By Nathan Jones
What immediately follows on Earth after the Rapture of the Church?
On Monday, January 30, 2012, I was interviewed by host Brian Thomas of Blessings to Israel Ministries on his "God First" program. During the 45-minute interview we discussed the prophetic sequence of end time events, placing each event into its proper chronological order.
3b) The Tribulation — Earth
Brian Thomas: So, the Rapture of the Church occurs and believers in Christ are caught up to Heaven. While there we are at the Judgment Seat where we get our rewards. The Marriage Supper of the Lamb occurs and then we prepare to return to earth. But, as these things are taking place in Heaven, something else is occurring down on earth. Can you speak to that for a moment and explain what's taking place on earth?
Nathan Jones: Certainly. While raptured believers are celebrating, rejoicing and partying you could say with the Lord up in Heaven for seven years, those left behind on the earth have to suffer under the wrath of God. The wrath of God Jeremiah 30:7 says is the "time of Jacob's trouble." It will be a time when God takes His focus off of the Church because the Church isn't on the planet anymore. God removes the Restrainer — the influence of the Holy Spirit through the Church — that holds evil back in the world. God allows the world to become so bad that it forces the world though primarily a remnant of Israel (because God's focus is back on His promises to Israel) to accept Jesus as the Messiah.
The Tribulation will be an absolutely awful time period. Twenty-one judgments will befall mankind.
If I might just add this, we are not absolutely sure about one particular prophetic battle called the Ezekiel 38-39 Gog-Magog Battle and its possible predecessor battle of Psalm 83. This massive battle Ezekiel describes enjoins Russia, Iran, Turkey, Libya, and a number of other Islamic countries joining together as a coalition to try to annihilate Israel. Through God's supernatural victory over these overwhelming odds, He steps back into human history so everyone knows that there is a God who defends Israel. God annihilates the armies of Gog and Magog, and Ezekiel says He sets fire to their countries. The forces it says in the book of Joel retreat back to the outer northern most parts, possibly Siberia. God's purpose is to be made known to the world once again.
I believe this prophecy in Ezekiel 38 & 39 called the Gog-Magog Battle happens probably either just after the Rapture but before the Tribulation or just as the Tribulation begins. But, either way, this terrible attack that is going to come down hard on Israel will be very close to or near to the beginning of the Tribulation. So, we have the Gog-Magog Battle to consider in the prophetic sequence of events.
But, back to the Tribulation. Again, the Tribulation is seven years long. We can read about it in Revelation and in Daniel that God pours His wrath out upon the world partly as an effort to turn the people's hearts back to Him. Sometimes it takes terrible disasters to change a heart. Just think about Hurricane Katrina that came through a few years back and how it just utterly annihilated New Orleans. But, many people's faith in God was restored because of that natural disaster. So, the Lord uses disasters to bring repentance and to bring people back to Him. That's also the primary reason for the Tribulation.
The Tribulation countdown starts when the Antichrist makes a peace treaty with Israel, which you can read about in Daniel 9:26-27. That event will begin exactly the seven year count down for how long the Tribulation will last.
The Bible divides the judgments into sets of seven — seven seal judgments, seven trumpet judgments, and seven bowl judgments — for a total of 21 judgments. The awful reality of these judgments is that they pretty much annihilate most of the earth's existing population.
The Tribulation will see a world ruler called the Antichrist come on the scene. He'll claim he has the answer to all the world's crises, for there will be terrible famines. The world ruler will institute a one-world religion through his number two man called the False Prophet.
Satan and his demons during the middle of the Tribulation will try to take over Heaven once again, but they will fail and God will finally cut off their access. The satanic forces will also be instruments of judgment during their remaining time while they are on earth, for they know their time is short. Satan personally posses the Antichrist, empowering him further. The Antichrist will spend most of his time after world conquest oppressing the Jews and oppressing those who come to know Jesus as their Savior.
The Tribulation culminates with the next prophetic event which is the Battle of Armageddon.
4) The Battle of Armageddon
Brian Thomas: The Battle of Armageddon is a term that we hear so often, not just from Christians but even in the secular world. They use that phrase very often when things happen, such as natural disasters and especially wars. You hear often people say, "This looks like Armageddon." So, please, talk if you will about the Battle Armageddon. Where it is located and who are the key players in this event?
Nathan Jones: Well, the Battle Armageddon isn't a bunch of drillers who get on a space shuttle and fly up to an asteroid and blow it up. We saw that with Bruce Willis and other movies. So many Hollywood writers seem obsessed with Armageddon, and many think that any battle is the Battle of Armageddon. In truth, Armageddon is the battle to end all battles.
