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Daniel and Revelation
An Islamic Antichrist is Coming;
No Rapture-Escape from Persecution
An Islamic Antichrist (the Mahdi) will come.
He will establish a new Islamic Caliphate in Turkey.
There will be a man known to Muslims as the Mahdi. At first, he will be a moderate Muslim who talks peace, even with Israel. He will unite many of the Islamic nations. He will form a new Caliphate, based in Turkey, perhaps to be known as the Turkish Islamic Union. Egypt will resist.
The idea that an antichrist will be the Muslim Mahdi is relatively new in Christian eschatology thought. Every student of Biblical eschatology should read Joel Richardson's two books. The first is titled, The Islamic Antichrist. This book compares Islamic eschatology with Christian eschatology. Richardson calls it anti-parallelisms. Their good guy is our bad guy. Their messiah-like figure is the Mahdi. Their Mahdi is the one we call the false prophet, or perhaps the world-ruling antichrist himself. Many Muslims say the Mahdi will reign for seven years.
Joel's teaching has really filled in the blanks for all the areas of Bible prophecy Scripture that I had been unsure about. I have attended two of his seminars, bought his DVDs, and I own autographed copies of both his books. I have met and spoken with Richardson during two of his seminars. I find him to be a humble and honest man who is quick to recognize that he might not have all the answers. And I have no doubt that Joel is in the center of doing the works the Father prepared beforehand for him to do (Eph. 2:10).
Richardson makes very strong arguments showing that the legs and feet of the statue of Daniel 2 represent the Islamic Caliphate and not the Roman Empire. The Babylon Empire was represented by the head of gold. The Medo-Persian Empire was the chest and arms of silver. The Medo-Persian Empire occupied the same area as the Babylonian empire. The Medo-Persian Empire was even larger, especially to the east. The Greek empire of Alexander the Great was the belly and thighs of bronze. This empire occupied about the same area of land as the Medo-Persian Empire. But the Roman Empire was well outside this middle-east area. That empire was mainly to the west, along the Mediterranean Sea. Only a small part of the Roman Empire overlapped the Babylon Empire. And the Roman Empire did not occupy the location of the city of Babylon itself.
Daniel 2:39-40 NIV "After you , another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. (40) Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others.
These are kingdoms that would follow Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom. These are not kingdoms that surround Israel. Also, verse 40 says the fourth kingdom will crush and break the others. Did Rome crush and break the Babylon Empire, or the Medo-Persian Empire? These governments had long since been destroyed at the time of the Roman Empire. Instead, this verse must be talking about crushing and breaking the people and cultures of the conquered land. But the Roman Empire was known for being very tolerant of the different religions and cultures in all the nations they conquered. The Romans even respected and adopted much of the Greek culture from the previous Greek empire.
So the Roman Empire does not fit the legs and feet of iron. The Islamic Caliphate, on the other hand, fits it perfectly. The land they controlled surrounded Babylon. And it was a much larger area than even the Medo-Persian and Greek empires. Also, they crushed and broke the religions and the cultures of people they conquered. People were forced to convert to Islam. In some cases, they were forced to convert by the sword. In others, they were taxed heavily until they converted. Therefore, the feet of iron and clay is not a revival of the Roman Empire. It's a revival of the Islamic Caliphate which was disbanded by the Turkish government in 1924.
There is another prophecy in Revelation that is very difficult to figure out when the Islamic Caliphate is not considered. But with the Islamic Caliphate in the equation the prophecy becomes simple and easy to understand. It's the seven heads of Revelation 17.
Revelation 17:9-11 Here is the mind that has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sits. (10) They are seven kings. Five have fallen , the one is, the other has not yet come. When he comes, he must continue a little while. (11) The beast that was, and is not, is himself also an eighth, and is of the seven; and he goes to destruction.
Seven mountains are seven kingdoms. In the Old Testament, kingdoms can be represented as mountains. (See Richardson's second book, Mideast Beast: The Scriptural Case for an Islamic Antichrist, page 149.) Five have fallen, one is, and one will come. This is obviously a progression of empires over time. There is a tendency to start with Babylon because the symbolism of the beast goes back to Daniel. But there were empires that controlled Israel before Babylon. The five fallen empires, at the time of John, where Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persian, and the Alexandrian Greek empire. The empire at the time of John was the Roman Empire. Then the empire that was yet to come was the Islamic Caliphate. The eighth belongs to the seven because it's a revival of the Islamic Caliphate. This interpretation really nails an otherwise very difficult prophecy.
