The great event which forms the hope of every true believer on the Lord Jesus Christ is His coming into the air to raise the dead and change the living and translate them to His Father’s house in heaven. No event is foretold with greater clearness and precision than this, as we read in 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; John 14:1-3; Philippians 3:20-21.
Though all who have died in faith since Abel’s day will be raised in glory at this time, for they all belong to Christ, yet this event has the Church specially in view. It will include all who have believed in Him for the salvation of their souls from Pentecost. He has redeemed the church by His own blood, and He is coming for it and will present it to Himself, a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing (Ephesians 5:27). "Behold the Bridegroom."
The Church having been caught up to Heaven, the saints will pass in review before the judgment seat of Christ and the marriage of the Lamb will take place. And God begins to move specially with regard to the earth. This brings us to Revelation 4, where God appears as the eternal and self-existing One who has created all things for His own pleasure, and who is about to assert His rights which have been denied by men upon the earth, and to reconcile all things in heaven and on earth to Himself, that He might find His pleasure in them. In Revelation 5 the Lord appears as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, who, having been slain as the sacrificial Lamb, alone is worthy and able to establish God’s will upon the earth in power. He takes the seven-sealed scroll of judgment from the hand of God to open the seals of it, and to execute the judgments therein written, for only by judgment can way be made for His kingdom to come.
The Opening of the Seals
Anarchy, with the attendant sufferings, misery, slaughter, famine, and pestilence, follows the opening of the seals (ch. 6), in, we judge, the professedly Christian lands, for they speak of the Lamb (v. 16), a title by which the Lord is known only where the Gospel has been preached. This condition of things is not due to the direct judgment of God, but seems to be the outcome of the unrestrained development of the pretentious and promising schemes by men for their own betterment apart from God. Their wisdom turns out to be folly, and the way that seemeth right unto them ends in death (Pro. 16:25). This condition of things will open the way for the rise of the Beast - the devil-inspired empire and its ruthless head (Rev. 13).
There first appears:
A rider on a white horse, with bow and crown, going forth conquering and to conquer. The victories gained are bloodless, and tell in striking symbol of some great policy or movement that will promise peace, prosperity, and goodwill, and fill the hearts of men with hope and self-congratulation. These hopes are speedily dashed to the ground, for the white horse and his rider are followed by
A rider on a red horse, who takes peace from the earth, so that they kill one another; and this seems to indicate internecine strife rather than war between nations; it will be a class warfare which will play its devilish part; for men, having given up God and His laws entirely, will each hate his neighbor as he loves himself.
A rider on a black horse follows, telling of grim famine, crushing with its miseries those who escape the sword, and making the way easy for
A rider on a pale horse, who will come forth killing with sword, with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth. And this is not the end as some men fondly hope that death must be the end of all things for them, for Hell follows with him to claim the souls of those whose bodies are slain by the overwhelming calamities that the prophet sees. How quick, how terrible is THIS DESCENT OF MAN from the promise of the rider on the white horse to the hopeless depths of hell. Such will be the descent of man when God’s preserving mercy is withdrawn from him. Even now the swift steeds are bound to the chariot and are straining at the curb, and would take that steep gradient at a headlong gallop, but for the restraining hand of God. Meanwhile men, so blind are they, would fondly believe that they were speeding to the attainment of their most cherished ambitions. The ascent of man is a false dream, a delusion of the old serpent; the descent of man is a terrible fact. The only hope of deliverance from sin and Satan’s power, and death and hell is in and through Christ. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.
The Seven Trumpets
The Fall of a Great Commercial Power, and the destruction of that which seems prosperous on the earth, is indicated under the Trumpets, by the burning up of a third part of the trees and grass, and a great mountain being cast into the sea destroying a third part of the ships that are in it (Rev. 8) in the same sphere as that affected by the seals; but the awful calamities seem to spread to heathen lands in chapter 9, as indicated by the fact that idolatry comes into the catalogue of crimes in verse 20. We see in these visions a world that has refused God and His Christ at the mercy of men’s passions and the malice of demons. Especially under the sounding of the trumpets men seem to be left to the miseries that the devil and his emissaries from hell can inflict upon them.
Palestine Peopled with Jews
At this time the Jews will be fully established in Palestine under the protection of a major political power (Is. 18). Their temple will be restored to them in Jerusalem, but they will still refuse God’s testimony and will rejoice when His witnesses are slain (Rev. 11).
Satan cast out of Heaven
The seat of spiritual authority that lies behind all great movements in the world is in the heavens. Satan occupies this position now (Eph. 2:2; 6:12), though God is above all and only permits evil to go so far. But he is to be cast out of this place by Michael the archangel (Rev. 12) to make way for the Church, which is the Lamb’s bride, the holy Jerusalem, for it must eventually have that place for the blessing of the world (Rev. 21:9-27), and to prepare the way also for the Lord’s kingdom on earth which will have Jerusalem and Israel as its centre. Michael is the great spiritual prince that stands for Israel (Dan. 10:21; 12:1).
