Tag Archive | "Church Age"

Have You Been Bundled?

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The Lord Jesus gave His disciples a little help in understanding some of His parables.   For instance, in Mathew 13:24-30 we find a parable about wheat and tares growing together in a field. 



A Field at Harvest Time


Right from the start we know that the parable will teach us something about the kingdom of heaven, because we read in verse 24:


Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:


As the parable continues, we find that it concerns tares or weeds that have been intentionally sown in the man’s field.  In verses 25-26, we read:


But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.  But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. 


The man in the parable sowed good seed in his field, but his enemy came and sowed tares in the field.  In time, the man’s servants discovered the problem and reported it, as we read in verses 27-28:


So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?  He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?


The man’s decision is to let both the wheat and tares grow together until the harvest.  He instructs his servants accordingly in verses 29-30:


But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.



Even though that’s the end of the parable, there’s more about it.  When the Lord spoke this parable, there were many people gathered about to hear it.  A while later, after He had sent them away, His disciples asked Him to explain the parable.  The Lord begins His explanation by telling the disciples what is represented by the various elements in the story.   In Matthew 13:37-39, we read:


He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;  The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;  The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.


Notice that the harvest in this parable is at the end of the world.  The Lord continues His explanation in Matthew 13:40:


As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.


Tares are weeds that are to be bound in bundles and then burned; but they represent people in this parable.  They are the “children of the wicked one.”  The Lord compares their end with that of the tares, as we see in Matthew 13:41-42:   


The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;  And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.


The final verse explaining the parable is Matthew 13:43:


Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.


The parable really emphasizes judgment, as we have seen; but the Lord’s final verse about it is a wonderful promise for God’s people.



A Vineyard With Wild Grapes


There are many other verses using the word “field” besides those found in the parable of the wheat and tares.  God often uses ideas associated with a field to teach spiritual truths; but He also uses the idea of a vineyard to do this.


In Isaiah 5, we read about a vineyard that God planted.   Isaiah 5:1-2 tells us:


Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:  And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.   


Instead of bringing forth good grapes, this vineyard yielded wild grapes. In Isaiah 5:5-6, we read God’s pronouncement – delivered by the prophet Isaiah – of what will happen to the vineyard:


And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:  And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.


Just as the Lord Jesus explained something about the parable of the wheat and tares, God gives us a verse about this parable of the vineyard in Isaiah 5:7:


For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.


If we had only the Old Testament writings of the Bible, our understanding of this parable would probably be limited to seeing it as a prophecy about the nations ofIsraelandJudah.  We know that Isaiah lived and recorded his message before they were destroyed (Isaiah 1:1).  The parable tells about their destruction, and so the prophecy was clearly fulfilled.   However, we find in the Gospels another parable that we need to consider.  



A Vineyard Taken and Given to Others


In Mark 12, we find another parable about a vineyard.  However, in this parable the vineyard is not destroyed.  Verses 1 and 2 provide the setting for this story:


And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.  And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard.  



We know that God sent many prophets to warn ancientIsraelandJudahfor hundreds of years.  In the parable, the man’s servants represent those prophets.  What we read in Mark 12:3-5 shows us what happened to them:


And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some.


If you read the books named for the “major” and “minor” prophets in the Old Testament, you will find many instances in which these men were persecuted.  God’s servants indeed were “shamefully handled” and even killed.  


As the parable continues, we see that the Lord predicts His death at the cross.  In Mark 12:6-8, we read:


Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son.  But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours.  And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.


In Mark 12:9, the Lord tells what will happen to the evil husbandmen:


What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.


Who are these “others” that will be given the vineyard?  We know that God used ancientIsraelto represent His kingdom on earth.  TheKingdomofIsraelreached its height under King Solomon.  It was then broken into two different nations:JudahandIsrael.  After a couple of hundred years, the Assyrian Empire conquered the nation then calledIsrael.  Then, over a century later, the Babylonian Empire conqueredJudah.  EvenJerusalemwas destroyed at that time (Jeremiah 52:12-16).  Solomon’s mighty kingdom was completely gone.


WhenJudahwas conquered, some of its people survived.  Most were brought toBabylonin captivity.  After a few decades had passed (in 539 BC),Babylonitself was conquered (see Daniel 5:30-31).  That set the stage for the eventual return of some Jews back toJudea(see Ezra 1:1-2).  Some of these people were undoubtedly saved (e.g., see Nehemiah 8), and so we can say that they still (or once again) represented God’s eternal kingdom.


However, after the Crucifixion God made a major change.  To represent the eternal church, He no longer used those who were physical descendants of Jacob (to whom God gave the name “Israel”).  Instead, He began the Church Age and switched to using local congregations of Christian churches.  They would represent the invisible or eternal church throughout the Church Age.  That period lasted from 33 AD until 1988.  The overwhelming majority of these people were not Jews who could trace their ancestry back to Abraham through Jacob; but they were the “others” who would be given the vineyard (Mark 12:9).         


When the Lord Jesus told the parable of the vineyard as recorded in Mark 12, some of the Jews’ religious leaders were present.  Mark 12:12 tells us:


And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way.    


These religious leaders wanted to arrest the Lord Jesus right there.  They understood that He was saying they would no longer be God’s people.  They would have known about the Old Testament parable of the vineyard with its wild grapes (Isaiah 5), and they certainly understood that this new parable was spoken against them.



 More Bad Grapes


Neither one of the two vineyard parables we have seen tells us about the end of the world, as does the parable of the wheat and tares.  However, there is a place in the Bible that uses the idea of grapes that are ripe and ready to be reaped when the Lord returns.  It’s found in Revelation 14.


In the Book of Revelation, we read about a series of visions given to the apostle John.  One of those visions is found in Revelation 14:14-20.   It’s a very strange vision, like all those recorded in Revelation; but the three parables we examined earlier help us understand it.


In Revelation 14:14, we read:


And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.


Perhaps you remember one or more similar verses associating clouds with the Lord’s return on the last day.  For example, in Mark 13:26 we read:


And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.


There’s no doubt that Revelation 14:14 is telling us about the Lord Jesus on the last day.  Continuing with the account for this vision, we read in Revelation 14:15-16:


And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.  And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.

These verses don’t tell us what was reaped, but we will be able to understand what they are teaching after we finish reading about the vision and compare it against other things we have learned.  Continuing with the next verses in Revelation 14:17-19, we read:  


And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.  And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.  And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.


Notice that more reaping is done.  In this case, we read about an angel who has power over fire.  We know that fire is associated with God’s judgment.  Matthew 7:19 is a verse illustrating this:


Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.


The same Greek word used for “fire” in Revelation 14:18 is also used in Matthew 7:19.  Also, notice that in the vision John saw a “great winepress of the wrath of God.”  This also tells us about judgment.  The final verse describing this vision is Revelation 14:20:


And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.


This vision is actually a parable; but what does it mean?



