Opinions on faith and life

End-Times Bible Prophecy Summary

2012-04-20

This document is my personal summary of various Bible prophecies I believe are soon to be fulfilled. It covers both Testaments but not in extreme detail, since my goal was to get a sense of the “big picture”; my guiding principle was, “As simple as possible but as detailed as necessary”. I make no claim to expertise or authority but only offer it as a possible valid interpretation.


Old Testament

In Psalm 83 an alliance forms to wipe Israel off the map. The nations involved are listed as Edom and the Ishmaelites, Moab and the Hagrites, Byblos, Ammon and Amalek, Philistia and Tyre, and Assyria “to reinforce Lot’s descendants”. These are roughly equivalent to modern Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. As significant as the included names are, of more significance is the exclusion of Iran and Egypt. With those notable exceptions, this impending war (threatened but not yet waged) is limited to the nations immediately surrounding Israel, and they have been making this very threat practically as long as modern Israel has existed. But if/when it is waged, their defeat could explain their conspicuous absence in later battles.

The same event seems to be described in Isaiah 11:12-16 since (a) the nations listed are very similar, and (b) it is said to be the second time the Lord reclaims his remnant from them, a fact also found in Ezek. 36. In that chapter Israel is to be returned to their ancient homeland and never uprooted again. This is not due to the people repenting or being worthy, but strictly to bring honor to God. Vs. 26-28 are often applied to the church, but the church was never revealed in the OT (ref. 1 Cor. 2:7-8) and the context is clearly about the physical nation of Israel. We have seen their return in unbelief, as expected, so the rest is yet to come.

As for the claims of some that modern Israel cannot be the partial fulfillment of this prophecy because it was established by quite ordinary political means, this is nothing unusual for God. Otherwise we’d have to propose something on the order of waking up one morning to find Israel suddenly and inexplicably in their homeland; if there is another way to identify the rebirth of Israel as miraculous, no one has yet explained it. Regardless of the human motivations, God predicted it and brought it about.

Isaiah 17 focuses on the city of Damascus (capital of modern Syria), thought to be the oldest continuously-inhabited city in the world. Similar prophecies against Damascus are found in Jeremiah 49:23-27 and Amos 1:3-5. While some propose a possible nuclear attack, it should be noted that flocks will graze peacefully there afterwards. Israel wins the battle but pays a high price. Another proof that this is still future is shown by the fact that afterwards people will “turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel”. Many place this battle at the beginning of the Tribulation, but this proof would seem to conflict with that.

Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4 speak of “the day of the Lord” wherein the stars, sun, and moon will be darkened, the earth will be shaken, and the whole world will be punished for its evil. Edom is mentioned again beginning in vs. 9.

Gog and Magog

Ezek. 38-39 is an oracle against “Gog and Magog” to take place “after many days” and “in the latter years”. It concerns Israel after they have been ejected from the land and then restored. Gog is thought to be a political title (such as czar), and Magog the land. This is the modern area of Russia and many of the former USSR republics, informally referred to as “the ’stan”: Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, as well as the Ukraine. “Rosh”, however, is in fact a proper name of a particular location, that is, the name of a land, and its people have been traced to modern Russia (see the “pre-trib articles” link, under Thomas Ice, Ezekiel 38&39, pt. 3 and 4). Meshech and Tubal, as well as Gomer, are modern Turkey (see pt. 5). The rest of the nations include Persia (now Iran), Sudan, Ethiopia, Cush (southern Egypt), and Libya. As for the phrase “extreme parts of the north”, such expressions (and directions) always relate to Israel, such that the extreme northern area would be its northern border. This, again, is modern Turkey. So while Russia is the leader of the coalition, it is not identified by this phrase.

The essence of the prophecy is that God will force the Russian coalition to deviate from its own plans and be led to its death on the mountains of Israel. But unlike most instances where a foreign nation is used by God to punish Israel, this time God intervenes and punishes the invader instead. The purpose is to not only destroy or cripple those nations but also to make them know that the God of Israel is the one true God (and that, in spite of popular opinion, modern Israel really is still the chosen people of God). The invaders will bring everything they’ve got, and thus lose everything they have; God even appears to mock them by telling them, after they are armed to the teeth, to make sure they are prepared for what’s about to happen. The size and strength of the invading forces will leave no doubt as to how they were defeated, since tiny Israel in spite of its capabilities would not be able to do so without divine intervention.