Islam is the only religion in the world that would have followers who, based on literal interpretations of their own holy books, would kill the Jews and the Christians and would consider it to be God's will.
John 16:2-3 They will put you out of the synagogues. Yes, the time comes that whoever kills you will think that he offers service to God. (3) They will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.
There are many other reasons why Scripture points to Islam as the end-times government and religion. Thus the antichrist will be Islamic. For more information, read Joel Richardson's two books. The first is titled, The Islamic Antichrist. The second is titled, Mideast Beast: The Scriptural Case for an Islamic Antichrist. Both can be purchased on Amazon and both have Kindle editions.
It's also possible that the Islamic Mahdi will be the second beast of Revelation 13, also known as the false prophet in Revelation 16:13, 19:20, and 20:10. In this case, both the world-ruler beast and the false prophet beast would be antichrists. The Islamic Mahdi would rule over the middle-east region of the world. He would be one of ten regional rulers who would give their authority to the world-ruler beast. They are all antichrists, meaning they are all against-Christ.
As Islam becomes more and more world dominant, many mainstream Christian churches will move further and further into compromise. Already there is a movement called Chrislam. Chrislam says that Christianity and Islam are compatible. Chrislam says you can be both a Muslim and a Christian at the same time. Chrislam uses both the Bible and Qur’an in the worship services.
Chrislam is seen by some as a necessary step towards world peace. But a joint congregation of Christians and Muslims would necessitate the suppression or removal of the very core doctrines of Christianity. To say that God could have a Son is considered one of the most-terrible sins in Islam. In a joint congregation this very fundamental Christian belief would be suppressed for fear of offending the Muslims. Likewise, the fundamental belief that Jesus died on the cross for our sins is a core teaching of Christianity. Without that core teaching, Christianity is just a social club. But again, this belief is the other most-terrible sin of Islam. Without these two fundamental beliefs, Christianity would quickly degrade and become something that is very close to Islam. Salvation would no longer be through the blood of Jesus Christ. And Jesus Christ would be simply a prophet.
1 John 2:22-23 ESV Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. (23) No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.
1 John 4:2-3 ESV By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, (3) and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.
John was specifically referring to the Gnostics of his day. Like the Muslims, the Gnostics believed Jesus had lived. But they denied that Jesus himself was the Christ. They believed the spirit of Christ inhabited Jesus during his ministry, starting with his baptism. Then the spirit of Christ left Jesus just before the crucifixion. That's why John insists that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. The Gnostics believed Christ came as a spirit. So just like the Muslims, they denied that Christ died for our sins. The Muslims believe someone else was substituted for Christ so that Jesus himself didn't die on the cross. The Gnostics of John's day and the Muslims of our day are both the spirit of antichrist.
Being faced with the prospect of a forced Islamic world is a scary thought for Jews and Christians. It will be the time of the great tribulation. Many people believe the great tribulation is tribulation for the world. But actually it’s tribulation for God's people. It's a time of great persecution. For the world, it's a time of eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. The bowls of wrath are not poured out during the 42-month reign of the antichrist. They happen after the resurrection.
The 42-month reign of the antichrist is therefore not a time of God's wrath. We will escape God's wrath after the resurrection. But for Jews and Christians, the time of the antichrist is a time of great tribulation. By making the false assumption that God's wrath pours out during the reign of the antichrist, many Christians believe they will escape this coming persecution (tribulation) through the pre-tribulation rapture. God does not promise we avoid persecution. It's just the opposite. Believers for whom God is a consuming fire are persecuted by the world.
Many Christians tend to ignore what the Bible teaches about the end times because they have been taught that they will be caught up in the rapture before all this happens. The first time I heard this doctrine it was along the lines of, "Some people believe in a pre-tribulation rapture. Some people believe in a mid-tribulation rapture. Some people believe in a post-tribulation rapture. But most people believe in the pre-tribulation rapture." So you are left with the belief that since the majority believe in the pre-tribulation rapture, then that must be what the Bible teaches.
