The eschatological issues have been one of the most difficult issues to understand by many, including most Christians. I have seen that most clergies do not want to venture into these issues of the end time, and others do not have full or accurate knowledge about this matter. I have faced a lot of questions on this same matter, and I also discovered that most people think or believe that the world will end at the rapture, that is, the "Caught up" of the saints- dead and living (1 Thess. 4:15-17). They do not understand the difference between the rapture coming of Christ, the seven years of the great tribulation/reign of Antichrist, the coming of Christ to end the reign of the Antichrist and establish His 1000 years reign on earth, the war of Gog and Magog/the last reign of Satan, the White judgment throne of God, the destruction of this present heavens and earth (the universe) and the coming out from God the New heaven and the New Earth. These issues will be explained briefly in this article.
The word or term "Rapture" is not directly written in the Bible. It is a theological word used to replace or used in place of a phrase in the Bible "Caught up", which is the same in meaning. The term "Rapture" is from a Latin root word "Rapio" or "Raptus", which means the translation or transportation of people from one realm to another realm. The word rapio or raptus is replaced with the English version that means exactly the same, which is "Rapture". Both the Latin and English versions of rapio, raptus, or rapture are taken from the phrase in the Bible "Caught up" as was used by Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. The phrase or term caught up is the translation or transportation of the dead in Christ who shall rise and the living in Christ from this realm of the physical to the spiritual realm, that is, to the kingdom of Christ or God. Therefore, when we talk about the rapture of believers in Christ, we are talking about the "Caught up" of the saints as used by Paul and the "Take you to be where I am" as used by Jesus Himself (John 14:1-3).
Rapture is the coming back of Christ from heaven to the air with a shout, with the archangel's voice, and with the trumpet of God. This phase of Christ coming is for those who are saved through faith in Him, whether dead or alive. At this coming of Christ, not all eyes shall see Him. He will not land on this earth but will land in the air.
There shall be a trumpet call of God which will be blown, coupled with a shout and archangel's voice. Shout is a loud sound or noise, however, no matter how loud the shout is, not everybody will hear the sound. The people who will hear the sound are those who died in Christ or died as believers in Christ, and those who are living faithfully for Christ, both in secret and in open till this shout and/or trumpet call of God. It is perhaps the shout and the trumpet call of God that the power of resurrection will be released by God or His Christ to the dead in Christ with glorious and/or imperishable bodies, and also, this power will cause the change of the body of the living in Christ from this perishable body to glorious and imperishable one- like that of Christ (1 cor. 15:49-54). This same power shall cause the "Caught up or rapture" of the resurrected first, and the living, to the cloud.
First, the dead in Christ shall rise and be gathered together in the cloud, then those of us who are alive and living for Christ will be caught up to meet with the risen already in the cloud. Then from the cloud, both the risen and the living in Christ will meet with the Lord Jesus Christ who is already waiting for us in the air. And likely from the air, we will proceed with the Lord Jesus Christ to His promised and prepared kingdom (John 14:1-3, 1 Thess. 4:15-17).
This, however, will not be the end of the age or the world. Now, when the rapture occurs, there will be coarse on earth, people will be filled with fear, confusion, and panic over the disappearance of people in millions and billions all over the globe. All the news stations- CNN, BBC, NTA, AIT, Aljazeera, etc., and newspapers, magazines and other social and nonsocial media, all will be broadcasting and giving the same news how millions and billions of graves and/or tombs opened all over the world and beings with shining bodies being lifted up out of the graves into heaven, and the millions and billions of people disappearing within a twinkle of an eye, from an airplane, cars, train, ship, houses, offices, schools, hospitals, churches, etc. People will contemplate if this is the rapture Christians have been talking about for thousands of years now. Many will believe and know that it was actually the rapture and the fear will cause many to repent and become Christians from various religions of the world. And those still contemplating with doubt will bring about the big questions, "What has happened?" "What is the meaning of this?" "What is the cause of this?" etc. At this point, most scientists who do not want to believe in Christ our God, being influenced by the evil spirit of deception, will try to bring up theories to explain what happened and to direct the minds and fear of the people from God to science. This will bring more confusion on earth and reduce the fear of people and their belief or trying to believe in God and Christianity.
Two major theories will come up; one is the "Ozone layer theory" and the "Alien theory". With these theories on how ozone layer has been affected by climatic changes and have caused a great gravitational force, able to open graves to magnet and pull human beings to other planets; and how Aliens from other planets have come and war invisibly on earth and adopted some individuals, the scientists will try to take the minds of the people away from the truth of the word of God (the Bible). However, these and more theories will be fought against by the left-behind Christians (oh! God, please may I not become a powerful preacher and teacher after the rapture). These are those who thought that rapture will delay more than expected, those who thought the rapture was not real, or those who because of one sin or another miss rapture. They will at this time want to become evangelists and preachers, who would use the Bible to explain and prove to the world after rapture that what just happened was the rapture Bible and Christians have been talking about thousands of years now. This conviction will make lots of people from various religions and nations to repent and become Christians. It will also make unserious Christians become serious, knowing that since rapture which was thought to be a fairy tale has happened, it then means that every other thing the Bible says will come to pass. The fear of rapture and other things that it entails on earth and on its inhabitants will cause coarse in the minds of the people, and the effect will affect the activities of man on earth, such as businesses, education, market, social life, offices, job, etc., which will also affect the economic life of the world. This means that the regular activities on earth will be affected, or even be put on hold because of fear, regret, and feeling that the world has come to an end, "So what am I struggling for?" Many will ask.
