Tim Moore: What would be some of the clearest indications for when the world will be living “one minute” before Jesus Christ’s Second Coming? Bible scholar and author Dr. J.B. Hixson of Not By Works Ministries has joined us to help answer this question.
J.B. Hixson: As Christians we believe in the imminent return of Jesus Christ for the Church. Believers in Christ are going to meet Him in the air at the Rapture of the Church. It is a signless event, meaning that there are no prophecies in Scripture that must be fulfilled before the Rapture can occur.
However, there are many prophecies in Scripture that happen after the Rapture and that lead up to Christ’s Second Coming. So, for today, we are basically answering the question: “Is the stage being set? Can we see things happening today that appear to be getting ready for these end time events that happen after the Rapture?” And, of course, indeed we do. If that’s the case, then clearly the Rapture must be even closer by seven-plus years.
So, let’s dive right into that eleventh hour — the final days — before the Second Coming, covering that final part of the seven-year period when God will pour out His wrath upon the world during the time called the Tribulation. The book of Revelation will be my primary focus. It says a lot about what the world will look like for those who will be left behind and so have to live during Satan’s tyrannical rule through the Antichrist. For those who can survive the 21 judgments of God, they will witness that glorious moment when King Jesus comes back, and the Church along with Him, and watch Jesus fulfill prophecy with the inauguration of the Kingdom.
Nathan Jones: So, let’s start with the Church at the Rapture. The Christians are gone! Next, the Tribulation starts, and we know from Daniel 9 that it will last for seven long years. At the end of those seven years, Jesus Christ returns at His Second Coming, which is the penultimate event that ends the Tribulation. What will life be like for those people? Let’s say someone survives not knowing Jesus Christ as their Savior, and they somehow manage to survive those horrific Tribulation years, what are they going to have to endure just “one minute” before the end of the Tribulation?
J.B. Hixson: By the time you get to the end of the seven years pretty much the entire earth has been destroyed. You’ve had the seven Seal, seven Trumpet, and the seven Bowl Judgments devastate the planet. You’ve had the wrath of God being poured out on the earth with the wrath of Satan in competition. You’ve endured cosmic threats happening, crushing earthquakes, and all kinds of death and bloodshed. So, yes, your life has pretty much been devastated.
J.B. Hixson: The book of Daniel in chapter 12 tells us that after the return of Christ there will be about a 75-day gap before the official commencement of the thousand-year Millennial Kingdom. I believe, as a lot of scholars believe, that it is going to take Jesus that long to even begin to clean up the world and get ready to build the Millennial Temple.
So, living during the Tribulation will be tough. Many new believers in Christ will have been martyred. Just as many unbelievers will have died due to the devastation from God’s judgments.
And yet, the world will still have a whole contingent of people who have remained alive in their physical bodies by the end of the Tribulation. Some of them will be believers who managed to hide from persecution by the Antichrist and the False Prophet. And, there will be unbelievers who were not killed by the Antichrist because they took his mark.
At the moment when Christ comes back, that final moment, at the start of the Kingdom, everybody on earth will be a believer because Jesus separates them like the sheep from the goats. For the rebellious “goats,” to these unbelievers, Jesus says, “Depart from Me into the everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.” To the believing “sheep” He says, “Come, eat and rest with My Father and inherit the Kingdom prepared for you.” So, when the Kingdom starts, you’ve only got believers in their physical bodies populating the Millennial Kingdom.
The Church in their glorified bodies will have come back with Christ to rule and reign with Him. There are also the Old Testament saints which Daniel 12 and Isaiah 26 prophesy being resurrected at the Second Coming. The Kingdom will be a glorious place!
Over the course of time, as those who had survived the Tribulation and were believers and so had entered the Kingdom, they will procreate and have children. Those people will also need to be saved the same way everyone is ever saved — through grace by faith. By the end of the 1,000 years, the earth is repopulated. But, you do have believers living with unbelievers again, and that means that there will be one final battle.
