Sunday, January 1, 2017

Things to Come

Hello, welcome back! Continuing from yesterday, it is my belief that the event in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Matt. 25:1-13) occurs prior to the end of the great tribulation and is what is referred to by most as "the rapture." (1Cor. 15:51-51) Notice that there is a loud shout in Matthew 25:6 and they go to MEET Him as in 1Thess. 4:16-17? Also, the door is closed on those who were not ready. (Matt. 25:10) This is the opposite of what Jesus told the Church at Philadelphia. John also saw an "open door" to heaven in His visions. (Rev. 4:1) Others who were met with a closed door were told that not everyone who calls Jesus Lord will enter the kingdom. He can't be fooled by fakers--he knows what's in our hearts and even our very thoughts. (Matt. 7:21-27, Luke 6:46-49, Heb. 4:12, Ps. 139:2)
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 10  Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.'" Revelation 3:7-8, 10-11
Notice below that the two groups of believers that Jesus includes in His statement to Martha--the dead and those still living. In fact, this is acted out somewhat in the fact that first sister (possibly representing those dead in Christ typologically) meets Jesus outside of town and then the other (possibly representing typologically those believers who are still alive at His coming) rises up quickly to go meet Him there, where He remains until she arrives. So then in this scene, possibly the Jews seeing Jesus and His raising Lazarus from the dead would represent their being unblinded/unhardened at the time of the rapture, when the fullness of the Gentiles have come in (and the Body of Christ, including Jews who were not hardened against believing, is complete). (Rom. 11:25) I can't say for sure, but it's something worthy of more consideration and study, in my opinion.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”  When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29  And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30  Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. John 11:25-30 
Rev. 19:7-8 describes the attire of the bride of the Lamb and just a few verses later, Rev. 19:14 describes virtually identical attire of those who are returning WITH Jesus at the end of the tribulation. For those who say the reference is to angels, despite the uncanny resemblance to the bride of Christ, then we have Rev. 17:14 to clarify that these are not only angels, although I agree that other verses clearly indicate angels will also be present at that time. (Matt. 16:27, Matt. 25:31, Mark 8:38, Luke 9:26, 2Thess. 1:7) Then, we can refer to what else has been said about the "called and chosen." (Matt. 22:11-14, Matt. 25:21, Luke 16:10-12, Luke 19:17, Heb. 3:5-6, Col. 3:12-17) I think that the clouds in Rev. 1:7 below may refer to the same kind mentioned in Heb. 12:1-4--witnesses. (John 15:26-27)
"They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful." Revelation 17:14
Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. Zechariah 14:3-5 
Your people will volunteer on Your day of battle. In holy splendor, from the womb of the dawn, the dew of Your youth belongs to You. Psalm 110:3
"And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn." Zechariah 12:9-10
"Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen." Revelation 1:7 (Also see Matt. 24:30, Mark 13:26)
One reason I believe the rapture (or if you prefer, the gathering of those who belong to Christ to Himself) takes place before the end is that we are not appointed to wrath. (Mal. 4:1-3, 1Thess. 5:9-11 - the previous discussion in that chapter refers to the Day of the Lord, or the Great Tribulation and Paul again exhorts them to "comfort and encourage each other with those words.") Plenty of wrath occurs before the end of the great tribulation, but not all wrath is the wrath of God. We know both from Revelation and many other passages in both the Old and New Testament that much of the wrath IS from God, and regardless, He is always in control--whatever He allows has a good and just purpose. (Is. 13:6-13, Joel 2:30-32, Joel 3:13-16, Amos 5:18-20, Zeph. 1:14-18, Zech. 14:12-14, Acts 2:19-21, 1Thess. 5:2-3, 2 Pet. 3:10, Rev. 6:12-17, Rev. 14:9-12, Rev. 14:19, Rev. 15:7-16:1, Rev. 19:15)

