ASCENT OF THE TWO WITNESSES

12 "And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up here." And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them."

Recall that Futurists believe Revelation 4:1 pictures the rapture. The apostle John was caught up to heaven "in the spirit" at that point and then saw, and/or heard, the rest of what we read about in Revelation --- a 'preview' of coming attractions. At least part of the basis for this viewpoint is that the Church is no longer mentioned by name from this verse onward, therefore the assumption is made that Christians have been removed from the earth.

I, of all people, can't criticize the Futurists for over-spiritualizing. It's true that the word Church does not appear after Rev. 4:1 so their conclusion is reasonable. However, the Church is described in so many other ways after this, I have no difficulty believing it is still here during part of the final seven year period. Of course, the real reason Futurists take this position is because the whole "pre-trib" concept says the Church cannot be here during the dispensation of the Seals, Trumpets and the Vials, which begin at Revelation 6. Thus, they need a Scripture to fit how they see Revelation as a whole. Rev. 4:1 is the best they have found.

But notice how Revelation 11:11 & 12 above more appropriately agree with 1 Thessalonians, chapter four's prediction, which says the "dead shall rise first". The ones who "heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, 'Come up here'", were none other than those who had been dead for 3 1/2 days (meaning years). And, by the Historical stand I take, those were very specifically the bodies of dead Christians in the countries of Canada and America. Since we know the dead rise before the alive, we must therefore conclude those Christians which remain alive all over the world can't be raptured prior to the point in time as described here in Revelation 11:12.

A "SPIRITUAL" POSSIBILITY

I hope what I'm about to say doesn't confuse you but I have another idea relative to this verse which probably came to mind due to the fact the enemies of the two witnesses don't allow their dead bodies to be put in graves. This verse could be seen as an inference to a time of great apostasy. Imagine the Church in Canada and America becoming so backslidden that they become "dead", spiritually speaking --- i.e., people going through religious motions but possessing little, true spiritual life. If this were the case, their "dead" bodies would not be put into graves because they wern't actually dead at all, physically speaking. This idea may not be the correct Biblical meaning, but it is happening nevertheless.

If this is a correct interpretation of the passage, carrying this thinking on to its logical conclusion, after 3 1/2 years the Spirit of life enters the "spiritually dead" giving them new life. This would be predicting genuine repentance in those who were formerly "dead".

Even if this is an LODR' meaning of the passage, it wouldn't really change my overall understanding of the identity of the two witnesses. It simply forecasts a revival for Northern America and what Christian wouldn't want to see this happen? If this explanation is true, verse 11 says those who were formerly "dead" (spiritually speaking) shall rise to their feet and their enemies will see them do it. This would mean the spiritual, downward spiral in Canada and America will come to an end and, furthermore, that our "enemies" would see the coming revival. ('Enemies' here refers to anti-Christian humanists here among us including also all those like them in the rest of the world).

Canadian and American Christians should be working towards making this become a reality, regardless of whether this discussion correctly interprets the Scripture or not. I'm convinced the only reason our countries haven't already been destroyed is because of the presence of the true and faithful, Christian-remnant here. Therefore, it behooves us to be diligent about making restorative moves at every front of opportunity. It begins as each individual Christian pursues a greater degree of commitment.

(Now reader, don't forget that the last few paragraphs are just suggestions. I admit it deviates a bit from my overall thesis concerning Biblical prophecy in the historical sense. It could be that both meanings are correct --- i.e., that "dead" here means literal dead bodies as well as indicating a time of spiritual "deadness". In any event, let's now get back to the main road.)

EARTHQUAKE

13 "And in the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; and in the earthquake seven thousand men were killed. And the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven."

Several key phrases are found in this verse:

1. "same hour"

2. "great earthquake"

3. "a tenth of the city fell"

4. "7,000 men were killed"

5. "the "rest" were afraid and gave glory to God"

As time progresses we see the prophetic "signs" and "seasons" of the last days clearer but I think we can all agree the exact timing of things remains blurred. For example, we see that this earthquake occurs during the "same hour", which implies it happens near the same time but not necessarily the precise moment the dead bodies rise.