Pre-tribulation rapture advocates will often speak of a doctrine of imminence. This is generally argued by quoting Jesus saying, “No man knows the day or the hour.” No man knows the day or the hour of what? We don’t know the day or hour of the return of Christ. But the only return of Christ that is mentioned in this context is five verses prior. Read it in the context of after the tribulation.
Matthew 24:29-36 KJV Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: (30) And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (31) And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (32) Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: (33) So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. (34) Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. (35) Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. (36) But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
Thus, “No man knows” is taken out of the context of the post-tribulation return of Christ. A pre-tribulation rapture is never mentioned in this context. But a post-tribulation gathering of the elect is almost exactly the same as Paul’s description of the rapture. Christ returns, the trumpet sounds, and we are gathered into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Paul is just rephrasing the words of Jesus.
Jesus is not saying that no man will ever know the day and time of his return. He is saying we currently don’t know. A different verb tense is being assumed and substituted. The disciples asked the question about when he would return, and he is saying that no man at that time knew the day of his return. He’s not saying that we won’t know before it happens. As a matter of fact, Jesus refers back to the abomination of desolation, spoken of by the prophet Daniel. Daniel tells us the resurrection is 1290 days after the abomination (by context). Therefore, the wise will know the day by simply adding 1290 days to the date they see the abomination.
Does the doctrine of imminence stand the test of Scripture? The doctrine of imminence states that Christ could return at any moment. From the time that Jesus said, “No man knows the day or the hour,” the rapture could have occurred at any time after that. In the context of Matthew 24, the abomination of desolation is required before the return of Christ. But the doctrine of imminence states that no additional signs are needed before Christ returns. Christ predicted his own crucifixion and resurrection. Does “no man knows” mean the rapture could have occurred before that? Christ predicted the coming of the Holy Spirit. Does “no man knows” mean the rapture could have occurred before Pentecost? Christ predicted the destruction of the temple. Does “no man knows” mean the rapture could have occurred before 70 AD? Christ predicted the death of Peter. Does “no man knows” mean the rapture could have occurred before Peter was crucified?
Christ predicted that the gospel of the kingdom will be preached to all the nations, and then the end would come. Does “no man knows” mean the rapture could have occurred before that? Pre-tribulation rapture advocates say the seven-year tribulation begins with the antichrist signing a treaty with Israel. But how could the antichrist sign a treaty with Israel before Israel again became a nation? Does “no man knows” mean the rapture could have occurred before Israel became a nation in 1948? If the rapture could not have occurred before all these signs were fulfilled, then how can it be a doctrine that was true ever since Christ said, “No man knows the day or the hour?” Or could it be that Jesus was saying these signs must take place first? Does “no man knows” mean the rapture could have occurred before the abomination of desolation? If not, the resurrection is 1290 days later. The doctrine of imminence does not stand the test of Scripture. It’s a false doctrine.
Some will argue that the rapture could not occur before all these signs, but could occur before the abomination, simply because after the abomination the day is known, and they believe in the pre-tribulation rapture. But would the disciples have interpreted Jesus’ words as meaning that all signs must first take place except the one Jesus just mentioned? A pre-tribulation rapture is not in the context.
A pre-tribulation rapture is assumed to be in the context of Matthew 24 and then the doctrine of imminence is built around that assumed context. The verse is assumed to be saying that no man will know until the time it happens instead of no man currently knows before we see all the signs, including the abomination of desolation. We are to watch for the signs so that we will know the day and time of Christ’s return. Most of the arguments for a pre-tribulation rapture are based on either taking a verse out of context, or making an assumption and then proving the point using that assumption.
Some argue that, "God has not appointed us to suffer wrath" (1 Thessalonians 5:9). And since it's assumed that the bowls of wrath in Revelation happen during the reign of the antichrist, then the Church must have been already caught up in the rapture. Of course nothing is said about the saints who are turned over to the antichrist during his 42-month reign (Revelation 13:5-7). Are these saints appointed to suffer God's wrath? The bowls of wrath in Revelation are very similar to the ten plagues on Egypt. They happen after the resurrection during a 45-day period between the 1290 days and the 1335 days from the abomination.
In 2 Thessalonians, Paul talks about a restrainer who holds back the antichrist. The restrainer must be taken out of the way before the antichrist can be revealed. Pre-tribulation advocates assume that the restrainer is the Holy Spirit.