The Rise of the Beast
Being cast out of heaven Satan exercises his power and ingenuity in the reconstruction of the Roman Empire. It comes up out of the anarchy of Revelation 6, and to its head, the Beast - Satan (the Dragon), gives his power and his seat (Rev. 13), and his authority (v. 2). In this person military dictatorship, godless, blasphemous, diabolical, and ruthless will come to its full power; he will devour and break in pieces, and all those who dare to resist his political schemes - the residue - he will stamp beneath his feet (Dan. 7:7).
The intention of Satan in this, his masterpiece, is to hold the kingdoms of the world against the Lord and His Christ, and the ten kingdoms that form the Roman Empire will join in this, and give their power to the Beast in order to make war with the Lamb who is Lord of lords and King of kings (Rev. 17:12-14).
Antichrist will also Arise...
...as the great coadjutor and assistant of the Beast. He will be an apostate Jew, regarding not the God of his fathers (Dan. 11:37), and will be the leader of the Jews in Jerusalem. The Dragon (Satan), the Beast, and the False Prophet (Antichrist) will form a trinity of evil (Rev. 16:13).
The Last Week of Daniel’s Seventy Commences
The Prince of the same people, the Romans, who destroyed the temple and city of Jerusalem, i.e., the Beast, will make a covenant with the leaders of the Jews for one week, a week of years, or seven years; this is the last week of the seventy of Daniel’s prophecy that still waits to be fulfilled (Dan. 9:20-27). This covenant is referred to in Isaiah 28:14-20 as being on the part of the leaders of the Jews a God-defying covenant. They will at this time believe that they are at last firmly established in their land, and that an era of peace without God has been inaugurated. They will say, "Peace, and there is no peace." They will build a wall of protection about themselves, and daub it with untempered mortar, but a stormy wind will rend it, and great hailstones shall consume it in the wrath of God (Eze. 13:10-15).
The Great Tribulation
In the midst of the week the Beast will treat his covenant with the Jews as "a scrap of paper," to be scorned and torn according to his imperious will. The great tribulation will then begin, which will spend its greatest fury upon the Jews (Jer. 30:7; Daniel 12:1; Mt. 24:8), but which will also try all that dwell upon the earth (Rev. 3:10). During this period all will be compelled to receive the mark of the Beast and worship him, or suffer boycott and death (Rev. 13:16,17). A remnant will be preserved by the power of God (Rev. 12:14,16). The Church will not be on earth but in heaven during this period of greatest distress, for she is to be saved out of the hour of it (Rev. 3:10).
The Remnant and their Service
At this time there will appear the two witnesses for God at Jerusalem, in the power of Elias (Rev. 11), and the remnant which keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus (Rev. 12:17). To these Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21:8-19, 25-33 will apply. The commission given to the apostles in Matthew 10 will be taken up again, and the sufferings and persecutions and martyrdoms there promised will be endured, and by this remnant a people will be prepared amongst the Jews to receive the Lord at His coming, and "they shall not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of man be come" (v. 23). Others will go further afield and preach "this Gospel of the Kingdom…in all the world for a witness unto all nations" (Matthew 24:14).
Babylon the Great, the corrupt Church of Rome, overthrown
After the translation of the true Church to heaven, the false profession in Christendom will all be merged into the Romish Church, and this will become more powerful and greater than ever in the past, and as the scarlet woman, corrupt, blood-drunken, and splendid, she will ride upon the Beast, the political and military power, but she is to be destroyed by it as described in Revelation 17 and 18.
The Great Apostasy
Then there will be no semblance of public religion in Christendom or in Jewry (for the Jewish sacrifice will be stopped by the law of the Beast, Dan. 9:20), except the worship of the Beast himself, the exaltation of man above all that is called God. Then the great apostasy will have come to its head (2 Th. 2:3-12), and the abomination of desolation will be set up in the Temple at Jerusalem, probably an image of the Beast (Dan. 9:27; Mt. 24:15). At this sign those who are faithful to God amongst the Jews in Judæa will flee to the mountains (Mt. 24:16).
Invasions of Palestine will take place
Towards the end of the second half of Daniel’s last week the King of the South (Egypt) will invade Palestine, in order to attack Antichrist (the wilful king) at Jerusalem. Simultaneously the King of the North will sweep down upon the land and attack the armies of the south and overthrow them and compel the whole force from the south to submit to his will and support his campaign against Jerusalem (Dan. 11:40-45). The King of the North is the Assyrian of Old Testament prophecy, the overflowing scourge.