The Chracter of God
Tim Moore: One of the subjects you touched upon that I appreciate concerns the various judgments that will happen during the Tribulation — the Seal, Trumpet, and Bowl Judgments. You emphasize that they are all outpourings of God’s wrath, and they get worse and worse. And yet, we get pushback from some people who claim that God would never pour out His wrath. They’ll instead shift the source and claim that with some of those Revelation judgments God is allowing Satan’s wrath to be poured out. I think this resistance touches on a reluctance, even among some Christians, to ascribe wrath to God’s character. Regardless, God’s wrath being expressed is clearly scriptural. God may be a God of love, but He is also a God of justice and holiness. He is angered and displays righteous indignation for the sins of mankind — by the sin that is staining His perfect creation — so His wrath will be poured out. How do you address this purposeful oversight?
J.B. Hixson: From Genesis to Revelation, the whole theme of God’s wrath is made very clear. Now, the prophetic wrath of God is sort of a manifestation of this wrath. But, you are absolutely right, for unbelievers remain under the wrath of God (John 3:36). That’s the reason why Jesus Christ had to come in a form of a man and put on human flesh and pay the sin debt for the world. First John 2 tells us that He is the propitiation, meaning the satisfaction, of God’s wrath for the whole world. So, nobody has to remain under the wrath of God. Salvation is readily available to all, but those who reject the Gospel, reject that free gift of salvation and refuse to believe the Gospel, well they are going to have all of eternity to pay for their sin in the Lake of Fire.
Tim Moore: And, when it comes to the wrath of God, it’s not just about His wrath that is coming during the Tribulation. Some people believe they are having a pretty good life now, and maybe even “my best life now.” If this is your best life now, then yes, this is probably going to be the best that it’s going to get. They do not realize that eternal wrath remains hanging over them even now.
J.B. Hixson: The Apostle Paul in the Bible talks about mankind being either sons of wrath or sons of light as sons of God. So, when you become a believer, as 1 John 1 explains, you become a child of God because “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin”. We become coheirs with Jesus Christ when we become believers. We join the family of God. We are adopted into the family of God. But, unbelievers still remain under God’s wrath.
You mentioned Satan’s wrath. Well, both types of wrath are mentioned in Revelation — “orgáō” is the word for wrath. Sometimes this wrath is ascribed to Satan, but it’s also ascribed to God. There’s no doubt then that the wrath of God prophetically… in fact the Old Testament prophets called the outpouring of God’s wrath the “Great Day of the Lord’s Wrath,” starts with the Seal Judgments. Why? Because by the end of Revelation 6, the inhabitants of the earth are already hiding out from what they identify as the wrath of the Lamb. “Who will rescue us from this wrath?” the people cry out. You see this response repeated throughout the seven Seal Judgments, and the seventh Seal opens up the seven Trumpet Judgments, and the seventh Trumpet sounds and opens the final seven Bowl Judgments.
These final seven Bowl Judgments I believe may occur during the final 72-hours of the Tribulation. They are all poured out in preparation for the campaign of Armageddon. Conditions on earth just get worse and worse and more and more intense. The nature of the devastation of the Bowl Judgments couldn’t possibly play out over a very long period of time because they are just so devastating.
Nathan Jones: What is the purpose of God’s wrath then? Is it two-fold? Most people think that God is punishing people and punishing evil, but there is another reason for the outpouring of His wrath, right?
J.B. Hixson: It’s about justice. The book of Revelation has also been called the “Apocalypse of Christ.” Chapters 2-3 contain Jesus’ letters to seven historic churches from the First Century. But then, where do chapters 4-5 fit into history? After all, the Tribulation starts with the unveiling of the Antichrist in Revelation 6:1 and his reign runs all the way up to chapter 19. So, what about the events in chapters 4-5?
Well, chapters 4-5 provide the key to understanding God’s wrath. It contains a theodicy, as we theologians call it. These chapters provide a justification for the wrath that is about to be poured out on the world. What gives God the right to pour out His wrath on mankind? Well, the Lamb of God had shed His blood before the foundation of the world, but it was rejected. So, God’s wrath becomes the great equalizer. All of the injustices and unfairness of the world that we see today, the innocents suffering, the guilty getting off scot-free, that all comes to the fore and at last justice is meted out, and right before Christ comes back to set up His earthly Kingdom.
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I’ve never really understood the “army” in the battle of Armageddon. They are mounted on horses. Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of them. How did they survive, and proliferate? It almost seems as though mechanized infantry has been supplanted by mounted horsemen. I doubt that electricity would have survived the cataclysmic events, and perhaps the text is metaphorical, but I have long learned to never apply metaphors when a text seems literal.