God's Timeline: What Happens in the End Times?
Before delving into the rapture of the church and the second coming of Christ, this chapter addresses the various events on God's timeline. It's crucial to keep this timeline in mind, as it aids in discovering God's ways and plans. After discussing the timeline, we will explore the events that have taken place and are yet to occur. Since I do not know when the rapture will happen, I've set the year to approximately 2,000 years.
The rapture could take place today, or it might be years away. God decides when this will occur, and this moment has not been disclosed to anyone (Mark 13:32). Therefore, attempting to calculate a rapture date is futile.
God's Creation and the Fall
The Bible teaches that humans were created by God, whereas science tells a different story. Science presents a narrative where God is omitted, and humans are a product of chance. Through a “big bang” that occurred 13.8 billion years ago, the universe emerged, filled with countless stars, planets, comets, and other celestial bodies. This is already difficult to fathom, but science adds another layer: this explosion emerged from nothing and happened in an area smaller than a bottle cap. I find it remarkable that an explosion yields beautiful stars and planets. If I were to set off a firecracker in my house, it's more likely that my house would suffer rather than benefit. I believe science tells this story because it refuses to believe in God. For if God exists, it means that every individual must answer to this God, a thought that can be daunting.
The Bible recounts in the first verse of Genesis how the heavens and the earth were indeed created: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." And in Psalm 90:2, it states, "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God." Firstly, we have God, who exists eternally. He was present before the earth was formed and will remain forever. Secondly, God created the heavens, the earth, and all that resides within them. It began on day 1 with the appearance of light, and by day 6, God had completed the creation of humankind.
"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Genesis 2:7)
I scarcely realize the significance of Genesis 2:7. God began His creation week with His voice: "God said, Let there be." However, as the days progressed, He increasingly employed His creative hands. In Genesis 1:21 and 1:25, we read that God made the animals, and in Genesis 2:7, we learn that God formed man from the dust and breathed His breath of life into his nostrils. God was working towards His crowning creation, humanity. God desired to make people in His own image, people who resemble Him (Genesis 1:26), people with whom He wishes to have a personal relationship (Revelation 3:20), people who walk with Him (Genesis 5:22), people who obey Him (Ephesians 5:1), people who desire to be joined with Him in marriage (2 Corinthians 11:2), and people who acknowledge Him as their Father (Romans 8:15). God did not long for servants or slaves; God yearned for a relationship with humanity, and those who obey Him He calls “My friends” (John 15:13-15).
God created man. He began with Adam and Eve and placed them in the garden of Eden. But it didn't stop there; God's desire extended to more people, and He continued creating. These new people weren't formed from the dust of the earth, but were fashioned within the wombs of pregnant women. King David wrote the following Psalm about this:
For thou hast possessed my reins:
thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.
I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made:
marvellous are thy works;
and that my soul knoweth right well.
My substance was not hid from thee,
when I was made in secret
and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect;
and in thy book all my members were written,
which in continuance were fashioned,
when as yet there was none of them.
(Psalm 139:13-16, KJV)
David wrote this Psalm about himself, and I believe it holds relevance for our lives as well. God is the One who formed you within your mother's womb. God is the One who fashioned all your organs and breathed life and soul into you. It was God's desire that you exist and live. God was so pleased with you that even your unformed beginnings are recorded in His book. You may not actively remember your time in the womb, but God documented each day in His book. God knows you better than you know yourself. His desire is for you to know Him and share your life with Him, creating a love relationship where obedience, belief, and loyalty go hand in hand.
For this reason, God created humankind, and in Genesis 3, we read about the time Adam and Eve spent with God. Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden of Eden and conversed with Him (Genesis 3:8). They had a relationship with God and were able to be in His presence. How is it that today we live separated from God and cannot come into His presence?
A few years ago, I had the following experience. I was sleeping in my bedroom and suddenly woke up. I sensed the presence of God's Spirit, and I felt myself being filled with His Spirit. It started with a first wave of His love, then came another wave, and another, and another. I increasingly felt God's Spirit within me, and I realized that my body couldn't contain any more of God's love. I had to tell God, "Please stop, or I might collapse and die!" My body couldn't bear God's love and holiness because my body is tainted by sin. Due to my sinfulness, God cannot fully reveal Himself in my earthly body. To make this possible, I need a new body, an imperishable body like that of the Lord Jesus.