“Here a little, there a little” (Isaiah 28:10)


The vision described in Revelation 14:14-20 is a parable about the destruction of the unsaved on the last day of the world; but in order to realize this we must understand several truths God reveals here and there throughout the Bible.  The three parables we examined earlier help us understand the vision.  We saw that God used the parable of the wheat and tares to show us a picture of the end of the world (Matthew 13:40).  The wheat gathered “into the barn” is a picture of the rapture – that’s when God gathers all the elect to bring them to heaven.


From other verses, we know that the unsaved will witness the rapture.  For example, in Revelation 11, we read about God’s two witnesses who prophesy in the last days.   Notice Revelation 11:12:


And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.  


Their enemies, who are unsaved people of the world alive on the last day, beheld them or saw them ascend to heaven.  The two witnesses represent all of God’s people who are still alive on the last day.  Therefore, the rapture precedes the destruction of the unsaved.   The unsaved of the world will see the rapture before they are destroyed, and it is the rapture that is pictured by the first reaping in Revelation 14:16:


And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.


What was reaped?  The verses describing this vision do not tell us.  They don’t plainly state that the first reaping pictures the elect being gathered in the rapture; but other verses – such as Matthew 24:31 – show us it is:


And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.   


Like the “wheat and tares” parable, Revelation 14:16 is a picture of the “wheat” being gathered into the “barn.”  It’s a picture of God gathering His children from all over the world when the earth is “reaped.” 


What about the second reaping?  Recall what we read in Revelation 14:18: “Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.”  Then in Revelation 14:19 we read:


And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.


What do the grapes that are in “clusters” and the “vine of the earth” represent?  We know that the Lord Jesus told His disciples that He was the vine.  In John 15:5, we read:


I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.


Does the vine in Revelation 14:19 also represent the Lord Jesus?  Recall that in the parable of the vineyard in Isaiah, the vineyard was planted with “the choicest vine.”  Yet in Isaiah 5:5-6, God announced that He would destroy the vineyard:


And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:  And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.


The vine in Revelation 14:18 is a wild plant that has produced wild grapes.   It represents the local congregations of Christian churches years after God finished using them to save anyone.  In fact, the destruction of the vineyard in the Isaiah 5 parable fits as a picture of God’s judgment on the local congregations.   The “vineyard” was taken from Jacob’s descendants and given to the local congregations.   This is what the Lord Jesus spoke of in the parable of the vineyard in Mark 12 (see Mark 12:9).  Then, many years after this transfer, God finished using the local congregations.


Even though the prophet Isaiah delivered his message centuries before God even began the Church Age, the message can be seen as a prophecy of the time when God would bring judgment on the churches.  The Isaiah 5 vineyard identifies with the congregations, and from the day it was destroyed there was “no rain upon it.”  In other words, God’s judgment had begun and no one would be saved in the churches anymore.


Revelation 14:18-19 tell us the “clusters of the vine of the earth” are to be gathered  – that is, the grapes – and cast into the “great winepress of the wrath of God.”  These grapes are like the “wild grapes” growing in the vineyard of Isaiah 5:1-2 and like the “tares” growing in the field.

Even though the word for “clusters” is only used in that verse and is of uncertain derivation, we know that grapes do grow in bunches or clusters.  The idea of clusters matches the idea of the bundles in which tares are bound before they are burned, as in the parable of the wheat and tares.


The Focus of God’s Anger  


It’s interesting to note that God’s anger seems to be directed more against some people than others.  For example, in Ezekiel 34:2, we read:


Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 


God directed this message especially against the religious leaders of Ezekiel’s day.  These men, instead of seeking the spiritual welfare of the people, used their positions for selfish gain.  The Lord Jesus also had harsh words for the scribes and Pharisees during His ministry.  In Matthew 23:14, we read:


Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.


Also, remember how God identified the people against whom He spoke the parable of the vineyard.  In Isaiah 5:7, we read:


For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.


The prophecy that this vineyard would be destroyed was apparently fulfilled when God ended the Church Age.  The wild grapes in this parable are not good grapes, but are like the grapes that are cast “into the great winepress of the wrath of God” (Revelation 14:18-19).  They also appear to be like the tares in the parable of the wheat and tares. 


In that parable, Satan sowed the tares through a false gospel.  This false gospel may seem to differ from one church denomination to another; but wherever it’s found, it teaches that man has a degree of control over his own salvation.  This is what has been called a “do-it-yourself” salvation plan.  It’s a false gospel because it doesn’t give all the glory to God.   


Now we can understand the treading of the winepress in Revelation 14:20:


And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.


The blood flowing out of this winepress has nothing to do with the Lord’s blood, the blood of the elect or a testing of the elect.  It represents God’s wrath against those following a false religion claiming to be based on the Bible in some way (see also Isaiah 63:3-4).


Notice that the winepress is “trodden without the city.”  In other words, this happens out of the city or away from it.  Remember that in this vision the first reaping represents the rapture.  When the winepress is trodden, the rapture has already happened.  The eternal city ofJerusalem(see Revelation 21:2), which represents all of God’s elect, is gone by this time; so we may understand the words “without the city” in that way.


Blood up to “the horse bridles” is another very striking image.  What are we to make of it?  In the Bible, both horses and chariots are used to represent strength.  For example, in Isaiah 31:1, we read:


Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!


The unsaved of the world do not look to God to do all the work required for their salvation.  They place faith in their own actions.  This way of thinking is represented by trusting in horses or chariots.  A horse is controlled by using a bridle; so blood reaching that height points to God’s vengeance against people who have not placed their faith in Him, but in their “horses” instead. 


Of course, the number of furlongs stated in Revelation 14:20 is also important.  The verse states the blood is “by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.”  We have learned that God uses certain numbers to teach spiritual truth.  In the number 1,600, we see the factor 40 multiplied by itself; but the number “40” is associated with testing.  Revelation 14:20 portrays the last day, so this way of understanding the 1,600 furlongs doesn’t fit.  It has nothing to do with testing.


There are several ways of looking at this number through its factors.  Here are factors that do fit our understanding of the vision: 


4 x 10 x 4 x 10 (or 4 x 4 x 100)


We have learned that the number 4 corresponds with the number of points on a compass and represents the farthest extent in time or distance that God spiritually has in view.  The number 10 (or 100) represents the completeness of whatever is in view.  Therefore, with the number 1,600 God seems to be showing us that His judgment will extend all over the earth and possibly even through time – from the end of the world back to a time shortly after the creation. 


It’s important to realize that 1,600 is a spiritual number.  It is not to be understood literally, and of course the 1,600 furlongs has absolutely nothing to do with a literal number of days or years.  In fact, none of the numbers in the book of Revelation can be taken literally except possibly for the 200 million mentioned in Revelation 9:16.  That’s because God calls our attention to this number with the words “I heard the number of them.”  This number represents God’s elect and might be the exact number of people God has saved out of all the human race.