We should note that since these nations and locations are identifiable, this battle is very unlikely to take place after the earth has experienced the shifting and devastation of the judgments of Revelation. Another important factor is that the people of Israel will be “living securely” (ref. also Jer. 49:31). The invaders perceive Israel as being unprepared, vulnerable, living in a false sense of security. This again could not be true during the judgments of Revelation. Yet at the same time, it cannot describe Israel today. Another reason this cannot apply to the end of the judgments of Revelation is that Israel still possesses enough wealth for the coalition to want to plunder them. While this could be true at the end of the Millennium, we must also consider the outcome of the battle in determining the time of this event.

The battle ends with a great earthquake and with fire raining down from the heavens. In contrast, when Jesus sets foot on the earth at the end of the Tribulation (Rev. 19:19-21), he kills the army massed against him with the sword of his mouth, without any earthquake or fire. In Rev. 20:7-8 (end of Millennium), though Gog and Magog are named again and fire comes down, their armies are drawn from all over the world as opposed to a specific group around Israel led by Gog/Magog, and again no earthquake is mentioned (Gog/Magog could simply mean “ruler and people”, “great and small”). And the result of all this is that the whole world knows that God is the Lord-- which, if it happened at the end of the millennium, would seem superfluous. Even at the sixth Seal the people of the world know that the judgments are from God.

Note also (ch. 39) that the people of Israel will use the invaders’ weapons for fuel for seven years; this would hardly be needed at the beginning of the Millennium and certainly not at the end. Likewise, the burying of the bodies for seven months would not be a post-Millennium activity, or even a mid-tribulation activity; we know that for the second half of the Tribulation, the believing Jews will have fled to “a place in the desert” for 3-1/2 years (Mark 13:14, Rev. 12) and so will not be in Jerusalem to bury bodies. Thus this battle seems to take place at least seven years before the midpoint of the Tribulation. It’s possible that this event marks the first or second Seal judgment, meaning the Seals would transpire before the Tribulation.

Seventy ’Sevens’

Dan. 9:24-27 is arguably the most familiar Old Testament prophecy of end times. Its seventy ’sevens’ is known to refer to “weeks of years” because the first 69 of those ’sevens’ were fulfilled ending at the time of Christ, and the interval was 69x7 or 483 years. The next event was to be the destruction of the city and sanctuary (Jerusalem and the Temple), which was the first thing Jesus said after the disciples asked him about the end times (Mt. 24). This happened about 37 years after he returned to heaven, as the armies under Titus literally disassembled the Temple block by block. Then would come an unspecified duration wherein there were to be “war and desolations” decreed “until the end”.

It is only after all of that when “he”, whose nearest antecedent is not the Messiah but “the coming prince”, will confirm a seven-year (not eternal) covenant “with many”. This is clearly the 70th ’seven’ of the prophecy, and since Revelation takes us to the end of all prophecies (which is what the angel specified for this one as well), they refer to the same period of time. We are told that in the middle of that seven-year covenant is when “he” puts an end to “sacrifice and offering” and desecrates the temple (“abomination of desolation”, also mentioned in Dan. 11:31 and 12:11 and referenced by Jesus in Mat. 24), which of course requires another temple to be built since it was completely destroyed in 70AD. So this prophecy gives us the half-way point of the ’seven’ and thus also the halfway point of the judgments of Revelation. Therefore the 70th week must begin when the seven-year covenant is confirmed.

