"Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."
The Bible describes four future judgments:
Click here for a chart on these judgments.
We will discuss all four judgments in this study. In this section, we will take a look at the "Judgment Seat of Christ." Jesus spoke of this judgment in the following passage:
Luke 21:34-36 - "But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."
After the rapture, the Church will stand before Jesus at the "Bema," the Greek word for "judgment seat." In the ancient Olympics, judges awarded ivy crowns, called stephanos, to the winners of the various events at the "Bema." They still do this at the Olympics and other athletic events today, using medals instead of crowns. Similarly, the Church will receive rewards for good works:
1 Corinthians 4:5 - Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God.
2 Corinthians 5:10 - For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
At the "Bema" our works will go through a refining fire:
1 Peter 1:6-9 - In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith - the salvation of your souls.
1 Corinthians 3:10-15 - According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
We will receive crowns for our good works, as shown in the passages below. In the passage above, we see that Christ has laid the foundation for our crowns. Our good works that survive the fire will be our rewards that adorn our crowns with "gold, silver" and "precious stones." The following verses describe the specific works that get rewarded with a crown:
James 1:12 - Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
Revelation 2:10 - Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
1 Corinthians 9:24-25 - Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.
1 Thessalonians 2:17-20 - But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire. Therefore we wanted to come to you - even I, Paul, time and again-but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.
Philippians 4:1 - Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.
1 Peter 5:2-4 - Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
2 Timothy 4:8 - Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
The works that are left from the refining fire at the "bema" will become our wedding garments and awards:
Revelation 19:7-9 - "Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready." And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!'"
On a side note, I wonder if the idea of purgatory, where people have to suffer in a hell-like place to become worthy to go to Heaven came out of these passages that teach about the refining fire. But the scriptures teach that this refining fire is for purifying, not suffering. The Church will have incorruptible bodies when they stand before the Lord in this judgment (1 Corinthians 15:51-53), so this is not a second chance to become "spiritually ready." It is our works, good and bad, that Christ judges in the fire (2 Corinthians 5:10). Besides, the scriptures show that we would already be counted worthy to even be eligible to appear before Christ at this judgment (Luke 21:34-36).
Elders are spiritual leaders and teachers for both Israel and the Church. They also are representatives for the group at large:
Numbers 11:16-17 - So the LORD said to Moses: "Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you. Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone."
1 Peter 5:1-4 - The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
As shown in Revelation 4, the twenty-four elders around the throne of God best represent the Church. Note the following parallels in the summary below:
If the elders around God's throne represent the Church, they will be called to Heaven before God releases any of the judgments in Revelation on Earth. This is further evidence that the rapture has to occur before the "dispensation of judgment" begins.
As shown in our discussion on dispensations, God's focus shifted to the Church after Israel rejected Christ. At some point in the future, God will again shift His focus back to Israel:
Romans 9:25-26 - As He says also in Hosea: "I will call them My people, who were not My people, and her beloved, who was not beloved." " And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people,' There they shall be called sons of the living God."
When God turns back to Israel, it will be during a period of judgment, which is the Tribulation. Jeremiah refers to this period as the "time of Jacob's trouble":
Jeremiah 30:7, 10-11 - Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.... 'Therefore do not fear, O My servant Jacob,' says the LORD, 'Nor be dismayed, O Israel; for behold, I will save you from afar, and your seed from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return, have rest and be quiet, and no one shall make him afraid. For I am with you,' says the LORD, 'to save you; though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you, yet I will not make a complete end of you. But I will correct you in justice, and will not let you go altogether unpunished.'
Recall that the purpose of the Tribulation is that it is a curse and a punishment for Israel's iniquity and God's enemies in preparation for the Kingdom (Micah 7:8-9, Isaiah 26:21, Jeremiah 30, Daniel 9:24). The Tribulation period is very Jewish oriented, as seen in the names "Jacob's trouble" and "Daniel's 70th week." The Tribulation also begins with a covenant made with Israel, which is later broken by the "abomination of desolation" in the Jewish temple. So we see that the focus of the Tribulation is on the Jewish people and on Israel.
Recognizing the Jewish focus of the Tribulation is important, because many today believe the Church has replaced Israel in Scripture. While it is true that the Church is spiritually considered Israel (Romans 2), this is different from the promises God made to the physical descendants of Abraham found throughout Scripture. Those who do not see the difference between spiritual and national Israel believe that the Church will receive both the punishments and rewards promised to Israel. This is known as "replacement theology."
