Last week (mid-July 2006), as I was preparing my presentation for the September WUAS Broadcast on the topic of the seven trumpets, several prophetic elements "snapped together" in a way that I had not seen before. This new discovery leads me to conclude that World War III is on the horizon and a nuclear exchange is likely. To help you appreciate how this conclusion comes from Scripture, a little background information is presented.
Notice Paulís words:"Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ĎPeace and safety,í destruction will come on them suddenly[e.g., destructive judgments from God], as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief."(1 Thessalonians 5:1-4, underline and insertion mine) As you know, many Christians believe in a pre-tribulation rapture. They believe the phrase, "the day of the Lord," refers to a specific moment in the future when Jesus will rapture the church. They use Paulís words in 1 Thessalonians 5 to prove that the rapture will occur without warning, "like a thief in the night." They believe that Jesus will quietly and secretly come to Earth. He will snatch up righteous people and disappear with them. Then, Godís wrath will fall on wicked people who are "left behind." The problem with this conclusion is that the Bible mentions "the day of the Lord" eighteen times. In all these cases, the phrase "the day of the Lord" indicates a span of time . In fact, apocalyptic prophecy indicates "the day of the Lord" contains fourteen predetermined events which will require 1,335 days to complete.
Compare Isaiahís words with those of Paul:"Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty. Because of this, all hands will go limp, every manís heart will melt. Terror will seize them, pain and anguish will grip them; they will writhe like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at each other, their faces aflame. See, the day of the Lord is coming Ė a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger Ė to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless."(Isaiah 13:6-11, underlines mine) If you are acquainted with the experience of the saints during the seven trumpets of Revelation, you will also notice a parallel between the words of Isaiah and the prophet John. (Revelation 13:7; 13:10; 14:12; 17:6)
Second Coming Will Not Come As a Surprise
Here is another problem with the pre-tribulation rapture concept. Many people believe that the Second Coming will catch the human race by surprise, but the book of Revelation indicates otherwise. For example, the wicked kings of Earth will know and anticipate the date of Jesusí appearing. They will be united and prepared to make war on Jesus as He approaches Earth in clouds of glory. This final war is called Armageddon. Armageddon will not be a war between nations; it will be a war between an angry God and His enemies, namely, Lucifer, the Antichrist, and all who follow him. Everyone who has the mark of the beast will unite with Lucifer for the express purpose to physically destroy Jesus as He approaches Earth. The Bible speaks clearly about the timing of Armageddon. Preparation for Armageddon occurs during the sixth bowl and the war itself occurs during the seventh bowl. Interestingly, Paul indicates "the day of the Lord" will come as a surprise to many people, but John indicates the "Second Coming" will not. (See Revelation 17:13,14; 16:12-21.)
God is so good. He put the date of Christís return in the book of Daniel, and then He sealed up the book of Daniel until "the appointed time of the end." Once the censer in Revelation 8:5 is cast down and the Great Tribulation begins, the date for the Second Coming will no longer be a secret for those who love God and want to understand His Word. The date of the Second Coming can be calculated."Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days."(Daniel 12:12) Because they know the date of our Lordís appearing, the saints will be encouraged as they languish and suffer through the 1,335 days of the Great Tribulation.
Peace and Safety
Paulís comment about "peace and safety" in 1 Thessalonians 5 is connected to the end of the world because he is specifically talking about "the day of the Lord." During the past century, Earth has experienced two world wars. During those times of war, people the world over were crying out for "peace and safety." However, neither WWI nor WWII was interrupted by sudden destruction from God. With another world war on the horizon, we must wait to see if this is the moment in history when God will suddenly step into the affairs of man with His destructive powers. We know that the human race cannot survive very long without peace and safety. The current situation in Iraq is a prophetic sample of things to come for the whole world. Iraq hopelessly languishes because there is no peace and safety. Even the worldís most powerful military can do little to impose peace and safety in this unstable environment. Paulís comments in 1 Thessalonians 5 indicate a time is coming when the whole world will reach a hopeless state of violence and unrest, like Iraq is today. People will be saying "peace and safety" because there is none. When the world reaches this point, look out! God will rise up and take matters into His own hands.
The time period designated "the day of the Lord" will begin with the casting down of the censer in Revelation 8:2-6. This is the event that will catch most people on Earth by surprise. Jesus said,"As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. . . . So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."(Matthew 24:37-39, 44) The antediluvians were aware of the coming flood. Noah had warned them for 120 years and the construction of the ark was well known and widely ridiculed ("Noahís folly"). So Jesusí words must mean that the antediluvians did not know how or when their mercy would end. This is the ominous parallel for our day. On the tenth day of the second month, Noah and his family quietly entered the ark, then an angel closed the great door, the doorway to salvation, and the antediluvians did not even notice. They were unaware that mercy had ended. However, the antediluvians did notice that rain began to fall on the seventeenth day of the second month and this is how end time events will be. Corporate intercession will end in Heavenís temple and most of the people on Earth will not understand the seriousness of this event; however, the whole world will be shaken by the horrific judgments that follow.
Apocalyptic prophecy consists of an intricate matrix that is based on the Jubilee Calendar. I assume you are acquainted with the Jubilee Calendar and the seven trumpets. I believe the seven angels who stand before God in Revelation 8:2 were given the seven trumpets in the Spring of 1994 Ė at the end of 70 Jubilee cycles. Corporately speaking, Godís patience with our degenerate world ended on that date. At that time, four angels with four trumpets came to Earth, fully prepared and empowered to harm this planet with Godís judgments, but Jesus stopped them by a command. (Revelation 7:1-3) He told them to wait until the 144,000 are sealed. Thus far, this delay has been holding for 12 years.