The two parables about a vineyard that we considered (Isaiah 5 and Mark 12) and the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13) all show us pictures of God’s wrath against particular groups of people.  The Isaiah 5 parable was directed against ancientIsraelandJudah, while the Mark 12 parable was spoken against their descendants who were alive during the Lord Jesus’ ministry. 


The Isaiah 5 parable also appears to show us a picture of God’s wrath against the local congregations of Christian churches, even though the Church Age was more than two thousand years into the future from Isaiah’s day.  We know from the Biblical timeline that God eventually finished using the local congregations in 1988.


The vision described in Revelation 14:14-20, which is also a parable, shows us something similar; except here the time setting is the last day.  This vision is a picture of God’s wrath against those who are following a false gospel – a religion that is supposed to be based on the Bible.  The great majority of those who claim to be Christians today are following such a religion.


Most people who think of themselves as Christians are not really God’s children.  They are pictured in the Revelation 14 vision as grapes that have become wild or otherwise gone bad.  In the parable of the wheat and tares, they are pictured as tares – weeds to be bound in bundles (Matthew 13:30) before they are burned.  On the last day, they pay for their sins with their lives.  In the vision, their end is pictured by a great outpouring of blood from “the great winepress of the wrath of God” (Revelation 14:19).  


We have learned that God focuses our attention on His great anger against people who have deviated from Biblical truth.  He does that in the parables we examined and in many other places; but He doesn’t appear to mention all the other unsaved people of the world.  That includes all the people following any religion other than the Christian religion, and those who consider themselves to be atheists or agnostics.  That’s about two thirds of the world today.   What about them?  In Luke 12:47 and the first part of verse 48, we find something that appears to tell us about these people:


And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.  But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.


Here the Lord Jesus tells us there will be less punishment for those who did not know God’s will.  What is their punishment?  We have learned that the promise of life after death is only for God’s children.  Everyone else will be annihilated.  For them, it will be as though they had never existed.  By using the words “beaten with few,” God is telling us about this annihilation.   He is showing us that the end for all non-Christians will be merciful when it comes on the last day.


Of course, this way of understanding the verse raises another question: what is the additional punishment for anyone who “knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will?”  The same scriptural passage indicating mercy for non-Christians tells us that those “which knew his lord’s will” and “prepared not” shall be “beaten with many.”  What could this mean?     


God’s anger is especially directed against those who shall be “beaten with many.”  These are people who are following a false gospel and are confident they have been saved; but they won’t be – they will be annihilated on the last day in the same manner as all non-Christians.  Their additional punishment will come when they realize the Lord Jesus has returned to take His children to be with Him and they won’t be going.   That is when they shall be “beaten with many.”  They will witness the rapture and understand what is happening.  Matthew 24:41-42 helps us to understand this truth:


Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.  Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.


From its context, we know that this citation is telling us about Christians on the last day.  It distinguishes between someone who is a true child of God and someone who has trusted in church doctrines and self-righteousness.  The one who is taken is caught up in the air to be with the Lord.  The other one was also “grinding at the mill,” but is left behind.  This person sees what has happened and now understands.  Luke 13:28 tells us about these people at that time:


There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.


A similar verse is Matthew 8:12:


But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.


Yes, there will be great sorrow when these people realize they have not been saved; but it will not be the kind of sorrow that a person feels when God has saved someone.  Notice that there will be “gnashing of teeth.”  These words indicate anger, and these “children of the kingdom” will be angry with God. 


Sadly, this is how it will end for most of the world’s Christians.  Many true believers have loved ones among them.  However, we can thank God for the many promises He has given His children and for mercy on the last day to all the unsaved – even to those who have been “bundled.”



God’s End-Time Mercy Revealed in Pictures from the Unsealed Book

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In the book of Revelation, we read about a series of visions seen by the apostle John.  These visions reveal a major portion of God’s salvation plan.  We don’t get a complete picture of the plan from these visions.  That is, they don’t cover all of human history from start to finish; but they do portray different phases of God’s plan during New Testament times.


One reason it so difficult to understand these visions is that they are not all in chronological order.  However, there is a portion of the book of Revelation where visions are in chronological order.  It is the portion concerning the unsealing of a book sealed with seven seals.  We first learn about this book in Revelation 5:1:


And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.    


Only the Lord Jesus can unseal this book.  As He removes the seals one by one, we see a sequence of visions.  This sequence has a well-defined beginning.  It starts with the opening of the first seal (Revelation 6:1-2).  We will see that the vision associated with the first seal shows the start of the church age on Pentecost day in 33 AD.  The sequence ends with the sounding of the seventh trumpet (Revelation 11:15).  Seven visions associated with the sounding of trumpets follow the opening of the seventh seal (see Revelation 8:1-2).   The seventh trumpet is the last to sound, and that vision pictures the end of the world, which is the last day.


Besides the fact that there is a clear beginning and ending in the sequence, we find additional evidence that these visions are in chronological order.  For example, in Revelation 8:13, we read that the last three trumpets sound after the first four:


And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!


Notice the words, “yet to sound.”  Another verse indicating that the visions show events in order of time is Revelation 11:14:


The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.


This verse tells us that there are three “woes,” and that the third and final woe comes after the second one.  The woes are associated with the visions for the seal openings and trumpet soundings, and also relate to seven plagues that result as each of seven angels pours out a vial of wrath.  Once we see the chronological order in these visions, we can understand something of great importance about the time immediately before the last day, and about God’s mercy.



The Seven Seals Open


You may recall hearing or reading about some New Testament dates of major importance, besides May 21, 2011.  Here is a table of those dates and their significance.


May 22, 33 A.D. The church age begins.


May 21, 1988 Church age ends; great tribulation begins.


September 7, 1994 The first part of the great tribulation ends and the second part begins; start of the latter rain, in which God saved many people outside the churches (the local congregations); judgment against the churches.


May 21, 2011 The great tribulation and latter rain have ended; there is no longer any hope of salvation from this day until the end of the world.



Mr. Harold Camping discovered these dates after many years of painstaking Biblical analysis.  Before May 21, 2011, it was believed that a great earthquake and the Rapture would occur on that date.  However, the fact that those teachings were incorrect does not mean we should dismiss all the dates as being incorrect.  In fact, further study of the Bible confirms them and everything else that has been taught about them.


When we refer to the Biblical timeline, we are referring to these dates – as if they’re marked on a line representing the flow of time.  The timeline allows us to understand time settings for visions associated with the opening of the seals.



             May 22, 33 A.D.                    May 21, 1988         May 21, 2011


                                                     September 7, 1994



The first four seals deal with the Church Age.  From the timeline, we know that the Church Age began on Pentecost day in 33 A.D.  So, when we read Revelation 6:2 about a rider on a white horse, that “he went forth conquering, and to conquer,” we know that we are seeing a picture of the elect at the beginning of the Church Age (see Romans 8:37 – the Greek word used there for “conquerors” is a compound of the Greek word used for “conquering” and “conquer” in Revelation 6:2).  Also, recall that the Lord Jesus told His disciples that they would be His witnesses “to the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  Therefore, the rider on the white horse represents one of God’s elect, going off to do just that: to be a witness for the Lord throughout the world during the 1,955 years of the Church Age.