The Gathering of the Kings for Armageddon
Revelation 16:13-16 describes how the kings of the whole earth and of the world will be gathered into Palestine at this time, and Joel 3:9-11 foretells that war will be the supreme business of all nations. "They will beat their ploughshares into swords and their pruning hooks into spears." Various political reasons will doubtless move these kings to march upon the Holy Land, but the object of Satan, who will move behind the scenes so as to involve all in this crisis, is to fight against the Lamb and hold Jerusalem and the Holy Land against Him. But God will turn all to His own glory. So that in reality God will gather them there (Zech. 14:2), and will stain the pride of all militarism and glory of men, and smash it for ever outside the city which He has chosen to place His name there. The kings of the East, probably four, with an almost countless host, will also gather there (Rev. 9:13-19; 16:12).The four angels that are to be loosed beyond Euphrates, seem to represent four great nations, in the east, and that river is to be dried up to make the way of these kings and their vast armies easy. This is probably the true "yellow peril," and the invasion of Europe the purpose. It may be that the armies of Europe under the Beast march into Palestine to withstand them. Anyhow these multitudes will be gathered in the valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3), not to destroy one another, but to be judged by the Lord.
The Coming of the King of kings and Lord of lords
The sudden appearance of the Lord in this character has special reference to the Beast and false prophet and their armies, for the Beast will have assumed this place and title, which is the Lord’s alone. These two devil-inspired leaders of men are cast into the lake of fire, and their armies are destroyed by the word of the Lord (Rev.19:11-21).
In Flaming Fire taking Vengeance
Simultaneously all who had not obeyed the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, which they must have heard to be judged on this ground, whether with the armies of the Beast or not, will be destroyed at the glorious appearing of the Lord (2 Th. 1:7-9).
His Feet shall Stand upon Mount Olivet
He shall appear for the salvation of the godly remnant of Israel who look for Him (Heb. 9:28), and who have fled to the mountains according to His Word (Mt. 24:16). In the same manner as, and from the same spot from whence He went up He shall return (Acts 1:11; Zech. 14:4). And then the Lord will sit to judge the heathen round about (Zech. 14; Joel 3:12-16).
Israel Delivered and the Kingdom Established
Those of the Jewish nation who have been faithful to Him during the great tribulation now brought to an end by the coming of the Lord will have a special place in His Kingdom, but He will gather His elect, not of the Jews only, but of the ten tribes also from north, south, east, and west (Mt. 24:31), and all Israel shall be saved (Rom. 11:26), The nation born again, and with the law written in their hearts, shall live unto God (Eze. 37).
The Invasion of the Land by Gog and Magog
This invasion of a mighty host from Russia and adjacent lands foretold in Ezekiel 38, 39, after the striking description of the restoration of Israel in chapter 37, appears to take place after Israel has accepted their Messiah, and when they "are at rest and dwell safely" (ch. 38:11). The destruction of these armies is described in chapter 39.
The Judgment of the Living Nations
The last section of mankind still alive on the earth to be judged of the Lord are those that have been farthest off from Him, morally and spiritually, and who have had the least knowledge of His will, the heathen nations. This judgment is described by the Lord in Matthew 25:31-46. It is not as the Messiah of Israel that He judges these nations, but as Son of man, who is set over all things, and it takes place when He sits upon the throne of His glory in that character. The test for all who stand before Him then and there will be how they have treated His brethren (v. 40), who had preached to the ends of the earth "this Gospel of the Kingdom," who had been the heralds of His kingdom.
Peace and Blessing...
...will follow which shall be earth-wide, having its centre on earth in Jerusalem (Isa. 2:2-5). But all the light and wisdom and blessing will come through the heavenly Jerusalem, which is the wife of the Lamb, His helpmeet in the place of administration that is given to Him (Rev. 21:24). This will be the Millennial age of which the Old Testament prophets spoke in glowing words, and in it will be made manifest to all the glory that is to follow upon the sufferings of Christ (1 Pe. 1:11).
Principalities and Powers and Dominions...
...other than those connected with the earth will have to be subdued by Him, and these vast spiritual dominions will by His power be reconciled to God (Col. 1:20), for "He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death … and when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all" (1 Co. 15:25-28).
The Close of the Thousand Years...
...reveals the fact that millions who had been born during their peaceful course had not been born again, and that they will be in heart and character just what man has ever been since the fall, ready to rebel against God; which they do with great enthusiasm when Satan, who had been chained up in the bottomless pit during the millennium, is released for a little season (Rev. 20:7-9). The devil is then sent to his eternal doom, the lake of fire (v. 10).
This will be the last judgment, the judgment of the dead who have died in their sins, all who stand there have but one judgment; they are shut off from the God whose mercy they had refused, and cast into the lake of fire, where the devil is whom they had served (Rev. 20:11-15).
The Eternal State
The earth and the heaven having fled away from the face of the judge upon the throne, a new heaven and a new earth come into being, and the "tabernacle of God is with men, and He shall dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away. And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And He said unto me, Write: for these things are true and faithful. And He said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely" (Rev. 21:3-6).