Powerful Prophecies, Pt. 8
Study Guide, April 30, 2017
Pastor Clay Olsen
In our Life Group we were talking about evangelism and ways to initiate witnessing conversations. And with an insight from Brother Roger we came up with a new method of starting a conversation. You could say to someone: “You may already be a Christian, but if not – you could be the last one that completes the Church and launches the Rapture of the Church!” What do you think? Would that get their attention or what? That might need some explanation. Actually, that needs some explanation even for many that already are Christians, because this is an area of prophecy that is not normally talked about very much in the Church as a whole. But it ought to be talked about quite often! And why do we say that?
Do you remember what we read about what the Apostle Paul said at the end of the prophecy about the Rapture of the Church in 1Thess 4:18? “So encourage each other with these words.” NLT A great reason that God has revealed these amazing prophecies to us, particularly the Rapture of the Church, is to encourage His people; to encourage them in the midst of whatever they are going through in their lives in good times or in bad times. And you talk about big time encouragement: Jesus’ soon return to escort His Church to Heaven and to then begin establishing His promised Kingdom on Earth is about as encouraging as it gets. Right? Plus, knowing that Jesus is on the verge of completing what He started when He said, “I will build My church”, ought to give us great encouragement, as well as give us courage to live out our lives as followers of the Lord Jesus, who is coming back just as He promised He would.
We pointed out that God works according to His purposes. Remember that great passage of Isa 46:9-10- “Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure…” NASU
So God works according to His purposes. And as we began pointing out, even in the prophetic teachings of the Scriptures, as we seek to understand God’s purposes of these prophecies we can then better understand the reasons for them as well. Like we mentioned, as we better understand the purpose of the Tribulation and Great Tribulation period we can then better understand the reason for the Rapture. And in saying that, it takes us to that key passage of Rom 11:25-27- “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery — so that you will not be wise in your own estimation — that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB.” THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS.” NASU
For one thing: This is why we said that another great incentive to witnessing is to realize that one day, somewhere, someone is going to respond to the saving gospel and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and they will be that ‘last someone’ who completes the Church, who completes the ‘fullness of the Gentiles. And that will then trigger the return of Jesus for His Church to gather or to ‘rapture’ His Church and begin the final countdown of the Tribulation period and Jesus’ return to the Earth to usher in His Kingdom upon the Earth.
How about looking at the unsaved around you through that lens of Scripture, huh? Each person you see, think: “You might be the last one who completes the Church and triggers the Rapture of the Church.”
Two things about what we just said about this: One is that ‘the fullness of the Gentiles’ actually does refer to the completion of the Church. It’s why we say that we are living in the ‘Church Age’. This age that we are now living in is a particular age among other ages in the history of mankind. These ‘Ages’ are often referred to as ‘Dispensations of History’. For example, there was the Pre-Flood dispensation or age. There was the dispensation of Law, which was then followed by the dispensation of Grace, or the Church Age. And this age will be followed by the dispensation of the Tribulation, which will followed by the dispensation of the Kingdom or the Age of the Millennial Kingdom. And then these dispensations will be followed by the final age – the Eternal Kingdom of the New Heavens and New Earth.
The point is, that by better understanding God’s plan for the Ages, we can then better understand not only what has happened in the world, and what is happening in the world now, and what will happen in the world ahead of us, but also better understand ‘why’? Once we understand the purposes for these ages we can then see the reasons for what is happening in these ages.
An example of what we’re talking about can be seen in Jesus’ first coming, which then changed the Ages from the Age of the Law to the Age of Grace, or the Church Age. Gal 4:4-7- “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” NASU And Paul later calls this change, a change from ‘Law to Grace’, and new ‘Age’: the building of Christ’s Church. And by the way, just like the ‘fullness of time’ here meant the completion of the time of the Law, the ‘fullness of the Gentiles’ also means the completion of this age, or the Church Age.
But again, there will come a time when the Church Age is completed. And when it is, that will lead into the next ‘Age’ of Earth’s history, which will be the ‘Tribulation Age’. Actually, another way the Church Age has been described is by calling it a ‘Parenthetical Age’. It’s like a parenthesis of time between God’s work through Israel in the Old Testament and His continuation of working through Israel in the Tribulation period or ‘Tribulation Age’. The Church Age is in between these dispensations, like a parenthesis.
Don’t let these distinctions in ages throw you, because just like there will be distinctions among the saved in Heaven who are there from various tongues, tribes, and nations, there will also be distinctions between the saved from these various ages of Earth’s history. It’s important and amazing to remember that memory of Earth continues in Heaven. No doubt part of the great joys of Heaven will be the telling and hearing of other people’s life stories, from whatever age of Earth’s history they lived.