We know that problems began almost immediately for new Christians during the Church Age.  As the second, third and fourth seals are opened, we read about a rider on a red horse, then another on a black horse and yet another on a pale horse.  Here we are seeing pictures of the various problems that the local congregations experienced throughout the Church Age, from start to finish.  The time setting for the opening of the first four seals is 33 AD.


Next comes the fifth seal.  We’ll come back to that one a little later.  First, let’s look at the opening of the sixth seal.  That’s in Revelation 6:12.  We know from the timeline that God ended the Church Age in 1988.  That year is the next date in the timeline after 33 AD, so the timeline has advanced by 1,955 years to reach that date.  The end of God’s use of the local congregations to save anyone is the event pictured by the opening of the sixth seal.  We know that the sixth seal corresponds to 1988 because Revelation 6:13 tells us about a fig tree:


And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.


We know that nationalIsraelis identified with the fig tree; that the modern nation ofIsraelwas established in 1948; and that God uses the number 40 to have a spiritual meaning of testing.  The image of the fig tree being shaken fits perfectly with the year 1988, because that year marked 40 years after the birth of modernIsrael.


The opening of the sixth seal has been understood incorrectly as a picture of the final end to salvation.  That event is described in Matthew 24:29.   However, there’s a big difference between the descriptions in Matthew 24:29 and Revelation 6:12-13.


We know that Matthew 24:29 is telling us about May 21, 2011, because of the words “immediately after the tribulation of those days.”  That’s not the case in Revelation 6:12-13.  The descriptions of signs in the heavens are similar, but there is a big difference between them: Revelation 6:13 mentions a fig tree, but Matthew 24:29 doesn’t.  When we see how everything fits together to verify the timeline, we can be sure that the sixth seal was opened in 1988 – at the end of the Church Age!


Knowing the time setting for the sixth seal helps us place the time setting for the opening of the fifth seal.   In Revelation 6, from verse 9 to verse 11, we read about the vision associated with the opening of the fifth seal.   There, we read that John saw under an altar “the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.”  They ask, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?”  This is a picture of those true believers who were martyred.  They are waiting for the final day.  That will be the day of the Rapture, when all the true believers receive their glorified bodies.


In answer to their question, they are told to “rest yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.”  The fellow-servants of those martyrs were “killed” on May 21 of 2011, based on Revelation 11:7.  In the eyes of the world, the elect have been discredited because they warned the world that a great earthquake would occur with the Rapture on May 21, 2011.  Therefore, we can place the time setting for the fifth seal on or before May 21, 1988 – before the opening of the sixth seal.


We can now return to the sequence and consider the opening of the seventh seal.  We read about that in Revelation 8:1.  That verse tells us about “silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.”  What could this mean?


We know that there is joy in the presence of the angels whenever someone is saved (see Luke 15:10).  The silence in heaven fits with our understanding from the timeline that God stopped saving people from May 21, 1988 until September 7, 1994.  The opening of the seventh seal illustrates the consequence of judgment that followed opening of the sixth seal.


Once we understand that the opening of the sixth seal is a picture of God’s judgment in 1988, everything falls into place for us and we can see how visions that follow it agree perfectly with the timeline.



Table: The Seven Seals Open


Opening of …


First Seal



White Horse



33 A.D. (Pentecost)

Second Seal Red Horse 33 A.D. or soon after
Third Seal Black Horse 33 A.D. or soon after
Fourth Seal Pale Horse 33 A.D. or soon after
Fifth Seal Souls asking “How long…?” Precedes Sixth Seal
Sixth Seal Signs in the heavens May 21, 1988 (approximately)
Seventh Seal



Silence in heaven; trumpet soundings by seven angels follow the opening of the seventh seal. May 21, 1988


In Revelation 8:3-4, we read about the prayers of the saints, and that these prayers “ascended up before God.”  In these verses, God is showing us that the period of silence in heaven had ended; this was the period of the latter rain, when God saved a great multitude of people.  The time setting for those verses is September 7, 1994.


We then read about seven angels with trumpets.  The first four angels sound their trumpets, and it’s the sound of judgment against the “third part.”  The third part is identified with the local congregations.  The time setting is still September 7, 1994.  That was the feast of trumpets, and that’s when the first four trumpets sounded.


Even though the latter rain began on that date, it was also a time of judgment against the churches.  Arrival of the latter rain meant God was again saving people throughout the world; but this time He was saving people everywhere except in the churches!


After the first four angels comes the sounding by the fifth angel.  The result is a swarm of locusts upon the earth (Revelation 9:1-3).  This period lasts for five months according to Revelation 9:5, and fits perfectly into the timeline.    We know that sounding of the fifth trumpet corresponds with May 21, 2011.


What are the locusts and what are they doing?  We find that the locusts have power or authority to torment those men “which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.”  Notice that they cannot hurt “the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree.”  In other words, they do not hurt the elect.


Revelation 9:5-6 tell us that their torment is like that of a scorpion when it strikes a man; and that in those days “shall men seek death, and shall not find it.”  That sounds very gruesome, but it should remind us that the Lord Jesus died for the elect.   Romans 6:4 helps us understand what all this means:


Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.


This verse tells us the kind of death that men will seek.  It is the “death” that comes by baptism into Christ’s death.  It is the death that brings salvation and eternal life!  In other words, during the five months men who want to be saved cannot be saved because the time for salvation has ended.  So we can now understand that the locusts are people who are bringing the Gospel.  But the Gospel can no longer save anyone during the five months.  There is no hope for anyone who hears the Gospel during this period, only a reminder of the law’s penalty.   That penalty is death for everyone who is not saved.


We need to understand that the five months associated with the period of the locusts are not five literal months.  Like every other number in the book of Revelation (except possibly for the number of horsemen in the great army, found and emphasized in Revelation 9:16), the five months must be understood as a spiritual period of time.  It represents the time after May 21, 2011 and continues until the last day.


Table: The Seven Trumpets Sound


The trumpets begin sounding when the smoke of incense and prayers of the saints ascend up before God (Revelation 8:4).  This begins the latter rain.   The first four trumpets sound together.


Sounding of … Vision When


First Trumpet Signs in heaven and September 7, 1994
Second Trumpet earth signifying (Feast of Trumpets)
Third Trumpet judgment against the  
Fourth Trumpet third part (churches)  
Fifth Trumpet Locusts tormenting men for five months May 21, 2011

(end of salvation) 

Sixth Trumpet Great army of horsemen (The Rapture) The Last Day
Seventh Trumpet End of the world The Last Day




Continuing with the trumpets, in Revelation 9:13 we read that the sixth angel sounded.  The verses that follow tell of a great army of 200 million horsemen bringing judgment on the unsaved. The sounding of this trumpet is associated with the Rapture.  The great army represents all of God’s elect – those who are alive immediately before the Rapture as well as all those who have died in the Lord during the entire time of earth’s existence.  Because of the way the number is emphasized in Revelation 9:16 (“I heard the number of them”), God may be revealing here the actual number of all those He has ever saved.


