The Temple, the Antichrist, and the Structure of Revelation
By Hermano, October 22, 2019 (Updated Oct. 30, 2019)
Introduction: The Dangers of Legalism
Matthew 16:1, 2a, 3b
The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.
He replied, “…You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”
The self-centered legalism of the Pharisees blinded them from recognizing the first coming of their Messiah.
Unlike unconverted Jews, we Christians recognize that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the promised Messiah; and that just as there was a literal, physical First Coming of Christ (Gen. 49:11, Zech. 9:9, Mt. 21:5), there will also be a a literal, physical Second Coming of this very same Jesus (Mt. 24:26-27, Rev. 19:9-21; and 1 Jn. 4:2-3 KJV).
Note: please understand that whenever I have several Bible verse references in a row in parentheses, I tie them together with one single link: so you will have to scroll down the page you are sent to, in order to be able to read them all.
Paul says regarding the Jews:
2 Corinthians 3:15-16
15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts.
16 But whenever ANYONE turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
But I would add that the Jews are certainly not the only ones that are blinded by legalism: Adam and Eve’s decision to eat from the bipolar Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil corrupted all humanity. Mankind’s focus was thus taken off of the unipolar Tree of Life (Jesus), and instead it was put on ourselves, and on our own performance, which is legalism.
We know that at the end of Creation Week, God pronounced everything that He had made, “good” (Gen. 1:31), which would include Lucifer! The angels were all supposed to minister to mankind (Heb. 1:14). But apparently Lucifer decided he wasn’t having any of that, and because of pride and jealousy, he became our enemy, and God’s. Soon thereafter, through a serpent, he tempted Eve.
By eating from that bipolar Tree, Adam and Eve themselves became bipolar, and began projecting their bipolarity and fearfulness onto their loving Creator. For example, after the Fall, when God came for His walk in the cool part of the day (Gen. 3:8), they mistakenly thought they needed to hide from Him —instead of running right to Him! They now wrongly believed that God loved them only when they did good, and hated them when they did evil.
Thus, Adam and Eve lost control of earth to the devil. And we recall that in the devil’s third temptation of Jesus (Luke 4:5-8), the Lord did not contradict Satan’s claim of ownership of all the kingdoms of the world.
(But thankfully, we may further recall the discussion of a property deed scroll in Jeremiah 32. That passage helps our understanding of how a kinsman could buy back land by paying the purchase price. The sealed book could then be delivered to the original owner, or the heir. The heir could, at his convenience, break the seals, and, with the open scroll as his authority, take possession of the land—by force, if necessary (cf. Rev. 10:1-3). So, as to the Second Coming, the final process of evicting Satan begins when the Lamb starts breaking those seals on the title deed (Rev. 6). And regarding the breaking of those seals, and the satanic killing that follows—contrary to the author of Revelation’s sometimes skewed interpretation of what he was seeing in his vision, namely, the mistaken idea that God was also killing—the God of Abundant Life will only be working to destroy the devil’s strongholds, and stop the devil from killing.)
Again, trying to do good—in order to earn blessings, and trying not to do evil—in order to avoid curses, is legalism. Regardless of the prophets’ occasional misunderstandings, God is love, and only blesses. Regardless of the prophets’ occasional misattributions, Satan is the one who sends “the sword, famine, and plague,” not God.
In today’s fallen world, we should all be very grateful that, although the law of sowing and reaping is true (Gen. 8:22; Gal. 6:7-8), God’s grace and mercy are more true (Heb. 4:16), and trump the law of sowing and reaping:
Grace: receiving good that we did NOT earn—enjoying benefits that we do not get by our sowing.
Mercy: NOT receiving bad consequences that we DO deserve, from evil things which we did indeed sow.
Today, of course, the fallen archangel Lucifer, the god of this age—whom the unspiritual don’t recognize in his soulish subtleties—is still a very persistent enemy. If he can’t manage to kill us outright, he wants to at least keep us off track: whether by paralyzing us with condemnation, and thus causing us to feel disqualified for service in the Kingdom; or else by encouraging us to self-confidently, blithely move forward to serve God in our flesh. But either way, we are to resist the devil, and he will flee from us (James 4:7).