It will be at the peak of these coarse and fear that Antichrist who would have been born already will manifest to begin his immoral and brutal reign. At first, however, he will appear as though he is the Christ. He will be able to restore peace back to the earth and make the activities on earth to resume normally again. He will make peoples' minds relax, so that many will forget, careless and/or doubt the rapture that just occurred. But as soon as he has gotten the minds, trust, belief, and love of the people, especially the Jews, he will show himself of who he really is.
Antichrist will reign and punish, imprison, persecute, and kill those who would refuse to worship him and his image or accept his mark 666 for 3 years and 6 months. And God will literally pour out His wrath and plague on earth for another 3 years and 6 months, making it a period of 7 years of great tribulation and unspeakable coarse on earth that the world has ever heard or seen before (Matthew 24: 21-22).
The seven years of the great tribulation will end at the second phase of the second coming of Christ. This time, Christ will descend from heaven to this earth, He will land at a mountain in Jerusalem. This time, all eyes of the people on earth during this period will see Him. Satan, Antichrist, and the false prophet will be aware of the return of Christ and they will gather together at this mountain with the kings of the earth they were able to convince with deceptive spirit, to make war against Christ and His people; this war is known as "Armageddon".
At this second phase of Christ coming,
1. He is not coming suddenly again like a thief, this is also when all eyes of the people on earth shall see. They will know and see when He comes with His host of heaven.
2. He is not coming with only the archangel, but this time with the host of heaven, that is, with the host of angels, instead of only one.
3. He is not coming to take away the saints, but He will come down with the saints He rapture at the first phase of His second coming.
4. And above all, He is coming to put an end to the immoral, deceptive and brutal reign of Antichrist and the period of the great tribulation. And to establish His 1000 years or millennial reign on this present earth, with His angels and all the saints (host of heaven) He will come down with. This is going to be the most beautiful, wonderful, and fairest government and leadership the world at this time will ever witness or experience.
As Satan, Antichrist and the false prophet with their armies, that is, all who have worshipped Antichrist and have received the mark of the first beast (Antichrist), which is 666 shall gather to make war against Christ and His people at this mountain in Jerusalem, Christ shall release from His mouth two-edged sword, that is, the power of His spoken word, and all the human worshipers of Satan, Antichrist and the false prophet will be killed and their bodies were eaten up by the flesh-eating birds that the angel of God shall summon from the midair. Then Antichrist and the false prophet will be captured and cast into the Lake of fire, where they shall suffer unbearably for eternity. Satan will be captured, bound with chains, and will be thrown into the bottomless pit or Abyss where he shall continue to fall until 1000 years reign of Christ is over.
As Christ clears the earth of sin and sinners, He will establish His kingdom and/or reign here on earth and will reign for 1000 years. This is also known as Paradise lost restored. It is going to be a wonderful period, when the beauty, peace, unity, richness, total health, and the blessedness of the earth before the fall of man, shall be restored and the curse on it shall be lifted.
Who are those Christ and His host of heaven will rule over here on earth? This is another eschatological issue that confuses people. Not everybody will worship Antichrist and accept his mark, not every one of these people will be killed before the seven years are over and Christ returns. Now, during the seven years of the great tribulation, there will be people who will be imprisoned by Antichrist for refusing to worship him, his image, or accept his mark 666. Also, some will be on the run, while others will be in hiding. Some of these people will still be alive until the seven years are over. At the coming of Christ, those in prison shall be released, those on the run and in hiding shall be welcomed to join the community of Christ's millennial reign. It shall be these human beings who survived these seven years of the great tribulation without worshiping Antichrist, that Christ will rule or reign over with His host of heaven. These human citizens of the millennial community shall be allowed to marry and be given to marriage, and they shall in no time multiply the earth with human beings, as numerous as the sand at the seashore. However, there will be no room for sexual immorality or any form of wrong use of sex. There will be a total absence of sin because all the sinful beings- Satan, Antichrist, false prophet, and their human worshipers and/or followers are gone.
