Robert Jeffress - Bible Prophecy For Dummies
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". For most Christians, Bible prophecy is an intimidating subject, and I can agree with that. Open up to any verse in Revelation, and you're likely to find yourself swimming in confusing metaphors and images. But that doesn't mean understanding Bible prophecy is out of reach. Today, I'm going to give you a broad overview of where we are in the Book of Revelation, and in history, and where we're going on God's prophetic timeline. My message is titled, "Bible Prophecy for Dummies," on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
You know, the constant theme of the Book of Revelation is this, the end of your life, as you know it right now, is coming soon. We are all coming to an end of life as we know it. That end is either going to come through our death, or through the return of Jesus Christ, but soon and very soon, our life is about to undergo a big change. And the knowledge that our life is going to end should impact how we live our life right now. I've called the sermon today, "Bible Prophecy for Dummies". I don't mean that as an insult. The fact is you can be very smart, and still get tangled up and confused by the end times. Many people, many Christians are. And so we're going to simplify the subject of Bible prophecy today, by gaining a preview of what God's plan for the future is.
Throughout the Book of Revelation, you find this warning, blessed is he who hears and obeys the things in these prophecies. Bible prophecy, understanding it should motivate us to obey God, and motivate us toward godly living. That's why we study prophecy. Now, with that introduction, let's look here at the chart, my Bible prophecy chart, that I've prepared, that shows you how the Book of Revelation fits into where we are, and where we are going.
The first element of Bible prophecy you need to understand is the age in which we're living right now, that we commonly call the church age. Now here's the definition, the church age is that period of time from Pentecost, acts chapter 2, right after the resurrection of Christ from the dead, from Pentecost, until the rapture, during which gentiles are invited to participate in the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant. Now what in the world does that mean? God issued an invitation originally to Abraham and his descendants, the Jewish people, to be a part of his party, to be in a covenant relationship with him, and enjoy the benefits. But Israel temporarily rejected, or neglected that invitation, when they rejected Christ.
Now, God's not finished with the Jewish people, but God is going to have a people. And so he's extended the invitation list beyond the Jews, to include people like you and me, non-Jews, gentiles, that we might be saved. And that's the period we're in right now, when God has temporarily set aside Israel, and he's invited everybody to come, and be a part of his covenant blessing. Now make no mistake about it, God's not finished with Israel. There'll be a time when the church age ends, and God finishes his plan for Israel. God will turn back to Israel, to finish his dealings with Israel.
What happens after the fullness of the gentiles has come in? That leads to the next event in Bible prophecy, the rapture of the church. The end of the church age will be when the church is caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Let me give you the definition. The rapture is the snatching away to heaven of all Christians, before the beginning of the Great Tribulation. The signal passage for that, as you know is 1 Thessalonians 4, for the Lord himself will descend from heaven, with a shout, with a voice of the Archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. And then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up, snatched away, harpazo, raptured, to meet the Lord in the air. Thus, we shall always be with the Lord. Remember, this is not the second coming of Jesus. That's seven years later, this is the rapture.
Remember the four elements of the rapture? First of all, the descent of Christ, the Lord himself will descend from heaven. He descends into the air, not to the ground. He descends in the air, the descent of Christ.
Secondly, the raising of the dead in Christ, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Who are the dead in Christ? It's every believer, every member of the church, every believer who has died since the time of Pentecost. You say, "Well, wait a minute. I thought when a Christian dies, he goes to heaven"? He does, his spirit goes to heaven. The real part of you goes to heaven. 2 Corinthians 5:8, to be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord. Our spirit, the real us goes to heaven, but our bodies are placed in the ground, or they're incinerated in a crematorium, or they're blown apart in an airplane accident. Our body, the residue of it, remains on earth, while our spirits are in heaven. But our bodies aren't going to stay there forever. At the rapture of the church, the graves are going to be opened, and the bodies of the saved are going to be raised.