"For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself." (Philippians 3:20-21, KJV)
But how is it that Adam and Eve were able to walk with God? God is love, and because He is a loving God, He wanted humanity, Adam and Eve, to have the choice to walk with Him or to lead their own lives.
"And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Genesis 2:16-17, KJV)
It was truly a paradise on Earth, and Adam and Eve were allowed to do almost anything and eat from nearly every tree. God desired to give humankind free will. That's why humans had the choice to disobey God and engage in actions that would lead to their death. With this choice, God granted humanity the freedom to decide whether to walk with God, to be faithful to Him, and to obey Him. God didn't create robots compelled to serve Him; He created individuals with the capacity to choose obedience to Him. I also long for people who love me out of their own choice, not out of obligation. Moreover, setting my phone to say "I love you" every hour wouldn't bring me joy. I want those words to be spoken only when someone means them. I believe this applies to God as well, and that's why He gave Adam the command, giving him the choice to obey or disobey.
Next, Eve walked through the garden and suddenly saw a serpent speaking to her. The serpent is a manifestation of Satan (Revelation 12:9), and Satan aims to seduce humans into rebelling against God. He primarily accomplishes this through lies, deception, and twisting the truth (John 8:44). We see this happening for the first time in the early chapters of Genesis in Eve's conversation with the serpent. The serpent said, "Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" (Genesis 3:1, KJV) Here, we see the serpent's lie, for this is not what God had said. Eve also clarified this, saying, "But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die." (Genesis 3:2, KJV) "And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:4-5, KJV) In reality, this wasn't entirely a lie from the serpent. Their eyes would indeed be opened, and they would gain knowledge of good and evil by eating the fruit. However, the serpent 'forgot' to mention one crucial thing: "It will be terrible when your eyes are opened, and you gain knowledge of good and evil." After Adam and Eve ate the fruit, their eyes were opened, and they realized they were naked. This isn't just about physical nakedness or the awakening of sexual feelings. It's about the loss of protection and the experience of shame and emptiness. Adam and Eve realized something was taken from them, making them imperfect, and they began to feel ashamed before each other and before God. But it didn't stop there. This shame led to fear, and they were afraid to face God (Genesis 3:10). Their goodness and protection were lost, making it impossible to continue walking with God. This doesn't apply solely to Adam and Eve but to every human being (Romans 5:19). Due to Adam and Eve's disobedience, it's no longer possible to walk with God, as demonstrated by their expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
“So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." (Genesis 3:24, KJV)
Before we move on to the next event on the timeline, I want to address one question about the Fall: Why did Adam and Eve have to leave God's presence? The 'simple' answer is that God is holy, and humanity is unclean. But what does this mean practically? Let's make it practical with an example.
In a small village in the south of the Netherlands, there are two people: David and Margret. They love each other deeply. Margret always helps in the soup kitchen, ensuring everyone gets a good meal. She also takes care of the village, and everyone loves her. Margret always wears a wristwatch. She inherited it from her grandfather, and everyone in the village knows that Margret can't live without her watch; it's her most prized possession. Margret asks David to watch the watch while she cooks for the homeless. David agrees and takes the watch. However, David decides to sell the watch in Amsterdam. He travels there and sells it to a jeweler for 2,500 euros. The next day, David and Margret meet in the village, and Margret asks David, "Do you still have my precious watch?" How do you think David would feel? Wouldn't his heart be torn by the injustice he's done to her? I believe David would want to avoid Margret and regret his actions.
I think a similar feeling was present in Adam and Eve, but even stronger. God, who is exceptionally good and loving, experienced injustice when Adam and Eve sinned against Him.