We see inhabitants of heaven referred to in a couple of passages. How did they get there and who are they? If there is no such thing as the rapture and the verses thought by many as referring to it are actually referring to the end, with no millennial reign before it, then why is a "first resurrection" mentioned? Why does Paul say he doesn't want to be disqualified--from what? He certainly taught as Jesus did that everyone WILL be raised again, but not all before the millennium, not all to glory. (John 6:35-40, 1Cor. 15:19, Rev. 20:12-13) In fact, Martha made the assumption that Jesus was referring to the last day right before He raised Lazarus that day. (John 11:24) If no one is raised until the end, then who are those who are WITH Jesus at His return?
And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. Revelation 13:5-8  (Also see Dan. 7:21-22)
Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by. For behold, the LORD is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover its slain. Isaiah 26:20-21
Don't those "chambers" sound just like the "rooms" that Jesus said were in His Father's house, that He would go to prepare a place for us? (John 14:1-3) This wrath also sounds just like that in Revelation 15:8. We may suffer MUCH in our lives, as Jesus did as our example, but it is for our good--it's NOT God's wrath. (1 Pet. 1:3-9, Heb. 2:10, Acts 5:41, 1Pet. 2:20-24) Only the Church at Philadelphia was promised to be spared the "hour of trial to come on the whole world" (Rev. 3:10- which I personally consider to be the reign of the beast, since whoever does not worship it or take the mark will suffer greatly, even unto death - Rev. 13:9-10, Rev. 13:15-18) - that is most certainly a TRIAL.

So for myself, I cannot say that the entire church is spared all tribulation. That would not make sense to me in light of the other six letters, (except I do agree that not everyone who claims to believe is born again). The rest of the churches (i.e. congregations of called out, set apart believers) were told to endure (and even the Philadelphia church was told to hold fast to their crown). They were given severe warnings against being unfaithful and great promises of reward for overcoming through persecution and trial. If they are not believers and therefore not saved, then why is Jesus referring to them as churches and giving them advice on how to overcome? No one can overcome without the power of the Holy Spirit. (1John 4:4, Gal. 5:16-25) People who don't believe can't please God no matter what they do. Period. (Heb. 11:6)

Some say there cannot be a division of the body of Christ (see more on that below).  One way for that not to happen even if one church (made up of those who have already overcome) of the seven is to be spared and the rest are not to be spared the hour of trial would be if the rest of the churches consist of unbelievers (which is not a church at all). That doesn't seem to be what it says to me. On the other hand, if the church body is not to be divided, then everyone would go through the hour of trial and that is also not what it says. One possibility that doesn't rely on either of those scenarios would be that those of the church of Philadelphia are not raptured, but they are kept from it some other way. That still leaves the question then of who is that returning WITH Jesus in Revelation 17:14?

I believe the warnings and promises contained in each letter apply to every believer--that they are both historic and prophetic. It's my opinion that how we respond to Jesus' advice for His church (which is made up of us believers)--whether we trust, serve and obey faithfully out of love (or not)--will determine how we are dealt with. The reason given for sparing those at Philadelphia was that they had already persevered, so there was no need to test (not tempt) them further. I can't honestly say that seems to apply to the majority of professing believers in this current time, including myself--although for His sake I wish it were so. (2Thess. 1:4-12) Some people say that the church at Philadelphia is prophetically represented by our time period and the one after we are raptured is Laodecia. Regardless, I'm glad that it will go according to God's perfect plan no matter what, whether we understand it or not. He is full of grace and His ways are far above our ways. (Jam. 4:1-6, Is. 55:9)

If I am correct, then the five foolish virgins who came back with their oil too late will go through some tribulation (not God's wrath/Day of the Lord, but the "hour of trial"), and will be among the elect gathered by the angels when Jesus returns with the "clouds of heaven" (also called armies, angels, called, chosen and faithful, holy ones - Matt. 24:31, Matt. 3:12, Rev. 14:14-20) IF they persevere and do not worship the beast or take the mark (assuming they survive that long, otherwise they will go to be with Jesus sooner. Rev. 6:9-11) Some have said that this is not possible for various reasons. One reason they give is that it's like Christ "beating up" His Bride. That is absurd, since trials are opportunities to be proven genuinely faithful throughout the entire age. Jesus hasn't "beat up" anyone, ever, no matter what they suffered, whether due to their own fault or for His sake.