We must resist the enemy’s self-centered, performance-based, legalistic mindset which allows him to victimize us and defraud us of our full inheritance in Christ. We are not to focus on sin and self, and working to be righteous; rather, we are to focus on JESUS, and learning to rest in him and in his finished work. Therefore, we must bring every lying thought into submission to the truth of Christ’s all-compassing victory (2 Cor. 10:5 NKJV).
As Christians, we ARE righteous: and so we are now perpetually qualified to freely receive all of God’s blessings. We must daily remind ourselves, “I am the righteousness of God in Christ” (personalized from 2 Cor. 5:21). We must understand that although we frequently sin, ALL of our sins have already been forgiven at the cross (see, “Are all our sins—past, present, and future—already forgiven?”).
We must understand that “righteousness” is not something we earn by our obedience, or that we have to work to maintain. Rather, righteousness is a free and permanent GIFT which we received when we received Jesus (Rom. 5:17, 3:24). God’s gifts and His calling are irrevocable (Rom. 11:29).
God is always gracious, never legalistic. But the devil—like a hateful prosecuting attorney, judge, jury, and executioner—is very much a legalist. The devil is the one who accuses, and condemns, and threatens, and kills: not God!
After mankind’s Fall in Eden, we can also be grateful that God did finally manage to get his message of grace through to one man: Abraham. And Abraham, the first Jew, received all of God’s wonderful promises, by faith.
However, then came the whole Mosaic system—a ministry of death and condemnation (2 Cor. 3:7-9)—which was an unfortunate interruption in the unilateral, everlasting, Abrahamic covenant of grace to Abraham and his descendants (Gen. 17:19).
But although the law was a detour for the descendants of Abraham, which impeded their relationship with the God of grace, we must remember that Jesus fulfilled every jot and tittle of the law, and abrogated that legalistic covenant at the cross, through his blood (Lk. 22:20). And being in Christ means that we Christians are now numbered among the descendants of Abraham! (Romans 4, Galatians 3, Hebrews 7).
Many Christians are wrongly trying to juggle between the Old Covenant, and the New, because in reading the words of Jesus, they miss the context. But we need to remember that the New Testament does not begin at Matthew 1:1, but at the death of Jesus.
We must bear in mind that most of what Jesus is quoted as saying in the New Testament, he was saying to people still under the Law of Moses. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, lusting became adultery; anger became murder. By emphasizing the impossibly high demands of the Law, Jesus was jerking the “works rug” out from under his listeners’ feet and pointing them to the grace of God, himself, the Savior of all mankind. (He did the same thing with the rich young ruler, who insisted that he had indeed faithfully kept all the commandments.)
Living under the grace of God is what keeps people from sin, NOT the Ten Commandments. As Romans says,
“For sin shall no longer be your master, BECAUSE you are not under the law, but under grace.” Rom. 6:14.
(Sadly, the converse of that verse is also true: ‘If you are NOT under grace, but under law, then sin SHALL be your master.’)
Joseph Prince highlights the horrendous exchange of covenants by the Jews in Destined To Reign (2010):
Study the Bible yourself. You’ll find that every time the children of Israel murmured and complained [before Mount Sinai], it only brought forth fresh demonstrations of God’s favor, supply and goodness. Why? Because during that period, the blessings and provisions they received were not dependent on their obedience or goodness. They were dependent on God’s goodness and faithfulness to the Abrahamic covenant, which was a covenant of grace.
The Exchange Of Covenants At Mount Sinai
Then, something tragic happened right at the foot of Mount Sinai. In Exodus 19:8, your English Bible says that the people cried out to Moses, saying, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” In the original Hebrew text, this is actually a statement of pride. They were saying, “All that God requires and demands of us, we are well able to perform.” In other words, they were saying, “God, stop assessing or blessing us based on Your goodness. Start assessing, judging and blessing us based on our obedience.” So they effectively exchanged covenants, from the Abrahamic covenant which is based on grace, to the Sinaitic covenant which is based on the law.
