [the overcoming church remnant, of the same character as the godly Thessalonians] from the coming wrath (1 Thess. 1:10), then the man of lawlessness [antichrist] is revealed with his initial peace and safety followed by his utter wickedness (1 Thess. 5:3; 2 Thess 2) culminating in the Day of the Lord (2 Thess 2:2-3) when they will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he He comes to be glorified in his holy people (2 Thess. 1:9-10 emphasis added).
Regarding the first event, the rescue of Christ’s overcomers, Jesus revealed directly to Paul that it will be immediately preceded by the resurrection of the dead in Christ: 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. 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. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up [Greek: harpazo] together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. (1 Thess 4:15-17).
It is not until after Christ’s overcomers have left that the man of lawlessness can and will be revealed on earth, for the overcomers’ restraint on lawlessness will have been taken out of the way (2 Thess 2:3-8). The overcoming remnant of Church saints will not be overcome by the antichrist; he is overcome by them (see Part 5: The Overcomers and above). Hallelujah!
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Imminency and Jesus’ Olivet Discourse
Christ’s coming FOR His Bride was not prophesied in the OT (see Part 1: Three Distinct Groups of People). Christ’s Bride came into existence in the upper room after Jesus entered into covenant with eleven of His disciples after Judas left (see John 14:1-3 and its explanation in Part 4: The Bride of Christ). His coming FOR her has been imminent since Pentecost.
The two times Paul wrote of the “harpazo” (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:51-52) he did not describe events preceding it. Neither did Jesus the other times He spoke of it. The last time Jesus addressed it was in Rev. 3:10, as we covered in Part 5: The Overcomers; this was to the overcoming Philadelphian church via His servant John. Most notably, Jesus also addressed His coming for His Bride in His Olivet discourse in Matt. 24:36 – 25:30 (same address recorded in Mark 13:32-37 and Luke 17:26-35), and this warrants considerable attention.
After describing events leading up to the tribulation, the great tribulation itself, and His causing the people to mourn when He comes at the end, Jesus then emphasized the importance of knowing the times, making reference to a fig tree (vv. 32-35). Once He had made that point, He started describing that He will be coming to deliver His believing remnant before this horrific tribulation comes. This key section of the Olivet discourse begins But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (v. 36).
This pivotal verse alludes to His coming for His Bride (I’ll explain in a bit); Jesus then repeatedly described how the unknowing will be living their lives routinely when He does so (see Matt. 24:36-51, same as Mark 13:32-37). He emphasized the need to anticipate His coming and live righteously: Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come… So you also must be ready, for the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him… The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him… (Matt. 24:42, 44, 50). This is the concept of imminency, and it refers to Christ’s coming FOR His Bride before the Tribulation. Things certainly will not be progressing as normal when Christ descends WITH His Bride/armies at the end of the great Tribulation, for God will have poured out His bowls of wrath upon the inhabitants of the earth who received the mark of the beast…
Now, here’s the first of two very important details about the key 36th verse. Recall from reviewing the Jewish wedding custom that it was the father of the bridegroom who determined the day his son would come for the bride. This is part of the reason why Jesus said But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father! Most modern day believers are ignorant of this bridal custom, but of course the Jewish disciples Jesus was addressing knew it. They did not immediately understand all that He meant though, just as we don’t; our understanding of God’s word is progressive…
After saying, But about that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father, Jesus then described how all people left behind will be as ignorant of the times as were those who were not delivered in Noah’s ark (a foreshadowing of Christ) during the great flood: As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them [Noah and his family in the ark] all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. (Matt. 24: 37-39)
(I recommend reviewing Matt 24 now – also Mark 13 and Luke 17:22-36 – if the Holy Spirit has not shown you this yet. Know that many theologians are understandably confused with different aspects of this – I just learned that many who teach the doctrine of imminency don’t see that Jesus is speaking of it right here! I pray that the Lord is using me to relay this to you effectually. I am so very grateful for all the people He used to reveal it to me, albeit in multiple stages.)
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 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 [the living] will be changed. (1 Cor. 15:51-52 emphasis added). 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. 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. (1 Thess. 4:13-14 emphasis added). My Father’s house has many rooms… I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:2-3 emphasis added).