Another reason people give that the entire church has to be raptured before any tribulation is that the Body of Christ cannot be divided, even for a limited time. I have two thoughts on that. One is that Eve (the bride of the first Adam, whereas the church is the bride of the "last Adam") was made from just one of his ribs. Did you know that there are seven pairs of "true" ribs, whereas there are seven churches in Revelation and one was promised to be kept from the hour of trial? Interestingly, there are an additional five "false" ribs, for a total of twelve pairs (like the twelve tribes and twelve apostles, which reminds me of the 24 elders surrounding the throne, as ribs surround our heart - Rev. 4:4). This may be irrelevant to the topic, or it may not. The other thought I have is that Jesus said to cut off whatever part of your body causes you to sin. (Matt. 18:8-9) Cutting off in this instance would be spiritually, for the good of the body, to protect it from defilement, but with the end result of purification and restoration. (Is. 48:10-11, 2Cor. 2:6-8) As we know, Paul speaks on behalf of Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, when he gives us these warnings. (2Tim. 3:16)
What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness? 1 Corinthians 4:21 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 1 Corinthians 5:3-6 (Also Matt. 18:20)
For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. 10  For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down. 11  Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:9-11  
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4  that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5  not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6  that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7  For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8  Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8
Jesus said salt that loses its saltiness (and that is us) is no good except to be thrown out and trampled, whereas He told John that the outer court will be trampled for 42 months. Matt 5:13, Mark 9:49-50, Luke 14:34-35, Rev. 11:1-2) I believe these passages go together and both refer to the tribulation--I think that the foolish virgins' lamps went out when they were trimmed because there was so much trimming that needed to be done from living like the world, and so little oil left in the lamp from failing to treasure God and His word while waiting for His return. Maybe they "fell asleep" by getting so engrossed with the world that they scarcely remembered He would be returning at all. I think they are like the church in Ephesus who lost their first love. (Rev. 2:4-5) Let me tell you, that is the message that "woke me up." A few years back, I kept having that verse pop into my head (by the grace of God) and I made a list of the things I used to do when I was first saved and started doing them again. I "put oil in my lamp" by reading the Bible (the oil represents the Holy Spirit or faith, which comes by hearing the word - Rom. 10:17 - we are told not to quench or grieve Him - 1Thess. 5:9, Eph. 4:30), praying selflessly and more often (1Thess. 5:16-18), worshiping and praising God for who He is and what He's done, without always asking for something, and doing other things that vary from one person to another, such as refraining from gossiping or grumbling. (Philip. 2:12-16, 2Cor. 12:20-22)

I also "trimmed the wick" by getting rid of much of the secular media in my home, refraining from blending in with the world as much as I had been (Jam. 4:4, 1John 2:15), and other things that again vary from one person to another. It was really like going from night to day, but this did not happen overnight--it took time to change my ways, but I found the more I sought God, the more I wanted to seek Him. There is no "formula" that applies to every person, and it can't be done in an instant (thus the foolish virgins who were not able to prepare in time?) This is NOT meant to suggest that I am "ready to go" and everyone else isn't. My message is for us ALL to care enough about this to prioritize Jesus in our lives. Notice that Jesus doesn't say He never knew them as he does in Matthew 7:23, but that he doesn't know them. Their mistake is not rejecting Jesus or being false believers who never even had any oil in their lamps--their mistake is failing to maintain their lamps properly. We are not told what happens to them, but I'm sure there will be tears. (Matt. 25:11-12, Heb. 12:14-17, Luke 12:35, 1Cor. 4:20-21)
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money." Matthew 6:19-24
The Bible tells us over and over again to stay awake! (Luke 21:36) That is not working for salvation, that is obeying our Lord and Savior. If He's not already that to us, then no amount of "staying awake" will help us because we're DEAD. (Matt. 8:22, Eph. 2:1-7) I think that perhaps once that door is closed (after the "church at Philadelphia" has gone in?), the only way to get in is to buy gold refined by FIRE from Jesus (or similar metaphors for enduring through the tribulation). (Rev. 3:18) We all need to be CLOTHED, unlike the man in the Garden of Gethsemane who fled away naked at the first sign of persecution. (Mark 14:51-52, Rev. 19:7-8)
(“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”) Revelation 16:15
I'm not saying this to scare anyone or that I'm even sure that anyone in the church will experience the hour of trial, but I think the reasons given above should be enough for us to look into it more instead of assuming or taking the word of others about it. I know that some people say that certain passages or even entire books of the Bible are directed at different entities than the church, but I notice that they are inconsistent in applying their theories, and even among themselves, they don't agree with each other. I understand about different audiences in various scenes, but I abhor the idea of dissecting the Bible into pieces to apply to this group or that group (or for people to keep the parts they like and discard the rest). In any event, whatever is going to happen will, and it's the right, best thing, because God is perfect.