The satanically inspired dogma—that is, the legalistic embellishments of threats of violence mistakenly added to God’s communications by Moses—that was able to creep into man’s relationship with God, was because of sin (Gal. 3:19), and proved to be a yoke of slavery (Gal. 5:1). Those added-on threats were then used by the legalistic devil as a weapon, to bludgeon people with evil consequences—supposedly from God—for their sins. But God nailed that weapon of dogma to the cross:
Colossians 2:14-15 (ESV)
14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands [Greek: DOGMA]. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
15 He [thus] disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
(“Dogma”: Strong’s G1378, “the rules and requirements of the law of Moses; carrying a suggestion of severity and of threatened judgment.”)
In spite of Christ’s victory over dogma, Christians are still persistently being tempted away from grace, and back toward legalism (Galatians 5:4); and if they give in to that focus on self and performance, they bring themselves back under the curse of the law (Gal. 3:10, 13; James 2:10). “Believers” thus hardened by the deceitfulness of sin start to move into unbelief (Heb. 3:12). Many Christians today have grown to doubt the love of God, the miraculous testimonies of the Bible, and the warnings against religious deception and false miracles.
‘Unbelieving believers’ today accept the idea of macroevolution, so of course they would deny that the worldwide Flood of Noah even occurred (see “Evolution, The Flood, and God’s True Nature”); and hence, they cannot possibly recognize that Jesus was using the story of the Flood to illustrate the conditions of peace, prosperity, and sensuality that will characterize the world at the time of the unexpected first Rapture (Mt. 24:37-40). Peter even anticipated this very situation of unbelief, indicating it would characterize the last days before the Second Coming (2 Peter 3:3-6 1).
Increasingly, deluded Christians talk of “taking over the world for Christ,” and setting up a theocracy to which Christ will be able to return–when it’s finally ready for him. They say that the world must be completely evangelized, or else Jesus cannot return; and that we must come together and join their cause, and follow their leaders, in order to get the job done. But they forget that the task of world evangelism will finally be completed from above, during the time of tribulation, as indicated in Revelation (Rev. 14:6).
This growing movement of Christian dominionism (a.k.a. The New Apostolic Reformation) holds many similar tenets to those of the New Age Movement. For example, both movements have many followers who believe God is not truly omniscient (popularized among Christians via “open theism”), and that Armageddon will be avoided as mankind comes together to “co-create with God” a better future under one common leadership–using psychic power. Both movements are politically active, with each trying to put its own leaders into power. But, unsurprisingly, the two movements are merging: after all, the spirit of Antichrist is ecumenical, encouraging unity that is not based on truth.
And regarding the erroneous idea that there must be unity among professing believers at any cost, Paul said, “For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you” (1 Cor. 11:19).
As we see the apostasy growing in the Church, we realize our redemption is drawing near (Lk. 21:28); and Jesus exhorts us:
“Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.” Revelation 3:2
The self-absorbed Pharisees of old, who studied the Scriptures by the letter and not by the Spirit, did not understand the true nature of their God, and could not recognize the manner of Messiah’s first coming. In the same way today, self-absorbed Christians, who study the Scriptures by the letter and not by the Spirit, and thus also do not understand the true nature of their God, cannot recognize the manner of Messiah’s second coming; or his true motivation: to rescue, and to lovingly set things right!
The Temple Rebuilt
As a futurist, I recognize that there will yet be a literal, physical temple rebuilt in Jerusalem. And I further recognize there will be a coming “golden age of man” under Antichrist, which will—before the Rapture—provide the prolonged conditions of peace necessary for the rebuilding of a literal, physical Babylon in Iraq–and its growth as a city which will become the unparalleled commercial center of the whole world (Zech. 5:5-11; Rev. 17:3-5, 18:9-17).
The news media will occasionally carry stories about Jewish plans to rebuild a Temple in Jerusalem (1, 2, 3). And currently, many Jews are excited about Donald Trump’s administration; after all, it formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Skeptics of the rebuilding of the temple would do well to remember that, right after the persecution of Jews by that prototype of the Antichrist, Adolf Hitler, Israel was reestablished as a sovereign nation. It is now a resurrected country, again speaking the “dead language” of Hebrew, and even again using the shekel as its national currency!