The Old Testament
Adam and Eve had to leave the Garden of Eden and lived on the Earth. They had sons and daughters (Genesis 5:4), and Genesis 4 tells the story of two sons: Cain and Abel. In this story, we read about the first murder committed on Earth. Cain became furious when God did not accept his offering, but accepted Abel's (Genesis 4:5). Cain decided to murder Abel and took him out into the field and killed him (Genesis 4:8). Humanity, created in the image of God, became a murderer, even though nothing dark is ever conceived in God's thoughts (1 John 1:5). As we journey through the entire Old Testament, we encounter stories of many people. Some were better than others, but everyone did something wrong in their lives. This is stated in Romans 3:12: "They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one." This creates a significant problem because everyone has done wrong, and this must be judged by God. Besides being a loving God, God is also holy and righteous. He cannot overlook our sins. Consider Adolf Hitler, for instance. Hitler was one of the worst individuals who ever lived, leading Germany during World War II. This war led to the death of 50 to 80 million people, with around 6 million Jews exterminated in concentration camps. It remains one of the darkest chapters in human history, and the pain is still visible today. When Hitler realized he was losing World War II, he chose to commit suicide. He ingested poison, shot himself in the head, and instructed his closest aides to burn his body. Thus, Hitler escaped earthly judgment. Humans, like God, possess a sense of justice. People want the evildoers to be punished and judged by the court. But many, like Hitler, escape human courts by dying or taking their own lives. This lack of justice leaves many people grieving and perplexed. What these people fail to realize is that God exists and possesses a sense of justice. He will judge all the dead in a heavenly court. Everyone whose name is not in the Book of Life (the followers of Jesus) will stand before this court and receive their sentence. The Lord Jesus is the judge (John 5:22) who will judge people's sins. However, every person has gone astray and done wrong, which means everyone deserves punishment. This punishment is uniform for everyone, as we read in Revelation 20.
"And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:12-15, KJV)
The New Testament: Jesus on Earth
People will be judged, and those who have acted righteously will be able to walk with God, while those who have done wrong will be cast into the lake of fire. No one is justified by keeping the law (Galatians 2:16). This means that everyone deserves to be thrown into the lake of fire. But fortunately, God has devised a plan that allows for acquittal.
"But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:21-24)
Paul says that faith in Jesus Christ brings about our justification. This is only possible through God's grace and the work that Jesus Christ did on Earth. The New Testament tells us about Jesus. It begins with the four Gospels, containing stories and teachings of Jesus, and ends with various letters from the apostles who witnessed Jesus. In this paragraph, we'll explore who Jesus was, why He lived on Earth, and what humans must believe to claim God's righteousness. Before delving into the book's content about Jesus' second coming, it's important to know who Jesus is and how His first coming on Earth unfolded.
Before Jesus came to Earth, He was God. Jesus was the one who formed us from the dust of the Earth and breathed life into us (1 John 1:1-3 and Colossians 1:15-16). Jesus was not alone as God; there are two other personalities: God the Father and the Holy Spirit. These three personalities form one God: the Trinity. God saw that people were unable to live righteously (Genesis 6:5), which saddened Him greatly because He loved people (John 3:16). If God didn't intervene, these people would be lost. God decided to intervene, and this cost Him a high price. One of the Trinity, Jesus, decided to come to Earth to live as a human.
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men." (Philippians 2:5-7)
The Lord Jesus came to Earth, and how this happened is described in the book of Luke, where a woman named Mary received a message from an angel:
"Then the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end." (Luke 1:30-33)
During His first coming, Jesus was born from a woman's womb. The Holy Spirit brought about Mary's conception (accomplished through God's creative work), and then Jesus experienced the same life as a human. He grew in the womb, was born (Luke 2:6-7), grew as a baby, toddler, child, teenager, young adult until He became a grown person with a job (Mark 6:3). Jesus experienced every aspect of human life and the temptations and concerns that humans face. However, unlike all other humans, Jesus did not sin. While walking the Earth, He committed no wrong (Hebrews 4:15). He was tempted on Earth but did not give in. Jesus chose not to sin in His life and was obedient to God the Father throughout His life. Around His thirtieth year, Jesus began preaching the Gospel of God, calling people to repentance and declaring that the kingdom of heaven was near (Matthew 4:17). During these three years, miracles followed one after another: people were healed and delivered, and extraordinary events occurred.