The third element of the rapture is we, whoever is alive and is a Christian at that time, shall be caught up together, with the dead in Christ, to meet the Lord in the air. There's going to be a generation of Christians who never experience death. They will just be immediately caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
And then there's a fourth element of the rapture, and that is the changing of our bodies from the mortal to the immortal. We are going to receive brand new bodies from God, on that trip up to heaven. This body may be suited for this world, it's not suited for the next world. So whether we are Christians who get raptured, or it's the bodies of the dead in Christ who are raised, 1 Corinthians 15 says, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we shall be changed. We're going to receive those brand new bodies, free from the pain, and the suffering, and the sickness of this life, it's going to happen quickly. In the twinkling of an eye. That's the next event. It could happen at any moment, the rapture of the church.
There are no prophecies that have to be fulfilled for the rapture. It could happen before we conclude the service today. The rapture will be followed by the tribulation. The tribulation, what is the tribulation? It is that seven year period of time that begins when the antichrist signs a peace covenant with Israel, and it ends with Armageddon, and the second coming of Jesus Christ. This is the final seven years of earth's history. We're studying the tribulation right now. We're in it, in Revelation chapter seven. And remember there's two purposes for that tribulation, the salvation of Jews and gentiles, there will be a whole group of people who will be saved, Jews and gentiles alike, during this final seven years. It's a sign of God's mercy. He wants to save as many people as possible. But secondly, it will be a time of condemnation of unbelievers, a condemnation of unbelievers. And the end of the tribulation will be followed by the second coming of Christ.
What is the second coming of Christ? It is the visible return of Jesus Christ to establish his kingdom on the earth. Now, listen to me, the great world battle war that is yet to be fought, we call Armageddon. It's really a series of battles, up and down the length of Israel. But the final phase of that battle will be at the plain of Megiddo, underneath the hill, Armageddon of Megiddo. That's where it's going to happen. That is the Battle of Armageddon. The world forces are going to be fighting the antichrist, when suddenly the heavens are going to part, and the Lord Jesus is going to appear. Look at verse 11 of Revelation 19, and I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat upon it is called faithful and true, and in righteousness he judges and wages war. And the armies which are in heaven, that's you and I, we're in heaven already, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
Earlier he says this is representative of the righteous acts of the saints. We were following him on white horses. And from his mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it, he may smite the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. And he treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, and on his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. This is the second coming of Jesus. It's not the rapture. It's different from the rapture. In the rapture, only believers will see the Lord. At the second coming, everybody will see him. At the rapture, we are caught up to meet the Lord in the air. At the second coming, he comes to earth, his feet touch the Mount of Olives, and splits the Mount of Olives in two. This is the visible return of Jesus Christ. That visible return of Christ is followed by the millennium.
What is the millennium? It's the thousand year reign of Christ, the thousand year period of time, during which Christ will reign on the earth, fulfilling God's promises to Abraham, and his believing descendants. This is the time that God will fulfill the promise he made to Abraham, back in Genesis 12, of a land, a seed, and a blessing, where Messiah will rule on the throne of David, from Jerusalem. Revelation 20:1-3 talks about that. It says, then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss, and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of a dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. And he threw him into the abyss, and he shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed. And after these things, Satan must be released for a short time.
The best way to understand the millennium is it is a renovation of the earth, not a recreation of the earth. With Satan bound for a thousand years, part of the curse of sin has been removed, but not all of it. This is the period of time Isaiah was talking about, was when people will live longer. They'll live at least to be a hundred. You won't have the difficulty in agriculture that you have, with thorns and thistles. It is a partial removal of the curse. It is a renovation, not a recreation. But there is a time coming when this entire world is going to be razed, completely destroyed. And God's going to give us a new heaven, and a new earth. The millennium is the renovation of the earth. And then notice at the end of these thousand years, Satan is going to be released for a little while.