After the 1000 years marathon, peaceful, joyful and Paradisaic reign of Christ, He and the host of heaven, including those killed during the time of Antichrist, who resurrected to join in the 1000 years reign of Christ will go back to heaven, leaving behind on earth the human millennial saints on earth. On these millennial saints, Satan will be released from the Abyss or bottomless pit to do his final temptation on them. At his temptation, many will be deceived and will follow Satan, forgetting the love and faithfulness of Christ over them for 1000 years. The number that will be deceived and that will follow Satan will be too many to count. Those who will not believe in Satan will all run to take refuge in the city that God loves, which is probably this earthly Jerusalem. Satan will resolve to go and make war with them in this city and will be able to convince those he deceived to join him in this war against God's millennial saints. He will match up against them with his followers and will surround this city that God loves and where God's people are taking refuge. This is the final war or battle between light and darkness, between God and Satan. It is called the war of Gog and Magog. As the city is surrounded, and before Satan and his followers will raise any hand against God's people in this city, God will send fire from heaven that will consume to death all these human followers of Satan. And then, the final judgment of Satan will come. He shall be cast into the Lake of fire to join the Antichrist and the false prophet who will be the first beings to be thrown into the Lake of fire, and they will also be 1000 years older than Satan in Lake of fire. These saints in the city God loves shall probably be called up into heaven and God in the person of Christ will set up His White Throne Judgement to judge sin and sinners.
This is the final judgment of God, called the White Throne Judgement. It will also mark the last resurrection of the dead. This, however, will be the resurrection of the wicked, from the fall of man to the followers of Satan who were just consumed by the fire God sent from heaven. They all will resurrect to face their final judgment and condemnation. First, Hades and death (that is, the spirit or evil spirit of torment and spirit of death) with other evil or unclean spirits will be cast into the Lake of fire. They will be the third being to be cast into the Lake of fire. After this, all the sinners who resurrected will be judged according to what is written in the books, according to what they have done, and finally, the Book of Life will be open. And anyone whose name is not found (which none will be found) written in the Book of Life will be thrown into the Lake of fire, which is called the Second Death. This means that the resurrected sinful souls (once humans) will be the fourth and the last beings to be thrown into the Lake of fire.
In other words,
1. Antichrist or the first beast and the false prophet, the leopard or the second beast will be the first beings to be cast or thrown into the Lake of fire.
2. Satan, the devil, the dragon, or the ancient serpent will be the second being to be cast into the Lake of fire.
3. Hades, death and every other evil or unclean spirit will be the third beings to be thrown into the Lake of fire and
4. Resurrected wicked and/or sinful souls will be the fourth and the last beings to be cast into the Lake of fire.
It also confuses people when the Bible mentions saints or elects. For instance, when Jesus discusses with His disciples in Matthew 24:21-22 about the shortening of the period of the great tribulation because of how painful it will be; of which if not shortened, even the elect may not survive it. People take this to mean the New Testament elects, that is, in this Church age. And they, therefore, proposed that the great tribulation will occur before rapture. Let me by God's grace, clarify us of these elects the Bible mentions in various places. Now, all those who believe in God and do His will in any period, age, or dispensation are the elects or saints of God at that period, age, or dispensation. Therefore, we have four major elects or saints of God or Christ. They include:
1. Old Testament Elects or Saints: These are believers in God right from the fall of man to the time of prophet Malachi. It started from Abel and perhaps, to John the Baptist the last Old/New Testament human prophet of God.
2. New Testament Saints or Elects: These are believers in God through Christ and followers of Jesus Christ, right from the earthly ministry of Christ to the rapture, or the caught up of the dead and living in Christ.
3. The Great Tribulation Saints or Elects: These will be all those who will refuse to worship Antichrist, his image, or receive his mark 666. Many will be killed, many more imprisoned, all will be starved of food and water, and few will be on the run and in hiding. They shall be persecuted beyond any other believers in Christ/God in the past or future dispensation or age. They will be the great tribulation saints or elects, and also the elects Jesus was referring to in Matthew 24:22, not elects of this Church age or dispensation of grace. And
4. The Millennial Saints or Elects: After the 1000 years reign of Christ and His departure back to heaven with the Saints and other heavenly hosts He descended with, Satan will be released to do his final temptation. He will succeed to deceive many into denying Christ and following him. However, some will refuse to be deceived by him and will not follow him. They will continue believing and following Christ who has departed with His heavenly host back to heaven. Therefore, these human beings who will still believe in Christ will be the Millennial saints or elects. Hence, when the Bible uses the word or term saints or elects, we should find out what class, age, or dispensation of saints or elects before we draw our conclusion and lay our interpretation.
After the judgment of sin and sinners, God will destroy this present heavens and earth (universe), which is known as the old heavens and earth (Revelation 21:1). Then, out of or from Him will come New heaven and a New Earth, called the New Jerusalem, the Holy City, or the Bride of Christ (Revelation 21 [verse 9 for the bride of Christ]). This holy City will have 12 gates and 12 foundations, made with several golds, precious stones, etc. The City shall have no temple or any need for light because God and His Christ will be its temple and light.
To be at the safe side, we must accept Jesus Christ now as our only personal Lord and Saviour before it becomes too late. Quit politicking in the church, being religious sinners and appearing godly but without the true encounter with Christ Jesus. Having been informed, who will you blame when you because of one pleasure or another, one fame or another, or carelessly die in sin or miss rapture? Make use of this information and guide your lifestyle to conform with heavenly patterns to, therefore, become raptureable, either dead or alive. God bless you.
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Nwoko Solomon Ikechukwu