But that wasn't all. Jesus is also the Son of God, and He came to Earth to proclaim that only through Him can people be reconciled with God the Father. In one of His sermons, He said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6). Since all of humanity is sinful (Romans 3:12), no one can reach God in heaven on their own strength. Therefore, Jesus is our only way to God. The path to God is opened only by adhering to His commandments and statutes. The Bible contains Jesus' teachings, detailing what we must do to be reconciled with God: believe in Jesus, trust Him, and obey Him (Hebrews 5:9). Jesus has paved the way to God, and there is only one way—Jesus Christ.
The price for this path was exceedingly high for God the Father and Jesus Christ. This could only be achieved if Jesus led a sinless earthly life and was then nailed to a cross. The cross was one of the most brutal instruments of torture used by the Roman Empire for the worst criminals.
Jesus knew well in advance what awaited Him. After celebrating Passover with His disciples, He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray to God. During His prayer, it's clear He was anxious and would have preferred that the "cup pass from Him." Luke notes that He sweat blood due to anxiety and was in agony (Luke 22:44). He prayed to God: "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done." (Luke 22:42). He was subsequently arrested, and His followers fled from Him. He was utterly alone during His most difficult time and was taken to Pilate, where He was falsely accused. Despite having done nothing wrong, He was condemned to flogging and death by crucifixion. The flogging was carried out by Roman soldiers and is considered very bloody. The Romans designed their whips to inflict maximum damage, tearing away much of the victim's skin. Jesus had whip marks all over His body, bleeding profusely. He no longer looked like a human being (Isaiah 52:14). Without medical intervention, these whippings could be fatal within days. After being flogged, He had to carry His own cross to a hill outside Jerusalem. The horizontal beam of the cross was placed on His back, full of whip marks and blood, and He walked to the hill called Golgotha. He was so weakened that He couldn't carry the cross, so Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry it for Him, while Jesus followed to Golgotha (Luke 23:26). In a shattered state and with a torn body, Jesus was nailed to the cross, which was then raised. Jesus, the Son of God, hung outside Jerusalem on a cross. Cicero, a Roman statesman, described crucifixion as "the most cruel and disgusting penalty." With His arms outstretched and no good support for His feet, He hung forward on the cross, struggling to breathe. To take a breath, He had to lift His body, which was excruciatingly painful due to His strained muscles and joints. Eventually, Jesus was so exhausted that He likely suffocated. It's worth noting that at any moment, Jesus could have summoned twelve legions of angels to save Him from the cross (Matthew 26:53), but out of love for us, He chose not to.
It was not cheap for God to free us from sin and hell. He sent His only Son into the world to break the power of sin and bear our sins in our place. As a result, no one needs to be lost, and everyone can return to God by believing in the Lord Jesus.
After the Lord Jesus died on the cross, He was placed in a tomb, and a large stone was rolled in front of the entrance (Matthew 27:60). The tomb was sealed, and guards kept watch to prevent anyone from stealing the body. Jesus lived His life on earth from the cradle to the grave, experiencing everything that a human can experience, but without sinning.
Because the Lord Jesus never sinned, death has no hold on Him. Death is the consequence of sin (Romans 6:23), and since Jesus never sinned, death cannot hold Him.
This allowed the Lord Jesus, through the power of God's Spirit, to rise from the dead! He then appeared to various people, including Mary, the disciples, and the Emmaus travelers, and they saw that He is alive. After this, the Lord Jesus ascended into the clouds and took His place at the right hand of God the Father. Through the work of the Lord Jesus, the way to God the Father has been restored. Anyone who believes in the Lord Jesus and trusts in Him can benefit from His work. Everyone who believes will live with God forever.
Before the Lord Jesus left the earth, He made a promise to His disciples.
"And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence." (Acts 1:4-5, KJV)
After the ascension of Jesus, the disciples were baptized with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not just a force or entity, but is a part of the Trinity of God and is therefore God. This means that the disciples were baptized with God, and God would forever remain within them. After Jesus was taken up to heaven, the disciples returned to Jerusalem to an upper room, where they fervently and unitedly devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 1). On the day of Pentecost, they were gathered together and were filled with the Holy Spirit.