New Testament

Now to the New Testament, beginning with Mat. 24. This discourse was spoken to Jews, before the cross, before the letters of Paul revealed the church as the “mystery” or “secret”. It was the answer to the disciples’ questions about the sign of his coming and the end of the age. The points below (other than the first and last) parallel the Seals: Jesus seems to skip over the Trumpets and go next to the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th Week, adding some detail: Then Jesus finishes the sequence with what happens at the end of the Tribulation: In typical Hebrew custom, now Jesus goes back to the beginning: Mat. 25 begins with the famous parable of the Ten Virgins, often cited as applicable to Christians. Yet it comes after the judgments of the Tribulation (“at that time”), not before. And clearly the church is always portrayed as the Bride of Christ, not any of the attendants or guests; she would hardly be waiting outside the banquet hall! Instead she is already there, waiting for her Groom, who arrives unannounced. So the virgins cannot refer to the church but to survivors of the Tribulation. They probably refer to Jews then, since only the Jews are left waiting for their Messiah by that time. Some will have been prepared and some will not, only realizing too late that he would return to them. This is why Jesus had warned his listeners to “watch” in the previous chapter.

A similar situation exists for the “sheep and goat” judgment in that same chapter. It is clearly at the time he returns to earth to establish the Millennial Kingdom, sitting in judgment of the survivors of the Tribulation. These people are to be judged according to how they treated “the least of these”, his “brothers and sisters”. Since some of the group being judged are deemed righteous, they cannot be “the least of these”. So who are these “least”? By process of elimination we can probably presume they are Jews, while the ones being judged are Gentiles. The ones who treated the Jews kindly will be granted continued life in the Kingdom, while the others will be sent away “to eternal punishment”. This is all separate from the judgment of the dead, which will not happen until the end of the Millennium, and also from the judgment of the church, which has been in heaven all this time (and if not, would certainly be in the “least of these” group rather than the ones being judged).

Parallel passages to Mat. 24/25 are Mark 13 and Luke 12/17/21. Now consider the remaining New Testament prophecy references outside of Revelation:

In John 11:26 Jesus says that “whoever lives and believes in me will never die”, which is stated right after “whoever believes but dies will live” in vs. 25. Jesus is stating very clearly that some will be taken to heaven without dying, as we will see repeated in the writings of Paul. While this certainly applies to the Rapture, it also applies to Enoch and Elijah, and possibly also to certain situations in Revelation.

In John 14:2-3, 28 at the Last Supper, Jesus uses terminology familiar to the Jews of his day regarding their wedding traditions. Once the couple were engaged, the man would go to his father’s house to build on a new room for the two of them. He could only go back for his bride when his father approved the room as completed. Meanwhile, the bride had to always be prepared, eager to see her groom and ready to depart at any time of day or night. Often the groom would come at midnight, accompanied by his friends who blew trumpets and shouted so the bride could have a moment for final preparations. After they all returned to the father’s house, a seven-day feast would begin.

This seems to be what Jesus alluded to when he told his disciples “I go to prepare a place for you”, a clear prophetic promise. He has been preparing the bridal chamber and will return with shouts and trumpets when his Father says it is time. We, the Bride of Christ, are to be always eager and prepared to listen for that shout and trumpet blast. But if this interpretation does indeed apply, it is another indication that we will be with Jesus for seven years in the room He prepared for us, not on earth enduring God’s wrath. Other passages of scripture support this concept of being protected or hidden during a time of God’s wrath: Isaiah 26:20 (“Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by”), 1 Thes. 5:9 (“For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ”), and Rev. 3:10 (“Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth”). For Christ to skip the feast week and make his bride endure his father’s wrath would be unthinkable.

After Jesus rose from the dead, he met with his disciples who asked again whether now was the time he’d be restoring the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1). He dismissed the question as something they did not need to know, then told them that they should wait for the Holy Spirit and then begin spreading the gospel everywhere. Then he was taken away to heaven via a cloud, after which an angel appeared and assured them that Jesus would return the same way he left. We cannot say whether this applies only to the Rapture or the Second Coming, since both events describe Jesus coming with the clouds. But it is Jesus they were to wait for, not signs or antichrists. Though the Spirit had not yet come and the full “mystery” of the church had not yet been revealed, this was after the cross and resurrection.

The Church

When it concerns the church specifically, we do well to pay special attention to the writings of the apostle Paul, to whom the “mystery” was revealed directly by Jesus (Rom. 11:25, 16:25, 1 Cor. 2:7).