The major flaw in "replacement theology" came to light in 1948, when Israel became a nation again. This event, along with the re-gathering of the Jewish people in the last century, literally fulfilled many prophecies that prove that the Church has not replaced Israel. Anybody that still holds to "replacement theology" ignores God's promise that He will call Israel His people again after at time of rejection (Romans 9:25-26, Jeremiah 30:7, 10-11).
As mentioned in the last section, the Tribulation begins with a covenant brokered by the antichrist with Israel:
Daniel 9:24-27 - "Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy. "Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times. "And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined. "Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate."
God revealed to Daniel that He gave Israel 70 weeks in which He would punish their transgressing of the Law, before the Messiah would come to rule. History has shown us that the 70 weeks are 70 "weeks" of years, or 490 years. There were 483 years from the time of the command to Nehemiah to restore and build Jerusalem after Israel's 70-year exile, until Jesus died.
During those 483 years, God punished Israel under the yoke of Gentile rule. After the cross, God turned away from Israel because they rejected His Son (Romans 11). It didn't take long for the nation to crumble after God abandoned them. Seven more years are left of the 70 "weeks" of punishment. During these last seven years, God will turn back to Israel. However, God will punish Israel along with His enemies through the Tribulation judgments. Today we live in the gap between the 483 years and the last seven years:
The last seven years will begin with the covenant brokered by the antichrist with Israel. The antichrist coming as a peacemaker is part of the first Seal judgment released by Jesus. Having a bow with no arrows may suggest that the spirit working through the man of the antichrist will use diplomacy as a weapon at the beginning of the Tribulation, instead of war:
Revelation 6:1-2 - Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, "Come and see." And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.
The only other place we read of this covenant is in the following passage:
Isaiah 28:14 - ...hear the word of the LORD, you scornful men, who rule this people who are in Jerusalem, because you have said, "We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we are in agreement. When the overflowing scourge passes through, it will not come to us, for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood we have hidden ourselves."
Isaiah 28:18,22 - Your covenant with death will be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol will not stand; when the overflowing scourge passes through, then you will be trampled down by it.... Now therefore, do not be mockers, lest your bonds be made strong; for I have heard from the Lord GOD of hosts, a destruction determined even upon the whole earth.
Isaiah 26-29 shows God judging Israel and the "whole earth," which places these chapters in the Tribulation period. It appears that Israel makes the "covenant with death" because they mistakenly believe it will make them secure by becoming a refuge for them. But the problem is that Israel does not seek security in God, so it will lead to death.
Anybody who has followed the affairs of Israel has seen many world leaders attempt to bring peace to the Middle East over the last several decades. Their goal has been to push Israel to divide her land. The following passages suggest that the "covenant with death" brokered by the antichrist will finally see fruition of this peace treaty that will involve dividing the land:
Daniel 11:36-39 - "Then the king shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done. He shall regard neither the God of his fathers nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall exalt himself above them all. But in their place he shall honor a god of fortresses; and a god which his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant things. Thus he shall act against the strongest fortresses with a foreign god, which he shall acknowledge, and advance its glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and divide the land for gain.
Joel 3:2 - I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; they have also divided up My land.
However, as shown in the "Great Middle East War," which I believe will occur near the beginning of the Tribulation, Israel defeats all her neighbors and greatly expands her borders, including the land claimed by the Palestinians. Therefore, even if the current peace process to create a Palestinian state resulted in a brokered covenant, it would be broken by Israel shortly after in the "Great Middle East War," and not remain viable into the Tribulation period. Therefore, the "covenant with death" cannot be the peace agreement the world has championed for.
It makes more sense, in light of the "Great Middle East War," that the confirmed covenant in Daniel could actually be the land covenant that God made with Abraham (Genesis 17:8). Israel's borders would become similar to the borders of the kingdom during David's reign in the Old Testament. (Click here for maps.) If the "covenant with death" is actually the Abrahamic land covenant, then division of the land will probably take place later in the Tribulation during the conquest of the antichrist prophesied in Daniel 11:29-45.
