Revelation Lesson 12: The Church Age Comes to an End :: By Sean Gooding

Revelation Chapter 4: 1-2

“After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, ‘Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.’ Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.”

We ended up last week with a look at the church at Laodicea. This church, we find in Colossians 4, is known by the Apostle Paul; the church there is thriving and, in fact, the letter to the church at Colosse is to be read in Laodicea as well according Colossians 4:16. This was a vibrant church filled with people that loved the Lord, loved the apostle Paul and hungered for the word of the Lord. But a mere 50 years or so later, we find it ‘self-reliant’ and that Jesus is on the outside of the assembly asking to be allowed in.

It does not take but a generation to destroy a church. We need to be diligent to pass on the truths that keep us and empower us. We need to remember that Jesus is the central Person and Power of any local church. We need to seek Him first and often.

Today we will begin to look at the ‘post-church’ era. This era, by the time that Revelation 4 comes to pass, will be about 2,000 years old. As we begin this, I will tell you that for most of my life I have been a Pre-Trib rapture believer. I was taught this in church in Barbados and then in the church that I attended in Canada. It was not until I went to seminary that I encountered anyone who did not believe in the Pre-Trib rapture.

Some of my professors were ‘Mid-Tribbers” and some were ‘Post-Tribbers;” and for sure it shook me a bit as it did some of my fellow seminarians. When a highly respected professor with a lot of credentials after his name says something, we wide-eyed teenage preachers just soaked it up and often became confused. I have dear friends, fellow preachers that are die-hard Mid-Tribbers;’ they expect to be here for the first part of the Tribulation.

What is the Tribulation? Often, those of us who have grown up in church use these terms that we assume everyone knows, and we say them and end up confusing people and losing people. So, let us get on the same page, so to speak. The Tribulation is a period of seven (7) years that occurs after the church age has been completed.

In Revelation 1–3 we just looked at 7 churches that represent the entirety of the church age. The end of the church age, which is dominated by churches just like the one in Laodicea, is all around us. The New Testament church is the vessel by which the Lord primarily reaches people. When Jesus began His public ministry by calling out Peter, James, John and Andrew to follow Him and to become fishers of men, the church age began. In Acts 1:8, the church was commissioned go into the ‘uttermost parts of the earth’ and be witnesses of Jesus; and in Acts 2, they are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do just that.

Over the last 2,000 years, the local New Testament church has been the only authorized agent of Jesus to preach the Gospel. Now the Gospel is preached by many outside the church, and God always honors His word. To be a part of a church, one needs to be saved (to have trusted in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection for the FULL payment for our/your sins) and baptized (by immersion, completely immersed in water and then brought out again) of one’s own volition. There is no teaching or examples of infant baptism in the scriptures. One must be able to make the choice for themself.

The local church is the one that is supposed to be doing these things: teaching the Gospel, winning the lost, baptizing the saved and then discipling them into mature Christians. This is our mandate.

Matthew 28:18-20 “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

But, God made some promises to a few fellows – men we call the Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and as such, God often refers to himself as the God of these three men. We see this in Exodus 3:6 and then reaffirmed in Matthew 22:32. God made a promise to these men. The first to Abraham is found in Genesis 15:18-21, then to Isaac in Genesis 26:3, and then to Jacob in Genesis 28:13. God promised them the Holy land of Israel where the nation now dwells.

We are told in Romans 4 that Abraham is the ‘father of all who believe’ by faith. He trusted God to give him a son in his old age; he trusted God even further to give him back his son if he was killed, since God cannot lie (Genesis 22). Here in Genesis 22, we have the picture of the substitute: God sends a ram to take the place of Isaac on the altar (verses 8-13).

The prophetic verse 8, “God will provide himself a sacrifice,” is a dual prophecy. God did provide for himself that day on the mountain a sacrifice; but God would also provide Himself in the person of Jesus to be our sacrifice, our ram, our substitute when we deserved death and hell.

When the Jews rejected Jesus in Matthew 27:21-25…

“The governor answered and said unto them, whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. Pilate saith unto them, what shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, let him be crucified. And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified. When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.”

The Jews rejected Jesus and they put a curse on themselves; for truly His blood has been on them and their children for the past 2,000 years. But God loves the nation of Israel, and He desires for them to repent. The Apostle Paul in Romans 9–11 speaks of his desire for Israel that they would repent and turn to Jesus. Over the 2,000 years of the church age, many Jews have come to know Jesus as Savior. The very new New Testament church was first populated by Jews; but, by the end of the first century, the church became a predominantly Gentile entity, and it has remained so until now.

BUT, as we mentioned, that era is coming to an end; and God will go back to dealing with the Jews. A simple example of this is found in Revelation. In the first 3 chapters, there is reference after reference to the church. But after John enters the door that is opened in chapter 4:1, the New Testament church is not mentioned again in the Revelation. That era has ended. But what we do see is a renewed emphasis on Israel. So, the Tribulation period is about Israel and her relationship to Jesus. She is still looking for her Messiah, and she will find one called the ‘Man of Sin’ in 2 Thessalonians 2:3…

“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.”