We know that the Rapture and the end of the world will both occur on the same day.  That is the last day, as we read in John 11:23-24:


Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.  Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.


Both the sixth and seventh trumpets will sound on the last day.  However, we have learned that God will not reveal this date to us.


We read about the seventh angel sounding the trumpet in Revelation 11:15.   That’s where we read that “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.”  There’s a lot more to the book of Revelation after this verse; but as far as the earth’s history is concerned, that verse marks the end.



“Woe, Woe, Woe”


With the trumpet visions in mind, we can now begin to consider the three woes.  Right after reading about the first four trumpets sounding, we read in Revelation 8:13:


And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!


Notice that the word “woe” appears three times.  Also, notice something about the timing of the trumpets.  In the verse preceding the above verse – that is, in Revelation 8:12 – we read that the fourth angel sounded his trumpet.  Therefore, the above verse is telling us that the fifth, sixth and seventh trumpets had not yet sounded at that time (they are “yet to sound”).  Clearly, the last three trumpets sound after the first four.


We read about the first woe in Revelation 9:12:


One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.


This verse tells us that there are three woes; also notice that it comes right after the passage about the locusts.  Starting from Revelation 9:2 and continuing up to Revelation 9:11, we read about those locusts.  The very next verse, Revelation 9:12 above, tells us “One woe is past.”  It shows us that the first woe is identified with the fifth trumpet – the period of the locusts – and extends from May 21, 2011 until the last day.  After the fifth trumpet sounded, two trumpets remain and two woes also remain.


Notice something important.  After Revelation 9:12, in which we read about the first woe, the trumpet sequence continues and we read about the sixth angel sounding the trumpet.  The sixth trumpet identifies with the Rapture.


There’s only one other verse about these three woes, and that’s Revelation 11:14.  (Revelation 12:12 also contains the word “woe,” but that verse is telling us about Satan’s defeat after the Crucifixion.)  Here is Revelation 11:14:


The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.


This verse follows several verses telling us about two witnesses.  In order to identify the event pictured by the second woe, we need to understand the events pictured by the verses telling us about those two witnesses.


We already suspect that the second woe is identified with the sixth trumpet, which has to do with the Rapture; but we don’t find it mentioned in the verses about the sixth trumpet.   Instead, we find the second woe in a different chapter, after the verses about the two witnesses.  Before continuing with the woes, we need to take a detour to examine the vision concerning the two witnesses of Revelation 11.



The Two Witnesses and the Last Two Woes


As we read about the two witnesses, we find that this vision covers different periods of time.  When we apply the timeline to the vision, we can understand when each part occurs.


Here are the first two verses of chapter 11, Revelation 11:1-2:


And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.   But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.


In the second verse above, we read about the first time interval: 42 months.  This equals three and a half years.  God frequently uses the number three and a half to represent the first part of something.  It is one half of a seven, and we have learned that the number seven has a spiritual significance: it represents the perfect fulfillment of God’s purpose.  Notice that during the 42 months, the “holy city” is “given unto the Gentiles” and “tread under foot.”  The timeline tells us that no one (or almost no one) was saved from May 21, 1988 until September 7, 1994.  That was the first part of the great tribulation.  It identifies with these 42 months, and comes after the church age has ended.


The next verse introduces the two witnesses.  Revelation 11:3-4 states:


And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.   These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.  


Notice that the two witnesses represent God’s elect.   They are identified as olive trees and as candlesticks (for example, see Luke 8:16; it’s the same Greek word for “candlestick” – Strong’s number 3087).  Here we find another period of time: 1,260 days.  That also represents 42 months, each of 30 days; so we have another “three and a half.”  Then, in the two verses that follow, we read about the power of the two witnesses (Revelation 11:5-6).  The timeline shows us that the end-time period during which God’s people prophesied with power began September 7, 1994 and ended May 21, 2011.  That was the second part of the great tribulation, and was the time of the latter rain.  It was a time when God used the proclaiming of His word to save a great multitude.


The next period of time in this vision about the two witnesses is found in the next couple of verses.  In Revelation 11:7-9, we read:


And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.   And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.  And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.


Here we see another “three and a half,” because that’s the length of time in days that the dead bodies of the two witnesses are “in the street.”  Using the timeline, we know that that this period represents the five figurative months (Revelation 9:5) from May 21, 2011 to the last day.


In the eyes of the world, God’s people were shamed (the ‘beast” was permitted to “kill them”) because of their warning that May 21 would begin Judgment Day.  Even though Satan was no longer ruling in the churches after May 21, his kingdom – which is the world – is still here; and so is he.  He can still exercise his evil influence in the world.   That’s why we continue to need the whole armor of God, so that we may withstand his influence until the end and stand “in the evil day” after we have “done all” (Ephesians 6:13).


May 21, 2011 truly did mark the end of God’s time to save anyone, but there was no physical evidence of that: no Rapture, no great earthquake, and no physical sign of any kind.  In the eyes of the world, God’s people were all wrong about May 21, 2011.  Of course, that was completely under God’s control: He didn’t allow it to be well known among His people that the Rapture would not happen until the last day, so they have been shamed in the world’s eyes.


Now notice what happens to the two witnesses three and a half days after they were “killed.”  Read Revelation 11:11-14:


And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.   And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.   And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.   The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.


These verses tell us that at the end of three and a half days, the two witnesses “ascended up to heaven in a cloud.”  That’s the Rapture!  The three and a half days identify with the five months of Revelation 9:5, and end on the last day.  That will be the day of the Rapture.


After reading that the two witnesses ascended to heaven, we read about a great earthquake.  Revelation 11:13 declares:


And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.


These events identify with the second woe, and are a result of the Rapture.  Remember, the Rapture brings judgment.


There is further support for us to understand that the earthquake of Revelation 11:13 identifies with the sixth trumpet.   Notice the words “gave glory to the God of heaven.”  This might remind you of Joshua 7:19, in which Joshua says to a man named Achan: “My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me.”  A short time later, we read “allIsrael stoned him with stones” (Joshua 7:25).


When we read about the last two woes in Revelation 11:14 (“The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.”) we can understand the second woe to be the ascension of the two witnesses and the judgment it brings (which is the Rapture and the sixth trumpet) and the third woe to be the end of the world (which is the seventh trumpet, as described in Revelation 11:15-19).


Based on 1 Corinthians 15:52 (the dead shall be raised “at the last trump”), we can say that the sixth and seventh trumpets will sound together.  This makes sense because we know that only one day remains for everything else to be fulfilled – the last day.   So we see that the second and third woes are respectively the same events as those pictured by the sixth and seventh trumpets: they are the Rapture and the end of the world.