(And let’s not forget that this reestablishment of Israel—almost two thousand years after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD by the Romans, and the enslavement and dispersion of the surviving Jews—was contrary to the biblical interpretations of the unbelieving, although perhaps erudite, preterists of that time. And even today, adherents of preterism remain bloodied but unbowed: the miraculous rebirth of Israel in 1948 holds no prophetic significance for them.)
What comes next prophetically? The rise of Antichrist!
I believe that the next major prophetic event is not the Rapture, or the Second Coming, or the rebuilding of the Temple, but the rise of Antichrist. One day soon, a literal, physical man, prophetically referred to as “Antichrist” (and, “The Assyrian,” Is. 10:5; “The Little Horn,” Dan. 7:8; “The Chaldean,” Hab. 1:6; “The Man of Sin,” 2 Thes. 2:3; “The Beast,” Rev. 13:1) will come onto the world stage—and be hailed as a hero. He will be “the man of the hour” when he defeats three opponents (Daniel 7:20-22), and brings the world back from the brink of total chaos and destruction: but it will all just be a great deception orchestrated by Satan to gain his man acceptance. After that, Antichrist will set out to deliver on promises he has made to his supporters: promises of vast, seductive, ill-gotten riches (Daniel 7:8-11, Habakkuk 1, 1 Thes. 5:1-4, Rev. 3:16-19).
Daniel 7:7-8 (NIV)
7 “After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.
8 “While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully.
In Daniel 7:7 above, the “ten horns” are understood to stand for all the leaders of the area that was once comprised the Roman Empire (see, for example, “Four kingdoms of Daniel”). Then in Daniel 7:8 above, the “little horn”–who is also from within that area, and displaces three of the other horns–is understood to be the Antichrist.
Perhaps the Antichrist will arise from a little, seemingly inconsequential country from within the area of the ancient Roman empire, like Lebanon (Habakkuk 2:17). Tyre is a city on the coast of Lebanon. Consider this possibility: The “Prince” of Tyre, described in Ezek. 28:1-10, is Antichrist; while the “King” of Tyre, subsequently described in Ezek. 28:11-19, is Lucifer.
Wherever he is actually from, Antichrist will be THE main character on the world stage over a period of years; the time from his rise until his final defeat could perhaps stretch over a whole generation of forty years (Mt. 24:32-34). But considering that a major portion of all the prophecies in the Bible will be fulfilled during that very same period, it is actually not such a long time!
Under Antichrist’s authority, old world empires will be amazingly, astoundingly resurrected; and will then face their final destruction (Compare Dan. 7 with Rev. 13:1-2). Of course, all this will take some time.
We don’t know exactly when the impending world crisis will begin; or how long it will last; or how the Antichrist will resolve it; or all the characteristics of world peace and prosperity that will follow under that dictator; but we do know that for the final 10.5 years of Antichrist’s activities—from the time of the first rapture until the Second Coming—the world will be suffering terribly under the satanic trinity of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet.
The Antichrist will not be recognized by most people for who he really is (that is, he will not ‘‘be revealed,” 2 Thes. 2:7-9) until AFTER the first Rapture—because his prolonged bubble of peace, prosperity, and unbridled sensuality, will have been burst by the Rapture (Matt. 24:38-42; 1 Thes. 5:3; Rev. 6:4). It is only then that he will begin to openly persecute the remaining Christians, as well as all who later become Christians (Rev. 12:13-17). By that point, one would imagine that there will be wide recognition of who and what he really is.
The so-called “doctrine of imminency”—the idea that there are no more major prophetic events before the Second Coming, so therefore Jesus could return at any moment—has been an obstacle for many in understanding the proper order of coming events. As indicated already, there are in fact many more major prophetic events to come even before the first Rapture—starting with some as-yet-unknown major crisis: a crisis which will have to be intense enough, and prolonged enough, to unite a divided world under Antichrist.
To reiterate: what is coming next is a satanically orchestrated world crisis (which is NOT the Great Tribulation). Many will think the Rapture is imminent during this coming crisis (but the Rapture will NOT be imminent during this crisis). Then, the (as yet unrecognized) Antichrist will militarily resolve the crisis. The world will then buy into his “snow job” of flattery, and will settle down to a time of prolonged peace, prosperity, and building programs. Babylon will be rebuilt, and under Antichrist, a world common market will bring great prosperity to many. People everywhere—including Christians like those in the church at Laodicea (Revelation 3:16-18)—will be seduced by pleasure and “living it up.” (Except, initially, the Jews–as we will see next). But it is during this very time of pleasure, when people least expect it, that the Pre-Trib rapture occurs! Then the satanic peace will be taken from the earth, and the Great Tribulation will begin!