"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:1-4, KJV)
The people in the house were filled with the Holy Spirit, causing them to speak in various languages. On this day of Pentecost, many Jews from different parts of the world were in Jerusalem, and they could hear the Spirit-filled individuals speaking in their own native languages. What a great miracle of God! From this day onward, God dwells within people! But was the Holy Spirit meant only for this select group of people, or can the Holy Spirit fill everyone?
After the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, one of them, Peter, spoke up (Acts 2:14-40). Peter addressed the Jews and residents of Jerusalem, explaining the gospel of God and proclaiming that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead. Then Peter told them what they needed to do to be saved.
"Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." (Acts 2:38-39, KJV)
The promise of the Spirit is for everyone whom God calls. This includes me, you, and every other person on this Earth. Does this mean that everyone has received the Holy Spirit? No. God sets a condition: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ." If you have done this, then you will receive the Holy Spirit. What a great grace from God! The Holy Spirit is received when you come to faith and decide to follow Jesus. From then on, the Holy Spirit acts as a seal on your life (Ephesians 1:13-14), and the Holy Spirit remains in you for eternity (John 14:16). It's important not to quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19) by ignoring Him in your life and not allowing Him space to move. It is our 'task' to be continually filled (and baptized) with the Holy Spirit. Our desire should be to experience more of God, as stated in Ephesians 5:18: "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit." "Be filled with the Spirit" in the original text implies a continuous process of allowing ourselves to be filled with God's Spirit. Every day, anew. The Holy Spirit remains in us forever, but this doesn't mean "once saved, always saved." If we come to faith and then turn away from it, it doesn't mean we are saved simply because we believed at one point in our lives. We see this, for example, in the book of Hebrews.
"Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end." (Hebrews 3:12-14, KJV)
It is our task, with the help and strength of God, to persevere to the end and hold onto our faith until the end. But why do we need the Holy Spirit? In the Bible, there are several roles that the Holy Spirit performs in a believer's life. First and foremost, the Holy Spirit has been given to us to reveal who Jesus was and is. The Holy Spirit always points to Jesus. Additionally, the Holy Spirit carries out the following roles:
- "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." (Romans 8:16, KJV)
- He intercedes and guides us in our prayers (Romans 8:26).
- He leads us on the path, resulting in the increase of our fruits (Galatians 5:18).
- He comforts and aids us (John 14:16).
- He grants us spiritual gifts to help others and strengthen their faith (1 Corinthians 12).
- He instructs us and reminds us of the Lord Jesus (John 14:26).
- He helps us become more like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18).
We all need the Holy Spirit to walk in the ways of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is a gentleman, which means He never intrudes into our inner being without permission. The Holy Spirit is a personal God and only operates within us when we allow Him. Thus, Paul urges us: "Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16, KJV). It's our own choice to walk in the Spirit or in the flesh, yet the outcome of walking in the Spirit is far more beautiful than walking in the flesh.
Learning to drive a car can be quite challenging. In the Netherlands, you need to pass a driving test and a theory exam before you can hit the road. To pass the theory exam, you need to study a lot. You must read through the books, take practice exams, and learn the meanings of traffic signs. During driving lessons, you receive guidance from the instructor, who intervenes if things start to go wrong. Gradually, you gain more independence from the instructor to handle the car on your own. Living a life without the Holy Spirit is like attempting to drive after only studying the theory books. You might think you know, but when you try to start the engine, it stalls. It's quite challenging to avoid accidents on the road without the instructor's help. Christians who study the Bible but don't let their lives be led by the Holy Spirit resemble those who only read the theory books. You make things unnecessarily difficult for yourself. There are also people who solely rely on the instructor and don't read the theory book. They learn how to operate the car but don't know the meanings of the traffic signs. The instructor keeps saying, "You can't go in here, you can't park here, the speed limit is 80 kilometers per hour." This is also not optimal. Similarly, there are Christians who never read the Bible and solely rely on the Holy Spirit. Even then, you make things unnecessarily difficult for yourself. The right way is to both study the theory books (the Bible) and listen to the instructor (the Holy Spirit). The beauty is that the Holy Spirit and the Bible always complement each other!
