Logic Trainsof Rapture Timing
Timing is Important . . . but Secondary
I initially accepted the pre-tribulation rapture teaching as a new believer because the popular Christian books on prophecy and end-times that I read at that time were all of that doctrine. And I must say that those books blessed and instructed me and helped me to grow in the Lord. And in those times, the Lord spoke to me and taught me and revealed His unconditional love. Obviously the Holy Spirit was not totally grieved about this doctrinal matter and was developing more important foundational issues. It was only later, as I became more familiar with the Scriptures, that I became uneasy with the content of Matthew 24 and the parts of Daniel and Revelation that discuss the saints being warred against and overcome. I could not reconcile these passages with a pre-tribulation rapture, and there was something unsettling about how these passages were being so casually excused from being applicable to the Church.
As the years passed and the Lord seemed to be revealing a vision for the Church, a pre-tribulation rapture became more and more inconsistent with that vision. The primary issue for the Church at the end of the age is still not rapture timing, but how she will glorify God. However, as the end of the age draws nearer, the issue of timing takes on greater importance in the context of that primary consideration. God’s plan for His Church dictates rapture timing, not vice versa. Any teaching that obscures the vision of the saints and is contrary to God’s plan is a serious problem and will become more serious as the end of the age approaches.
Most popular end-times teaching deals with rapture timing as an end in itself rather than as a supporting role in God’s plan to demonstrate His wisdom through the Church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. When God’s purpose and plan become foundational in the study of end-time events, the Church’s presence on earth at the end of the age will be seen as mandatory. Any theology which removes the Church from the earth during the last seven years of the age fails to incorporate the primacy of God’s reason for creating the Church, which is to overcome Satan in the power of Jesus Christ, thereby demonstrating His wisdom.
Paul said not to be deceived in any way regarding the timing of the day of the Lord. The timing of the day of the Lord, as we will see, dictates the timing of the rapture. If the Church misunderstands rapture timing, she will misunderstand her role on earth at the end of the age. Mistaken teachings about the timing of the rapture lead to mistaken understanding of God’s plan for the Church. If we subscribe to teachings which obscure God’s plan for His Church at the end of the age, we will have no vision and may be in danger of stumbling and even falling away as the events of the end of the age overtake us.
The thesis of this book is that the Church has a glorious destiny while on earth which will be only fully played out during the last three and one-half years of this age. In the following examples of Scriptures which deal with rapture timing, we will see that the Church is consistently and clearly portrayed as being on earth until the harvest at the end of the age.
Logic Trains of Rapture Timing
I want to present several different logic trains, as Scripture reveals, regarding the timing of the rapture. I call them logic trains because they are logical progressions of Scripture that follow tracks of thinking that end up at the same conclusion. They are composed of direct passages from Scripture which deal with the timing of the rapture. Although rapture timing is not the central issue of this book, it impacts the basic thesis because if the Church is not here during the last three and one-half years of this age, the thesis falls apart. Although the term rapture is not found in Scripture, the description of rising in the air to meet Jesus as described by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is commonly called the rapture. Some will argue that such a thing as the rapture does not exist and is not taught in the Bible, but the Bible describes the dead and living being caught up in the air to meet Jesus. That’s the event referred to interchangeably as the rapture, or the harvest, or the gathering of the saints in all that follows.
To repeat once again, it is Satan’s intent to keep the Church unaware, unprepared, and deceived about her role on earth at the end of the age. He seems to know the Bible, and he must be aware of Romans 16:20 which says the Church will crush him underfoot. He must know that we win and he loses. But it will be a fight to the finish and he will drag as many into the lake of fire with him as he can. He will not fight fair, and he will most often come as a deceiving angel of light. Please study these Scriptures carefully, asking the Holy Spirit to speak to you. Do not believe anything written in this book without the witness of the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to be your teacher and guide into all truth. The point of the following "logic trains" is that they all say the same thing. They all locate the timing of the rapture at the same general time, namely, at the harvest at a time known as the day of the Lord, late in or near the end of the last three and one-half years of the age.
Train #1: What did Jesus Say?
One short logic train can be composed of three sections (boxcars) of Scripture: Matthew 24:13, Matthew 13:39, and Revelation 14:14-16.
