End of the Church Age
The day is fast approaching when the church will no longer be presently active in the world today. This may be an exciting thought to some, but what will this mean for the world? As we recently studied, Christ is coming for His bride. Scripture shows us that there will not be a great celebration for those who are left behind.
Jesus is coming and all the signs are pointing to His return being soon. When we say the word soon that means He could come today or a thousand years from now. Truthfully, we cannot predict the day nor the hour of His coming (Matt. 24:36).
The disciples asked Jesus, “tell us of the signs of your coming and the end of the age (Matt 24:3).” Here was Jesus response to them:
4 And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.Matthew 24:4-8 NKJV
Some scholars believe the world wars were prophesied in this scripture. While we may see some of these things in our time, Jesus was not talking about the end of the church age here. This scripture will not be fulfilled until after the great tribulation. The church age comes to an end with the rapture. The end of mankind’s time in the world is what Jesus referred to in this scripture.
Those left behind
The exiting of the church will not bring forth a period of happiness and joy. Organized religion has been blamed for the world’s evil by many people and we could say that is probably true. Unfortunately, genuine faith in Christ has been tied into organized religion. This has led many people to think wrongly about having genuine faith in Christ. When Christ raptures the church from the world, that means only the genuine believers of Christ will be taken.
Those that practiced organized religion will still be left in the world. People that did not believe or ignored the preaching of God will still be left in the world. There will be many people left in the world that believed solely in science and technology. Lastly, there will be the people that believed in nothing who will still be in this world after the rapture.
The picture that I am trying to paint here is that the rapture is only for genuine believers. The group of genuine believers compared to nonbelievers, I imagine, is small in size. There’s going to be a large group of people who will face the days following the rapture.
The Great Tribulation period
After the Rapture, the period of Great Tribulation will begin. Scripture declares that this period will be the roughest time to ever occur in this world. Jesus says:
19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20 And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been sinceMatthew 24:19-22 NKJV
the beginningof the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sakethose days will be shortened.
There are some people who believe we are living during the time of great tribulation today. This is said because times are tremendously rough and hard for a lot of people. However, I tell you that we are not living in the days of great tribulation spoken of in scripture. The Church will not be present in the world during the days of great tribulation (due to the rapture). As of this moment, the Church is still very much present and active in our world today.
So, what will happen during the great tribulation? What will people in the world face during that period? Lastly, what happens to those that die during that period – where will their soul go? Let’s take a quick look at this period.
A world of utter destruction
In Revelation 6, we get a glimpse at the utter destruction during the great tribulation. In this chapter of Revelation, we are introduced to the four horsemen. These riders cause a great deal of the destruction during these days.
2 And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.Revelation 6:2 NKJV
The rider on the white horse will go out on a mission of conquering. I want you to notice that this rider wears a crown – something that royalty wears. We see the white horse, the crown he is wearing, and we would think this rider is bringing peace. However, this rider is often associated with the person known as the Antichrist. He will portrays himself to be good but he is the complete opposite of good.
I did a full
4 Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.Revelation 6:4 NKJV
This rider comes into the world to “take peace from the earth”. I’m not sure how much peace will be in the world prior to this rider’s appearance. However much peace is in the world, this rider will remove it and create war. This rider is typically associated with war considering how much killing there will be in the world.
5 When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come and see.” So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. 6 And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.”Revelation 6:5-6 NKJV
This rider will bring about great mourning throughout the land. Along with the mourning will come great famine. Those who do not die by violence may die from not having food to eat. What an absolutely awful time this will be for those living during this period of great tribulation.
Let’s take a look at the last horseman.
7 When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come and see.” 8 So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.Revelation 6:7-8 NKJV
Did you notice the name of this horseman? This rider will be like a plague in the world – everywhere he goes, death follows. Death is often associated with pestilence (disease). We are told that power will be given to all four of the horseman for the purpose of killing a fourth of the earth’s population during this period. This period will be absolutely awful!
Did you notice how these scriptures fall in line with what Jesus says about the end of days (Matthew 24:5-8)?
The people living during the great tribulation will see the fulfillment of each sign (the false prophet, war, famines, and pestilence).
Great Natural and Cosmic Disasters
One more thing that Jesus mentioned in Matthew 24:7 was that there would be earthquakes in various places. Revelation 6 actually goes into detail about these disasters and I want to touch on them briefly.
12 I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.
13 And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. 14 Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. 15 And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountainsRevelation 6:12-15 NKJV
These disasters will lead to people hiding (or living) out of caves! Jesus said that the destruction caused by the four horsemen and the natural/cosmic disasters are the beginning of sorrows (Matt. 24:8). All of this will take place while the genuine believer will be in heaven with Christ.
Will it be possible for people to have a change of mind and become genuine believers of God during these days?