The persecution of the Jews under Antichrist
After his meteoric rise to power, the Antichrist, a satanic anti-Semite, will waste no time in enlisting help from the enemies of the Jews, in order to persecute the Jews, and to even steal their territory from them—at least temporarily (Ezek. 35:10-15; Obad. 1:14).
Eventually, because they are hounded by the Antichrist worldwide, the Lord will make a way of escape for the Jews, apparently guiding them again to Egypt (Deut. 28:65-68). There, the desperate Jews will opt to renew their covenant relationship with God, in deadly earnest (Ezek. 37:11-14, 20:33-38). (Even so, most Jews will still not recognize Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah until his physical return to earth.)
The reappearance of the Ark of the Covenant
It has been argued by Arthur E. Bloomfield (1895-1980) that at that very time of pending doom for the Jews, and because of their repentance, the Ark of the Covenant—which represents God’s protection for Israel—will make a reappearance to those hopelessly cut-off Jews (Isaiah 11:12, and 18:3; and later during the Millennium, the Ark in retrospect: Jer. 3:16-17).
This reemergence of the Ark will save the Jews from imminent death. And then, traveling with the Ark, the Jews will be able to return safely en masse to Israel (Deut. 30:1-10), and retake their land from their enemies. (So the temple will probably be rebuilt after this retaking of their land, while under divine protection.)
But unfortunately, we already know that the Jewish leaders in Israel will at some later point foolishly choose to abandon their trust in God’s supernatural protection, and make a seven year covenant with Antichrist instead (Daniel 9:26-27 WYC).
Looking again at Daniel 9:26-27 (this time, in NKJV) we read history in advance—how the Antichrist will break that seven year covenant with the Jews after only 3.5 years, and how he will then defile the rebuilt temple. But, praise the Lord, Christ will return to that temple soon thereafter (Malachi 3:1-4).
Side note: It appears the Ark of the Covenant has already been found—although it has not yet been publicly revealed. See, “The Discovery of the Ark of the Covenant by Ron Wyatt.” (Also see “Ron Wyatt and biblical archeology.”)
Revelation and the Rapture(s)
Regarding the much maligned idea of a “rapture”—that is, the idea that some day in the future, believers will be “caught up” or “snatched up” (Gr. harpazō, Latin rapio) to heaven—we should recall arguments that both Enoch (Gen. 5:24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11) were apparently “raptured.” Further, Revelation 11 indicates there will be two witnesses in the future who will be killed, resurrected after 3.5 days, and then raptured (Rev. 11:7-12). (Jesus, on the other hand, 40 days after his resurrection, ascended back to heaven under his own power: slowly, deliberately, and victoriously.)
By the way: how will all the believers have gotten up to heaven, in order to then be able to come back down from there to earth on white horses with Jesus at his Second Coming? Well, either by death…or by Rapture!
I believe there will actually be a series of three raptures, as people are ready to go:
There will be a first, pre-Tribulation rapture. This rapture, like the two more that will follow it, is A RESCUE and a reward; but this one is also a judgment (1 Peter 4:17): it will be a separation of the more vigilant Christians from the less (Mt. 25:1-10). In Revelation chapter 12, the pregnant woman described there with a crown of twelve stars does not represent Israel, but the whole body of professing Christians at the time of the first Rapture. And the catching up of the baby who will rule with a rod of iron (Rev. 12:5), symbolizes not the ascension of Jesus, but rather the rapture of a smaller body of alert Christians who are promised to rule with a rod of iron (Rev. 2:27). They are the Christians who are actually able to hear, whenever it comes, God’s call from heaven. God will call us to come up, and those who have ears to hear, like John in Rev. 4:1, will hear God’s “Come up here!” John in Rev. 4:1 represents, by proxy, the response of those sober-minded, spiritual believers at the time of the pre-Trib Rapture. John’s rapture provides a chronological place-marker in the narrative for the timing of that first Rapture. And of course the pre-Tribulation Rapture of Rev. 4:1 comes right after the warning to the carnal church at Laodicea, at the very end of Rev. 3. Note: Jesus ascended to heaven victoriously, 40 days after his resurrection. However, the baby of Rev. 12:5 is born, and immediately rescued from the dragon. Those who heed and escape up to heaven in the first rapture will be like those few who heeded Noah before the Flood (Luke 17:26, 34-35; Ps. 27:5); they are wise virgins who will get to ride things out far above the devil’s wrath, as he violently resists his eviction (Isa. 26:20).