What I'm saying is PLEASE read the Bible and see what Jesus expects of a faithful servant and DO it. Don't look around you and question what God said and whether or not He is serious because no one else seems to care. Trust God (and His true word), not men. (Luke 11:28, Acts 5:29, Is. 29:15-16, Is. 47:10, Jer. 23:17, Psalm 37, Psalm 73, Mal. 2:17, Zeph. 1:12, 1Cor. 15:33, Eph. 5:6-12, Gal. 6:7-9, 2Tim. 2:19-22, Jam. 1:14-16, 2Pet. 2:18-20) We are His temple if we are born again and NO ONE will enter the kingdom unless they ARE born again. (John 3:3-8) He feels the same about His good name and holiness now as He did His temple was a physical structure and it was defiled. (Ezek. 9:4-6, 1Cor. 3:16-17, 1Cor. 6:19-20, John 2:13-17, Matt. 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-17, Luke 19:45, Heb. 3:5-6, 1Pet. 4:17-18) He is holy and He never changes. (1Pet. 1:14-19, Heb. 13:8)

Let's be ready and waiting, happy to see Him when He comes--not painfully embarrassed by what we've been up to or possibly left behind to be "refined by fire." (Matt. 24:42-44, Matt. 25:10, Matt. 26:41, Mark 13:35-37, Luke 12:35-40, Luke 12:47, Rom. 13:11-14, 1Cor. 15:34, 1Thess. 5:6, Eph. 5:15-20, Rev. 3:3, Rev. 3:18, Is. 48:10-11) It's not too late! Every sin is forgivable, and He's worth any sacrifice. If anyone has doubts about this, please read my article entitled "Beautiful". It's not really possible to love someone we don't truly know, or appreciate something someone did for us that we are mostly unaware of, is it?
And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. 1 John 2:28-29
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 1 Peter 4:1-5 
The description of the future events in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 definitely matches that in Revelation 12-13. In fact, some translations say "rebellion" and some say "apostacy" (falling away from the truth). While the spirit of apostacy/antichrist has been around since Paul and John wrote those words (2 Thess. 2:7, 1 John 4:1-3), the rebellion in heaven when Satan is finally cast out and no longer can accuse us day and night is a one-time event. (Rev. 12:10) It is no coincidence that the abomination that makes desolation occurs very shortly thereafter. (Rev. 12:12, Rev. 13:1-4, Rev. 13:11-14, Dan. 7:25) The passage about the King of Tyre where Satan is cast out is partially prophetic, in my opinion. (Is. 14:12-15) Satan was already "fallen"/evil when he tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden, but he was still allowed in heaven during the time of Job. (Job 1:6-12) (Remember, God is patient. A thousand years are as a day to Him. Ps. 90:4, 2Pet. 3:8-9)

Also, there were NO nations to deceive yet when Eve sinned, and no one has physically seen Satan and stared at his disgrace due to being punished by God. (Is. 14:16-17) He has deceived the nations throughout history and he will do so even more so after he is cast out until the beginning of Christ's millennial reign. Furthermore, Satan was present in the fore-enactment by Joshua, the high priest, of Jesus appearing before the Father after He paid for our sins as our High Priest. It is no coincidence that Jesus in Hebrew is Yeshua, which means the same and is virtually the same name as Joshua--"Salvation is (or is from) Yah (God)". (Please read all of Zechariah 3.) I actually wonder if that is why Mary didn't recognize Him until He said her name--because He was filthy from our sins that were laid on Him before He ascended to the Father? Just a thought. (John 20:14-17, 2Cor. 5:21) 

