The Bible has recorded for us many teachings that Jesus gave His disciples concerning the end times and His second coming. As I’ve stated in many posts in this series on the End Times, Jesus clearly laid out four irrefutable conditions that would exist leading up to and including the time of His return. According to Jesus, His return will be:
- Sudden and unexpected
- Visible and unmistakable
- In a time of normalcy as in the days of Noah and Lot
- After the apostasy
If we are to take what Jesus said at face value, then we find ourselves in a dilemma as to how to deal with the apocalyptic events described in Revelation, the last book of the Bible. For example, in Revelation chapter 8, we read that one third of the earth will be burned up; one third of the sea life and ships destroyed; one third of the water poisoned; and one third of the sun, moon and stars darkened. And then in Revelation chapter 9, we read about the appearance of locusts who are able to sting men as a scorpion stings. Those who are stung by these creatures must endure the torment for five months without being able to die! And let’s not forget about the 100 pound hailstones that rain down upon men in Revelation chapter 16.
If all these aforementioned events take place before Jesus’ second coming, which is described in Revelation chapter 19, how could his return be sudden and unexpected? Wouldn’t everyone on the entire planet know about these things? Wouldn’t even the unbelievers be able to connect the dots? And what about the notion of normalcy? Even in our day, if a third of the sun was darkened wouldn’t it cause panic and mass hysteria on a global scale—hardly normal?
Of course, for those who interpret the entire book of Revelation figuratively, none of the four conditions mentioned earlier are an issue; however, it is a problem for those who hold to a literal interpretation. Therefore, since I do hold to a literal interpretation, I believe the only way for us to reconcile the events in Revelation with Jesus’ four preconditions is to place His actual second coming in Revelation chapter 6.
(12) I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood;
(13) and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind.
(14) The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
(15) Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains;
(16) and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb;
(17) for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”1
Compare Revelation chapter 6, verses 12-17 with Mark chapter 13, verses 24-26 and you will see a strong correlation between these verses.
(24) But in those days, after that tribulation, THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT,
(25) AND THE STARS WILL BE FALLING from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken.
(26) Then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN CLOUDS with great power and glory.2
Revelation chapter 6, verse 14 is clearly describing Jesus’ return to earth along with its parallel in Mark chapter 13, verse 26. At Jesus’ appearing, the elect will be gathered together by the angels3 but for the rest of the world it will be a time of great wrath. Apparently, no one has to council the unbelieving world on what the consequences will be for them at the time of Jesus’ return since they proclaim it right out of their own mouths! (Rev. 6:16-17)
Given that I have placed Jesus’ second coming as happening in the sixth seal of Revelation chapter 6, all the other judgements on the earth as described in the seventh seal, including the trumpet judgements and the six bowls of wrath, must take place after His return. This would also include the following:
- The 144,000
- The locusts from the bottomless pit
- The 200 million man army
- The two witnesses
- The beast and false prophet
- The 100 pound hailstones
Everything I’ve said up to this point probably sounds farfetched, troubling, and maybe even highly improbable, but consider that even in the middle of the discussion of Armageddon in Revelation chapter 16 we have a repeat of a familiar warning:
(Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.) (Rev. 16:15)
And again in Mark:
Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—
in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep.
What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’ (Mark 13:35-37)
What I think we need to remember is that tribulation is for believers, that is the Church, but judgement and wrath are for the unbelievers or unsaved. What believers would consider tribulation would not necessarily be considered tribulation by the unsaved. Given that Jesus said that the apostasy would precede His return, could it be that apostate Christians wouldn’t even notice they were in the tribulation? I suppose it’s possible since Jesus seems to go out of His way to warn us to be on the alert. Almost like when His apostles were in the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus told them to keep watch with Him so they wouldn’t fall into temptation—still they fell asleep. (Mark 14:34-42) Did they fall asleep because they didn’t understand what was about to transpire, that Jesus was about to be taken from them that night?
The Pre-Trib Rapturists don’t have to worry about any of the concerns discussed here since the Rapture will occur at any moment; they will be taken away; then all hell will break out on earth. Clean and simple. Maybe so, but I just don’t see any of that being taught anywhere in the Bible.
Rev. 6:12-17 NASB ↩
Mark 13:24-26 ↩
Gerard Sczepura, “The End Times: Arguments in Defense of a Post-Trib Rapture,” Theological Ruminations (blog), May 4, 2015, http://gerardsczepura.com/?p=630. ↩