And then a third and final rapture, at the blowing of the seventh, final trumpet, when Christ descends partway down on clouds (Mk. 13:26-27; Rev. 14:14-16; 1 Thes. 4:13-18) and gathers to himself all the Christians in heaven, together with all those still remaining on earth–giving us at that time our new, immortal bodies (1 Cor. 15:51-53). Then they (we) will proceed to the Wedding Feast in heaven. That Marriage Supper is held shortly before the Second Coming of Christ, when Jesus will descend all the way down to earth on a white horse, with us accompanying him on white horses (Rev. 19:9-21). Then, with a mere breath of his mouth (2 Thes. 2:8), Christ will dispense with Antichrist, and his Millennial reign on earth will commence.
To reiterate: we must distinguish that at the third rapture, Christ will remain above on white clouds; whereas at the soon-to-follow Second Coming, Christ will ride all the way down to earth on a white horse, and then remain here for the Millennial Age.
Those Jews in Israel who accept Christ after the first Rapture (Micah 5:3), will become courageous evangelists to their people, traveling throughout Israel (Mt. 10:23). At the second rapture, they will remain on earth, but will enjoy special protection (Rev. 7:3-8).
At Christ’s physical Second Coming to earth, the remaining unconverted Jews will finally recognize Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah; they will repent with mourning (Zech. 12:9-14); and they will be saved (Rom. 11:25-26). This will be followed by a Millennial Age of reconstruction and healing (Isaiah 65:20-25), in which the Jews will figure prominently, with Jesus ruling from Jerusalem. And it should be mentioned that just as the Lord’s Supper memorializes the death of Christ, the Jews will also memorialize his death with sacrifices at the Temple during the Millennium. (See, for example, Ezek. 45:17, Isa. 66:20-23, Zech. 14:16-21, Mal. 3:1-4.)
At the end of the Millennium, God will briefly release the devil, who will again attract followers, and whip up a new attack on Israel; but, like the enemies who came against Jerusalem at Armageddon a thousand years earlier, this new crop of enemies will also be doomed to failure. Regarding their destruction: I believe it is actually their angry, disappointed, resentful leader the devil who will kill them, not God (Rev. 20:7-9). GOD DOES NOT KILL. (Please see “Is God Violent, or Nonviolent?”)
Then comes Judgment; the remedial lake of fire (which will be the death of death); the gradual emptying of that lake as its occupants choose to come out of it and go through the open gates of the City to take the free water of life offered within; and then our graduation together to a blissful eternity of unimaginably great joy and adventure with the Lord:
1 Corinthians 2:9
But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
The structure of Revelation: the importance of distinguishing the main timeline from later supplementary details
We must seek to distinguish the basic timeline which is first given in a prophecy, from any supplementary details added afterwards—details which do not actually follow later chronologically.
So, for both the Olivet Discourse and the Book of Revelation, let’s examine how first, a foundational chronological timeline is given, and then supplementary details are added that fit back into the earlier timeline. (If we read these long passages of prophecy as contiguously chronological straight through to the end, without recognizing where recapitulation and added details even begin, it will cause terrible confusion and misunderstanding.)
In The Olivet Discourse, found in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 (although we will limit ourselves here to just Matthew’s treatment of it), first, after reference to the soon-coming destruction of the Temple at the time of Christ’s first coming (that is, Herod’s temple), we jump forward to the basic chronological timeline from the rise of false Christs to the third rapture, Matt. 24, verses 4 through 31.