Finally (on the topic of Satan), the angels referred to in Jude 1:6 who are bound are the same ones in Genesis 6:4. They left their appointed place and mated with human women, producing giants. This does not refer to Satan himself. The Book of Enoch, also referred to in Jude 1:14-16, explains that the spirits of those children (whose bodies died) are what we know as demons and familiar or unclean spirits - they are what drives people to the most evil of behavior and they are the ones people think are "ghosts" (whether familiar to them or not--it's NOT anyone's loved one - they know things because they've been around since before the flood!) (Matt. 4:24, Matt. 8:16, Matt. 8:28, Matt. 9:32, Matt. 10:1, 8, Matt. 12:22, Matt. 12:43-45, Matt. 15:22, Matt. 17:18, Mark 1:32-34, Mark 7:25-30, Mark 16:9, Luke 4:33-37, Luke 4:41, Luke 8:26-39, Luke 9:1-2, Luke 9:42, Luke 10:17, Luke 11:14, Luke 13:32 - I believe this last verse could be a reference to this current age being two one-thousand year "days," - I'll write more on that another time). The demons knew who Jesus was and feared Him during His ministry on earth. They didn't want to be punished before the appointed time. We don't need to fear them, but we shouldn't deny their existence either. (Rom. 8:38-39, 1Cor. 10:19-22, 1Tim. 4:1-3, Jam. 2:19, Jam. 3:15, Rev. 9:20-21, Rev. 18:2)
They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2  And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3  He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4  for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5  Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 6  And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7  And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8  For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9  And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10  And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11  Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12  and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13  So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea. 14  The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15  And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16  And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17  And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 18  As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19  And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20  And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. Mark 5:1-20
I agree with those who say that the rapture described in 1Thess. 4:16-18 and 1Cor. 15:51-51 is pictured in Rev. 4:1-2 but it appears to me that we are not understanding the chronology perfectly. It looks to me like some scenes are being retold from different perspectives (but you need to do your own study and decide for yourself, with the help of the Holy Spirit). We have been told about one event happening after the tribulation and before the Day of the Lord/God's wrath: the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. This would seem to say that the tribulation and Day of the Lord are not the same thing--that perhaps the tribulation up until that point is not the wrath of God.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." Matthew 24:29-31
"And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls." Joel 2:30-32 (Also see Zech. 14:5) 
So I'm saying I don't know for sure, but in any case it would be best if we would all strengthen our faith (Luke 8:15, Rom. 10:17, 1Cor. 15:1-2, Heb. 4:14, Heb. 6:18, Heb. 10:23, Rev. 2:5, Rev. 2:25, Rev. 3:2, Rev. 3:11), set ourselves apart from the world (John 17:17-19, 2Cor. 6:16-18) and be prepared to endure whatever need be. (Matt. 5:10-12, 2Tim. 3:12-13, Heb. 10:32-39, 1Pet. 4:12-19, 1Pet. 5:6-11) God is good all of the time and He knows what He's doing. He's worth it - this life is so short and then comes eternity when we will SEE Him. (Some say that it is the hope itself that purifies us in the passage below, but in context, John goes on to say that we must STOP sinning or stop claiming to KNOW Jesus. 1John 3:4-10)
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 1 John 3:2-3
And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24  Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. 1 John 3:23-24 (Also Rom. 13:8-10)
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. Hebrews 12:12-17
Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. Revelation 20:4-6  
It's my hope that we will be in that group, the one that Paul said he hoped to attain to. Paul was not referring to salvation, since he obviously was already saved and NO ONE works for salvation--it is a free gift. (Rom. 3:23-25, Rom. 5:15-17, Rom. 6:23, Eph. 2:8-9, Rev. 21:6, Rev. 22:17) But as we see in the parables, Revelation and throughout the Bible, God is looking for FAITHFUL servants. The New Testament exhorts BELIEVERS to give their ALL for God and to seek the kingdom first, realizing this world is only temporary. (Matt. 6:33, 2Cor. 4:16-18, 1Pet. 1:17, 1Pet. 2:11) Jesus repeatedly told His followers that only those who actually do as He says and put Him FIRST are worthy of Him. (Matt. 10:37-39, Matt. 16:24-27, Mark 8:34-38, Luke 9:62, Luke 14:25-33, Luke 18:28-30)
And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. Luke 20:34-36
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ JesusLet those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of ChristTheir end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Philippians 3:8-21 (Also 1Cor. 9:24-27)
The rest of the dead will not be judged until after Christ's millennial reign. (Rev. 20:5) For those who say there is no such thing because Christ is already ruling spiritually, seated at the right hand of the Father--see Hebrews 2:7, which speaks of how we have yet to see everything in subjection to Jesus. We also see Him using His great power to rule in Revelation 11:16-17. Some say that there is no literal millennial reign because that is a limited time frame of one thousand years, but Christ will reign forever. Jesus' kingdom is given to Him by the Father. (Ps. 2, Luke 19:12) We have a typological example of this in the story of Joseph. Pharaoh put everything under the control of Joseph, but Pharaoh was still Pharaoh. In fact, Pharaoh even gave Joseph a wife (as the church is given to Jesus by the Father - John 6:37, John 6:44) and Joseph was 30 years old when he entered into Pharaoh's service (whereas Jesus was "about 30" when He was baptized and began His ministry - Luke 3:23). (Gen. 41:39-46 - There are a multitude of other correlations to be made with Joseph as well.  I'll write more about that subject another time.)