Say, "Well, why would God do that? If you got him, why would you let him go"? Here's why, only believers will enter into that millennium. Remember, at the end of the tribulation, not every unbeliever or believer is dead. There'll be some believers who survive the tribulation. There'll be some unbelievers who survive the tribulation. There'll be a judgment at the beginning of the millennium. Only believers will enter into the millennium. The believers who survive the tribulation will enter in their natural bodies. That means they'll be able to reproduce, have children during the millennium. They won't die when they're an infant, they'll live to be a hundred years of age, but there will be children born during the millennium. You and I will enter the millennium, in our new resurrected bodies we got at the rapture. We don't reproduce, but those in their natural bodies do. And it is important that every person be given a chance of whether to follow Jesus, or to follow Satan, and so at the end, God's going to loose Satan for another period of time. And amazingly, some of those children who grow up into adults during the millennium, will actually choose to follow Satan instead of Jesus, in that rebellion. And that is the final rebellion.
Satan must be released for a little while. And after that rebellion, that mini rebellion takes place, that's when God puts an end to all of it, and we get to the Great White Throne judgment, what is that? The Great White Throne judgment is God's final judgment against all unbelievers, who have ever lived. Notice who the subject of this judgment is, this is the judgment for unbelievers, every non-Christian who has ever lived. Revelation 20:13 says, and the sea gave up the dead, which were in it, and death and hades gave up the dead, which were in them. Remember hades is the place that the unbeliever goes when he dies. If you're not a Christian, and you get killed on the tollway going home today, what happens? Your body gets buried, but your spirit, the real part of you, goes to hades. It is a place of intense suffering. Jesus talked about it in Luke 16, the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man died, and he went where? To hades, and he said, "I'm in the agony in these flames". It is a holding place, but it's a place of suffering for the unsaved, until their final judgment.
The sea gave up the dead, and death and hades vomited up the dead, which were in them. How will unbelievers be judged? By their own choice, they will be judged by their works. Verse 13 says, and they were judged, every one of them, according to their deeds. Why are they judged by their works? Because that's how an unbeliever wants to be judged. He said, "I'm a good enough person. I don't need the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. I'm good enough, maybe not perfect, but good enough to get into heaven". So Jesus says, "Fine, we'll judge you by your works". Unfortunately, the standard is not other people by which God judges us. The standard is the standard of perfection, Jesus Christ. And by that standard, all have fallen short of the glory of God. And that leads to the result of the judgment, eternal condemnation. Verses 14 and 15 say, then death and hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire, and if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Earlier in that chapter, it says, and they were tormented in the lake of fire, forever, and ever, and ever. Unbelievers are not just simply destroyed when they're judged. They suffer forever, and ever, and ever. The horrible truth about hell is this, when you have spent 3 trillion, billion years in the agony of hell, you will not have reduced by one second the amount of time you have left to spend there. That is the fate of everyone who leaves this life without trusting in the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. After that final judgment, the Great White Throne judgment, we enter into eternity future. That's the permanent state of believers inhabiting the new heaven and earth, and unbelievers inhabiting the lake of fire.
2 Peter 3:7 and 10 talks about the great fire that will destroy the present heaven, and the present earth. And then in Revelation 21:1-4, John says, after that destruction, he says, and I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. It's significant, John says, I saw a new heaven and a new earth. We're not going to spend eternity, floating around up there someplace. There's going to be a new earth. This is going to be a primary place of residence for us, for eternity. This earth that we know, this earth restored and recreated to the state that God originally intended it to be, a place for God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. And there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain, for the first things will have passed away. That is the future God has planned for those who know Jesus Christ. Should that affect how we live today?
Let me ask you this, not if, but when you meet the Creator God face to face, are you going to be embarrassed about your appearance, about how you look, about the life that you have lived, up to this point? It's not a case of if you meet him, when you meet him. You are going to meet the king, either through your death, or through the rapture of the church. Are you going to be embarrassed by how you appear to him? If so, right now is the time to make those changes, to put on those righteous acts, that will ensure that you're not embarrassed on that coming appointment you and I have with God. And that's why the apostle Peter writes, 2 Peter chapter 3, seeing all of these things are to be destroyed in this way. What sort of people ought we to be, in holy conduct and Godliness, looking for and hastening the coming day of the Lord.