We read about this great battle in Revelation 19:11-21. The passage speaks of this final battle and places it at the end of the Tribulation. Bible prophecy students have given it the name Armageddon.
Actually, it's a misconception that Armageddon is just one battle, as in reality it's a series of battles that cover a few different locations. At this point in the Tribulation the Antichrist has conquered the world, but the armies from the East — more than likely China, and maybe Japan and some of the other eastern nations like India who in the beginning had joined with the Antichrist — they want to rebel against him. The eastern armies cross over the Euphrates which has dried up, and they enter into northern Israel into the Valley of Jezreel. I've been there twice and it truly is a massive valley. Napoleon once said that all the armies of the world could be fielded on that plain, and it really could. It's gigantic! And so, once in the Valley of Jezreel the Antichrist's armies will start fighting against the eastern kings' armies and they will start annihilating each other.
In the middle of this insurrection is when Jesus returns onto the scene in what is called the Second Coming, which we will get into next. Jesus will come and with just a word He is going to destroy both factions. Note this, all Jesus has to do is speak to win. God's that powerful! When it's said God holds the world together, well it's true, He really does. God holds the world together and us. So, Jesus by just saying a word or so causes those two armies to literally fall apart and the soldiers die there on the fields. The passage says that there is so much blood that it flows as high as a horse's bridle. We are talking about four to six feet high the blood filling that valley. And again, Jezreel is a massive valley, so we're talking about a lot of the remains of humanity getting together to fight and die there one last time.
Jesus then leaves Jezreel and moves towards Jerusalem. There He engages the rest of the Antichrist's armies who are besieging Jerusalem. Israel has already been trampled by the Gentiles, particularly trampled by the Antichrist at the middle of the Tribulation, and he's still trampling Jerusalem by the end. The Antichrist will be totally besieging the city to defeat it because Satan knows that if he can kill the Jews he has thwarted God's plan, and it looks like he's really getting close to accomplishing that. But, again, when Jesus arrives He easily defeats them.
After Jesus defeats the Antichrist, He sentences the Antichrist and the False Prophet to the Lake of Fire. Satan is cast into a deep pit, held there for a thousand years.
So, that's the Battle of Armageddon. There's a lot of fighting and so many people will die during that epic war, but the true victor is Jesus Christ.
Jesus' return at Armageddon also is the next coinciding prophetic event — Second Coming of Christ.
Brian Thomas: With the Battle of Armageddon, I've heard many people say that the Scripture seems to hint that nuclear warfare will be very prominent as the Tribulation is coming to a close and it looks as if mankind is going to almost totally destroy itself through nuclear warfare and similar means. Do you see during the Battle of Armageddon and even during other parts of the Tribulation nuclear warfare?
Nathan Jones: It's a weird mix. We can read a lot about the effects of nuclear warfare, like the skin melting off of people's bodies. Do you remember the first Indiana Jones movie? I was a kid then and had nightmares for weeks watching that Nazi melt when he opened the Ark of the Covenant. That's kind of how the melting of the bodies are described. When Jesus returns there is a melting of the armies, and I don't know if that is Jesus Himself doing that or that's the result of the armies nuking each other.
We do know earlier during the Tribulation when the Antichrist starts his campaign after he makes the treaty with Israel, he starts galloping around the world conquering it. A massive third of the world is destroyed in just the first year or two of the Tribulation. There is then more destruction and pretty much half the world — that's 3.5 billion people — will have died within the first 3 1/2 years.
A number of the physical effects that we read in the judgments afterwards, especially from the Bowl Judgments, sound like the result of nuclear radiation. The atmosphere isn't much there anymore on the earth to protect it from the solar radiation, so people are scorched. People are also covered in boils, and we know that radiation produces boils on the skin. Radiation rather melts a person, and their teeth start rotting out.
There's definitely a nuclear arsenal I believe involved in the Tribulation. The Bible in Isaiah 17 and Jeremiah 49 well describes Damascus being destroyed in one day by Israel, and the speed of its destruction could only be nuclear in nature.
We can also read that a lot of the soldiers of that time are riding horses. They are shooting from bow and arrows, and it's rather likely by the end of the Tribulation the infrastructure of the world will be so destroyed that people will resort to having to go back to horses again. Or, they could be out of bullets so they are going to have to fashion bows and arrows. So, there's a weird mix of ultimate technology and old fashioned warfare being used at Armageddon.
In the next part of this series on God's order of events, Brian and I will further discuss the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.