In 1 Cor. 15:51-52 Paul expands on Jesus’ statement that some will never die. Three things are listed: a trumpet blast, the dead are raised, and we (who are still alive) will be instantly changed from mortal to immortal. Though many presume that “the last trumpet” must refer to the trumpet judgments of Revelation, remember that the Revelation had not yet been given so the Corinthians would not know what Paul was talking about. Others presume it refers to the Jewish Feast of Trumpets and thus see this as an indication of the time of year for our departure. But as with the Israelites wandering to the Promised Land, a series of trumpet blasts can also signifiy “get ready” and then “now go”. It can also be seen as a kind of “quitting time” announcement for the church, or the way someone might yell “all aboard!” when a ship or train is ready to depart.

In 1 Thes. 1:10 Paul tells us to wait for Jesus, “who rescues us from the coming wrath”. The Greek word literally means “to pull through”, but it is combined with “out of” and so cannot mean “to keep safe within”. That is, we are not to experience or endure the wrath of God, but will be pulled out of it completely. It would be fallacious to make survival mean the same as rescue.

Later in that same letter (4:13-5:11) Paul gives a more detailed account of what he wrote to the Corinthians. The Lord Himself will come down, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, with the trumpet call of God (does not say “last” here). The dead are not raised at the 7th trumpet of Revelation, nor is it the end of the Tribulation when final judgment of souls is made. The Feast of Trumpets is closely tied to final judgment and atonement rather than rescue, and trumpets were blown on many other occasions as well.

In 2 Thes. 2:1-12 Paul is writing to quash a rumor that “the Day of the Lord” had already begun. The fact that the people were alarmed shows that they had been taught by Paul earlier that they would be rescued out of this Day. Certainly suffering was familiar to all the believers at that time, making it very unlikely that they were simply afraid of suffering or martyrdom. Rather, they were afraid of the terrible suffering that had never been and would never be again (see Mt. 24): the Wrath of God. Paul warns them against allowing themselves to be deceived about this, and proceeds to remind them of what they should have known.

He first mentions “the Departure”, which is often rendered “the apostasy/rebellion”. The Greek word only means “to depart, to stand away from”; we must get from the context the missing information about what is being departed from. While no one would deny that the scriptures warn of a time of “falling away” from the faith, that is not the subject here; it is clearly about “the Day of the Lord”, the Wrath of God, and the timing of events. So what “departure” is Paul talking about? It is something unique and specific because of the definite article (“the”), not a general “falling away”. Though he doesn’t spell it out here (he had already told them this), it seems reasonable to conclude that it means what we now call The Rapture. So the Rapture is the first thing that happens, and since it has not, then the Day of the Lord cannot have begun.

After The Departure is the revealing of “the lawless one doomed to ruin” (or possibly, “the lawless one, Apollo” or “the lawless one, the Destroyer”). But something has to be clarified here: we must be careful not to confuse the Rapture with the Day of the Lord. Paul is explaining what happens before that Day, which consists of two things: the Departure and the revealing of the Lawless One. Many who think the Day of the Lord is the Rapture claim that the Lawless One has to be revealed first. Paul also adds detail to how exactly this person will desecrate the temple: “he will declare himself God”. So those who wrongly interpret this passage and confuse two different events believe that the Rapture only happens at the midpoint of the Tribulation.

Then Paul adds another undefined factor: the Lawless One cannot be revealed until “the Detainer” comes and separates him from among them. Greek pronouns must match the grammatical gender of the nouns, so we can use this information to try and find out what/who “detains”. The “detainer” of vs. 6 is neuter while the one in vs. 7 is masculine. The first could be stated as “you know what’s holding him back”, and the second as “the Detainer is separated from among [them]”. Greek uses neuter for the Holy Spirit, so the first one also being neuter could possibly refer to the Holy Spirit. But the second being masculine matches neither the Holy Spirit nor the church (feminine). The nearest masculine entity is the Lawless One, yet before and after this he (the Lawless One) is the one being detained. So we can only speculate as to the identity of the second Detainer. Regardless, the strongest statement in favor of a pre-tribulational Rapture is not this Detainer but The Departure which preceeds it.