Isn’t this fascinating? Stay with me; there’s more!
Back to Jesus’ Olivet discourse. After repeatedly emphasizing the need to be ready by describing men in the field, women grinding with a hand mill, an ignorant homeowner, and then both a faithful and wise servant and a wicked servant, Jesus then said, “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like…” and proceeded to relay the parable of the ten virgins and the parable of the talents. Both of these parables also address the condition of people in His kingdom at the time He returns FOR His Bride, NOT when He returns after the tribulation WITH her. All the virgins with lamps awaiting the Bridegroom (Matt. 25:1-13) are people who profess Christ (how can they be otherwise?), and all have died (that’s what fallen asleep means), but only the wise virgins have the requisite dependency on Him (and therefore sufficient oil, representing the Holy Spirit) for deliverance; these are those who at the resurrection of the dead will follow the Bridegroom into the wedding banquet. The parable ends, Therefore keep watch, for you do not know the day or the hour (v. 13), yet again teaching that Christ’s coming FOR His Bride is imminent.
Linking two different end-time Scriptures now, we note that the door to the wedding banquet – the door to His Father’s house- will be shut to those foolish virgins who professed Christ but did not actually open the door of their hearts to Him (the lukewarm Laodiceans of Rev. 3:19-20).
Jesus immediately follows this parable with the Parable of the Talents. Herein He addresses rewards given at the Bema seat of Christ (addressed also in Romans 14:10 and 1 Cor. 3:10-15) to all those who will be raptured/resurrected. Note that the worthless servant who actually did not have a saving relationship with the Lord is thrown… outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (v. 30). This means that he must suffer the great tribulation with all others alive at the time who have not come into covenant with Christ before the rapture – the same fate as the wicked servant addressed earlier in Matt. 24:45-51 to whom Jesus assigns a place with the hypocrites.
Praise God, He repeatedly admonishes people to be ready, and He will bring a great multitude to repentance from every nation during the great tribulation (see Rev. 7:9, 14)! This multitude of tribulation saints will be those who did not choose to suffer death to self by the time He comes for His Bride. Oh, I praise God for His forebearance and His persistence in calling mankind to Him, and ask that you join me in praying for those who have not yet received Christ as you read this. May the harvest be great, indeed!
One last point regarding the imminency of Christ coming for His Bride before we move on. Note that Paul wrote as if he would be alive at the time Christ’s overcomers would be seized up by writing we who are still alive and are left will be caught up… (1 Thess. 4:17) instead of “those who are still alive.” Peter’s and John’s writings reflect they both had a similar expectancy of our Lord’s imminent deliverance of His Bride, even though Jesus had subtly prophesied that Peter would die by crucifixion (John 21:18-19). (Although God led John to eventually understand this prophecy, I suggest that it was most likely upon hearing that Peter had been crucified in Nero’s regime. The exact date the Gospel of John was written is not known for certain.)
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Christ coming WITH His Bride: the most prophesied event in all of Scripture
In great contrast to the imminency of Christ coming FOR His Bride is the most prophesied event in all of Scripture for which we are given multiple specific temporal relations to other events: the second phase of Christ’s Second Advent when He comes in the Day of the Lord WITH His Bride/army from heaven (e.g. Rev. 19:20-31).
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One more point before we leave. Just in case you have not realized this yet, I will emphasize that the exaltation of Christ’s overcomers to the heavenly realms IS what precipitates the tribulation on earth below! Of course “the Christ” does not directly cause evil, but in finally being delivered from our persecution and sufferings in this world, the raptured church remnant will no longer be lampstands exposing what lies in the darkness, restraining lawlessness therein. No evil will be held back: remember, it was his vision of that fourth beast that absolutely terrified Daniel (review chapter 7). Never one to exaggerate, Jesus said, “There will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again.” (Matt. 24:21). Recall the horrors of WWII and the Holocaust, and magnify this…
We will end here, having just referred to the lampstands of Rev. 1:12,13, & 20. Next time, God-willing, we will address additional ways the church is symbolized in The Revelation of Jesus Christ – that is, beyond the direct references to the churches in chapters 2 and 3.
God bless you deeply for your dedication to studying His word.