The Age of Grace
After everyone present on Pentecost received the Holy Spirit, they spread the word to the people in Jerusalem. More and more people were reached with the gospel of God, causing more and more people to follow the Lord Jesus. From Jerusalem, the gospel spread to most parts of the world, and with the technological advancements of the 21st century, it won't be long before the good news reaches everyone on Earth. In the time between Pentecost and the Rapture of the Church, God has inserted a kind of pause, during which we live in anticipation of the next item on God's calendar, the Rapture of the Church.
Sometimes, I enjoy watching a TV series. A series has different seasons, and each season contains multiple episodes. The producer creates one season and airs it on television and streaming services. If it's a good series, it gains fans who eagerly await more seasons, prompting the producer to start working on the second season. Fans have to wait until the second season is made and aired. Essentially, the world today is in a period between two seasons. We read the Bible and see the incredible things God has done. Moreover, we know that God will soon complete His work and move on to the next steps on His timeline. We await the moment when God proceeds with His timeline and begins the next part of the 'series.'
Today, we are living in the Age of Grace. This means that everyone who believes in Jesus is saved. The grace of God and Jesus is free, and salvation comes solely through faith. During this Age of Grace, the church plays a significant role. As brothers and sisters, we gather in the church to glorify God together. In the book of Revelation, which speaks about the last times on Earth, the church holds a special position at the beginning of the book. John had to write letters to seven churches (congregations) in which he recorded what the Lord Jesus thought about those churches. Jesus highlighted what He appreciated about each church and what they needed to change. Firstly, these churches were actual congregations existing in John's time, and secondly, these churches symbolize different time periods of the church in the future. These churches are described in chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Revelation. For the purpose of this study, we won't delve into the examination of these churches, but we'll only reflect on the fact that Revelation chapters 2 and 3 show that during the Age of Grace, the church is a significant entity. The remarkable thing is that there has always been a church since Pentecost! And there will come a time when no (faithful) church will remain, as every son or daughter of God will be taken up during the Rapture of the Church. However, a remnant church will remain, consisting of lukewarm Christians who missed the Rapture. After the Rapture of the Church, new followers will arise, dedicating their lives to Jesus. Yet, these followers will face tremendous challenges due to a global persecution of Christians, resulting in their arrests and deaths. The church we know today will hardly, if at all, exist during the Great Tribulation.
The age of grace is indeed the time when God primarily focuses on His Church. After the Age of Grace, God's attention will shift towards His people of the Old Testament, Israel. Today, we can observe God restoring Israel's honor more and more, culminating in the year 1948 when Israel returned to their promised land in the Middle East after almost two thousand years. While God's focus is currently on the Church, during the Great Tribulation, His focus will be on Israel, and all of Israel will be saved. Paul shared this event with us in the Book of Romans:
"For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: 'The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob.'" (Romans 11:25-26)
In Romans 11, Paul explains that God has not rejected Israel, and he uses his own life as an argument. Wasn't Paul himself a Jew? And wasn't Paul called by God? Today, we still see Jews who believe in Jesus as the Messiah. These are people who are born Jewish and follow the Lord Jesus, although they constitute a minority within the Jewish population. During the Age of Grace, this minority will remain, but after the fullness of the Gentiles (non-Jews) has come in (the Rapture), God will continue His work with the Jewish people, as discussed in chapters 4 and 7.
The Rapture of the Church
An in-depth study of the Rapture of the Church can be found in chapter 2. In this section, we will briefly explore what the Rapture of the Church entails, giving us a better understanding of God's timeline. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 clearly describes the Rapture and how it will take place. The Rapture hasn't occurred yet and is a future event that could happen at any moment.
"For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord." (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
"Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)
In the Book of Thessalonians, we read that the Lord Jesus will call the dead who are in Christ, and they will rise. Afterward, the living Christians will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord Jesus in the air. The Book of Corinthians adds that the dead and the living will receive an incorruptible (immortal) body, and their current bodies will be transformed instantly into an incorruptible body.
The Rapture of the Church is the moment when the Lord Jesus calls us (Christians), transforms our bodies into immortal ones, catches us up into the air in the blink of an eye, and we will forever be with the Lord. We will delve deeper into this topic in the next chapter.