2 Thessalonians 2:5-8 Don't you remember that, when I was still with you, I told you these things? (6) Now you know what is restraining him, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season. (7) For the mystery of lawlessness already works. Only there is one who restrains now, until he is taken out of the way. (8) Then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will kill with the breath of his mouth, and destroy by the manifestation of his coming;
After the restrainer is assumed to be the Holy Spirit, pre-tribulation rapture advocates argue that when all true believers are removed from the earth, that the Holy Spirit will also be removed. This is also an assumption. Could it be that the Holy Spirit uses angels to hold back the demonic forces of the antichrist? As a matter of fact, it can be shown from Daniel 10-12 that Michael and his angelic forces actually hold back the demonic forces of Satan. But when Michael “takes a stand” to protect his people, the great tribulation comes. Paul indicated that the church at Thessalonica knew the identity of the restrainer. Could it be that Paul had been teaching them the book of Daniel? Again, the teaching of the restrainer being removed in no way indicates there will be a pre-tribulation rapture. That’s based on assumptions on top of assumptions. If we use Daniel to interpret Paul, then the restrainer is Michael the archangel. More on this, and many other problems about the pre-tribulation rapture can be found in Appendix A.
People have come up with other very imaginative reasons for a pre-tribulation rapture. Like, "the church is not mentioned in Revelation after the seven churches of Revelation." (The church is also not mentioned in Titus, Hebrews, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and Jude.) But of course the word "church" simply means assembly. Perhaps we don't hold church (big assemblies) during the great tribulation. And of course the saints are spoken of throughout Revelation. Why are these saints assumed to not be members of the Church? The word "saint" means holy ones. And the word "saints" refers to members of the Church two times in Acts, eight times in Romans, six times in 1 Corinthians, five times in 2 Corinthians, nine times in Ephesians, three times Philippians, four times in Colossians, once in 1 Thessalonians, once in 2 Thessalonians, once in 1 Timothy, twice in Philemon, twice in Hebrews, and once in Jude. Why would the 13 occurrences of "saints" in Revelation not be referring to members of the Church?
Persecution brings holiness for true believers. Perhaps that's why John used the word "saints" instead of "church members." After all, the seven letters to the seven churches all seem to speak of the lack of holiness in the churches. The churches are not ready for the great tribulation. The churches are not ready for Christ to return. Those who are not willing to take up their cross and follow Christ will fall away during the great tribulation. Revelation is all about martyrdom. And the churches are not ready for martyrdom. Martyrdom is rarely discussed in today's churches. And when it is, it's always in the context of ancient history. Also note that it's "great tribulation" for believers, not for the world. Tribulation is the same as distress, or persecution. We are not appointed to God's wrath. But Christ does say that persecution will come for the believers.
1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 is the verse about the rapture that dispensationalists hold to be the pre-tribulation rapture. This verse says nothing about when it occurs relative to the great tribulation. But it does say something about when it occurs relative to the resurrection. The rapture is after the resurrection, according to this verse. And according to Revelation 20:4-5, the "first resurrection" is after the great tribulation. So the rapture must be after the great tribulation. And for those who try and turn the "first resurrection" into a second resurrection, remember that Jesus told us the resurrection is on the last day. There can only be one "last day." There is much more about the problems with the pre-tribulation rapture in Appendix A.
The only real argument that dispensationalists have for the pre-tribulation rapture is the assumption of dispensationalism itself. Dispensationalists separate the Jews from the Gentiles in a separation of Israel from the Church. Dispensationalists say that God has two separate "programs" for two separate groups of believers. According to dispensationalists, God must remove the Church before he can shift back to His "program" for Israel. This separation of two groups of believers is the core of dispensationalism. In other words, dispensationalism and the pre-tribulation rapture go hand-in-hand. One cannot stand without the other.
