951753

This Site Is No Longer Active

Check out RESTITUTIO.org for new blog entries and podcasts. Feel free to browse through our content here, but we are no longer adding new posts.


  

Introduction

One of the concepts that is described in Scripture is the idea that there are two primary “ages” – or periods of time – during which people will live. The first of those ages is our current age – i.e., the period of time that we are living in now. The second age is the age to come – i.e., a period of time that will take place, in the future.

There are a number of passage in Scripture that mention both this current age, and the age to come. Here are just a few of them:

Matthew 12:32 (ESV):

32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Luke 18:30 (NIV):

29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”

Ephesians 1:20-21 (ESV):

he [God] worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

A simple, overall “comparison” of these two basic ages is as follows:

– In this current age, sin is extremely prevalent everywhere; but in the age to come, there will be no sin at all – everyone will follow God completely.

– In this current age, people get injured, become sick and die; but in the age to come, there will be no injury, no sickness, and no death – people will live forever.

– In this current age, human governments exercise limited authority over the earth; but in the age to come, God Himself will have complete authority over the earth.

 

The “Transition” Periods

From my experience, there is broad agreement about the existence of the two basic ages, above – as well as about (most) of the general properties of those two ages. However, there is quite a bit of disagreement about the exact events that will occur, which will cause us to go from this current age, into the age to come. So, it seems useful to discuss some of the ideas, about what those events will be.

The first point to note is that it appears that the age to come does not begin immediately after the end of the current age. Instead, there appear to be several “transition” periods that occur, in between the current age and the age to come.

To be specific, there appear to be three distinct “transition periods”, between the current age and the age to come. I refer to those transition periods as follows:

– The “tribulation” period;

– The “messianic” period;

– The “short season” period

Some general information about these three “transition periods” follows below.

 

The Tribulation Period

First off, at the very end of this current age, a period of great “tribulation” is prophesied to occur. This period of time will entail enormous persecution and suffering – especially for Jews and Christians.

It appears that this tribulation period will last for a total of seven years. In addition, that during that period, a charismatic leader – who is an enemy of God and Christ – will come to power. This leader is referred to as “the man of lawlessness” and as “the beast”.

Interestingly, the term “the antichrist” is not explicitly used in reference to this leader. The word “antichrist” only appears in three verses in Scripture: 1 John 2:18, 1 John 2:22 and 1 John 4:3. The first two verses state that there are many antichrists, who are already here – and that an “antichrist” is anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ. The last verse refers to the spirit of antichrist, which is already in the world.

Nevertheless, in the popular vernacular, the phrase “The Antichrist” refers to the leader during the tribulation period.

It appears that this leader’s authority will be somewhat limited during the first half of the tribulation period. However, in the second half of the tribulation – i.e., during the final “42 months” – this leader will obtain absolute authority over the earth. As a result, the second half of the tribulation will presumably entail much more suffering – and outright evil – than the first half.

 

The Messianic Period

At the end of the tribulation period, a new period begins – the “messianic” period. In this period, Jesus will return to the earth – and he will end the reign of the man of lawlessness. He will then rule over the earth for 1000 years, and his followers will assist him with that rule. Also note that Satan will be “imprisoned” during this period of time.

Some people contend that this period will not be a literal 1000 years – because the number “1000” is often used in a figurative sense in Scripture. In other words, Scripture sometimes uses the number 1000 to mean “a very large number”. An example of this can be found in 2 Peter 3:8, which states “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day”.

In any case, whether the 1000 year duration is literal or not, there will certainly be a period of time in which Jesus, himself, will personally rule over the earth.

Another item to note is from what I can see, most of the references to “the future age”, which occur in the Old Testament, actually refer to the messianic period. In other words, most of the Old Testament prophesies about a “future, beneficial period of time” are actually referring to the messianic period – when Jesus rules the earth – rather than referring to the Age to Come, when God rules the earth. This is one reason why there are almost no references in the Old Testament to eternal life – because the vast majority of people will not obtain eternal life until the Age to Come (i.e., most people will still be mortal in the messianic period).