The exact timing of the Rapture of the Church is unknown. There are millions of Christians on Earth, and one day they will disappear. One might be driving a car, another might be asleep, and yet another might be grocery shopping. I wonder, "What would be a fun moment to be raptured?" And I conclude that it should be when I'm playing hide and seek with friends. I know who would win in that case…
The Great Tribulation
After the Lord Jesus has taken His followers in the Rapture, a terrible period will occur on Earth. God will judge the Earth during this time, and His wrath will be poured out on its inhabitants. Additionally, God will protect His people, Israel, and all of Israel will be saved. The Lord Jesus described this period as follows:
"For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be." (Matthew 24:21)
It will be a tribulation like no other. History lessons teach us about terrible periods. Think of world wars, the civil wars in the Soviet Union and China, and the European crusades. Think of famines, natural disasters, corruption, and the deception of certain governments, as well as the persecution Christians face in North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, and Pakistan. Today, the world is “broken” in many places, and then the Lord Jesus says, "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be." The Great Tribulation will overshadow everything else and will be a period filled with wars, natural disasters, and distress. In chapter 4, we will explore the Great Tribulation in more detail.
The Second Coming of Christ
Since the second part of this book is about the Second Coming of Christ, we'll briefly touch on this topic in this section. For a comprehensive discussion, I refer you to chapter 10.
After the seven years of the Great Tribulation, the Lord Jesus will intervene. He will come with the saints to Earth. After His first coming, born of a woman, and His “intervention” to gather His followers, it is now time for Jesus to come to Earth as King and reign over all nations during the thousand-year Millennial Kingdom. During His first coming, He came to serve and suffer, whereas during His second coming, He comes to rule. He will set foot on the Mount of Olives, located near Jerusalem.
"And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south." (Zechariah 14:4)
The Lord Jesus will come to Earth to defeat the devil, his demons, and all those who serve the devil, establishing a thousand-year reign where He will be King. Everyone on Earth will see the Lord Jesus coming on the clouds, unlike the Rapture of the Church. If it wasn't clear before, everyone will now know that the Lord Jesus is alive and holds all power.
"Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen." (Revelation 1:7)
In the second part of this book, we'll delve deeper into the Second Coming, and in chapter 14, we'll examine the differences between the Rapture of the Church and the Second Coming of Christ. It's important to know that the Lord Jesus will return to Earth and have all authority over it.
The Millennial kingdom of peace
During the Millennial Kingdom, the Lord Jesus will reign on Earth alongside His followers. The devil will be bound for a thousand years, and the inhabitants of the Earth must obey the Lord Jesus. A time of rest and peace will ensue, and people will not wage war against each other. Jesus will administer justice from Jerusalem, and all nations will be required to honor Him. In addition to humanity, the Earth itself will find peace. Deserts will bloom like roses, and the climate crisis will be resolved by the Lord Jesus. However, this period will come to an end because after a thousand years, the devil will be released and will deceive people into waging war against the saints of Israel. The Lord Jesus will ultimately destroy those who engage in this war, and the age of the Earth will conclude. For a detailed account, I refer you to chapter 13.
"Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while. And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years." (Revelation 20:1-4)
A New Heaven and a New Earth
If the Rapture occurs in this age, the period of human existence on Earth will be 7,000 years. Six thousand years have passed, and the Millennial Kingdom will last for 1,000 years. Throughout these 7,000 years, much has happened, and we are not even familiar with 99% of the historical narratives! Yet, this 7,000 years pales in comparison to the duration of the new heaven and new Earth. This time will last forever, meaning that nothing will follow after it. We will remain on the new Earth eternally. The Bible doesn't provide many details about this time, and neither I nor John, who wrote about it, can adequately describe how it will be. One thing I do know: it will be better than we can imagine! Let's read the key verses about this time.
"Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also, there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.' Then He who sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new.' And He said to me, 'Write, for these words are true and faithful. ... He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.'" (Revelation 21:1-8)
John received this revelation and saw a new heaven and a new earth. God will make everything new. Today, we live in a world that is perishable (mortal). Grass dies, trees die, flowers die, and its inhabitants pass away. This applies not only to the Earth but also to the sky and the universe—the blue sky and the cosmos. Even the stars are slowly dying and are perishable. God will remove everything and start with a new heaven and a new earth.