The basic timeline begins with warnings about false Christs, and wars and uprisings (Mt. 24:4-6); [the Pre-Trib Rapture—which happens here—is skipped for now]; then Jesus goes right into comments about the suffering of Christians during the Tribulation, and the exhortation to them to stand firm (in hopes of the second rapture), and the gospel being preached to the whole world from heaven (Mt. 24:8-14); then there is a shift to address the Jews, warning them to flee Jerusalem when they see Antichrist break his covenant with them; also, there are warnings about not following false rumors concerning the supposed return of Christ, because his return on the clouds at the third rapture will be visible and unambiguous (Mt. 24:15-27); and then we hear of the final events leading up to the Return of Christ, or more precisely, to the third rapture (Mt. 24:29-31). So, again, the basic chronological timeline covers from first signs to Return of Christ.
-Then, we get added details that fit back into the earlier timeline: the lesson of the fig tree, with an exhortation to be alert for the Pre-Trib Rapture, and details about the dynamics of the Pre-Trib rapture, e.g., one person taken, another left (Mt. 24:32-44).
In Revelation, first, we have a basic chronological timeline presented in Chapters 4 through 11, from a heavenly standpoint, that covers from the first, Pre-Trib Rapture (Rev. 4:1, with John in representation of that future body of sober-minded Christians who get to leave before the Great Tribulation begins)…all the way up to the Second Coming (Rev. 11:15-19).
-Then, from Chapters 12 through 19, we get added details, from an earthly standpoint, which fit back into the earlier timeline: for example, the Pre-Trib Rapture is described again, in a new way (Rev. 12:5), and mention of the Wedding supper is added (Rev. 19:6-9).
The following is an additional example of this principle of interpretation, from Professor Arthur Bloomfield in his book Before the Last Battle—Armageddon (p. 20). This quote (with my emphasis in bold) is from his discussion about the phrases “In that day,” and “At that time”:
“A very important illustration of this rule may be seen in Daniel 12:1:
And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
The commentators stumble over the phrase, ‘at that time.’ They argue, ‘How can it be that after Antichrist has been destroyed and the kingdom of Christ has come, there is a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation?’
But Jesus quoted this statement in Matthew 24:21 and applied it to the same time as Daniel 11, not afterwards. The fact is that in Daniel 12:1 ‘at that time’ does not mean at the end of the events of Daniel 11. The prophet means that he is going back to fill in a detail left out in the main sequence.”
Again, Revelation chapters 4 through 11 tell the basic timeline of events from the first rapture through Second Coming; whereas Revelation chapters 12-19 then go back and add supplementary details that take place during that very same period of time—from first rapture to Second Coming.
Here is an overcrowded MS PowerPoint chart, that I created in 1997, for your consideration, which I hope may help you understand the structure of Revelation. It has been converted into a PDF file, labeled “RevChart1997BloomfieldSeiss.pdf,” and chronologically depicts Revelation chapters 4 to 11:
RevChart1997BloomfieldSeiss.pdf (261.3 KB)
Some final thoughts and exhortations:
Many have discarded futurism as pessimistic-unsophisticated-passé. The idea of a rapture, à la Tim LaHaye’s “Left Behind” money machine, seems shameful and escapist. But I am telling you: do not throw out the baby with the bathwater.
I myself am a futurist; however unlike some other futurists, I am not promoting a hurtful God; nor an “us versus them" elitist attitude; nor a “Beam me up, Scotty,” escapist mentality. Rather, I strongly affirm that our loving heavenly Daddy is not in the killing business, but the saving business.
When Jesus, our kinsman-redeemer, starts to break the seals on the title deed to earth, in order to finally begin taking repossession of it, the devil will indeed violently resist his coming eviction. So the Lord wants us to be usable now, ahead of time: to warn, to teach, to serve, to confront the powers of darkness, and to make preparations on behalf of others, for after we’re gone.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
In light of John 3:17, let’s not confuse God for the devil, as the Bible prophets mistakenly did on occasion. God is not going to send evil. God is not going to punish the world. But God is spelling things out for us in advance, and forewarning us of what the devil will do, so that we can pray with understanding, and take appropriate action.
Moses saw through a glass, darkly (1 Cor. 13:12 KJV): the blood of lambs gave the Israelites protection from the plagues of “the destoyer” (Ex. 12:23), not from God. And Jesus died to ransom us from the legalistic devil (1 Tim. 2:5-6), not to ransom us from His loving Father!
