Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Rapture of the Church: Fact or False Hope? PART TWO

DISCLAIMER:  I am in no way questioning the validity of the Second Coming of Christ.  Jesus is returning to Earth to set up His eternal kingdom.  I am just debating the timeline and details.

I ended my last post stating my desire to read the Scripture, and analyze with my own understanding, the timeline of the battles of Gog and Magog, and Armageddon, and the Rapture.  I dove into it with such fervor that I burned myself out making me more confused than ever :).  Thankfully I’ve cooled off and decided to take each Scripture passage that I was intrigued by and break them down and compare them.  It has been a daunting task but incredibly exciting as well.

The passages I’m comparing first are Ezekiel 38:1-6, 18-22, 39:1-6, 17-20; Daniel 7:24, 25, 11:36-45; Zechariah 14 and Revelation 13:5-7, 16:15-21, 17:12-14, 19:11-21, 21:23-22:2. For the sake of time and space, I’m not going to type out (okay, click and paste) each passage so you’ll have to look up the verses yourself in a Bible or you can click each of these passages to read them on BibleGateway.com.  I’ve chosen these first because they detail the end time battles that will be fought and Jesus’ coming to rescue his people and set up his earthly kingdom.  This has given me a basis on which to decide if the Rapture is a separate event from the Second Coming of Jesus as King.  The Scriptures I’ve listed here serve as evidence for the timeline I’ve created at the bottom of the table.

  10 leaders (kings) will arise.  Another leader (the Anti-christ) will arise and he will subdue 3 of those leaders (7:24).  The Anti-christ speaks blasphemes against God and will oppress the saints for 3 1/2 years (7:25).   The Anti-christ (the beast) arises and utters blasphemes against God.  He is given authority for 3 and 1/2 years over the whole earth and to make war against the saints (13:5-7).  With 10 leaders, he marches to make war on the Lord but Jesus will overcome with his faithful followers in tow (17:12-14).
Gog of Magog (leader from Russia) will attack Israel with “many nations”:  Meshech, and Tubal (vicinitiy of Turkey), Persia (Iran), Cush and Put (vicinity of Libya and Sudan), Gomer (vicinity of Eastern Europe), Togarmah (vicinity of Armenia, and Georgia) (38:1-6). The Anti-christ is attacked by the kings of the North and South (Syria and Egypt) who are threatened by his political (11:39) and military success of gaining control over many countries (vs 40-44).  Israel is also invaded.  Egypt is taken captive but Edom, Moab and Ammon (Jordan) will somehow evade capture (11:41, 42).  He stations himself in Jerusalem (11:45).  (Note that the allies of Gog are not listed among the nations in Daniel).
All nations gather to Jerusalem to fight against it (14:2). The kings of the earth gather together at the place called Armageddon (16:16) to make war with the Jesus and his army (19:19). 
The destruction of the armies of Gog will be characterized by a “great earthquake”; “the mountains will be overturned, cliffs will crumble and every wall will fall to the ground” (38:19, 20). The Lord himself will fight for Israel and set his feet on the “Mount of Olives and [it] will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley” with each half of the mountain moving north and south (14:4). “Out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne saying “It is done!” Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake.  No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on the earth, so tremendous was the quake.  The great city spit into three parts and the cities of the nations collapsed.  Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found” (16:17-19).
“Every man’s sword will be against his brother” (38:21b). “Men will be stricken by the Lord with great panic. Each man will seize the hand of another, and they will attack each other” (14:13).
Judgment of “plague and bloodshed” (38:22). A plague in which “their flesh will rot while they are standing,” and their eyes and tongues will rot in their orifices (14:12).  A similar plague will happen to the animals that are with them (14:15).  
Torrents of rain, hailstones, and burning sulfur” (38:18-22) “From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each (16:21)
    After Jesus has landed on Mount of Olives and the armies have been destroyed (14:5,12) “he will come and all his holy ones with him” (14:5b) “I saw heaven opened and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is is called Faithful and True” (19:11) and his name is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (19:16).  “The armies of heaven were following him …” (19:14).
The Lord “will summon a sword against Gog” (38:21a) (just him and/ or his armies too?) Jesus has a “sharp sword out of his mouth with which to strike down the nations” (19:15).  The Anti-christ will be thrown into the fiery lake but the  nations will be killed with the sword (Rev 19:21).
“The Sovereign Lord says:  I am against you Gog … On the mountains of Israel you will fall , you and all your troops and the nations with you.  I will you as food to all kinds of a carrion birds and to the wild animals” (39:1, 4).  “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Call out to every kind of bird and all the wild animals: ‘Assemble and come together from all around to the sacrifice I am preparing for you, the great sacrifice on the mountains of Israel … You will eat the flesh of mighty men and drink the blood of the princes of the earth … At my table you will eat your fill of horses and riders, mighty men and soldiers of every kind” (39:17-20). And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds …“Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.  Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army” (Rev 19:17, 18).