 

The “Little Season” Period

At the end of the messianic period, Satan will be released for a “little season”, or “short time”. We are not told exactly how long this period of time is; but presumably it is significantly shorter than the duration of the messianic period – since it is referred to as a “short” time. Of course, if the messianic period is 1000 years in duration, then the “short season” could easily be 100 years long (or more) – as 100 years is significantly shorter than 1000 years.

Scripture also tells us that during this little season, Satan will be able to convince an extremely large number of people to follow him – and to oppose Jesus. The reason why this is so remarkable is because this little season occurs immediately after the millennial reign of Jesus – when Jesus brings peace, prosperity and righteousness to the world.

To a certain extent, this is reminiscent of the accounts in Exodus. Basically, some of the Israelites rebelled against Moses, again and again – even after Moses had led them out of Egypt, and had performed many miracles for them (most notably the parting of the Red Sea).

In other words, it appears that some people will consistently rebel against God (and His agents) – no matter how obviously God manifests His power to them.

 

Seven Questions about the Transition Periods

As mentioned in the introduction, there is quite a bit of disagreement among Christian denominations, about what events will happen – and when they will occur – in between the two main “ages”. So, it is instructive to take a look at some of the events in question, and to see what ideas different Christian groups have about them.  This will hopefully assist all of you in developing your own beliefs about the end time events.

Discussions about seven specific end times events are listed below. Each section is posed as a question, about the event in question.

 

Question 1: When will the rapture occur?

One of the most frequently discussed issues about the end times is the exact timing of the rapture. The term “rapture” does not occur in Scripture; but it is used as a reference to the event when Christians will be “gathered together” with Jesus. Basically, 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15 state that when Jesus returns, he will first resurrect dead Christians, and give them immortal bodies. Then, he will transform the bodies of Christians who are still alive, so that they become immortal as well. Finally, all of those Christians will be gathered together with Jesus.

The biggest debate about this rapture involves when it occurs. In particular, the overall question is: when will the rapture occur, in reference to the tribulation period? There are three main beliefs about this question:

– The rapture will occur before the tribulation begins – i.e., a “pre-tribulation rapture”;

– The rapture will occur halfway through the tribulation – i.e., a “mid-tribulation rapture”;

– The rapture will occur after the tribulation is over – i.e., a “post-tribulation rapture”

In essence, the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine holds that immediately prior to the tribulation, Jesus will bring all Christians to heaven. As a result, all Christians will be safely ensconced in heaven, during the entire tribulation period – which means that Christians will not have to go through any of the suffering and persecution that occurs on the earth during that time.

The mid-tribulation rapture doctrine is similar to the pre-tribulation rapture – in that Jesus will take Christians to heaven. The main difference is that Christians are not taken to heaven until the “halfway point” of the tribulation – i.e., 3 1/2 years into the tribulation. This means that Christians will have to endure the first half of the tribulation, but not the second half. (As mentioned above, the second half of the tribulation – i.e., the final 42 months – will presumably be much worse than the first half.)

In contrast, the post-tribulation rapture doctrine holds that Christians will have to endure the entire tribulation – because the rapture does not occur until after the tribulation period is complete. In other words, in this doctrine, Christians do not “sit out” the tribulation at all – instead, Christians are in the middle of it, for the entire duration.

To put it briefly, it appears to me that the post-tribulation rapture doctrine is the closest to the truth. First of all, throughout the New Testament, Jesus and the apostles continuously warn Christians that they, themselves, are going to suffer many trials and persecution. As a result, the concept that Christians will be “exempt” from the tribulation does not appear to be consistent with Scripture – as the tribulation is the ultimate period of trials and persecution of Christians.

Even more importantly, the post-tribulation rapture appears to be supported by the events listed in Revelation. First, 1 Corinthians 15:52 states that dead Christians will be resurrected at the sound of the “last trumpet”. That wording implies that there were a series of trumpets that sounded – and that Christians will not be resurrected until the last one sounds. Interestingly, there is a series of seven trumpets listed in Revelation chapters 8, 9 and 11. The seventh – and last – of those trumpets is introduced as follows:

15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

This certainly appears to tell us that the seventh trumpet will not sound, until Jesus gains control over the world. Of course, that will not happen until after the tribulation is complete. So, if this seventh trumpet is also the “last trumpet” listed in 1 Corinthians 15:52, then the rapture definitely will not occur until after the tribulation – because the seventh trumpet sounds after the tribulation is complete.