Solomon's prosperous, peaceful kingdom is also typological of the millennial reign. People came from far away to hear Solomon's wisdom, bringing gifts. Jesus will settle disputes between nations and tribute will be brought to Him. (1Kings 4:21, 1Kings 10:1-13, Matt. 12:42, Is. 2:2-4, Is. 18:7, Is. 60:11-12, Zech. 8:20-23, Micah 4:1-4) After the great tribulation, Jesus will judge the nations and survivors from all of the nations will come from everywhere to worship. (Matt. 25:31-46, Zech. 14:16-19) It is not yet the eternal kingdom, because there is still death even though there is peace, prosperity and long life. (Is. 65:17-25, also see Is. 11:1-10 below.) The last enemy to be destroyed is death, which is thrown in the lake of fire after the millennial reign. (1Cor. 15:26, Rev. 20:14) Earth and sky fly away from God at the great white throne judgment. (Rev. 20:11)
See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:25-29
For thus says the LORD of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the LORD of hosts. The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts.’” Haggai 2:6-9
Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 (Also see Psalm 110.)
And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’ Daniel 7:27 
Don't forget that our God is ONE. The Father is in the Son, the Son is in the Father, they are in us by the Holy Spirit and we are in them (if we are born of God). (Deut. 4:35, Is. 44:6-8, Is. 45:5-6, Is. 45:18-23, Is. 46:8-11, Joel 2:27, John 14:10-11, John 15:4-10, Rom.8:1, Rom.12:4-5, 2 Cor. 1:21-22, 2Cor. 5:17, Gal. 3:25-29, Eph. 1:3-14, Col. 1:28-29)
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." John 14:15-26
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:20-26 
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sinFor we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the endHebrews 3:12-14 
There is a clear difference between the "end of [this] age" when Jesus comes to reign and the "end of the [subsequent] age," after which the second resurrection occurs and all who were not resurrected prior to the millennium will be judged and Jesus will hand the kingdom over to the Father. (1Cor. 15:24-28, Rev. 22:3-4) If we read what it really says, then we understand that Jesus is already reigning on earth at the time that Satan is released from his thousand-year prison sentence and surrounds the holy city with armies, at which time fire comes down from heaven and destroys the armies. This is not the same scene as at the end of the tribulation when Jesus returns with His armies from heaven. One thing to understand is that time was created by God and it will cease to exist during eternity. The very last day will never end, as there will be no more night. (Gen. 1:5, Rev. 22:5)