The “woes” give us an alternate way of understanding the final events in God’s salvation plan.  In them, God is showing us different views of the same future events.  Using the vision about the two witnesses, the woes take us along a different path; yet we end up at the same place.  Recall that after reading about the first woe, we then read about the sixth trumpet – which we know to be a picture of the Rapture.  When we again picked up the trail of the woes (Revelation 2:14), we found that it was right after the Rapture of the two witnesses and right before the seventh trumpet.  The woes verify the trumpets!


Table: The Three Woes


Woe  Vision When


First Woe Same as the fifth trumpet May 21, 2011

(end of salvation)


Second Woe The Two Witnesses ascend to heaven, and other signs (The Rapture)


The Last Day
Third Woe Same as the seventh trumpet


The Last Day


In the New Testament, it’s the same Greek word (Strong’s number 3759) that’s used whenever we read the word “woe” or “woes.”  It’s an exclamation that always seems to be associated with the wrath of God (for example, read Luke 6:25).  The locusts (fifth trumpet), which are the first woe, certainly show us a picture of God’s wrath.  We also see it in the army of 200 million horsemen (sixth trumpet) and the end of the world (seventh trumpet).


Amazingly, visions associated with the pouring out of vials of wrath in Revelation’s chapter 16 agree with the sequences we see in the trumpet visions and the woes.  If you read the vials-of-wrath visions in reverse order, you will find that the seventh vision corresponds with the end of the world (see Revelation 16:17: “It is done”); the sixth corresponds with the Rapture (the battle of Armageddon); the fifth corresponds with the time of the locusts (darkness in the beast’s kingdom and men “gnawed their tongues for pain”); and the first four correspond with the first four trumpets (showing judgment against the local congregations).  So we see further confirmation of what the timeline now reveals: judgment and blessing during the latter rain that began in 1994; the end of salvation in May of 2011; and the Rapture on the last day.



Two Pictures of Our Day


Of all the visions associated with the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the three woes, two of them are of great relevance for God’s people today.  The first one has to do with the two witnesses.


Recall that the two witnesses prophesied for a period of 1,260 days (Revelation 11:3).  We know this number is not to be understood literally, but spiritually.  It represents the second part of the great tribulation – the period of the latter rain, beginning on September 7, 1994.   That was the time when the Lord saved a great multitude all over the earth, and it lasted until May 21, 2011.


After the two witnesses “finished their testimony” (Revelation 11:7),

they were “overcome” and killed.  Then in Revelation 11:12 we read that they ascended to heaven.  We know that is a picture of the Rapture.  However, notice that they are not taken up to heaven immediately after they die.  There is a period of three and a half days when their dead bodies are “in the street” (Revelation 11:8) because people won’t allow them to be buried (Revelation 11:9).   This period of three and a half days matches the time after May 21, 2011 and continuing until the last day.


In His mercy, God has revealed – in this vision and in other ways – that His people will remain on earth after they have completed their task of warning the world of Judgment Day.  As far as the world is concerned, those who warned the world about Judgment Day have been completely discredited and shamed.  The world won’t let them forget about it: they won’t let the bodies be buried!  And so these verses are an excellent picture of the situation in which many of God’s people find themselves today.


Notice also how God helps us to understand John’s vision of the two witnesses by what we read in Revelation 10:10-11:


And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.  And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.


Some people may think these verses are telling us to continue preaching the Gospel to the whole world until the last day, even to those with absolutely no desire to hear it.  Is that what these verses mean?  John was told to eat the little book.  It was as sweet as honey, but it made his stomach bitter.  It’s very significant that this vision of the little book comes just before John hears about the two witnesses.


A new understanding of God’s word is always welcome by any one who loves it; and so the little book was, for the apostle John, as sweet as honey.  However, in his stomach it was bitter.  In fact, the message proclaimed to the world during much of the latter rain – that Judgment Day was approaching and that no one could be saved after May 21, 2011 – was indeed a bitter message.


John’s “little book” and the command God gave Him fit perfectly with our understanding that God wanted the world to know when salvation was about to end.  John was in no position to “prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.”   He was apparently an old man, confined to theislandofPatmos(Revelation 1:9).  The evidence is that God’s command to “prophesy again” was intended for end-time believers who would know when God was about to end salvation.


The vision about the little book helps us understand that the two witnesses represent those who brought the Judgment-Day warning to the world during the latter rain; and the vision of the two witnesses in turn shows us that God’s people would be shamed in the world’s eyes and remain on earth, patiently waiting for the Rapture, even though the time for salvation was over.


God has also provided a second picture showing that His people will remain here after May 21, 2011.  The vision associated with the fifth trumpet is that second picture.   The locusts represent people who bring the Gospel after Judgment Day has begun.  In this vision, we read that men shall seek death and shall not find it (Revelation 9:6).  This verse is telling us about unsaved people who seek the atoning death of the Lord Jesus during this time.   They seek it because they want to be saved; but they cannot find it because the Gospel no longer has power to save.


The time of the locusts continues for five figurative months, until the sixth trumpet sounds.  We have seen that the sixth trumpet corresponds with the Rapture, which we know will happen on the last day.  Therefore, the time of the locusts lasts from May 21, 2011 until the last day.   Here again, God reveals that His people remain on earth even after salvation has ended.  An understanding of these visions can bring great comfort to anyone who hoped for the Rapture on May 21, 2011.  They show God’s mercy to His people.



We Can See God’s Mercy When We Understand The Visions


In addition to seeing God’s mercy in the two visions picturing our day, we can also find it revealed in other ways.  Recall that the sounding of the sixth trumpet will signal the Rapture, and the seventh trumpet will signal the end of the world.  However, according to 1 Corinthians 15:52, the Rapture will happen when the last trumpet sounds:


In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.


How can we reconcile these verses?  The answer is obvious.  The sixth and seventh trumpets must sound together.  This means events of the last day must occur very rapidly.  There will probably be a moment of fear for the unsaved, but no suffering.  The resurrection and Rapture should start and finish very quickly, and then the universe will cease to exist.


There is even more reason to expect the end to come very quickly and mercifully.  As we read about the visions associated with recent timeline events that have already passed (e.g., the sixth seal and the first five trumpets), we read about terrible signs in the heavens and on earth.  We also read about great fear and suffering as men witness these events.  For example, read Revelation 6:15-17 in the passage describing what happens when the sixth seal is opened:


And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;  And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:  For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?


We know that there were no physical signs whatsoever when this event happened.   There was nothing out of the ordinary to see or hear, and there was no terror or suffering resulting from it.  The same is true for other Biblical milestones that have already passed, according to the timeline.  We should keep this in mind when we read about visions describing the last day.


Visions associated with the sixth and seventh trumpets, the second and third woes, and the sixth and seventh plagues are all concerned with the last day.  Those visions include slaying of the third part of men, a great earthquake, and a great hail.  However, based on what we have learned from timeline dates that have already passed without notice, we should expect the last day to end without such awful events.   We know that the Rapture and resurrection will happen then, and that God will end this universe; but He can do that without a great earthquake or any of the other terrible events described in Revelation.  How then can we understand such verses, and why did God give us such terrifying descriptions of timeline events?