 

Question 2: Will there be a peace treaty with Israel?

Another item that is frequently discussed is the belief that there will be a formal, international peace treaty with Israel, for the first half of the tribulation period. The initial evidence that is used for such a treaty is contained in Daniel chapter 9, especially verses 26 and 27:

Daniel 9:26-27 (NASB):

26 Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. 27 And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”

Of course, that passage does not explicitly mention a formal peace treaty with Israel. However, it does state that a “covenant” – or agreement – is made among “many”. This would certainly seem to imply some sort of international treaty.

The passage also mentions the “prince who is to come”, who will “destroy the city and the sanctuary”. This prince presumably refers to the “man of lawlessness” – i.e., the ruler of the tribulation period. This same leader is also the person who will arrange the “covenant with the many” – which is evidently some type of peace treaty.

Also note that the “weeks” listed in that passage are evidently seven years long – rather than seven days long. This is indicated in many places, but especially in Revelation chapters 12 and 13. In those chapters, the second half of the tribulation – in which the leader persecutes believers – is listed as being 1,260 days long, and 42 months long, respectively. Of course, both 1,260 days and 42 months equal 3.5 years (with each month being the Jewish-standard 30 days). So, if 3.5 years is half of the tribulation, then the entire tribulation period will last 7 years – i.e., the tribulation “week” is seven years long.

The most interesting piece of information in the above passage, though, is that it states that in the “middle of the week”, this leader will put a stop to sacrifices and grain offerings. This definitely indicates that during the first half of that week (the first 3.5 years), sacrifices and grain offerings will be being made. Of course, in order for sacrifices and grain offerings to be made, the temple must exist in Jerusalem. In other words, the temple must be rebuilt, in order for sacrifices to be made again – because the temple is the final place that God appointed for sacrifices to be made.

The reason why this is important is because the place where the temple stood – the “temple mount” – currently has two Islamic structures built on it – the Dome of the Rock, and the al-Aqsa mosque. The Dome of the Rock, in particular, is located on the area where Scripture indicates that the temple must be built.

So, in order for the temple to be rebuilt, the Dome of the Rock must be moved (or demolished). Of course, that structure is the third holiest site in Sunni Islam; so any attempt to move that structure right now would undoubtedly result in an enormous outbreak of war – with Islamic countries launching full-scale invasions of Israel.

Here is a summary of this overall “peace treaty with Israel” topic:

– Scripture indicates that during the first half of the tribulation, sacrifices and grain offerings will be made.

– In order for sacrifices and grain offerings to be made, the temple must be rebuilt on the temple mount.

– Currently, the Dome of the Rock sits on the exact location where the temple must be rebuilt – so rebuilding the temple requires displacing the Dome of the Rock.

– The Dome of the Rock is one of the holiest sites in Islam – so there is no way that that structure can be moved under the current world conditions.

From all of the above information, it certainly appears that some sort of formal, worldwide peace treaty must be made with Israel, during the first half of the tribulation period. That peace treaty would then allow the Dome of the Rock to be moved – and that, in turn, would allow the temple to be rebuilt. Once the temple is rebuilt, that will then allow sacrifices and grain offerings to be made in the temple once again.

The above assertions – that there will be a peace treaty with Israel, and that the temple will be rebuilt – lead to several other interesting observations. First of all, the modern country of Israel did not even exist, until the year 1948. So, it was not even possible for a peace treaty to be made with Israel, until 65 years ago. In other words, almost 2,000 years passed by, from the time of Jesus until the creation of the state of Israel – and during that entire time period, it was not even possible for some of the important end time events to occur. Those events can occur now, though – and that leads one to believe that we may be getting rather close to the end time events.

The other item to note is that if the temple is rebuilt, that will be an extremely obvious, tangible indication that the tribulation events have begun to occur. In other words, the rebuilding of the temple is an event to be “on watch” for, as part of the unfolding of the end times.

 

The remaining five questions will be discussed in the upcoming “part 2” of this post.

  

Leave a Reply