1. In Matthew 24:13, Jesus says, speaking to His disciples: "But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved." Remember that He is answering the questions of His disciples in Matthew 24:3 regarding the end of the age, so that when He refers to the "end," He is referring to the end of the age.
2. Matthew 13:39 defines the harvest as the end of the age: . . . and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels.
3. Revelation 14:14-16 describes that harvest. Notice that it comes at the end of three and one-half years (forty-two months) of persecution of the saints:
And another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name." Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, "Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’ " "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them." And I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head, and a sharp sickle in His hand. And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, "Put in your sickle and reap, because the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe." And He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth; and the earth was reaped (Revelation 14:9-16).
Jesus told His disciples that the one who endures to the end of the age will be the one who is saved. He also defined the end of the age as the harvest. These are His words, plain and simple, regarding His disciples’ questions about the end of the age. That harvest, which He describes in Revelation 14:14-16, comes after a specific time period of three and one-half years during which the saints are given over to the antichrist to be warred against and overcome. During this time they are counseled to persevere, to keep the commandments of God, to keep their faith in Jesus, and specifically NOT to take the mark of the beast.
This is the primary teaching in the Bible on the timing of the rapture for the Church-at-large, because Jesus gave it to His disciples throughout the age without qualification. There is no higher authority in any Christian bookstore. These words of our Lord are directed to us. Do we have ears to hear?
Train #2: Therefore When YOU SEE the Abomination of Desolation
Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains (Matthew 24:15-16).
1. Jesus’ disciples who would be alive at the end of the age are told in this passage that they will see the abomination of desolation. That suggests something about rapture timing. The abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel is not revealed until three and one-half years before the end of the age. Jesus was therefore clearly indicating that the rapture does not come until sometime after this, because He said that His disciples alive at that time of the end would see the abomination of desolation. Jesus therefore places the timing of the rapture sometime during the last three and one-half years of the age. This is the same point that Paul stresses in his letters to the Thessalonians. The fact that those in Judea are specifically addressed does not mean that only those in Judea are addressed. As mentioned before, the disciples addressed here are His disciples throughout the age and are the same individuals who are told to go into the world and make disciples of all nations.
Train #3: 1 and 2 Thessalonians and the Day of the Lord
The content of Paul’s two letters to the Thessalonians is specific regarding the timing of the gathering (rapture) of the saints. These Scriptures reveal that the rapture will occur at a time known as the day of the Lord. That day of the Lord will not come until the apostasy and the revealing of the man of lawlessness (the antichrist) have taken place. This again automatically places the rapture sometime in the last three and one-half years of the age, because Scripture is clear that the antichrist will not be revealed until the midpoint of the final "week" of Daniel at three and one-half years before the end of the age.
It is essential that we understand that Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians establish two main points. First, that the gathering of the saints will occur at a time called the day of the Lord. Second, that this day of the Lord will occur sometime during the last three and one-half years of the age. These are among the clearest and most specific Scriptures in the Bible defining the timing of the rapture. I am saddened to read books that use these same Scriptures to support the pre-tribulation position, because these Scriptures are most clear in answering simply and plainly the where and what of the rapture question. They locate the rapture sometime during the last three and one-half years of the age on the day of the Lord.
1. 1 Thessalonians 1:10 and 1 Thessalonians 5:9 settle the fact that the Church is not destined for God’s wrath. But 1 Thessalonians 1:6, 2:14, 3:3-4, and 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5 clearly state that we are destined for tribulation and affliction. If we are confused about the difference between tribulation and wrath, it follows that we will be confused as to the timing of the rapture.
For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:6).
For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews (1 Thessalonians 2:14).
. . . so that no man may be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know (1 Thessalonians 3:3-4).
. . . therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus . . . when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day (2 Thessalonians 1:4-8, 10).
We are destined for tribulation but not for wrath. We will be delivered from tribulation and rescued from wrath on a day known as the day of the Lord.
But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken, and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other . . . Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you be ready too; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will (Matthew 24:29-31, 42-44).
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall 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. Therefore comfort one another with these words. Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, "Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape (1 Thessalonians 4:15-5:3).
2. Consider the context of the sentence, "Now as to the times and epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you." The times and epochs of what? What has Paul just been talking about? He’s been talking about the rapture! What he is referring back to regarding "times and epochs" is the rapture and can only be the rapture, otherwise the sentence structure makes no sense at all. And then he goes on to say, "For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night." This is a crucial point. He has just identified the "day of the Lord" as the time of the rapture. Paul confirms it in his second letter:
Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him, that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things (2 Thessalonians 2:1-5)?