Dispensationalism can be quickly disproven just as easily as the pre-tribulation rapture. In Romans 11, Gentile believers are grafted into the olive tree. By the context of chapters 9 to 11, this olive tree is Israel. The Gentile Church does not replace Israel. We have become a part of Israel. We have been grafted into Israel. It's true that Old Testament prophecy must be literally fulfilled in Israel. Israel will rule the nations when the Messiah comes. But we are grafted into that very same Israel. So we will be included in that reign over the nations. We will reign with Christ over the nations during the millennium. In one of the seven letters to a church, we read:
Revelation 2:26-27 He who overcomes , and he who keeps my works to the end, to him I will give authority over the nations. (27) He will rule them with a rod of iron, shattering them like clay pots; as I also have received of my Father:
The Gentile Church does not replace Israel. We are grafted into Israel. So we inherit the promises of Abraham (Galatians 3:29) along with Israel. Dispensationalists will say the olive tree is not Israel. Some say the olive tree is Jesus. But were the Jews broken off of Jesus? Some say the olive tree is a "spiritual Israel." But the Bible never mentions a "spiritual Israel." This directly breaks the dispensational grammatical/historical hermeneutic of not spiritualizing Scripture. Were the Jews broken off of a "spiritual Israel?" The olive tree must be Israel because Israel is the only thing you can come up with for which the Jews were broken off. Therefore, we were grafted into that same Israel from which they were broken off.
Some dispensationalists will get clever and say we are grafted into the "blessings of Israel." Thus, the unbelieving Jews were broken off the "blessings of Israel." But they are still Israel. The problem with this view is that it destroys Paul's original argument, in the context of Romans 9-11, as to why God's word had not failed. Paul agonizes as to how Israel could have rejected the Messiah. Would this not invalidate God's word?
Romans 9:1-7 ESV I am speaking the truth in Christ--I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit-- (2) that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. (3) For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. (4) They are Israelites , and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. (5) To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh , is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. (6) But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, (7) and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named."
In other words, Paul is using election to argue that not all of Abraham's flesh descendants are Israel. They will not inherit the promises given to Abraham. So they are not Israel. To turn around and say the olive tree only represents the "blessing of Israel," and thus the unbelieving Jews are still Israel, is to directly invalidate this original premise of Paul. And it's a direct contradiction of verse 6 above. In the verses that follow, Paul makes his case by using the argument of election. By election, only those who believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah are true members of Israel. The unbelieving Jews were broken off of the olive tree of Israel because they did not believe in the Messiah of Israel. And by election, we were grafted into that very same olive tree. We will inherit the promises given to Abraham because we have become children of Abraham. This makes us be grafted into Israel. Just as the unbelieving Jews were broken off of Israel by election, we are grafted into Israel by election.
By the way, God elects (chooses) those who are a part of Israel. But this does not mean that God elects (chooses) those who will ultimately accept or reject Christ as their Savior. We are elected to be grafted into Israel. That means we will reign over the nations. But the nations can still be saved and eventually inherit eternal life, again through the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Israel will be resurrected and changed at the first resurrection. But don't forget that the unjust will all be resurrected to live in the nations.
Acts 24:15 having hope toward God, which these also themselves look for, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
For more information, read my book titled New Wine for the End Times.
Galatians 3:28-29 ESV There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (29) And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.
We are grafted into Israel. But we do not replace Israel. Nor has Paul given up on his brothers, the Jews. Right after the verses about being grafted into the olive tree, we read Paul's conclusion to Paul's anguish.
Romans 11:25-26 ESV Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. (26) And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob";
Israel is "hardened in part." The unbelieving Jews are hardened. They are broken off of Israel. But this hardening of the Jews lasts only until all the elect Gentiles have come into the olive tree of Israel. Thus, we do not replace Israel. We are grafted into Israel while Jewish unbelievers are hardened. But the Jews of Jerusalem will be unhardened and grafted back into the olive tree of Israel during the first half of the seven years. Also, Messianic Jewish congregations have been springing up all over the world like never before in history. And it seems to have begun in 1967, after Jerusalem was no longer trampled on by the Gentiles.
Gentiles were once alienated from the commonwealth of Israel. But no longer.
Ephesians 2:11-13 ESV Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called "the uncircumcision" by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands-- (12) remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. (13) But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Since we are grafted into Israel, there cannot be two "programs" for believers. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile. With Gentile believers being grafted into Israel, dispensationalism itself is disproven. And with dispensationalism disproven, the pre-tribulation rapture falls with it. Without to "programs" there is no separation of believers from before and after the start of the tribulation. So there is no pre-tribulation rapture. We have the same Old Testament destiny as Israel. And that destiny involves going through the great tribulation before the Messiah sets up his earthly kingdom. Then, we who overcome all sinful habits will reign with Christ over the nations, which is the destiny of Israel.