The false projection of bipolarity onto God started at the Fall of mankind in the Garden, and continues to this day. The mistaken conflating of God (LIFE) and Satan (death) happened to the prophets sometimes, and it still happens to believers today! But God is not a two-headed monster: the unchanging God is only love (1 John 4:8, 16).
Evangelical Universalists indeed believe that that a person must receive Christ and be born again in order to see the kingdom of heaven (Jn. 3:3); but we also believe that eventually everyone will do so—either in this life, or after judgment, postmortem. (Please see, “For Further Consideration” at the end of this essay.) And we believe that then, after the last person repents and comes out of the lake of fire, God will finally be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28), and we will all graduate together from the temporal to the eternal. And, of course, we believe that God would passionately prefer that each individual receive His Son sooner instead of later.
The greatest assignments and adventures of all time still lie ahead for the Church; but they must be discerned, accepted, and carried out under the leadership of Jesus, the Head of the Church, in harmony with the Holy Spirit—who wants us to humbly seek and utilize the very necessary supernatural Gifts He offers. 1 Cor. 14:1.
The heavenly resources available to us are UNLIMITED. Isaiah 53:4-11 presents “The Divine Exchange,” foretelling that Messiah would TAKE our sin and suffering, and GIVE us his righteousness and “shalom” —shalom being variously translated as “health,” “prosperity,” “safety,” “contentment,” “friendship,” and “peace.” The Prince of Shalom has done that! “It is finished.” We cannot add anything to the finished work of Jesus; we can only receive it, enjoy it, and share it. EVERYTHING God has IS ours (Luke 15:31).
God has already disallowed all evil in Christ, and the Church must stand on its authority, through Christ’s finished work, and use the keys of the kingdom of heaven—binding and casting out death and disaster, and loosing and proclaiming life and blessing—and in this way it will not neglect its ‘so great salvation’ (Heb. 2:3). We must act to resist the devil and expose his snares; we must prophetically anticipate and mitigate the devil’s coming rage. “Forewarned is forearmed,” and “knowledge is power.”
Hebrews 12:2-3 (NIV)
2 Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
All of us are here together in this temporal classroom (whether above in Paradise, or still on earth, or under the earth as POWs in Hades) learning to yield to God in all things, and learning that His ways are always right. This is often an abhorrent, painful classroom for those of us still on earth; and it may become even more so for those who pass through the avoidable Great Tribulation.
And certainly it will be even more painful for the unsaved, who, after death, pass through the horrors of Hades–still under the dominion of Satan in death, as they were in life. Jesus warned the Jews, and all of us, that we are to avoid Gehenna at any cost.
But, Hades will eventually be followed by the remedial, purgative, temporary (aionios: YLT “age-during”)–and ultimately liberating–lake of fire. There, the wicked (who are loved by God) will be in the presence of Christ—God’s consuming fire of love—and his angels, until they are free of every cord of bondage, and every lie, so that they can see the God of love clearly, and come to repentance.
In all of this, GOD IS JOYFUL, and He wants us to be joyful, too! But, you may ask, how could God possibly be joyful, or expect us to be joyful, in the face of all this pain? Well, because of the truth of promises like this:
1 Cor. 15:22
For as in Adam all die, so in Christ ALL will be made alive.
As Nehemiah said, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” The story of mankind, like all good stories, has a happy ending; because its author, is the The Author of Life!
Friends, Joseph in Egypt correctly interpreted God’s prophetic warning of coming disaster; and he also received divine grace, wisdom, and power to prepare for it, in order to rescue many people from death. We too, by the same Holy Spirit, need to correctly interpret prophetic warnings; we too need to receive—and work by means of—divine grace, wisdom, and power, in order to prepare for what is coming; in order to rescue many people from death.
Exciting times are ahead! And as we know from Romans 5:20, ‘where sin abounds, grace superabounds!’ So, let us encourage each other, and all the more as we see the Day approaching.
Postscript: this essay is now available as a pdf file: The Temple, the Antichrist, and the Structure of Revelation, 30 Oct. 2019.pdf (410.7 KB)