A good reason may be God’s use of fear to restrain evil among men, and to motivate His children to spread the Gospel.  Verses telling us about terrible disasters and about men trying to hide from the Lord certainly inspire fear.  Indeed, God could make the last day a terrible one.  But the evidence from the Bible is that it won’t be.


Perhaps, when we read about men in fear, suffering from great plagues such as those described in the visions we have considered, we should think of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.  According to that parable, when the rich man died he was able to see Lazarus in heaven.


From many verses throughout the Bible, we know that there is no life after death for anyone who has not been saved.  When an unsaved person dies, it’s as if that person never existed.  There is no consciousness or suffering for that person ever again; so we know that a dead man cannot see anything from the grave.  What, then, is God teaching us in that parable?


Think about the dead man’s reaction when he sees Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom.  God appears to be showing us that the man would be in sorrow if he could know his fate and see the blessings he will never inherit.  If the rich man could see what God has prepared for His children, typified by the beggar named Lazarus in this parable, then he would indeed be very sorrowful to know that those blessings will never be his.


We can understand some of the visions described in Revelation in a similar way.  Men cannot see God’s anger at their sin and against the local congregations; but if they could, and if they had known what God was doing as each date in the timeline arrived, then they would have been very much afraid.



More Reasons to Expect A Merciful Last Day


When we read about the last trumpet sounding (1 Corinthians 15:52), we might think there will be a super-loud blast on an actual trumpet, and that the resurrection and Rapture will begin then.   However, there is a better way to understand the meaning of that verse.  In Revelation 1:10, we read:


I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,


Notice how the Lord’s voice is compared to a trumpet.  There are other verses that also lead us to understand that the trumpet soundings we read about in Revelation have to do with God’s spoken command.


Even from the beginning of the Bible, we read that God spoke everything into existence. For example, in Genesis 1:3, we read:


And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.  


As we continue reading the creation account, we find that plants, animals and man appeared out of nothing as the Lord spoke them into existence.  Based on this, we should expect that – when the time comes – God will simply speak the universe out of existence.  Isaiah 51:6 is a verse that points to the universe ending this way:


Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.


Of course, when something waxes old, it increases in age.  If you have ever had a favorite shirt or other garment that you used for a long time, you probably noticed areas where it became very thin.   In time, there is less and less of that garment.  It slowly disappears as it ages.  God tells us the end of the universe will be like that, only it will happen quickly.


It is true that other verses tell us the universe will end in fire.  We find that in 2 Peter 3:10 and 12, and it’s a terrifying thought.  However, other verses help us understand something about the way God uses the idea of fire.  Notice what we read in Jeremiah 5:14:


Wherefore thus saith the LORD God of hosts, Because ye speak this word, behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them.    


Here, God is speaking to the prophet Jeremiah and saying that Jeremiah’s message to the people – which was actually God’s message -will be like fire coming out of his mouth as he speaks.  This reminds us of the two witnesses who prophesied for 1,260 days.   Revelation 11:5 states:


And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.  


God’s words are also compared to a sword, as in Revelation 1:16:


And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.




God’s words bring judgment to the unsaved.  It’s as if the Gospel is a sentence of execution against the unsaved, to either cut them down with a sword or consume them by fire.


Yes, the Bible does tell us the universe will end in fire.  But it also tells us that God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).  In other words, the universe will be destroyed by fire; but He is the fire!


God tells us that He is merciful.  Based on many verses, we have good reason to hope His mercy will extend to our unsaved loved ones when He ends this universe; and that there will be no suffering whatever on the last day.





In John’s visions of the two witnesses and of the locusts, God reveals that His people remain on earth even though salvation has ended.  It makes sense that God didn’t allow His people to know this before May 21, 2011, or to know that there wouldn’t be a great earthquake.  If He had, they would not have had such a great feeling of urgency to warn the world about Judgment Day.


God has also allowed us to understand that the terrible physical events described in these and other visions concerning end-times must be understood as pictures of His judgment.  Except for the Rapture and the disappearance of this universe – which will be very real events – the evidence is that there will be nothing out of the ordinary between now and the last day.


Just as there were no disastrous events to be seen when the church age ended, or when the latter rain began, or when salvation ended, we should expect God to be merciful on the last day too.   We can expect the Rapture and resurrection to be over very quickly, and the end of the world to also happen very quickly as God speaks the universe out of existence.


We know how terrifying natural disasters can be from eyewitness accounts of those who have survived them.  Great earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, tornadoes and hurricanes can be amazingly powerful.  Undoubtedly we will have more of these events if the Lord continues to tarry.  However, they should not be interpreted as the phenomena described in the book of Revelation.  Those visions are spiritual pictures of what God has done throughout the New Testament period, continuing up to our day.  Except for the Rapture and resurrection on the last day, we should not expect any supernatural events to precede the end of this world.  The Bible indicates there won’t be any!


It was apparently a misunderstanding of the book of Revelation, more than for any other reason, that led many to think May 21, 2011 would be the day of the Rapture and of a global earthquake.   After all, like the book of Daniel, the book of Revelation deals very obviously with end times.


We know that some numbers from the book of Daniel are to be understood literally.  For example, the 1,335 days of Daniel 12:12 fit exactly into the timeline: that’s the period of time from the day the Lord began His earthly ministry on September 26, 29 A.D. until the Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost in 33 A.D. on May 22.


Other numbers from the book of Daniel also fit into the timeline and verify it.  Therefore, it was reasonable to think that certain passages from the book of Revelation should also be taken literally.  It was thought that one of the great earthquakes mentioned there (Revelation 6:12) would be a real end-time earthquake, and that the five months mentioned in Revelation 9:5 should be understood literally.


We can now understand that those things must not be taken literally.  They are part of the spiritual pictures God has given us to reveal certain things about His salvation plan.  The same book of the Bible on which erroneous teachings were based now reveals God’s end-time mercy.  When we understand the book of Revelation’s chronology of visions in the seven seals and seven trumpets, we have great reason to hope for a very fast and merciful end to this world for our unsaved loved ones on the last day.




Countdown to Judgment

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A message crafted by an ancient intelligence millennia ago…


encoded with a message critical to the hopes of all mankind…


transmitted to and dutifully recorded by human scribes…


who were unaware of the import of the words they were writing…


published in a collection of books that have been read, studied, and debated for centuries…


the true meaning of which is unlocked at a point in history when enlightened men have gained the ability to decode it…

If you were guessing that this is the plot of an upcoming Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich (creators of Stargate and Independence Day) film or a new Dan Brown (author of Angels and Demons, The DaVinci Code, and The Lost Symbol) novel, you’d have guessed incorrectly.  The scenario summarized actually concerns God, the Bible, the various Books of the Old and New Testaments, the writers of those books, and the Parousia, Rapture, Judgment Day, and End of Time respectively.