Revelation 2:26-27 He who overcomes , and he who keeps my works to the end, to him I will give authority over the nations. (27) He will rule them with a rod of iron, shattering them like clay pots; as I also have received of my Father:
Dispensationalists often react to any teaching against the pre-tribulation rapture by saying we are taking away the "blessed hope" of Titus 2:11-14.
Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, (12) instructing us to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts , we would live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; (13) looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ; (14) who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify for himself a people for his own possession , zealous for good works.
Look at verse 12. How often is the "blessed hope" spoken of in the context of holiness? What percentage of Christ's believers really "deny ungodliness and worldly lusts?" How many really "live soberly, righteously and godly [lives] in this present world?" How many are really redeemed from all iniquity? This doesn't mean you can continue to sin but it's overlooked. Does Christ really have a pure people for his own possession? How many of Christ's believers are truly zealous for good works? It's only in this context that we can look for the blessed hope.
The New Jerusalem will appear soon. This happens before the tribulation. This is the blessed hope of his appearing. And the few who will be ready will see Christ face-to-face on Mount Zion in Jerusalem (Revelation 14:1-5). But for most of the Church, Christ will have to "confirm a covenant with many" for seven more years (Daniel 9:27). After the seven years, the dead in Christ will be raised at the first resurrection (Revelation 20:4-5). Then we will all be caught up in the air to meet Christ. But this is not until after the great tribulation.
The persecution during the great tribulation will turn church members into saints (holy ones.) Getting ready for Christ to return is all about taking this truth of Scripture to heart. We get ready for Christ to return by overcoming sin, just as it says in each of the seven letters to the seven churches. There are other ways people have avoided the blessing of reading Revelation, and taking it to heart (Revelation 1:1). Some say the great tribulation has been occurring throughout the church age. They don't expect a literal antichrist. Others simply do not believe that Christ will return in this generation. They don't consider the great tribulation to be an important topic. Others believe that Christ will return in this generation, and the church must go through the tribulation. But they become consumed with "survival" preparations and don't focus on their own holiness. So they also are not receiving the blessing of reading Revelation, and taking it to heart (Revelation 1:1). Others believe the church will go through the great tribulation but they become consumed with conspiracy theories. Some believers have become so consumed with conspiracies that they lose interest in Scripture and in having fellowship with other Christians at church, saying that all the pastors are involved in the conspiracies. Many, or perhaps even most, conspiracy theories may in fact be true. But we must be consumed with doing the works of the Father and overcoming sin.
Another approach in avoiding the great tribulation is to say the tribulation is geographically middle-eastern. As long as we stay out of the middle-east, we should be relatively safe. In other words, you could stay in the United States, or in other remote parts of the world, and not be affected by the great tribulation. However, Revelation 13:5-7 tells us the antichrist will rule over every nation, tribe, people, and language. And in Revelation, people from every nation, tribe, people, and language stand before the throne of God (Rev. 7:9). I don't think that would be middle-eastern only. Those purchased by the blood are from every tribe, language, people, and nation (Rev. 5:9). Over the last two thousand years, the scope of Christianity has grown from middle-east centric to global. So I think the scope of the antichrist's rule must also be global.
Revelation 7:9-14 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no man could number, out of every nation and of all tribes, peoples, and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands. (10) They cried with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation be to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" (11) All the angels were standing around the throne, the elders, and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before his throne, and worshiped God, (12) saying, "Amen! Blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power, and might, be to our God forever and ever! Amen." (13) One of the elders answered, saying to me, "These who are arrayed in white robes, who are they , and from where did they come?" (14) I told him, "My lord, you know." He said to me, "These are those who came out of the great tribulation. They washed their robes, and made them white in the Lamb's blood.
In order to come out of great tribulation (verse 14), you must have gone through great tribulation. Thus, a countless number of people "out of every nation and of all tribes, peoples, languages" will go through the great tribulation before they stand before the throne and the Lamb.
Why must they go through the great tribulation in order to get their white robes? It's because tribulation brings holiness. Most of the Church is not ready for Christ to return. Most of the Church is still sinning because they have been taught by wolves in sheep clothing that you can't stop sinning. Since the Church is global, and since Christians all over the world must still learn to overcome sin, the great tribulation must also be global. We must all be willing to take up our crosses and die for Christ. We overcome not by running, but by seeking God's holiness.