As an interesting aside, the antichrist will be unable to conquer current day Jordan (Daniel 11:41). Later, we will see that God will supernaturally protect a Jewish remnant during the second half of the Tribulation in Petra, which today is in Jordan. In other words, the antichrist will conquer all the land Israel gained in the "Great Middle East War," except for the current area of Jordan, where God will protect the Jewish remnant.
After the rapture occurs, people will clamor for answers to this supernatural event and the earth-shaking events that follow. The Bible says there will be great signs and delusions to deceive those who reject the truth. In other words, for those people who choose to reject the truth, God will harden their hearts, just like He did to Pharaoh (Exodus 4:21). God will do this by allowing deceptive signs that unbelievers can physically see and easily believe because they didn't trust in Him by faith. Like Pharaoh, they will make up their mind to reject the truth, and God will simply give them over to their foolish disbelief:
2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 - The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Jesus tells us that these signs and wonders will be so great as to "deceive, if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22). Later, we will see that the "elect" are Jewish. It doesn't seem likely that the Jewish remnant would easily be deceived, as they will have to trust God's Word to flee to safety in the first place (Matthew 24:16-19, Mark 13:14-17). In fact, the Lord said that the signs will be so convincing, that if not for their faith and heeding God's Word ahead of time, believers would likely be swept away by the deception too.
There are several theories about what some of these deceptive signs and wonders might be. The most probable in my view is when the antichrist, or beast is mortally wounded, but later healed:
Revelation 13:3 - And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.
The second beast, known as the false prophet of the antichrist, will do great signs and wonders to persuade the world to make an idol of the first beast and worship it:
Revelation 13:11-14 - Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.
The passages below show that the antichrist will apparently die from his mortal wound, but come back to life, returning from the bottomless pit:
Revelation 11:7 - When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.
Revelation 17:8 - The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
Satan cannot counterfeit a resurrection because only God has that power (John 11:25). Therefore, it seems probable that God will resurrect the antichrist, but the antichrist will take the credit, hence being a lie (2 Thessalonians 2:9).
Some believe the "strong delusion" is that demonic beings arrive on the scene at the beginning of the Tribulation purporting themselves as aliens. Can you imagine how difficult it would be to not believe the lie, if physical alien beings arrived in space ships with convincing deceptive answers to disappearance of Christians in the rapture? The Bible does say that Satan is the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:1-2). The many documented incidences of UFO and alien abductions that are on the rise these days, along with the decades of public conditioning for such a scenario, give some credence to this theory. If this scenario plays out and the "aliens" come with spiritual answers for the supernatural occurrences, I could see how the masses could easily be lead into the global cult of "Babylon the Great," which we will touch on next.
Scientific delusions are possible too. Scientists have spent the last several decades building a particle accelerator called the "Hadron Collider" in Switzerland. There are a few concerned scientists who protested, claiming that this atom smasher could potentially make microscopic black holes. I imagine that after the rapture happens, these same scientists could blame the Hadron Collider for producing black holes that sucked up the missing people. I don't think this idea would last very long with all the "signs and wonders" going on, but it could initially lead people in the wrong direction.
Another recent craze and possible delusion is the Mayan Calendar. The Mayan Calendar ended at the same time our solar system came into alignment with the galactic plane in December 2012. Some scientists predicted an increase in tectonic activity, extreme weather, and possibly even a reverse in our magnetic poles in the years surrounding the alignment, which reminds me of the birth pangs described in Matthew 24. So you can see that if the rapture occurs within a few years around 2012, people could easily be deluded by either the scientific explanation for what is happening, or get drawn into some "New Age" cult that develops around the Mayan Calendar.
The supernatural signs and wonders will not only be deceptive, but also give rise to a global cult. I believe the supernatural war of Ezekiel 38-39 will occur soon after the rapture, possibly at the beginning of the Tribulation, as I discuss in the "Gog and Magog War" study. There will be no such thing as an atheist after this supernatural war.
Islam will be severely judged, since many of the members of the confederacy of the "Gog and Magog War" are Muslim nations who will be left to reconsider their belief system. Many will find their answers in the truth of the Gospel and get saved (Revelation 7:9-17), but many more will be swept away and deceived by the signs and wonders, as we saw in the last section.