The nation of Israel will think that the peace that is offered along with the permission to build the Third Temple will mean that the world is finally at peace with them. But they will be sadly mistaken, and only then will they turn and look for the real Messiah, Jesus, the King of the Jews. The Tribulation is a period of 7 years, called Daniel’s 70th week, in which God will rain His judgment on the earth and basically drive Israel to a place where they will begin to look for Jesus; and then He can finally completely fulfill the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

In Revelation 4:1, a door is opened and John is immediately transported to Heaven. This is what we are waiting for in the church age. This event is called the Rapture. As I mentioned, seminary was very unsettling to me about the Rapture. But over the years of study and research, I have come to the conclusion that the Rapture is at the beginning of the Tribulation.

Now, I may differ with some as to when the Tribulation will start. Most Bible teachers teach that the Tribulation, that specific 7-year period we just talked about, will immediately follow the Rapture. I do not hold to this; I do hold that the Rapture is before the Tribulation and that the Tribulation will begin soon after.

In the Old Testament, Leviticus 23, God gives the nation of Israel 7 feasts that they are to observe throughout the year, beginning with the Passover and so one. Each feast represents something to do with the entire story of mankind and Jesus’ work for us. Jesus is our Passover; He is our sacrificial lamb. And when we are covered (washed in His blood), we are passed from death to life; Jesus takes away our sins (Micah 7:19).

He is our Feast of Unleavened Bread; He is the First Fruit of the Resurrection, fulfilling the Feast of First Fruits; and He sent His Holy Spirit on the Feast of Pentecost to confirm the New Covenant. Thus, Jesus fulfilled the Spring/ Summer feasts.

We await His fulfillment of the Fall/Winter feasts beginning with the Feast of Trumpets (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). The Feast of Trumpets will begin on a new moon in the month of September (10-11 this year), whereas in 2022 it will be September 26-27. It is the only feast that has a subjective beginning depending on the sighting of the New Moon. Then, 10 days later, the Day of Atonement; and 5 days later, the Wedding Feast. We await these last three feasts to be fulfilled.

Today, with modern technology, we can predict the beginning of the Feast of Trumpets; but in the days of the New Testament writers, the feast was said to begin on a day ‘that no man knows.’ They had to wait and look for it to happen. We are waiting and looking for the Feast of Trumpets to be fulfilled, and we know it is near; but we do not know the specific day that this will happen.

I mentioned in the previous paragraph that the Day of Atonement happens about 10 days after the Feast of Trumpets. This is why I do not think that the Tribulation will begin immediately after the Rapture, but a short time after. I believe the Tribulation ends with the Day of Atonement; and if we use a day as a year, then it is a 10-year window.

I was listening to a famous prophetic teacher, Jan Markell; and she said, and rightly so, that the ‘big’ event the New World Order is looking for to implement some of their stuff is the Rapture. They have a plan in place (we will explore this plan as we go through the Revelation), and they need the right catalyst to get it going and to have the world population at a place that they will accept the new rules.

We are told in 2 Thessalonians 2:11 that God will send them strong delusions, that they (the world left behind) will believe the lie. The lie of the NWO will be the framework that will bring in the Man of Sin, establish a peace treaty with Israel, and as soon as they proclaim “peace and safety,” sudden destruction will come (1 Thessalonians 5:13). God will begin His plan to bring Israel to their true Messiah, Jesus, their once rejected King.

Now that we have established what the Tribulation is, we need to take a look at the Rapture. The word rapture is not found in the Bible per se. The action of being raptured is found as we begin in Genesis with Enoch in Genesis 5:21-24…

“When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.”

The last phrase, “God took him away,” is simply that one moment he was here on earth and the next God took him away, instantly. We see another rapture event in the life of Elijah. In 2 Kings 2:11 we find this event…

“As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.”

Elisha knew that his master Elijah would be taken, BUT he did not know when. His job was to watch and wait so that he would get a double blessing on his life and ministry from the Lord. So, Elisha watched and watched and waited, and he saw the Lord take Elijah away in a whirlwind. One moment he was there and the next gone to heaven.

The apostle Paul tells us that “in a moment, the twinkling of an eye” we will all be changed. In Revelation, a door opens and John is caught up to heaven. It was sudden (notice verse 2), ‘immediately;’ this was an instant. This is what we are waiting for. Jesus will send an angel or angels with trumpets; and, at the last trump, we will be immediately taken from here just like Enoch and Elijah were. The dead in Christ will go first, and then we who remain will follow.

The very proof of this is found in the resurrection of Jesus; but often missed in the celebration of Jesus resurrection is this account from Matthew’s gospel, chapter 27: 51-53…

“And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”

Notice the graves were opened; and we see that these were able to be seen by the people in Jerusalem. Ours is going to be a physical rapture. We will have real bodies that can be touched, seen and be used in the service of the Lord’s kingdom.

Jesus is coming soon! Are you ready to meet the Lord? You need to get saved through trusting and putting your faith in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection for you. Nothing else will do. After this, find a church that teaches the whole Bible and accepts it as totally true, be baptized (by immersion), and begin growing in the faith. Get ready.