Revelation

Finally we come to the book of Revelation. For convenience, I will abbreviate the “tribulation” or “oppression” as TRIB (period of seven years aka Daniel’s 70th week), the Great Tribulation/Oppression as G-TRIB (the last half of the 70th week), and the Testaments as OT and NT. I will use the word “church” because it’s short and familiar, albeit far from ideal (I prefer The Body of Christ, or The Congregation).

In the chapters leading up to the seals, we are introduced to various entities. One group, called the 24 elders, wears crowns and white clothing (4:4). They also hold censers of prayers, and most importantly, they say to the Lamb, “You bought us1 for God by means of your blood” (5:9). No angels or other entities but Israel and the church could say this, and the fact that they number 24 strongly suggests that they represent both groups (or more specifically, the twelve tribes and the twelve apostles, who will also be represented in the foundation and walls of the New Jerusalem). Now to the seals themselves.

Rev. 6:1-2 - “bow” (toxon, τοξον) is a means of shooting arrows, not any kind of ornamental ribbon or even a halo. The Septuagint does not render this word as anything but a weapon of war (see Zechariah 9), except for the rainbow after the Flood. Note also that this bow is held in the rider’s hand, not worn like a sash. Similarly, the crown (stephanos, στεφανος) on the rider’s head is not the diadem of royalty but the wreath of the winner of a contest. The white color of the horse often represents purity throughout Revelation, but it also symbolized indifference or peace to the Greeks of the time. Considering all of this as well as the fact that it is the Lamb opening the seals, rather than riding the horse, it seems clear that this seal’s horse and rider do not represent Christ and the church, which was never told to conquer the world but only to evangelize it. Otherwise we’d have to say that the church has been without power or weapons.

Rev. 6:3-4 - The “fiery” (purros, πυρρος) horse, if red, symbolized death to the Greeks; if literally made of fire, it would symbolize that which consumes and destroys. From the statements there about the large sword and people slaughtering each other, it seems clear that this seal denotes all-out war. The fact that this follows immediately after the white horse lends further weight to the interpretation that this has nothing to do with Christ or the church, such that we can interpret the white horse and rider as denoting a conquest that is not open war, such as political intrigue, espionage, and organized crime. Also note that these horses and riders are the ones executing the judgments, not suffering them; thus they cannot represent the suffering of Christ or the church.

Rev. 6:5-6 - The black horse can symbolize mourning, but given the statement about scarcity of necessities it more likely represents economic disaster. If the first horse represented a weakening of society, and the second the open destruction of infrastructure, this interpretation of economic ruin seems to follow logically.

Rev. 6:7-8 - The fourth horse is literally green (chloros, χλωρος), and in ancient Greece it symbolized fear. But it is ridden by Death and Hades, again the natural results of the preceeding seals. Note that these are given power to kill one fourth (not one third as in a later judgment) of the world’s population by not only war but also its typical aftermath.

Rev. 6:9-11 - Of the many deaths that have occured by this point, some of course are due to the general disasters but others are due to having been executed for their testimony about the Word of God. The fifth seal shows the martyrs under or at the base of the altar, probably to symbolize that they were a special kind of sacrifice or offering, since their blood was literally poured out to God. Notice that they ask God to avenge their blood, and that the people who killed them are still alive on the earth. These are recent victims, since the murderers still living would not be liable for all the martyrs of history. Also note that they are told to wait patiently for more to be martyred, indicating that this point in the judgments cannot be the end. Later we will be told of others who are martyred specifically by beheading.

Rev. 6:12-14 - Now the judgments turn against the earth itself, and they are familiar statements from other parts of scripture. An earthquake is mentioned when Israel approached the mountain to meet with God during the Exodus, there was an earthquake when Jesus rose from the dead, there was another one when Paul and Silas were freed from prison, and more will be seen in other judgments in Revelation. So connecting this particular earthquake with other prophecies or events must be done with extreme caution, and probably not given any more meaning than that it is commonly associated with prophetic fulfillment. Jesus even said in Mt. 24 that earthquakes are included in the general category of “the beginning of birth pangs” when “the end is still to come”.