Revelation 17 shows that a harlot called "Babylon the Great" rules during the first half of the Tribulation. Throughout the Old Testament, we see that a "harlot" was someone who sought after foreign gods, instead of the "One True God." Therefore, the harlot in the Tribulation is a religious system that follows after a false god, or gods. To further understand what this religious system is, we need to go back to Genesis 10, to the account about the mighty hunter named Nimrod, who built and ruled over Babel, the city later known as Babylon.
Turning over to Genesis 11, we see that the people of this city tried to build a tower to the heavens. The reason the people built the tower was because they wanted to make a name for themselves. God had commanded them to spread out and fill the earth in Genesis 9. Instead they decided to stay in one area. By making a name for themselves with the tower, the people shook their fists at God in rebellion. This original Babylonian system was simply the gathering of the people under the leadership of Nimrod to do their own will and not God's will. To stop the rebellion, God confused their language and forced them to scatter over the earth, which He had commanded them to do in the first place.
Historical accounts tell us that Nimrod's wife, Semiramis, believed that after Nimrod died people should worship him as a god. When her son Tammuz was born, Semiramis claimed that he was supernaturally conceived and people worshipped both Tammuz and his mother as gods. This was the beginning of idolatry and mother/son worship, which resonates within many of the ancient religions of the past as well as many religions today - even in the Roman Catholic Church.
Some Catholics make Mary more prominent than Jesus by praying to, or even worshiping her. Interestingly, even the Muslims have a special reverence for Mary, as they believe Jesus was a prophet. There are also many "New Age" cult groups that worship the earth as a goddess. The point here is that the Babylonian system that started under Nimrod, will come full circle as the religious system that Satan uses to deceive the masses at the beginning of the Tribulation, and most of the world religions could be brought together under the shared belief that Jesus was born to a virgin, or a goddess.
Revelation 17:6 tells us that the harlot is "drunk with the blood of the saints... and the martyrs of Jesus." Apparently, followers of "Babylon the Great" will consider anyone that doesn't join them a traitor, or infidel worthy of death. The Muslims already believe that, but Christianity has also had an ugly history of killing those who would not convert to their religion. A strong delusion will surely come at the beginning of the Tribulation that will bring all faiths together and cause the followers of the new religion to insist that all should convert or die.
Amazingly, many of the faiths of the world are already trying to find common ground for peace and understanding. Some believe that world peace is impossible without peace between all religions first. Interfaith conferences and events are rapidly on the rise. Many accusations have come against churches, or other religious groups that refuse to join in these activities of being intolerant, extreme, or hateful. Ironically, the religious system that will rise out of this growing movement at the beginning of the Tribulation will be all of those things.
Before God's judgment begins, there is a scene in Heaven with a scroll that has seven seals on it (Revelation 5). Curiously, John begins to weep because he thinks there is no one worthy to open the scroll. What is in the scroll that would cause John to weep?
In Jeremiah we read about the prophesied exile of Israel to Babylon. Before the exile, the Lord told Jeremiah to buy a field from his cousin. The exchange occurred as follows:
Jeremiah 32:10-15 - And I signed the deed and sealed it, took witnesses, and weighed the money on the scales. So I took the purchase deed, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open; and I gave the purchase deed to Baruch the son of Neriah, son of Mahseiah, in the presence of Hanamel my uncle's son, and in the presence of the witnesses who signed the purchase deed, before all the Jews who sat in the court of the prison. "Then I charged Baruch before them, saying, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: "Take these deeds, both this purchase deed which is sealed and this deed which is open, and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may last many days." For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: "Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land."'
So we can see that this sealed deed was a "purchase deed" to the land. Being the next of kin, Hanamel was able to buy the land so that he or another relative could claim the land back after the exile. Similarly, Adam was given the earth to rule over. But after the fall, God revoked the "purchase deed" to the earth and Adam lost his dominion. Jesus, being the only next of kin to Adam who was sinless, paid for the "purchase deed" with His own blood. That is why Jesus is the only one worthy to take to scroll and open it, to redeem both the earth and men back to God (Revelation 5:9).
Over the course of the book of Revelation, we find that opening this scroll will ultimately redeem the earth from it curse. However, each broken seal results in judgment from Heaven. Once Jesus reaches the 7th Seal, seven more judgments come, called the Trumpet judgments. After the 7th Trumpet, seven more judgments come, called the Bowl judgments. In other words, the Seals of the "purchase deed" of the earth contain all the judgments described in Revelation. It is important to note that Jesus Himself breaks each Seal. Therefore, Jesus is the one administering judgment through the catastrophes described throughout Revelation. After the judgments are over, Jesus returns to redeem and reclaim Earth, which Adam lost at the fall in Genesis.