“The Lord will be King over the whole earth” (14: 9), and set up his earthly kingdom in Jerusalem.  There will be one day with no light, day or night, but then light will come in the evening.  Waters of life will flow out of Jerusalem (14:6-11).  The survivors (those who didn’t fight) from the nations who fought in the battle will come to Jerusalem every year to worship the Lord. (14:16, 17) “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life … flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb …” (22:1) which is in Jerusalem.  The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it for the glory of God gives it light … The nations will walk by its light and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it” (21:23, 24)

Timeline for End-Time Battles and Jesus’ Return as King

  1. A leader from the North (most likely Russia) gathers armies to march on Israel.
  2. Anti-Christ is also gaining ground politically and militarily.
  3. Anti-Christ is challenged, possibly by Syria and Egypt, and he conquers them, and many other countries, except Jordan.  He invades Israel and sets up camp in Jerusalem.
  4. Nations gather in Israel for war.
  5. A great earthquake, unlike any ever known, destroys the geography of Israel, and beyond.  This earthquake is possibly caused by the Lord himself landing on the Mount of Olives, and splitting it in two causing a great valley to form.
  6. The Lord comes to fight for Israel, causing confusion upon which men fight each other, and are plagued with terrible sores causing their skin to rot; hail; and burning sulfur.
  7. Jesus is seen in heaven with angels and saints.
  8. He slaughters the nations with a sword from his mouth. 
  9. The Lord orders the birds and animals to devour the bodies of the dead armies.
  10. Jesus sets up his earthly kingdom and rules with the resurrected saints who were beheaded during the tribulation.

It’s widely taught that the campaign of Gog and Magog against Israel will happen at different time than the Armageddon.  As I was researching this, there were times when I thought ‘Yes, they must be different battles,’ but then others when it seems they are too closely linked.  The accounts from Ezekiel and Zechariah have striking similarities, and the feast prepared for the birds after the battle of Armageddon in Revelation, is nearly identical in description to the feast prepared of the armies of Gog.  Also, I can’t find anywhere in Revelation of an account of a second march on Israel.  I’m still not sure if both battles are separate or the same, but I do believe that if they are separate, then they are probably very close together in time and the battle of Magog will immediately precede the battle of Armageddon.  I also wonder if Gog, the leader from the North, is not in fact the Anti-christ.

The author of the book I was reading makes the point that the citizens of Israel clean up the bodies of the battle of Gog and Magog, not the birds and wild animals as described in Revelation.  Ezekiel goes into great description of the cleansing of the land after the battle of Gog and Magog, but before this description is made the Lord says of Gog “On the Mountains of Israel you will fall … I will give you as food to all kinds of carrion birds and to the wild animals” (38:4).  It’s safe to assume that poetic call the Lord makes to the birds after the description of the clean-up is referring to the previous battle of Gog and Magog. The carnage is so immense that it takes Israel 7 months to clean up the bodies strewn across the landscape (39:12); it would be foolish to assume that no birds or animals will have scavenged in that length of time.  It is also safe to assume that the poetic call the Lord makes to the birds in Ezekiel, which is nearly identical to the call made in Revelation, is for the same battle described in Ezekiel.  It is easy to make the assumptoin that both the campaign of Gog and Magog cumulates at the battle of Armageddon.

I think it is also important to note that the nations listed in Ezekiel are not listed in Daniel.  It could be assumed that the nations with Gog are actually those that the Anti-christ has attacked and/or swayed over to his side in his campaign to invade Israel (Daniel 11:41 alludes to the Anti-christ making alliances with certain leaders and rewarding them).  The nations that go against the Anti-christ, Egypt and Syria, and in the case of Jordan are spared, are not listed among these allies.  As I’m writing this I’m wondering if the 10 kings from Daniel 7 and Revelation 17 are perhaps the 10 nations listed in Ezekiel 38 and Daniel 11:
1) Meshech; 2) Tubal; 3) Persia; 4) Put; 5) Cush; 6) Gomer; 7) Togamorah; 8) Egypt (king of South); 9) Syria (King of North); 10) Jordan (Edom, Moab, and Ammon).
Is Gog from Magog, the 11th king listed in Daniel 7?  Does he form an alliance with the above 10 nations but Egypt, and Syria oppose him by military force, with perhaps Jordan being spared because they do not put military pressure on him?  Are Egypt, Syria and Jordan the 3 kings who will be subdued by the 11th king?  There is so much to speculate about, but so much that is clear.  One thing that is 100% clear is that Jesus is returning with his heavenly armies to destroy the nations of the earth that oppose Israel and he will set up his earthly kingdom in Jerusalem.  The next questions I have which I will leave for my next post are who will these heavenly armies comprise of and when in the end-time timeline will they be assembled?

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