A similar word of caution is in order for the other phenomena here: black sun, blood moon, falling stars, and the sky being rolled up like a scroll. Yet, again in Mt. 24, Jesus mentioned these four kinds of disasters as being “after the distress of those days”, followed by “the sign of the Son of Man in heaven” which causes everyone on earth to mourn. If you read through all of Mt. 24 you will see that Jesus goes from birth pangs to “the abomination of desolation” to these signs to gathering “the elect from the four winds”. (And note there that the “elect” are not gathered from the earth but from “the heavens”.) Since the seals begin rather than end the judgments, we might conclude that similar signs at both ends serve as “bookends”.

The Huge Crowd

Does the sudden appearance in heaven of the huge crowd (7:9) indicate that they just arrived in heaven, meaning they were just “raptured”? We can note that in these seal judgments nothing is said about Jerusalem or Israel, and this group is identified as non-Jewish. Yet we must remember that the church is composed of both Jew and Gentile; in fact, such distinctions are not even made in the church (Gal. 3:28). We must also note that though the four horses and riders also “suddenly” appeared, no one thinks that they had just arrived; likewise for other entities to come. So we cannot say when this huge crowd arrived in heaven, and we cannot identify them as the church but only as non-Jewish believers (Jewish Christians would also have been raptured but are not included in this group). We can also connect them to the statements of Paul (Rom. 11:25) and James (Acts 15:14) about “the full number of Gentiles” who were to “come in” before God would “return and rebuild David’s fallen tent”.

In addition, these people were in a process of coming out of the “great oppression”; the Greek word rendered “coming” (erchomenoi, ερχομενοι) is a present participle.2 Though there are many contextual considerations to make in determining the temporal meaning,3 a strong case can be made for the continuing sense of the word. That is, the group was still being added to, not already completed, as also was the case for the martyred souls under the altar. All these things considered, then, there seems to be no firm or undeniable argument that the Rapture must happen at the sixth seal. On the other hand, we also cannot say with certainty that the Rapture happened before the sixth seal since it is only at that point when “the wrath of God” is acknowledged (6:15-17), and it is that wrath which the church is not to go through (1 Thes. 1:10, 5:9).

Consider also the following logical argument:

  1. The church does not go through the Great Tribulation, as even mid-tribbers agree.
  2. The crowd is described by the angel as “those coming out of the Great Tribulation” (Rev. 7:13-14). As stated above, “coming” is a present participle; it doesn’t necessarily indicate time but emphasizes the origin of something/someone. But regardless of present or future, the point is that they come out of the Great Tribulation.
  3. The Great Tribulation is held by all but post-tribbers as certainly NOT any of the seal judgments, yet the 6th (not the 7th) is when the crowd is shown.
  4. We are forced to conclude from this that the crowd cannot be the church.
Therefore, it seems likely that the sixth seal is the outside limit for the Rapture, in which case all the remaining judgments happen afterwards.4 As for the inside limit wherein the Rapture precedes the first seal, there is no reason why it can’t, even if the wrath of God doesn’t technically begin until the sixth seal. Also, it can be argued that it is not just the sixth that beings the wrath, but all the seals as a group, especially since they are direct judgments from God. And if it is asserted that Jesus’ 3-1/2 year ministry comprised the first half of Daniel’s 70th week, the seals did not happen at all during that time so they would have to be part of the second half. That is, all three sets of 7 judgments would have to be crammed into the space of 3-1/2 years, which seems practically impossible considering all that must take place, and especially considering that not all the end-time prophecies are contained in Daniel and Revelation alone.

So exactly who are these people that “suddenly” appear “after these things”? From the grammatical, contextual, and logical clues we’ve studied, they are apparently not martyrs, are all Gentiles, and at the time of the seals are not a closed or completed group. One noted characteristic of all three sets of judgments (as well as the OT) is the separation of Jew and Gentile, such that this Gentile-only group would fit the post-church era. So it seems to me that the only conclusion left to draw is that they are being “raptured” during the judgments. This is no way impacts the pre-trib Rapture of the church, which as we’ve seen is not differentiated by Jew and Gentile. And since there have been other “rapture” instances before the existence of the church (Enoch and Elijah, and note that they are individuals rather than groups), there is no reason to insist that this cannot happen afterwards. Given that the crowd appears after a massive global earthquake, perhaps they were taken out at that time. Yet again, the group was not completed then.