To add to the puzzle, when the witnesses are killed, then comes this shattering earthquake which brings its own awesome devastation, killing "7,000 men". Some will say, "Lance, this must occur in a single city for only 7,000 people will be killed, thus negating the national-witness idea." I must admit being troubled, at first, with this passage.

But then one day I checked the literal meaning of this verse in a Greek New Testament. A word-for-word translation says "7,000 names of men" will be killed. I thought it rather odd John said "names of men" rather than just "men". As I was pondering it, this thought suddenly sprang into my mind: many men have the same last name! There could be 5,000 "Smiths" killed. That would be one "name of men". There could be 4,000 "Jones" killed,...and so on. Therefore, the passage could be saying that there will actually be hundreds of thousands killed, perhaps millions, and that the total number of the peoples' last name will be exactly 7,000!

Or, there is yet another way of seeing the prophetic meaning of this: 7,000 is a special Biblical number. By itself, seven means perfection, or completeness. 7,000 is 7 multiplied by 1,000. Could it be that this 7,000 is simply God's way of revealing an amplified form of completeness, like the 'nth degree' of a situation, rather than a literal number of persons? In any event, from the Historical viewpoint, this idea made the passage come alive for me. There just had to be a specific inference for the Holy Spirit to instruct John to include the phrase "names of men", rather than simply saying "7,000 men", which, I reasoned, is what would have been stated if the only intent was to convey the understanding of 7,000 literal people.

I was also somewhat perplexed by the phrase, "the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven". Are we to believe that many former-unbelievers will suddenly be saved! I think that's unlikely. No, we must assume these who glorify God are already Christians. A possible explanation is that these people are those "alive in Christ" who remain a little while after the "dead in Christ" rise to meet the Lord in the air. Remember, in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 we are told the "alive will by no means precede those who are asleep." And in verse 16, further emphasis is made that the "alive" will leave at a later time as it says, "And the dead in Christ will rise first." Finally, in verse 17 we are told, "THEN, we who are alive and remain shall be caught up..."

The word remain is very revealing: the dictionary's definition of the word is 'to stay behind or in the same place'; another says, 'to be left after the removal'. These simple definitions suggest that there will be a definite lag-time between rapturing the "dead" and those "alive" at the mid-way point of the final, seven-year countdown period.

If you follow my logic, note just how carefully we must read the Scriptures before accepting someone's interpretation of what a passage means. I have always assumed, because of what others told me, that the "alive" in Christ immediately follow the resurrected "dead" in Christ at the rapture. But Rev. 11:13, combined with the 1 Thessalonians passage, adds strength to the idea that God, for reasons He has chosen not to fully reveal to us, will keep the two events separated by a definite period of time. The next few verses may help us understand this further.

WOE # THREE

"The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly." Verse 14.

You'll recall John told us of three "woes". The first I've identified as WW2. The second, just discussed, is the death of the "two witnesses", which included the devastating earthquake. (This earthquake, by the way, could be the nuclear attack on the two witnesses). Lastly, verse 14 here tells of the third woe. I believe this is a prediction of Satan's final reign as the anti-Christ, which will include basically everything during the last three and one-half years of the final countdown.

(I continue to treat the common concept of the tribulation with respect, and yet, as you well know by now, with specific reservations about whether it fully satisfies the overall Biblical prophetic message. The fact is, we have been in the historical tribulation for almost 1260 years now! What the Futurists call the tribulation is, to me, simply the last of the "last days", a more intense recapitulation lasting for 1260 literal days (3 1/2 years), spiritually paralleling what has already transpired in the previous 1260-year, historical sense. So, basically, that which will be discussed over the next several chapters will embrace everything John captions as "THE THIRD WOE". This will be the last half of the final, seven year Tribulation period, which will include the 200,000,000 soldiers who invade the Middle East for the Battle of Armageddon, finalizing then with God's Wrath put upon all earth's remaining, wicked, unrepentant mankind; i.e., the Vials).

"15 And the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!"

This verse kind of wraps up the Rapture issue. Pictured is the Seventh (and last) trumpet. Scripture presents no more trumpets after this one. Don't forget this Biblical fact! Remember, there are many who refuse to accept the 7th as being the last Trumpet. Don't ask me how they arrive at a conclusion which says the last Trumpet doesn't really mean the last Trumpet, but I'm not kidding you, that's the pre-tribulation-rapture position.

