The last seven years of the dispensation of grace is for judgment. There are three thrones or types of judgment, three groups of people on earth and seven Seal, seven Trumpet and seven Bowl tribulation judgments that will last for seven years.
Great Tribulations are three in number and not one as popularly believed. “Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into GREAT TRIBULATION, unless they repent of their deeds. (Mt 24:21; Rev 2:22) This judgment of the Ekklesia is the first great tribulation. It is directed against backslidden Christians only.
The next in sequence is the seven-year great tribulation. “Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?’ And I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’ So he said to me, ‘These are the ones who come out of the GREAT TRIBULATION, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’” (Rev 7:13-14)
The third great tribulation also known as the period of Jacob’s Trouble will partially run concurrently with the Heptad great tribulation. “Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate.” (Dan 9:27)
Great deception will precede Jacob’s Trouble. “For then there will be GREAT TRIBULATION, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Mt 24:21)
This will happen during the second half of the Heptad great tribulation. The first part will be used by the ‘Man of Peace’ to rebuild the Temple, reinstitute animal sacrifice and the Levitical priesthood in order to deceive Jews to accept the ‘Man of Peace’ who will later become the ‘Man of Sin’ as the Messiah of Israel.
“At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation [of Israel], even to that time. And at that time your people [Jews] shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. (Dan 12:1)
Pre-Tribulation adherents say “the rapture” will occur at the beginning of the seven-year tribulation period.
Mid-tribulation adherents are of the view that “the rapture” will occur in the middle period that is three and a half years from the beginning of the seven-year period.
Post-tribulation adherents say that “the rapture” and the first resurrection are one and the same thing, meaning that the rapture will take place at the end of the seven-year great tribulation, which they assume is the only time the first resurrection can take place.
When you understand from the Scriptures that there are four end-time raptures and three great tribulations then you will realise that without proper definition of terms none of the above statements can be taken on face value and without ambiguity.
Indeed, there is a pre-tribulation rapture, there is also a post-tribulation rapture. It all depends on which of the four remaining raptures you are referring to.
“They looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up.” The ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven, which was the first rapture, took place ten days before the Day of Pentecost when the church was inaugurated. The remaining four raptures will occur during the last seven years of the age, era or dispensation of grace, which is seven years longer than the dispensation of the church.
It is obvious that Christians who desire to be like the Lord Jesus Christ will suffer persecution and tribulation in this life. It is a given. But great tribulation is judgment from God. Backslidden Christians especially whoremongers and the sexually immoral only will be subjected to a Sickbed great tribulation.
The dead and living in Christ shall be raptured first. (1 Thes 4:16-17). As it is written “judgment will begin at the house of God.” The church must be judged first before being raptured.
The purpose of the Sickbed Great Tribulation is to give backsliders final option to return to the Lord in order not to be left out of the rapture event.
The ekklesia began on the day of Pentecost and will be removed from the earth with the rapture of the church of Jesus Christ. Things will change dramatically thereafter.
With the rapture of eligible called-out ones, there will be no Christians remaining on earth. Disqualified Christians will revert back to their previous status of either Jew or Gentile. The preaching of the gospel of grace of God will cease. The Church Age with the accompanying Great Commission will come to an end.
Attention will shift back to the Jews. The gospel of the kingdom as opposed to the gospel of grace of God will be preached by two Jewish groups mainly to the Jews for seven years corresponding to the last seven years of the age of grace.
The next two raptures are person-specific. The first group is made up of 144,000 Jewish Evangelists divinely appointed at the beginning of the heptad. They will be persecuted for three and a half years and forced to flee to Jerusalem from where they will be raptured alive.
The second group comprising Moses and Elijah will be persecuted to death by the Beast after preaching the gospel of the kingdom from Jerusalem for the second three and a half years. Three days after being martyred and their dead body unburied they will be resurrected and raptured in time to take their place at either side of the Lord at the Marriage Supper.
After church rapture people will still be saved but by a method different from what obtains now. “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. (Rev 12:11) Martyrdom is a prerequisite to participation in the last rapture.
The fourth and last rapture will turn up a massive number of martyred saints. “And the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.” This simply means uncountable number of martyred saints.
The preferred option is to participate in the rapture of the Ekklesia rather than miss out on the divine airlift and be martyred as a saint. Martyrdom before church rapture confers a crown. Martyrdom after church rapture does not; it only gives eligibility to be raptured on the last day of grace.
It is for this and other reasons that the Lord emphasised the necessity of looking forward for His return rather than to be martyred after church rapture. Many privileges will elude tribulation martyrs in heaven, for example hierarchy in the millennial kingdom where their role will be in the similitude of the Nethinim under Judaism.
Readiness is the highlight of expectation of Christ’s return. “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Mt 24:44). The prescribed way to be ready is to be WATCHFUL of needful things, FAITHFUL at all times and being FRUITFUL to the end, which could mean sleep or trumpet sound summoning saints to the atmospheric heaven.
This concludes the five-part article.