Revelation 3:10 ESV 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.
A few will learn this and overcome sin before Christ appears. This is the true hope for his appearing. But for most Christians, they will have to overcome by the testimony of Jesus Christ, and by not loving their own lives, even unto death.
Revelation 12:11 They overcame him because of the Lamb's blood, and because of the word of their testimony. They didn't love their life, even to death.
The New Jerusalem will appear before the tribulation. But the saints will be turned over to the antichrist in order to bring holiness to the Church. The antichrist will reign over the saints and the rest of the world for 42 months.
Revelation 13:5-7 ESV And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. (6) It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling , that is, those who dwell in heaven. (7) 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,
Notice that the antichrist blasphemes not only Christ’s name, he also blasphemes Christ's dwelling. And he blasphemes those who live in heaven. If any government leader today were to blaspheme God, heaven, and the angels, he would be considered insane. But if the New Jerusalem were to show up in orbit around the earth, then this verse starts making lots of sense. Of course this "beast" is still insane for blaspheming something large and powerful like the New Jerusalem in orbit. But one can see such a thing happening, and the world following in that blasphemy. But this would be the entire global world. It's not just the middle-east who would be following the antichrist in this blasphemy. The global nature of the great tribulation can also be seen in these verses.
Revelation 12:7-13 There was war in the sky. Michael and his angels made war on the dragon. The dragon and his angels made war. (8) They didn't prevail, neither was a place found for him any more in heaven. (9) The great dragon was thrown down, the old serpent, he who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world. He was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (10) I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now is come the salvation, the power, and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ; for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night. (11) They overcame him because of the Lamb's blood , and because of the word of their testimony. They didn't love their life, even to death. (12) Therefore rejoice, heavens, and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and to the sea, because the devil has gone down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has but a short time." (13) When the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child.
The woman is Israel. We are grafted into Israel. This war is sandwiched between the 1260 days that the two witnesses prophesy (Revelation 12:6, 11:3), and the time, times, and half a time (Revelation 12:14, Daniel 7:25) that the antichrist rules over the world. Michael is the restrainer of 2 Thessalonians 2:7. In Daniel 12:1, Michael, who protects Israel, "takes a stand" right before the time of the great tribulation. During the first half of the seven years, the two witnesses prophesy. This brings holiness to the Church as sin is overcome. Michael’s stand progressively escalates as the Church becomes holy during the first half of the seven years.
Historically, Michael has protected the rulers of the world from the demonic forces (Daniel 10:13, 20-21). Otherwise, they would be overrun by demonic forces and everyone, including the people of Israel, would suffer. Thus, Michael is the restrainer who holds back the full onslaught of the reign of the antichrist. In the midst of the seven-year period, Michael will lead a war against Satan and his demons. He will throw Satan and his demons out of the heavens, down to the earth. Those in heaven will rejoice (verse 12). But "woe to the earth, and to the sea, because the devil has gone down to you, having great wrath." From this perspective, we can understand that this is not a crisis that only affects the middle-east. This is a global event.
Bottom line is that we should all avoid Scriptural stretching techniques that allow us to believe the Church will not go through the great tribulation. We must get ready for Christ to return, which means we must get ready for the great tribulation. This has been true for all generations. This means we must become holy. We must become saints. We don't overcome by focusing on survival. It's just the opposite. We overcome by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of our testimony about Jesus Christ. We overcome by not loving our lives, even unto death. We must love others and devote our lives to help our neighbors. We overcome by taking up our cross and following Christ. We must overcome all our sinful habits. Only then will be really ready for the great tribulation and for the millennial reign of Christ that follows.
All sins are habit-forming. The alcoholic gets up in front of an AA meeting and proclaims that he is an alcoholic. Yet he may have completely stopped drinking for years. He knows that he is in danger of falling off the bandwagon. So he remains an alcoholic even though he is not drinking. All sins are like that. We are sinners, saved by grace. But that doesn't mean we continue in our sinful habits. We can become "perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). This does not mean that we will never make a mistake. Only God is perfect from the sense of never making mistakes. But we can be perfect from the sense of having overcome all our sinful habits. Yes, we are sinners saved by grace. But we can overcome all our sinful habits and "sin no more" (John 5:14).