And, according to Harold Camping, Founder and President of Family Stations, Inc. – a Christian ministry with global radio and Web broadcast facilities, God has revealed May 21, 2011 as the date for Jesus’ Return and October 21, 2011 as the date on which the Earth and Universe will be destroyed and replaced by the New Creation, God’s everlasting Kingdom.

To understand Mr. Camping’s teachings, one must consider their philosophical underpinnings.  Mr. Camping believes that the Bible is the infallible and only Word of God through which He speaks to His people – that is, those whom he has chosen from before the foundation of the world.  At the time of the Rapture, these are the ones – both those alive on that date and those resurrected from their graves – whose bodies will be transformed into their eternal glorified bodies and who will meet Jesus in the air.  The remainder of the world’s population and lifeless remains of the rest of mankind that will spew forth from the Earth as a result of the great worldwide earthquake of May 21, 2011, will face God’s wrath during the Day of Judgment, the 153-day period concluding with the destruction of the world and universe on October, 21, 2011.

To determine these dates accurately and validate the legitimacy of these predictions, Mr. Camping relies upon two other fundamental principles:  first, Biblical passages must be interpreted in the context of the Bible as a whole, and second, scripture must be compared with scripture to ascertain its true meaning.  Mr. Camping views the Bible as an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.  Thus, while Bible stories may provide historical accounts of actual occurrences, they also are an allegory – symbolizing events and participants in the present day.  And so, the Biblical nation of Israel often symbolizes the Christian Churches and Jerusalem represents Heaven.

But, accurate analysis of the Bible and knowledge regarding the timing of the world’s end depend upon revelation from God, a revelation to his true believers that Mr. Camping asserts could not take place before the commencement of the Great Tribulation.  As evidence, he points to the book of Daniel in the Old Testament and Revelation in the New Testament.  In the 12th Chapter of Daniel, God is speaking to Daniel about end-times and instructs him to “shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end” (Daniel 12:4).  In Revelation Chapters 5 through 8, Christ opens a book with seven seals.

Mr. Camping, analyzing these chapters in the context of the Bible as a whole, indicates that the book in Revelation is the very same book mentioned in Daniel.  According to Mr. Camping, the final seal on that book was broken on May 21, 1988, the date that he correlates with the beginning of the Great Tribulation – a 23-year period ending with the Rapture on May 21, 2011 and commencement of the Day of Judgment.

During the Great Tribulation, Mr. Camping posits, Satan is loosed on the Earth, and his rule extends even to the Churches.  Thus, true believers, those chosen by God who will join Jesus at the Rapture, have left the Churches and those remaining, including clergy, are following and proselytizing a false Gospel and actually engaging in apostasy.  Needless to say, Mr. Camping’s teachings are not popular among those in the traditional Christian denominations.

Yet, Mr. Camping is undeterred, unequivocal, and supremely confident in spreading the Word as he perceives it.  He points to a number of “proofs” provided by God that indicate that his calculations have been done accurately.  These proofs rely heavily upon numerology.

Mr. Camping, like many others Biblical scholars, attributes spiritual significance to certain numbers.  The number 3, he asserts is representative of “God’s purpose.”  The number 5 signifies “atonement” or “redemption.”  10 or 100 or 1,000 represent “completeness.”  The number 17 is associated with “heaven.”  And, 23 signifies “destruction.”

While it is not my intention to present all of the proofs revealed, I will highlight the techniques employed to give readers a sense for their nature and substance.  Mr. Camping has calculated that Jesus’ crucifixion took place on April 1, 33 A.D. and bases this date on a study of the Biblical information on Jesus’ life along with known historical data.  The Crucifixion marked the beginning of what Camping refers to as the Church Age, that ended with the commencement of the Great Tribulation on May 21, 1988.  The length of the Church Age, therefore, was 1955 years.  The number 1955 is the product of three prime numbers:  5 x 17 x 23.  Thus, “atonement” or “redemption” brings “Heaven” or brings God’s “destruction,” a phrase echoing 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 – “15For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.”

Furthermore, there are 722,500 days between Jesus’ crucifixion and his return on May 21, 2011.  722,500 is the product of two repeating sets of spiritually significant numbers:  5 x 10 x 17 x 5 x 10 x 17.  Mr. Camping interprets this as “The atonement or redemption demonstrated by Christ’s suffering and death on April 1, 33 A.D. (the number 5) is 100% completed on May 21, 2011 (the number 10) when all the true believers are raptured into Heaven (the number 17).”  The sequence is doubled to “indicate that it has been established by God and will shortly come to pass” in accordance with Genesis 41:32, “And the dream was repeated to Pharaoh twice because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.”

In 1970, Camping published a book entitled The Biblical Calendar of History in which he calculated the date of the Creation as 11,013 B.C. and of the Great Flood as 4,990 B.C.  According to the Genesis account, the Great Flood occurred on the 17th day of the second month of the Hebrew calendar.  This equates to May 21st of our modern calendar.  In 2 Peter 3:8, God stated, “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”  If you add 4,990 + 2,011 and subtract 1 (to account for the fact that there was no year 0), you arrive at the number 7000 – making May 21, 2011 exactly 7,000 years from the date of the Great Flood.  And by May 21, 2011, the world is projected to have nearly 7 billion people inhabiting it.  Oh, by the way, did I mention that the number 7 represents “spiritual perfection?”

Is Harold Camping correct that on May 21, 2011, this world will be “perfected” with Jesus’ return to collect the true believers and usher in 153 days of God’s wrath and judgment ending with total annihilation of mankind and this universe and creation of a new Heaven and new Earth?  Or, will he join such notables as William Miller, a Baptist preacher and founder of what would become the Seventh Day Adventist Church who concluded that Christ’s Second Coming and the end of the world would occur sometime between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844, or for that matter himself, who questioned (albeit without his current level of conviction) whether 1994 might signal Jesus’ long-awaited return?

Obviously, the jury is still out on this question.  Yet, if you consider yourself to be a Christian, is the thought of Christ’s imminent return a source of hope or fear for you?  And, whether a Christian or not, do you number yourself among the many who intuit events portending imminent disaster?

Is Harold Camping a prophet of the Lord or a product of a civilization drifting aimlessly from crisis to crisis while desperately seeking answers?  Is time running out?


For more information, visit the Family Radio Website (http://www.familyradio.com/) where you will find literature (http://www.familyradio.com/graphical/literature/frame/) providing information of intricate detail on the subjects discussed in this article.

Related Posts:

May 21, 2011: Judgment Day!


Harold Camping: False Prophet or Herald of God?


It is Finished: God’s Final Warning

 Assembling the Timeline of History – Part I

 Assembling the Timeline of History – Part II

Assembling the Timeline of History – Part III


Assembling the Timeline of History – Part IV


Judgment Day: Less than One-Half Year Away


A Word of Warning

Signs of the Times

May 21, 2011: Judgment Day Scenario Unfolds

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