I believe there will be people that will witness the rapture and preach of what they saw. The rapture will be a worldwide event that some will witness and other will sleep through. There will be people who dive into old scripture, I believe, and they too will become believers. The great tribulation will certainly bring forth genuine believers who will look forward to the coming of the Lord again.
9 When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”Revelation 6:9-10 NKJV
Those crying with a loud voice here in this scripture are martyrs of the great tribulation. They will die because they are preaching of Christ during the days when people will feel Christ has abandoned them. These tribulation martyrs will die because they will stand against the way of the Antichrist
13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?”Revelation 7:13-14 NKJV
14 And I said to him, “Sir, you know.”
So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Notice that the tribulation saint will also one day wear a robe that has been washed in the blood of the Lamb. They may not have believed in Christ during the age of the church, but they have still become righteous by His blood during this period. This answers any questions that someone might have about death during the days of the great tribulation.
In those days, the spirits of the righteous will still go to be with Christ! The souls of the unrighteous, however, still go to Hades to await their final judgment. The Great Tribulation will be a very brief period of time – only 3 1/2 years. The book of Daniel (Dan 7:23-27) and Revelation (Rev. 11:1-3) reveals this to us.
The Millennial Kingdom
The period of great tribulation will come to an end with the second coming of Christ. Why do we refer to the time after the great tribulation as the Millennial Kingdom? Let’s take a look at
This 1,000 years kicks off with Satan being thrown into prison:
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3 and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.Revelation 20:1-3 NKJV
Note: the prison that Satan will be thrown into is not Hell (the lake of fire). This prison is likely located in Hades. There are many misconceptions about Hell (the lake of fire) and Satan today. The biggest being that Satan is currently operating from somewhere in hell (the lake of fire) – this is not true. Satan is the “ruler” of this world today – he operates in the world. Satan was thrown out of heaven and fell to our world (Rev. 12:9). Jesus said that the devil fell from heaven to the earth like lightning (Luke 10:18).
We then read this in the gospel of Matthew:
31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.Matthew 25:31-32 NKJV
The millennial kingdom will be an earthly kingdom. Jesus will sit on His throne in this world!
All of those who have lived through the great tribulation will come and stand before Him and be judged. This group of people will be made up of tribulation saints (believers) and tribulation nonbelievers. The believers are the sheep and the nonbelievers will be the goats.
This passage of scripture (Matt. 25:31-46) is often read with a mindset for our world today. I certainly understand why! It teaches about doing the right thing to those who are in need. It will be a mighty blessing to bless those who are in need during the days of the great tribulation.
If we cross reference this scripture with our reading of Revelation, we get even more details of this picture.
Resurrection of Tribulation martyrs and Old Testament Saints
4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.Revelation 20:4 NKJV
The tribulation martyrs will join the tribulation saints that lived through the tribulation and reign with Christ for a thousand years!
There will evidently be more than just the throne that Jesus sits on. Again, we have to cross-reference here to see who is sitting on these thrones and judging.
28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.Matthew 19:28 NKJV
There will be 12 additional thrones for the disciples to judge a resurrected twelve tribes of Israel! You may wonder if this means Judas Iscariot will sit on a throne and judge Israel – I believe the answer is no. (This will have to be a topic for a future bible study.)
You may ask, “Where will the church be during the millennium?” By this point, the Church is the bride of Christ and the bride will go wherever her husband goes. Remember,
The final battle and judgment
After the 1,000 years is finished, we read that Satan will be freed from his prison (Rev. 20:7). After being freed, Satan will use his remaining days to prepare for “his final ‘battle'” with the Lord. Those who lived through the tribulation, but did not believe will live again after 1,000 years have ended (Rev 20:5). They will join with Satan for his final battle where they will be destroyed by fire coming down from heaven (Rev. 20:9).
When I think about this ending for them, I think about how sad an ending it will be for this group of people. They will have lived during a time when the church was active in the world. This group of people will have heard of or seen the rapture of the church. They will have seen prophecy fulfilled through the four horsemen and witnessed the second coming of Christ. After witnessing so much, they will still have no faith in the Lord – I genuinely feel bad for them!
Satan will then be thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10). Death, Hades, and the sea will offer up all of the unrighteous souls and they will go and stand before the Great White Throne.
11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.Revelation 20:11-15 NKJV
In my opinion, this is the saddest passage of scripture in the Bible. God never intended for His creation to be thrown into the lake of fire. Hell will be a place of torment via regret, anger, bitterness, hatred, and sorrow. Scripture also describes this place as “Outer Darkness” (Matt. 8:12). It is called outer darkness because the Lord’s presence will not be there. Where God is, there is Light!
God will bring forth a new heaven and will then dwell with mankind as He has always intended (Rev. 21). This is the life that awaits us after the physical. I hope that you have enjoyed this series of studies. Please share this series with somebody somewhere.