Why did an all knowing God create this delay in the first place and why did He inform us about it? These are critical questions because God is very deliberate and purposeful in everything He does. In short, God wants the final generation to know that even though His wrath is overdue, He is waiting for something that is more important than releasing His wrath. With God, timing is everything. He is waiting on "the perfect time" to start the 1,335 days of the Great Tribulation. Jesus will appear on Earth the second time just as He did the first Ė at the perfect time. Paul wrote,"But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons."(Galatians 4:4,5) For reasons beyond the scope of this article, it appears that Jesus will gather up the redeemed of Earth on a Sunday, the very first day of the seventh millennium. (See Exodus 12:41 for a beautiful parallel on deliverance. Israel was freed from Egyptian bondage at the appointed time Ė to the very day, and I believe that Godís people will be freed from Earthly bondage at the appointed time Ė to the very day.)
Consider the sequence of events in this section from Revelation 8:"And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angelís hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake."(Revelation 8:2-5)
Now, please consider four points:
1. Assume the seven angels were given the seven trumpets in 1994.
2. After 1994, an angel came to the Altar of Incense to offer up much incense, together with the prayers of all the saints. This service happens before the censer is cast down in verse 5. What are all of the saints on Earth praying for or praying about after 1994?
3. For thousands of years, the saints of God have been petitioning God for various things. So, the varied petitions and prayers of saints have been ascending for a long time. The problem is that the prayers in Revelation 8:3,4 have to occur after 1994. Furthermore, the language in Revelation 8:3-5 suggests that all the saints on Earth are praying for the same thing at the same time. What on Earth would cause all of Godís children to pray for the same thing at the same time?
4. The use of incense at the Altar of Incense dates back to the wilderness tabernacle. Special incense was offered each evening and morning on the Altar of Incense to predispose God to be generous and favorable toward "stinky" (highly offensive) sinners. The service at the Altar of Incense teaches us that a holy and pure God could only dwell among offensive sinners if there was continual intercession rising from this altar. This fragrance used in the Old Testament masked manís "stinky" condition before God, just like the righteousness of Jesus masks our sinful condition in the New Testament. The use of the fragrance of incense illustrates the wonderful doctrine of justification. In Bible times, people with serious concerns would gather around the temple during the evening and morning services to have their earnest prayers ascend with the incense Ė hoping and trusting the Lord would be favorably moved to grant their petition. Thus, the use of incense in Heavenís temple, together with the prayers of all the saints, indicates the saints are imploring God to do something. What is it?
Now that these things have been asked, consider how the mystery could be resolved:
Suppose a great war breaks out somewhere in the world (Middle East?) and this war escalates until an initial nuclear strike. As each nuclear exchange occurs, allies will be forced to take sides. Suddenly, the whole world is drawn into World War III. Two atomic bombs were used in WWII, but a nuclear exchange has never occurred. Because nuclear bombs are so devastating and ruinous, every nation suddenly finds itself wondering if its enemy will annihilate another city with the push of a button. At this extreme moment in Earthís history, man will be powerless to stop the carnage. All of Godís saints on Earth will be praying for the same thing at the same time , namely, peace and safety. The saints will petition the Almighty to quickly step into the affairs of mankind or mankind will self-destruct. Of course, the worldís religious and political leaders will be loudly calling for peace and safety, too, but what can they do? The United Nations is impotent.
If this World War III scenario were to unfold, we can be sure the Almighty will understand the dire situation on Earth. Suppose He calls an angel before His throne and this angel does something that has never been done before in Heavenís temple. He is given much incense and the smoke, together with the prayers of all the saints, ascends before the Lord. The Lord hears the cries of His children to do something quickly and He approves their request. The angel at the Altar of Incense is told to throw down the censer because intercession on behalf of Earth has just ended. The timing is perfect. The seven trumpets begin. These seven judgments are the sudden destruction that comes from God while people on Earth are desperately calling for peace and safety. In the middle of what could be several nuclear exchanges, God Himself steps into the affairs of mankind with destructive power that exceeds all atomic bombs combined. Overpowered by Godís arsenal of destructive judgments, angry nations forget about the war. Suddenly, a world in conflict discovers that manís greatest concern isnít man Ė it is our Creator. Godís servants, the 144,000, selected and empowered by the Holy Spirit for this grand occasion, proclaim in unison the world over:"Fear God and give Him glory for the hour of His judgment has come, and worship Him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the fountains of waters. . . ."(Revelation 14:7)
In this study, three things really stand out to me. First, the verses in Revelation 8:3,4 make sense just as they read within the context of a nuclear world war. If a nuclear exchange were to occur, all of Godís people would be praying for the same thing at the same time. Second, it seems clear that God responds to the prayers of the saints by casting down the censer. If this is not the case, where in Revelationís story is any answer given to their petition? Even more, what is the point of having Revelation 8:3,4 inserted into the story of the seven trumpets? These two verses have puzzled me for many years. Last, I am impressed with the timing of several pieces within this scenario: Man releases atomic power on his enemy and God releases His wrath on man Ė and all of this occurs a mere 1,335 days before the seventh millennium begins! Wow. With God, timing is everything!
You know, the closer we get to the commencement of the Great Tribulation, the easier it becomes to understand Revelationís story. Iím excited!