Paul has just answered the question regarding the timing of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him (i.e., the rapture) by saying that the day of the Lord has not yet come, and that it will not come until the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed. He has placed the timing of the rapture sometime during the last three and one-half years of the age at a time known as the day of the Lord.
Unfortunately, expositors conclude anything they want from these Scriptures. They have been used to prove both pre and post-tribulation rapture timing. What does the Holy Spirit say in these Scriptures to you? Go over and over and over them again until you gain the witness of the truth as given by the Holy Spirit. We must set aside any pre-conceived doctrines and let the Holy Spirit reveal the intent of these Scriptures to us or we shall surely be deceived, for the enemy would have us be deceived if at all possible.
Train #4: 1 Corinthians and the Day of the Lord
I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:4-8).
1. We are to eagerly await the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ Who will confirm us blameless to the end, the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Notice the consistency with the previous logic trains. The end is the harvest and is the day of the Lord.
Train #5: 2 Peter and the Day of the Lord
But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God; on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat (2 Peter 3:7-12)!
1. Notice the consistency of Scripture which again states that the relief of the saints will come on the day of the Lord, which is also called here the day of God. We are to look forward to the day of the Lord (i.e., the rapture) because our relief from tribulation and our rescue from wrath will occur at that time.
Train #6: The Days of Lot and Noah and the Day of the Lord
But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be (Matthew 24:36-39).
Look at the specific timing revealed in the following passage:
. . . but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed (Luke 17:29-30).
1. Notice that on the same day that the Lord is revealed, God’s wrath in the form of fire and brimstone will fall. Remember what we just looked at in 2 Peter 3? We are to look forward to that day, for it will also be the time of our rescue. The same day that Lot went out from Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone. It will be the very same on the day that the Lord is revealed!
Train #7: The Seventh Trumpet and the Harvest
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 imperishable, and we shall be changed (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).
And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other (Matthew 24:31).
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall 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).
The things that take place at the seventh trumpet in the book of Revelation match the things that other Scriptures say take place at the harvest, or gathering of the saints, announced by trumpet blast. Let’s look again at the description of the happenings at the time of the seventh trumpet:
. . . but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets . . . And the seventh angel sounded; and there arose loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ . . . We give Thee thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who art and who wast, because Thou has taken Thy great power and hast begun to reign. And the nations were enraged, and Thy wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to give their reward to Thy bond-servants the prophets and to the saints and to those who fear Thy name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth." And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm (Revelation 10:7, 11:15, 17-19).
The seventh and last trumpet is the dividing line between what seems to be Phase 1 and Phase 2 of God’s wrath. This is the time of the main harvest at the end of Chapter 14, after which we read in the beginning of Chapter 15 about those victorious over the beast in heaven just prior to the pouring out of the final bowls of wrath. The purification of great tribulation has been successful. Those who have endured have been purified and refined into the likeness of Jesus, and they are without spot or wrinkle, ready for the appearance of their Lord.
A Three-phase Harvest?
Jesus said we must endure to the end, to the harvest. The crop harvest in Israel consisted of three natural phases: the first fruits, the main harvest, and the gleanings. The Bible suggests that the Lord will also harvest His crop in the three-phase manner of the historical natural harvests of Israel. This is perhaps the reason why we read about the Lord’s appearing in curiously different ways, sometimes like a "thief in the night," and in other places as "every eye shall see Him coming on the clouds." As we focus in closer and closer to the event of the harvest as described in Scripture, we begin to see a broadening of the meaning of the day of the Lord. Day in "the day of the Lord" has two meanings: it can mean a specific twenty-four hour day, and it can also mean a longer general period of time. I believe we are seeing both meanings in the Scriptures we are considering.
These seemingly separate events can be reconciled if we consider the harvest of the elect as a three-phase harvest of three separate events, both in terms of time and the nature of those harvested. The Bible describes a first-fruits harvest at the beginning of Chapter 14 and a main harvest at the end of Chapter 14. A gleanings harvest is not so readily apparent. However, there is a curious parenthetical statement at the sixth bowl, "Behold, I am coming like a thief. . ." I believe this statement identifies the harvest of the gleanings.