Here are some passages to help put the events in order:
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Revelation 19:11-16
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a Son of Man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14  And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed." Daniel 7:13-14 
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious. Isaiah 11:1-10
And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh. Revelation 19:20-21
“I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire."  Daniel 7:11
Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their handsThey came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. Revelation 20:4
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. Revelation 20:1-3
As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time." Daniel 7:12
And when the thousand years are endedSatan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Revelation 20:7-10
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:11-15
“As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. 10  A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened." Daniel 7:9-10
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2  through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3  No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4  They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5  And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. Revelation 22:1-5
On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the LORD, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light. On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalemhalf of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. And 
the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one. The whole land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem shall remain aloft on its site from the Gate of Benjamin to the place of the former gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s winepresses. And it shall be inhabited, for there shall never again be a decree of utter destruction. Jerusalem shall dwell in security. Zechariah 14:6-11 
Many of the people who object to the existence of the rapture, great tribulation and millennial reign of Christ in the teachings of the Bible seem to have a view that God has forsaken Israel. There are many unfulfilled promises and they think that all of them will be given to the church. My view on it is that we are GRAFTED IN to Israel, but the "olive tree" hasn't become a wild tree instead of cultivated now. Paul warned us not to boast, because most of them are temporarily blinded or hardened against seeing the truth about Jesus and believing it. He said our branches could be cut off like theirs were and God is perfectly able to graft them back in. The mercy shown to us will result in mercy being shown to them once the fullness of the Gentiles comes in. Please read all of Romans 11. It just couldn't get any clearer.

I have a concern about people who want to say that even though Jesus said there would be the worst period of tribulation ever since the beginning, that ever will be, that there is not going to BE a great tribulation. (Matt. 24:21-22, Mark 13:19-20) My concern is this. Jesus said that whoever takes away from His words of Revelation, He will take away their share of the tree of life and the holy city! (Rev. 22:18-19) I don't think that it applies to people who just don't know, but to people who emphatically teach others. Some people also try to dissuade others from reading Revelation or from investing any time in trying to understand it. I do agree there is such a thing as overdoing it, since we are to love one another on His behalf and there is not time for that if we spend all of our time studying. I think we also need to bear in mind that God did not give every member of His body the same gifts or calling. We are not to judge our brothers and sisters for how they serve the Lord. He will do that. (Matt. 10:41, Rom. 12:3-8, Rom. 14:4, 1Cor. 3:8, 1Cor. 3:14, 2Cor. 10:7, Col. 3:23-24) In addition to the warning, Jesus also gave a blessing for those who hear and keep the words of Revelation. (Rev. 1:3, 22:7) The book is for our WARNING on what to expect and what is expected of us. (Rev. 2, Rev. 3, Rev. 13:10, Rev. 14:9-13, Rev. 22:14) There will be unprecedented deception and He wants His people to be ready for it. (Matt. 24:23-27, 2John 1:7-11)

So getting back to the focus of this message, what will we miss out on if we decide that we value Jesus and His honor and glory more than the temporary pleasures of this world, than being popular, than blending in? What if we abstain from participating in evil and do everything we can to obey and please God, through the power of His Holy Spirit within us, out of love and gratitude for our salvation? Will we at some point look back and say we were cheated, like Lucy waiting in the pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin instead of trick-or-treating for candy in the Peanuts animated special? Absolutely not--not even if the "candy" were gold and precious gems! Whoever puts their hope in the Lord will NEVER be put to shame. (Jer. 17:13, Rom. 10:11) If we want to compare a fictional character to our life, we should be like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz--I want to go HOME! There is no place like home! (Philip. 3:20-21, 1Pet. 2:11) We don't need to find the way. Jesus will come back for us because we are His. (1Thess. 4:16-17, Rom.8:9, 2Cor. 6:17, Eph. 1:13-14, Titus 2:11-15, 1Pet. 2:9)
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:1-7
There is NOTHING this world has to offer that is better than what God has prepared for those who LOVE Him. (1Cor. 2:9) Everything this world has to offer is rubbish compared to the utterly immeasurable value and unimaginable beauty of our great God. (Philip. 3:8) There is NO ONE like Him, nor will there EVER be. Have you looked around lately and noticed all that God made, how amazing His creation is? What a wonderful Designer, and He loves us! WOW! I don't know about you, but I can think of lots of reasons why we are not very lovable. Yet He gave His only begotten Son, who willingly suffered and died on the cross to save us from our deserved punishment, and so that we could be adopted as God's children. That is genuine, proven LOVE. (1John 4:8-10, John 10:18, John 1:12-13, Rom. 8:23, Gal. 4:4-7) Let's love Him back, with our lives, not empty words or half our hearts. 💝 (Matt. 15:8-9)

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