As mentioned earlier, the purpose of the Tribulation is to punish Israel's iniquity and God's enemies. Punishment comes through the judgments in Revelation. Also, recall that the dispensations of grace and judgment cannot work concurrently. The following verses confirm why the Church is not on Earth while God is pouring out His wrath:
Romans 5:8-9 - But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 - For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 - For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.
Revelation 3:10 - Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.
Psalm 27:5 - For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.
Isaiah 26:20-21 - Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation is past. For behold, the LORD comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth will also disclose her blood, and will no more cover her slain.
Zephaniah 2:3 - Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the LORD's anger.
To summarize, God has promised His people that they will "be saved from wrath," He "delivers us from the wrath to come," He "did not appoint us to wrath," He will keep believers "from the hour of trial" that will test everyone on Earth, He will hide believers in the heavenly tabernacle in the "time of trouble," believers will be hidden until the "indignation has passed," where the Lord will "punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity," and believers "will be hidden in the day of the Lord's anger." It cannot be any clearer - the Church will be in Heaven during the Tribulation, while God is pouring out His wrath on Earth.
Some people try to categorize the judgments in Revelation as "man's wrath" versus "God's wrath," instead of all being from God. As pointed out earlier, the sealed "purchase deed" holds all the judgments in Revelation. Jesus, who is God, personally breaks all the seals. Therefore all the judgments are the wrath of God. While the "wrath of man" is the cause of many of the sorrows in this world, the Bible teaches that God can use man to carry out His wrath. The passages below clearly show that God has and will carry out His judgments through men:
Habakkuk 1:5-6 - "Look among the nations and watch - be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you. For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, a bitter and hasty nation which marches through the breadth of the earth, to possess dwelling places that are not theirs."
Revelation 17:15-17 - Then he said to me, "The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.
Let's take a moment to further discuss the difference in how God deals with the Church in the "dispensation of grace" versus the believers in the Tribulation. Recall, the blood of Christ has reconciled and sanctified the Church, making us righteous before God. There is no need for the Church to make "reconciliation for iniquity" in the "dispensation of grace" like Israel in the "dispensation of judgment" (Daniel 9:24). This does not mean that God does not punish the Church at all. In fact, the Bible teaches that God will chasten believers as a loving father who corrects his children:
Hebrews 12:6-7 - "For whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives." If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?
Just as being disciplined by parents is uncomfortable or painful, chastening from the Lord is no different. However, During the "dispensation of judgment" believers are not chastened, or simply martyred for their faith like many Christians today - God will give them over to unrestrained evil who will seek to exterminate them all:
Revelation 6:9-11 - When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.
2 Thessalonians 2:7 - For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.
Daniel 7:21-22 - "I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom."
Revelation 13:7 - It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.
It is interesting to note, Jeremiah prayed to see vengeance on those who tried to kill him, and the Lord answered this prayer, as He will the martyred saints' prayer under the altar:
Jeremiah 11:19-23 - But I was like a docile lamb brought to the slaughter; and I did not know that they had devised schemes against me, saying, "Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be remembered no more." But, O LORD of hosts, You who judge righteously, Testing the mind and the heart, Let me see Your vengeance on them, For to You I have revealed my cause. "Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the men of Anathoth who seek your life, saying, 'Do not prophesy in the name of the LORD, lest you die by our hand' - therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: 'Behold, I will punish them. The young men shall die by the sword, their sons and their daughters shall die by famine; and there shall be no remnant of them, for I will bring catastrophe on the men of Anathoth, even the year of their punishment.' "
On the other hand, during the "dispensation of grace," Paul admonishes believers to show love to our enemies:
Romans 12:19-20 - Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head."
Imprecatory prayer, or prayer calling for judgment, is not found in the New Testament, except for in the book of Revelation, which covers the "dispensation of judgment." The "dispensation of grace" is over before the martyred saints ask the Lord to vindicate their death. The fifth Seal is judgment against the "earth dwellers" over the course of the Tribulation, with vengeance specifically taken against "Babylon the Great": the harlot religious system based in Babylon (Revelation 19:1-3) and Babylon the city (Revelation 18:10, 20).
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