The rewarded Church also seems to be described as a three-some. These are the bondservants the prophets, the saints, and those who fear His name.
And the nations were enraged, and Thy wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to give their reward to Thy bond-servants the prophets and to the saints and to those who fear Thy name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth (Revelation 11:18).
Bondservants in general may correspond to those taken at the harvest of the first fruits. The saints may correspond to those taken in the main harvest. Those who fear Thy name may correspond to those taken at the harvest of the gleanings. In no way do I hold to these things absolutely. I am only suggesting a model which seems to explain some of these things. We must hold loosely the things which the Lord has not revealed absolutely.
Tentative Benchmark #10: The Main Harvest is Associated with "Coming on the Clouds"and Every Eye Seeing Him
. . . and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other (Matthew 24:30-31).
BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. Even so. Amen (Revelation 1:7).
And I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and SITTING ON A CLOUD WAS ONE LIKE A SON OF MAN, having a golden crown on His head, and a sharp sickle in His hand. And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, "Put in your sickle and reap, because the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe." And He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth; and the earth was reaped (Revelation 14:14-16).
These passages seem consistent in identifying the "coming in the clouds" with the main harvest taking place at the seventh and last trumpet.
Tentative Benchmark #11: The Gleaning Harvest is Associated with "Coming Like a Thief"
After the harvest of the wheat comes the harvest of the grapes. Yet there are apparently still a few stalks of wheat left in the harvest fields who will have witnessed the main harvest and be converted as they continue to witness and experience the terror of the events immediately following in the form of the world-wide bowl judgments. Those who see these things are told to fear God and give Him glory. I believe those who do are saved. Many will disagree. But I believe the redemptive heart of God is not willing that any should perish. He will provide the offer of salvation up until the literal twenty-four hour day of the Lord which corresponds to Lot coming out of Sodom on the day that fire and brimstone fell. Lot was deemed a righteous man, but he escaped on the very last day, at the very last moment.
And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. And another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, "Put in your sharp sickle, and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe." And the angel swung his sickle to the earth, and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God. And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles (Revelation 14:17-20).
If the main harvest of wheat takes place at the seventh trumpet, then gleanings by definition must take place afterwards. But all that remains after the seventh trumpet are the bowls of wrath. If the harvest model is applicable, then we should find evidence of a gleaning harvest somewhere mixed in with the bowl judgments.
Just before the outpouring of the seventh and final bowl comes the curious parenthetical statement of Revelation 16:15, "Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his garments, lest he walk about naked and men see his shame." Is this a reference back to an earlier event, or does it mean that Jesus is coming like a thief right here between the sixth and seventh bowls? The plain sense of Scripture is that a separation takes place at this point which results in some being taken to the place called Har-Magedon.
And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs; for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty. ("Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his garments, lest he walk about naked and men see his shame.") And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon. And the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air; and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, "It is done" (Revelation 16:13-17).
I believe this reference to "coming like a thief" includes the harvesting of the gleanings on the same twenty-four hour day that the final wrath of God will fall. Let’s consider once again these familiar passages:
But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken, and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. Now learn the parable from the fig tree; when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door (Matthew 24:29-33).
Even so you, too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. And one of these things which we will see is Jesus in the clouds sending His angels to harvest the wheat. Every eye will see Him. These Scriptures seem to say that when that happens, He is still at the door. If He is still at the door, when does He come back? He seems to come back in Revelation 19:11, which I believe is a more detailed description of the grape harvest. The treading of the grapes does not take place until Jesus returns to the earth, for it is on earth that the treading will take place! Jesus does not have to come to earth to harvest His wheat. That harvesting is done by angels that He sends as He watches from His seat in the clouds, right at the door! Then, on the specific twenty-four hour day of the Lord, the day of His return, the day of the harvest of the gleanings, the very day on which the earth and all things on it will be destroyed, He is revealed and He comes! In between the main harvest and the harvest of the gleanings is an uncertain length of time, perhaps thirty days. During this time the wedding supper of the Lamb in heaven, the mourning of remnant Israel on earth, and the pouring out of the bowls of wrath may take place. This would seem to be the point at which Jesus returns to rescue Israel from the nations who have gathered against Jerusalem.
