On Sunday evenings I have been bringing messages designed to strengthen our faith for the future. Recently we have looked at the question, "What is this world coming to?" and the answer of course is that it is coming to an end! We have considered the dangers to any study of prophetic events, as well as Paul's instruction to Timothy concerning the last days.
Tonight we want to cover a brief survey of prophetic events. To help us understand the history of God's dealing with this world, it is beneficial to divide time into seven basic periods or dispensations. From the beginning of this world until the end of the world we can see these seven distinctive periods as we study the Word of God. For purposes this evening we want to focus on the age in which we now live, the Church age or the dispensation of grace.
I. Survey of Prophetic Events.
A. The Church Age.
1. This dispensation begins near the end of Jesus' earthly ministry.
2. The key event here is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
3. Unlike the other dispensations, the actual length of this dispensation is not given.
4. However, the signs of the times suggest we are living in or near the end of this age.
5. Jesus established the local church during His ministry upon earth, and He will continue to build it until He chooses the time to take all believers home with Him.
Mt 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
6. He reminds us that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.
7. Nothing will prevail against God's eternal plan.
B. The Rapture.
1. The end of this dispensation will be signaled by the next event on the timeline of biblical prophecy is the rapture, when Christ returns for all the saved.
2. Our English word "rapture" comes from a Latin term that means "to transport" or "take away."
3. Although the word is not found in the Bible, the event it refers to is clearly described.
1Th 4:16-17, "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
1Co 15:51-52, "Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."
4. Jesus will come as "the trumpet will sound."
a. In the OT, the single blast of the trumpet was either a call to war or to worship.
b. At the rapture, Jesus will usher us into His presence and we will worship Him.
c. At the same time, the trumpet will signal God's final battle with Satan.
d. Before our nation declares war on another country, the first act is to call the ambassadors home, to get them out of harm's way.
e. In much the same way, God will protect us from His "wrath" as the battle begins.
f. There are those who believe that the believer will have to go through the tribulation, but I believe that God's Word teaches us otherwise.
1Th 5:9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
C. The Judgment Seat of Christ.
1. Immediately following the rapture, all believers will stand before "the judgment seat of Christ."
2Co 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
2. Paul instructs us that "the judgment seat" is a place of reward or loss of reward.
3. The way we lived our lives will be judged in heaven.
4. Not to see if we are saved or not, but to determine rewards.
5. The Bible mentions many rewards, and at this judgment seat, these rewards will be meted out according to our obedience to Christ.
D. The 7-Year Tribulation.
1. After the rapture, all believers will stand before "the judgment seat of Christ" in heaven, the unbelievers left on the earth will face a period known as The Great Tribulation.
Mt 24:21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
2. As believers are removed, Satan will have greater rule.
a. He will establish an unholy trinity.
b. He will take the place of God the Father.
c. His servant "the beast" will take the place of the Son.
d. And the "false prophet" the deceiver, will take the place of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit.
3. The "beast" will not be a terrible creature, but a global leader who will be beast-like in nature.
a. He will be a brilliant political ruler.
b. Perhaps he is living today.
4. This antichrist will come for 3 1/2 years with a peace plan for Israel and the entire world.
5. The later 3 1/2 years will have tremendous chaos.
6. There will be many saved during the tribulation, but it will be very difficult to live for Christ because of the power of evil in the world.
7. This period of time will come to a close with a great battle, the battle of Armageddon, at which time the Lord will return to the earth.
E. The Second Coming of Christ.
1. This is not to be confused with the Rapture.
2. At the Rapture Christ will come in the air, but at the Second Coming, He will come to the earth.
3. At the Rapture, Jesus will come for His saints, and at the Second Coming Jesus will come with His saints.
4. Jesus will come as a righteous judge and to make war with those who oppose Him.
5. He will make short work of the enemies, as He destroys them by His Word.
Re 19:21 And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.
H. The Kingdom Age.
1. Rev.20:1-2 tells us that at this time Satan will be "bound" for a "thousand years."
2. This is the Kingdom Age or The Millennial Reign.
3. Jesus will sit on the throne of David in Jerusalem to rule the whole world in a divine monarchy.
4. In v.4 the "thrones" refers to those of us who were raptured who will reign with Him for a thousand years on earth in our glorified bodies.
5. This dispensation will end at the close of the 1000 year period of time.
6. Satan will be loosed for a season and mount a futile rebellion, which will be immediately squelched by our Lord.
7. Then will come the Great White Throne Judgment.
I. The Great White Throne Judgment.
1. Satan will finally be "cast into the lake of fire."
2. All who died without Christ, whose names are not in "the Book of Life" will be "cast into the lake of fire."
3. This is the judgment upon the dead (spiritual) and there is only one sentence pronounced…eternal separation from God.
4. After this, the earth will be destroyed and God will create a new heavens and earth for us to enjoy for all eternity.
Re 21:1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
What's this world coming to? That's a good question. A better question is: What's coming to this world? For those who know Christ, the future is glory. For those who refuse to surrender to Christ, their future is judgment.
We know what this world is coming to…but what will we do with this knowledge? The Bible says, 'My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…' People need to know, and who will tell them?
Ro 10:13-14 "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?"
The rich man in hell lift up his eyes from the torment with the desire that his family not have to come to the same end that he did, but it was too late for him to witness to them. Will we wait too long? How many souls will be damned for all eternity because we failed to go…we failed to witness…we failed to let them know what we know?