Well, I prefer to accept it just as the Scripture says it. The seventh Trumpet of Revelation 11 is the last of the sequence of seven Trumpets which started back in Revelation chapter 8 and I see no reason not to call the last Trumpet, the Last Trumpet!

Now, let me show you why the Futurists probably don't like to interpret the seventh as the last Trumpet. Looking back over our study thus far, we see that we are now past the seven Seals and six of the Trumpets. We noted that the Seals and Trumpets followed, sequentially and logically, the main historical events of the past several centuries. Now, let's look at a plainly stated verse of Scripture which upsets the Futuristic apple-cart. I believe, and even the Futurists agree to this, that 1 Corinthians 15: 51 & 52 describes the last Trumpet and that it signals the final rapture of the Church.

51 "Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed-

52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, AT THE LAST TRUMPET. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."

I see no reason not to take this passage at face value. We should never allow our allegorizations to cancel the obvious intent of a plain passage. The literal passages set the standards and define for us the intended meaning of the more obscure, prophetic statements. Such, I think, is the case here in 1 Corinthians. Surely the "LAST TRUMPET" here refers to the final, seventh Trumpet of Revelation 11, which, we have already learned, sounds at the mid-way point of the final seven year count-down period.

Recalling verses 11 - 15 again, we saw that the Rapture is not a one-moment-in-time event. It seems to occur over a short span of time but exactly how long, we just don't know. The important thing is to see the overall picture God has given us and leave the finer details to Him. He always keeps enough to Himself to let us know that He is the God Who is putting all this together!

HEAVEN'S "HALLELUJAH CHORUS"

16 "And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God,

17 saying: 'We give you thanks O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come, Because You have taken Your great power and have reigned."

When important transitional things happen in God's heaven, (or when they are about to occur here on earth), the elders and other heavenly beings are always on the scene in a big way. It seems as if they are God's 'Amen Corner'! These obviously know that a long-awaited day of reckoning has come and they sing and shout about it. They realize God is about to finish His plan of the ages, bringing together His Heavenly Kingdom, including thensaved humanity. That's the greatest event Christian believers ever anticipated! However, as usual, there is another side to this coin.

GOD'S WRATH IS ANNOUNCED

18 "And the nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, And the time of the dead, that they should be judged, And that you should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great, And should destroy those who destroy the earth."

A terrific stirring occurs in my spirit as I look forward to the conditions described in verses 16 and 17, and then read the contrast of verse 18. On the one hand, we see a picture of the most glorious event possible will have been reached. However, concurrently, it is the worst time in history --- for the unsaved! (See verse 18.) Just when the saints will be honored by going into the presence of the Lord, back on planet earth will begin the most grievous time in mankind's history. The reign of the anti-Christ will reach its greatest height of power and influence at this time. Then in the wake of the anti-Christ comes the WRATH OF GOD upon wicked mankind! Oh Christian friends, we must reach the unsaved --- TODAY!

There is a very important technical point to see here. Do you recall back in the sixth Seal (WW1), John explains there that those under attack in Europe were crying out that the "wrath of the Lamb" had come. We have noted that Futurists use that verse to establish their position that the Seals and Trumpets describe the beginning of God's Wrath. But, we must remember who said that. It was those experiencing war devastation, the worst in history up to that time. But, the Bible establishes God's Wrath with the above verse, Revelation 11:18, which will some day be proclaimed by the 24 elders in heaven who say that God's Wrath has come. (Read the above verse again).

The fact is, God tells no one but the elders in heaven when it's time for His Wrath to come. The men described in the sixth Seal were mistaken. Things were tough during the tribulations of man during those days but that was nothing compared to what will occur when the seven Vials will be brought upon the earth. The Vials spell out God's Wrath, not the Seals and Trumpets. (We will discuss this later.)

GOD'S FAITHFULNESS (Verse 19)

"And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there came lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake and great hail."

I like the description given this verse by Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's "Commentary on the Whole Bible": They said,

"As in the first verse, the earthly sanctuary was measured, so here it's heavenly antitype is laid open, and the anti-type above to the ark of the covenant in the Holiest Place below is seen, the pledge of God's faithfulness to His covenant in saving His people and punishing their and His enemies."