"But the heavens and the earth which now exist are kept in store by the same word, reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. ... But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. ... Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells." (2 Peter 3:7-13)
"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away." (Matthew 24:35)
Now, let's explore what will or will not be present in the new heaven and new earth.
The Sea Disappears
The sea will no longer exist. The sea is tumultuous, and waves constantly crash onto the shore. I find the sea and the beach beautiful to behold, especially during sunsets as the sun disappears into the sea. On one hand, I feel a sense of loss that I won't get to see the sea after the Millennial Kingdom. On the other hand, I know that God has something even more beautiful in store. The reason why the sea no longer exists is explained in the book of Isaiah.
"But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt." (Isaiah 57:20)
The sea symbolizes the wicked and unrest. In the new Earth, there will only be the righteous, and there will be eternal peace. In this image, there is no place for the sea. Furthermore, the sea is a remnant of judgment and the flood (Genesis 6-9). While Noah and his family entered the ark, it began to rain. The water from the sky poured down onto the Earth, and water from beneath the Earth surged upward. This caused all the mountains and land to be submerged. Eventually, the water receded, allowing Noah to leave the ark, but much water remained and formed our seas and oceans.
"In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights." (Genesis 7:11-12)
God Dwells Among People
In this time, God will continue to dwell among people. We will never again be separated from God! We are called the sons and daughters of God. This signifies that we can call God our Father and that we have an intimate relationship with Him. This applies not only to the future but also to today (1 John 3:1-2). Unfortunately, earthly fathers may not always be good. Whether you had a good or bad father during your upbringing makes a significant difference. We can know that God is the best Father who exists. When it's stated that God will wipe away all our tears, it demonstrates that God is a loving Father who cares for us. We can establish a relationship with our loving Father and with all righteous brothers and sisters around us. This applies to both the future and today, even though brothers and sisters today still make mistakes. It will be a good and just family.
Can you imagine a world with no death, sorrow, crying, or pain? Yet, this time will come! This is a significant difference between the new Earth and the Millennial Kingdom. In the Kingdom, there is mortality, but in the new Earth, there is immortality. Everything will be made right! The sorrow of the current Earth will pass away, and everything will be made new.
Everything in the new Earth reflects God's righteousness. No war, no pain, no oppression, no wickedness, and no liars. All injustice is gone, and anyone who has practiced injustice will not enter the new Earth. Only the righteous (those made righteous by the Lord Jesus) will enter the new Earth.
The City of Jerusalem
In the new heaven and on the new Earth, there will be a city. Not just an ordinary city as we know it today, but a holy city that comes from God. This is the New Jerusalem and bears characteristics of both the Church of Christ and the people of Israel. John attempted to describe this city in Revelation 21 and 22, but it was very challenging for him because how do you compare this city to anything? The city shows that God dwells within it and that God is its light. God's righteousness shines over the city, and there is no place for anything vile or anyone engaged in abominations and lies.
I'd like to conclude this section with a comparison made by Paul. I can never describe how the new heaven and Earth will look, and in this section, we've only covered the main points from Revelation 21:1-8. Paul compares the heavenly like this:
"But someone will say, 'How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?' Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power." (1 Corinthians 15:35-43)
In this life, we may appear as a "mere grain," but when we are resurrected, we will be raised in glory and power. Just as you can't compare a grain to the wheat it produces, you can't compare our current life and world to what's to come. One thing I do know: It will be more beautiful than we can ever imagine.
God has established a timeline for events on Earth. Today, we live in the age of grace, and soon, we anticipate the Rapture of the Church. After the Rapture, the Great Tribulation will occur, culminating in the Second Coming of Christ. Jesus will rule as King during the Millennial Kingdom, and afterward, the new heaven and new Earth will come into existence.
This chapter is in the book A Revelation of the End Times. Read this book right now, so that you don't miss anything about the end times, live in expectation and your faith is increased. The rapture of the church is a special prophecy from the Word of God. Due to the many theories and ideas about this event, many no longer know what is and what is not Biblical. Timo Groot takes you through the Biblical data about the rapture and why the rapture is more relevant today than ever before. The rapture is the hope of escaping the terrible things that are going to happen on earth and is the moment when the church will see the Lord Jesus face to face in the father's house of God.