Now we should note that they are said to come out of the G-TRIB specifically, meaning the second half by nearly unanimous agreement, in spite of the fact that they appear during the sixth seal. Yet it is only after this that the 144,000 Jews are sealed (presumably to be protected from judgments to come), and they appear on Mt. Zion with the Lamb in ch. 14 just before the bowl judgments which almost everyone agrees are at least part of the G-TRIB. But surely the nearly seven-chapter gap between the sealing of the 144,000 and the beginning of the bowl judgments is significant.

At this point we face a chronological dilemma: there is a clear sense of sequence (first, second, after this, etc.), yet the points at which various things occur or entities appear seems conflicting. Even if we cram all three sets of judgments into the final 3-1/2 years, which would be required to put the huge crowd in both the seal judgments and the G-TRIB, we still have to account for such things as the 3-1/2 year ministry of the “two witnesses” (ch. 11) that ends at the sixth trumpet--- which precedes the bowls! Now we would have to push the bowls out past the G-TRIB, which few would agree to since it is the one thing almost everyone says defines that time. So not even putting all the judgments in the G-TRIB solves the problem. In addition, there is no need for these witnesses while the Body of Christ is in the world, since that is our mission for this era (Acts 1:8). This means that the two witnesses will not appear till we’re gone, and thus the only way to solve the problem is to assume a gap between the Rapture and the Tribulation. Yet if this is so--- and it must be if the witnesses finish before the bowl judgments begin--- then we’re conflicting with the “sixth seal Rapture” theory.

Conclusion

In over four decades of studying end-times Bible prophecy, I have yet to find an interpretation that does not suffer some major flaw at one point or another, or does not depend heavily on one unsupported presumption or another. But rather than take the lazy or cowardly approach and either write it all off as allegory5 or as unimportant6, all views need to step back and consider the possibility that we’re trying to solve a 3D problem with a 2D formula.7 While Revelation itself does not specify a limit to any set of judgments’ total duration, its finality forces us to tie up all as-yet unfulfilled prophecy in it, including and especially the Seventy Weeks prophecy of Daniel.


Footnotes

  1. m.biblestudytools.com– Manuscript study strongly indicates that the elders include themselves in the company of the redeemed. But the four creatures are also singing this song, and it is likely they who refer to the redeemed as “them” in response to the song of the redeemed elders.
  2. Present passive participle, being used to modify “the ones/they” and thus under the “nominative absolute” category; ref. “those conquering” (nikOn, νικων) in Rev. 3:21. It is therefore not “temporal”, that is, it does not indicate time but instead simply identifies the group’s origination. It would be as much within the bounds of sound translation principle to render the phrase, “These are the ones who will be coming out of the Great Oppression” as that they “have come” out of it. Regarding a similar issue in Rev. 3:10 (“I will guard you out of the hour of trial that is about to come upon the whole inhabited world”), the difference is the present participle; both speak of being “out” (ek, εκ) of something, but only this instance indicates a continuing process. Probably the most precise rendering would be, “These are the ones that come out of the Great Oppression”.
  3. Learn NT Greek – excellent resource for Greek grammar
  4. Theories claiming that the seals happened over the course of church history are too much of a stretch to even consider, being on a par with theories that the millenium has already commenced and Satan is already bound.
  5. Many err in interpreting an interpretation; they take even explicit answers to what various images mean as another allegory in an endless regression. For example, if the angel tells John that a horn represents a king, we cannot then make “king” into yet another allegory for something else.
  6. See Rev. 1:3, 1 Thes. 5:4
  7. After all, when evolutionists are confronted by fatal flaws in their ever-evolving theory, they never consider that the theory itself is invalidated but only that they need to keep looking for a solution. So unbelievers cannot cite these problems in prophetic theory as justification for abandoning it all.

General Sources

Simplified Chart

End-Times Chart, A simplified timeline for “last days” Bible prophecy