Points so far:
- The tribulation has a number of functions: the pouring out of God’s wrath, the returning of God’s focus from the Gentile churches back to the Jews, the return of Christ as King, and the final defeat and punishment of Satan and the fallen angels
- God has never punished believers along with the wicked, but always taken the believers out of the picture before pouring out His wrath.
- the only exception was the Jews in Egypt during the ten plagues, and as a whole, the Jewish people were not saved until the last judgment, death of the firstborn, when the blood was applied to the doorposts.
The Tribulation has yet another function. There is still a lot of prophecies in Micah, Zechariah, Isaiah, Joel and many others that must still be fulfilled. There’s about 25% of the Bible that speaks of end-time events, some of which are tied to the return of the Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ MUST return as King – its tied into the very nature of the Messiah, and all the hundreds of peophecies concerning him.
Okay, let’s look at the Book of Revelation first.
“Wait! You have to read Matthew 23 first!”
See, that’s why your hung up on this idea that we’ve got to go through all or part of the tribulation. You’re not understanding what you’re reading, or who it’s talking to.
Revelation one sests the scene.
1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: 2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Revelation 1:1-2 (KJV)
I’m going to emphasize the “which must shortly come to pass” part. This, and the “This generation” words from Mattthew 23 are why there’s Preterists, people who insist everything in the book of Revelation were all literally fulfilled by AD 70. Despite the fact that the Book of Revelation would not be written for another 25 years. Hm. Seems there’s an absolutel lack of logic there. Preterism dismissed asd unBiblical right off the bat.
The first two chapters of Revelation deal with seven apparent ages that Christianity would go through. Most end times theologians (the ones that make sense, anyway – if I’m quoting someone it’s obvious they believe the Bible, otherwise I’m going to be rebuking them) agree this is the meaning of the various letters to the seven churches.
By the way, the Bible never describes all the local churches as The Church, so when people talk about The Church, the Rapture of The Church, the apostasy of The Church, they’re incorrect in their terminology. Rather, we see “the church which is in Smyrna”. So, let’s tighten up. Proceeding…
Now, I understand that there was B. H. Carroll, who was a little testy on this point. As he was an early Baptist Brider (called Landmarkism in his time), he was opposed to any kind of universalism, and to him belief in the theory of the Christian Ages in revelation led one to believe in a universal, invisible church.
Well, I believe there is all the saved of Christ, and I believe this is what the Bible calls the Body of Christ and The Kingdom of God – but I am really reluctant to call it the Church, because the Bible doesn’t use that terminology. Am I a Baptist Brider? Nope. Let’s move on.
The word “church “is mentioned 21 times in the letters to the seven churches. It is not mentioned again until Revelation 22. Remember, your bible software only returns what you search for. You have to remember to click the “plural forms” option in Wordsearch, or in all the other lesser bible programs, you have to add “OR churches” to your search options.
God dealt for 2,000 years with everyone, then picked out a particular people, dealt with them for 2,000 years, then turned to deal with the ones who’d been left out. Now, for 7 years, he’s going to deal with that specific group of people again.
why? There were all these prophecies of Israel that still have to be fulfilled.
Let’s deal with the letters of the seven churches.
Ephasus: left first love. Told to repent, or the Lord would remove their candlestick. What does that mean? Well, what are the candlesticks?
20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches. Revelation 1:20 (KJV)
Literally, the church at Ephasus would cease to be a church. I notice in today’s age, there’s a huge move afoot to change the name of old, established churches from “First Baptist” to “Red Door” or “The Essence”. Not only are they dropping the name Baptist (personally, I think if your church starts embracing the world, and becomes indistinguishable from unSaved people, it’s because a). it probably is mostly unSaved people and b). you SHOULD go ahead and take the name Baptist off of the church). Hint – if your church has taken the word “church” off their name, it’s probably a sign that your candlestick was taken away, and if you’re a Fundamentalist, trying to decide if you need to finally leave that church, I’ll put it this way. Ichabod. The Glory is gone. It’s no longer a church. It’s a social group now. Send in your letter requesting transfer to your new home church.
We’ll sum up Ephasis by saying they hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans. The hint there is the word “laity”, those who separate “clergy” and “laity”. The Bible has a lot to say about churches, and pastors. The Pastor is seen as an elder, one who is wise. The Pastor is seen as a shepherd, taking care of the sheep. He is to rule with humility. however, when one begins to elevate oneself into a special ruling class, that’s Nicolaitanism. The Lord Jesus Christ states unequivocally as “hating Nicolaitanism”. It’s very possible this is a reference to the Catholic Church, which would eventually be broken into two different groups, the Greek Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic church would also experience another group of schisms, yielidng the Reformation (which when you really look at it, yielded Protestants who for the most part only took a step out of Roman Catholicism). Anyway.
Smyrna was the age of the persecuted. They were given no condemnation. You need to know this, because seminaries always ask in tests who were the two churches that never were rebuked? Smyrna and Philadelphia. There you go. Write that down.
Pergamum. The churches begin to slip into idolatry and fornication.
Thyratira. descending further into idolatry.
Sardis is a dead church
Philadelpiha the churches are suddenly revived. There is onyl those that say they are Jews and are not that oppose them.
And suddenly, there is Laodecia. complacency has set in. The church is succumbed to being the world. The Lord threatens to vomit them out of his mouth. If you’re looking at the seven churches as church ages, then it’s obvious we re in the last age. If you compare them to a timeline of christian history, you begin to spot when the ages are. It’s not too hard.
What comes next? The Rapture. When? I don’t know. How long is between Rev. 3:22 and Rev. 4:1? I don’t know. Neither did you. Harold Camping made lots of guesses, and died probably very alone and downhearted. Don’t guess. It always ends up wrong.
Let me ask you – has the Rapture happened yet? I think we’re pretty much agreed not. So, it’s yet to happen.
tomorrow, we begin to examine the Rapture in detail.