And I saw heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He judges and wages war. And His eyes are a flame of fire, and upon His head are many diadems; and He has a name written upon Him which no one knows except Himself. And He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood; and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. And from His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may smite the nations; and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS" (Revelation 19:11-16).
. . . but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed . . . I tell you, on that night there will be two men in one bed; one will be taken, and the other will be left. There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken, and the other will be left. (Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left.) And answering they said to Him, "Where, Lord?" And He said to them, "Where the body is, there also will the vultures be gathered" (Luke 17:29-30, 34-37).
A Possible Scenario of the Last Days and the Return of the Lord
Remember, this is a possible scenario, not an absolute one. I don’t claim to know these absolute details. I only know what I believe Scripture says, and I am trying to piece together a possible and feasible scenario given existing Scripture. Please do not be turned off by disagreement with these details. Please do not throw the rest of the book away because you do not agree with these details. No two of us on the planet agree with all these details. We all see through a glass with various shades of darkness. But I’m going to plod ahead as far as I can. I don’t want to present mere speculation here, but at the same time I want to share with you what seems sensible to me. I think we all have a little piece of the puzzle --- what the Lord has given each of us. If we can put all our pieces together, maybe we can see a bit further than if we keep it all to ourselves. No one is going to figure this out to the day or the hour, for Scripture says we will all be surprised when He comes back. But have we pushed it yet to the point beyond which we cannot know? God will be pleased if we push it right up to that point, for the seeking out of these things pleases Him. I received a prophetic word one day that God was pleased with the study I was doing. The man who gave it had no idea that I was seeking these things out. It was a great joy to realize that God is pleased when we struggle to understand these things.
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter (Proverbs 25:2).
We are all kings, and we have been given specific times to ponder. We are told that the sixth trumpet ends at about the 1260-day point. We are told in the book of Daniel that there will be 1290 days and blessed is the one who waits until the 1335th day. It would seem that the seventh trumpet, the harvest of the saints, all of the seven bowls of God’s wrath, and the return of our Lord will all be concentrated in these final seventy-five days. We know the redeemed nation of Israel will mourn for the One they have pierced, and the traditional period of mourning in the Bible was thirty days. Also, the sequence of the Feast of Tabernacles undoubtedly fits in here somewhere.
And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives . . . For it will be a unique day which is known to the LORD, neither day nor night, but it will come about that at evening time there will be light . . . And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one . . . Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths (Zechariah 14:4, 7, 9, 16).
As I read through Zechariah Chapters 12-14, I get the distinct impression that the celebration of the Feast of Booths (or Feast of Tabernacles) that the Lord orders for all nations may commemorate His return. The Feast of Booths begins on the fifteenth day of the seventh month. Let’s consider for a moment that it could line up with the 1335th day that we are told to wait for in the book of Daniel. "How blessed is he who keeps waiting and attains to the 1335 days!" We know that the 1260-day point is the end of the sixth trumpet. The one big event that must fall between the 1260-day point and the 1335-day point would then be the harvest at the seventh trumpet. Will that be on the 1290th day? "And from the time that the regular sacrifice is abolished, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be 1290 days."
The end that Daniel is being told about involves the rescuing of his people and the resurrection of the dead which we know takes place at the main harvest when the living and dead join Jesus in the clouds. Scripture indicates that the nation of Israel will see Him return for the harvest, but they will mourn for the One they have pierced and for having missed the harvest.
Harvest is past, summer is ended, and we are not saved. For the brokenness of the daughter of my people I am broken; I mourn, dismay has taken hold of me (Jeremiah 8:20-21).
"And it will come about in that day," declares the Lord GOD, "that I shall make the sun go down at noon and make the earth dark in broad daylight . . . And I will make it like a time of mourning for an only son, and the end of it will be like a bitter day" (Amos 8:9-10).
Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. Even so. Amen (Revelation 1:7).
And I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born (Zechariah 12:10).
If that period of mourning following the harvest at the 1290-day point should be the historical thirty days, that would bring us to the 1320-day point. There would then be fifteen days for the Feast of Ingathering to be fulfilled, which takes place after the main harvest and the crops have been gathered in. On the first day of the Feast of Ingathering is the blowing of trumpets to call the people. God supernaturally delivered His people out of Egypt. Scripture is clear that He will supernaturally deliver the remnant of Israel out of the nations and regather them to Jerusalem.