The point is, once the Church Age is completed, another Age will begin…the Tribulation Age. And one purpose for the Tribulation Age is for God to continue His working in and through Israel, who has experienced this ‘partial hardening’ during the Church Age that Paul pointed out. But then, at the beginning and throughout the Tribulation Age a great number of Israel’s lineage will turn to their Messiah and will once again be significant witnesses for Christ during the last years of Earth’s history before the Messiah returns to reign upon the Earth.
And that’s another thing we should remember about this partial hardening of Israel. Remember, Israel’s mission, as God’s people, God’s assembly, was to be a national light to the nations of the world. They were to be God’s ‘instrument of witness’ to the world of the way to have a relationship with the One God and Creator through faith in the coming Messiah, or the coming Christ. But they neglected their mission and rejected their Messiah. Therefore, God raised up another assembly to be His ‘instrumental of witness’, the Church. And this assembly of people would be from all nations, who were to then continue this mission of being a light to all nations. And this assembly, the Church, will do so until, as the Apostle Paul revealed, ‘the fullness of the Gentiles has come in’, or this particular assembly is complete, and then, in the Tribulation Age, God will enlist His assembly of Israel once again, led by the 144,000 from every tribe of Israel to be that light and witness to the nations of the Messiah and Lord Jesus Christ.
Actually, there is a question that often comes up about Israel’s place in God’s purposes and ministry of witness and work in the world. The question is often connected with the idea that since Israel rejected their Messiah, that God has cast off Israel from His further works and purposes. And once again, how amazing that God knew this question would come up, so He answered it before it was ever asked. Notice Jer 31:35-37- “It is the Lord who provides the sun to light the day and the moon and stars to light the night, and Who stirs the sea into roaring waves. His name is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, and this is what He says: “I am as likely to reject My people Israel as I am to abolish the laws of nature!” This is what the Lord says: “Just as the heavens cannot be measured and the foundations of the earth cannot be explored, so I will not consider casting them away for the evil they have done. I, the Lord, have spoken!” NLT
So, yes, the Lord has continued plans for the ministry and works of the people of Israel. And that is one of the purposes for the Tribulation. But another purpose is God’s judgment upon this present world, for it’s in the Tribulation something else has reached it ‘fullness’ upon Earth, and that is, the ‘fullness of the cup of sin’. And that is why these judgments in the book of Revelation of the seals and the trumpets and the bowls are referred to as the ‘wrath of God’. Here’s something helpful to understand. Sometimes people think of the Tribulation period as just further persecution of God’s people along with judgments from God. Granted, it is a terrible time of persecution from the Anti-Christ upon God’s people. We saw the description of that in Rev. 7 of the martyrs that come through the Great Tribulation.
But there is something that specifically sets this age apart from any other age in mankind’s history, and that is, it is not just a period of intense persecution upon God’s people from the Anti-Christ and the unbelieving world; it is the age of God’s wrath upon the Anti-Christ and the unbelieving world. Notice just a few descriptions of these judgments that are coming upon the Earth:
Rev 6:16-17- “…Hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” Rev 14:19- “So 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.”
Rev 15:1- “Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished. Rev 15:7- “Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever.”
Rev 16:1- “Then I heard a loud voice from the temple, saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.” NASU
These judgments during the Tribulation period, which get progressively more and more severe on into the Great Tribulation period are those of the wrath of God. It is God’s wrath upon a reprobate world, whereas persecution is the world, the flesh, and the devil’s wrath upon God’s people. And so again, one of the purposes of the Tribulation period is for God’s wrath to be poured out, not upon His church, but upon the hardened and reprobate ones at the end of this Tribulation Age; particularly upon the Anti-Christ and his followers.
Which then leads us to one of the most powerful reasons for the Rapture of the Church. And that is what Paul said to the Thessalonian believers right after he revealed this wonderful truth of the great catching away or rapture of the church. And before we read it, remember that both the Apostles Paul and Peter informed Christians in their letters that they were not to be shaken by persecution. Notice how Paul stated it in 2 Tim 3:12- “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” NASU So believers of all ages are to expect persecution, as should the Church today. But something was coming that was going to be different from this persecution from the world, and that was this ‘wrath of God’ upon the world. That was different. And so now notice what Paul said to these believers about that. And again, remember, he said this right after he told them about the Rapture of the Church: 1 Thess 5:9-11- “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” NASU
This ‘wrath of God’ was certainly coming…coming in the coming Tribulation Age, but the coming deliverance of the Church from ‘this wrath of God’ upon the world was another reason that they were to encourage each other, and that we should encourage each other in this Church Age. Again, even though we may have to experience persecution from the world, we will not experience the wrath of God in the Tribulation Age. It was like Paul was saying, that they ought to be encouraged about Jesus’ soon return to escort His Church to Heaven, and they also ought to be encouraged that this wrath that was coming in the coming Tribulation Age was not meant for the Church, but for the reprobates and all those who follow the Anti-Christ…even though the ones who received the Messiah during the Tribulation were going to have to endure some of these hardships while it happened.
Again, look for God’s purposes in what He is doing and you will discover the reasons for what is going on.