It will come about also in that day that a great trumpet will be blown; and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the LORD in the holy mountain at Jerusalem (Isaiah 27:13).
On the tenth day of the Feast of Ingathering is the day of atonement. The Bible indicates that God will remove the sins of Israel in one day.
"For behold, the stone that I have set before Joshua; on one stone are seven eyes. Behold I will engrave an inscription on it," declares the LORD of hosts, "and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day. In that day," declares the Lord of hosts, "every one of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and under his fig tree" (Zechariah 3:9-10).
On the fifteenth day begins the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles. If this should coincide with the physical return of the Lord to Jerusalem, it would fit with all nations being ordered to ever after commemorate the Feast of Tabernacles by going up to Jerusalem. Traditionally the last day of this feast is a time of great rejoicing and gaiety in Jewish households world-wide. What greater reason for joy and rejoicing could there be than the return of their long-awaited Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ!
And Yet . . . No One Knows
For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be. Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore be on the alert, for YOU DO NOT KNOW WHICH DAY YOUR LORD IS COMING (Matthew 24:37-42).
But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you be ready too; for THE SON OF MAN IS COMING AT AN HOUR WHEN YOU DO NOT THINK HE WILL (Matthew 24:43-44).
But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone (Matthew 24:36).
But the Point Is . . .
I don’t want to spend any more time on these uncertain details because that is not the purpose of this book. The one thing we do know with certainty, and the main point this chapter is trying to make, is that the main harvest of the Church is consistently portrayed as near or at the end of the final seven years of the age, somewhere between day 1260 and day 1335. God’s people are seen to be protected through the first stages of His wrath, and removed from the earth before His final wrath is poured out. The exact details are not given. We can know generally but not specifically. We can know what we need to know. We are called to endure to the harvest at the end of the age, and that is consistently taught by the numerous scriptural examples we have studied.
We must at this point reaffirm the primary call of the Church at the end of the age, initially presented in the book of Daniel and expanded upon in the book of Revelation, as a call to endurance to the harvest at the end of the age or to martyrdom. This is such a difficult cup to consider that little teaching exists along this line. We have seen that the great multitude that no one could count at the sixth seal is most likely not a great multitude of raptured saints as we might have wished, but rather a great multitude of martyred saints, who underscore by their numbers the primacy of the call of martyrdom for the Church at the end of the age. Those who will be raptured are referred to as "those of us who are alive and remain", as if these will be a minority rather than a majority.
The physical overcoming of the saints as initially revealed in the book of Daniel and upheld throughout the book of Revelation is a primary means by which Satan is overcome and ultimately defeated by a Church created for that very purpose. The purpose of God to demonstrate His wisdom through the Church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places rests on the foundation of that wisdom being the cross of Jesus Christ. It was initially demonstrated through His Son and will again be demonstrated at the end of the age through the corporate body of His Son. No higher call is possible; no greater destiny lies before us than the laying down of earthly life for the accomplishment of this primary purpose for His Church. Let us rise to embrace this call. We must grow in our love for God’s glory.
For those mothers who are fearful for their sons or daughters, be comforted in that the Father’s call for your sons and daughters is of infinite eternal love. This love is most represented in His children by the laying down of their lives for others. Greater love has no one than this. I expect you will want your children ultimately to rise to embrace that level of love and testimony if so called. For the eternal joy set beyond for you and your children, be comforted and be at rest in your Father’s arms. Our lives upon this earth are only a passing shadow. Be comforted in anticipation of the joy that awaits us for all eternity.
"Father, we no longer want to seek our own glory. Give us a holy love for Your glory. Change our hearts to conform with the issues of Your Heart. Father, give us grace to embrace Your plan for Your Church at the end of the age. We cry out to be shaped and fired as vessels to be used for noble purposes. Please don’t let us fall short! Do whatever it takes to keep us on the right path. Choose our footsteps, Father, and keep us from falling away. We desperately need Your grace to stand in these times ahead! Father, hear the cries of our hearts! We want to glorify You with our lives and with our deaths! Help us, Father, to finish our races well! We must stand before You to hear, ‘Well done, good and faithful servants.’ No lesser evaluation is acceptable! Help us! Help us, Father! Pour out Your grace upon Your Church in order that we may be vessels found noble to demonstrate Your wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places at the end of this age! Amen."