Then there comes a group of four events. And these four are very closely associated together in point of time. They occur at the close of the period of persecution and wickedness. Indeed, it is their occurrence that brings the close. Yet the exact time when they happen is left quite uncertain.
And this clearly is another bit of the tendency in the record to keep our thought on the main events, and not on figuring out time. We are to keep to the essentials and be wary of mere speculation. For the sake of clearness I am putting these four events separately, but this does not mean that some of them may not be occurring at the same moment, or that all may not come within a very brief time. We simply do not know. It looks as though we are not meant to know.
There is a Jew event. The Holy Spirit comes down upon the nation of Jews in simple, tremendous, converting power. This is put in connection with the coming down out of the heavens on a cloud of the Lord Jesus. It seems to be this sight of their great Kinsman, Jesus, whom they crucified, that is used by the Holy Spirit to strike penitence to their stubborn hearts. Literally a nation is born again in a day. It will be with the whole nation as it was with Saul on the Damascus road, as sudden and unexpected, as startling and as radical; as sudden and unexpected an appearance of Jesus, as startling to the Jews, as radical in the absolute spirit transformation.
There is a Church event. And here the word Church is used to describe all believers in the Lord Jesus. That will be a much sifted and chastened company of people. This event is also connected with the open, visible coming of the Lord Jesus, out of the upper blue, before all eyes. It affects two separate companies of believers. The bodies of all believers who have died will be raised out of their graves, inhabited again by those who lived in them. Then the living believers shall have a transforming touch upon their bodies. And the two companies shall be caught up into the air into the presence of the Lord Jesus.
As they come into His presence there will be a purifying and perfecting of character, and an adjustment of relations with Him. There is no suggestion of how much time is involved. We naturally think of things as taking place through so much time. Our limitations in this regard will be gone then. It may be what we now call instantaneous.
There is a world event. There will come to the earth and to men a visitation of terrible judgments, affecting men's bodies, the sea and rivers, vegetation, an intensifying of the sun's heat, and possibly a terrible darkness—in short, affecting everything concerning man and life on the earth. There will be a great gathering of the armies of the nations at a place in Palestine. Again there is no suggestion of how much time this visita tion of judgments runs through, nor this gathering for battle.
Then there is the event, the great climax event, the actual coming of the Lord Jesus, out of the heavens, down to the earth. At the moment when He comes the Jews will be in the midst of a terrible siege in Jerusalem. Against the city will be assembled the armies of the nations. The city will be taken, the looting and ravaging already begun.
Then suddenly, out of the blue above, the Lord Jesus comes in a great blaze of blinding light, accompanied by great numbers. He will come to Olivet. With the coming will be a terrible earthquake, such as the earth has never known.
It is a striking geological fact that the greatest "fault," or break in the earth's surface, is found in Palestine, running north and south from Antioch on the Orontes down even into Africa. But this earthquake will affect very wide areas, including the city of Babylon, which will be shaken to utter destruction. That earthquake will make radical changes in the formation of the earth's surface in Palestine.
At the same time there will be an equally terrific shake-up in the heavenly bodies, the sun, moon, and stars. The effect of both these upon the vast panic-stricken multitudes will be most pitiable. They will call upon the upheaved rocks to hide them from the wrath of God.
These are the four events occurring at this time. They are grouped together. It seems im possible to say first this, then that. They are grouped. The great essential thing standing out is that our Lord Jesus' coming will be at a terrible climax of evil. There will be partial judgment visited on the earth. The system of evil will be wholly overthrown. The Jews will be converted as a nation by the Holy Spirit. The Church will be caught away out of the distress, and will have part with our Lord Jesus in His coming.
It should again be noticed that in all this there are no time notes, except as to the length of this tribulation time. The persecution of the Jew and desecration of Jerusalem, the time of the two witnesses, and the sway of the Antichrist, each runs through three and a half years. There are no time notes whatever for the present waiting-time. And though the length of the tribulation itself is stated, yet it should be noted that the exact time of the Lord Jesus' actual return still remains quite undetermined.
In Daniel's prophecy there are four events spoken of as occurring at this time, and each is measured from the time when the sacrifices are stopped and the chief desecrating act in the temple begins. The tribulation runs for three and a half years. Thirty days later comes some glad event not specified further. Seventy-five days later there comes another glad event, and two years ten months and twenty days later the complete cleansing of the temple. Each of these portions of time is measured from the same starting point. This would suggest a period of readjustment after the Antichrist is slain, running through almost three years. All these time notes are of a year of three hundred and sixty days, not our common calendar year of three hundred and sixty-five and a fraction days.
There comes the period called the kingdom. Its capital is Jerusalem. The regenerated nation of Israel becomes the first nation of the earth, with all other nations tributary. Israel's leadership is a blessed one in its spiritual influence over all others. The Jews are a missionary nation, whose one passion is to make the knowledge of God known throughout the earth.
The redeemed ones of all the earth through all times will reign over the earth in fellowship with the King, the Lord Jesus. In their resurrection bodies, with all present bodily restrictions and limitations gone, they will have a blessed share in the new earth ministry.
The purpose of the kingdom is world-wide evangelization, but with all the conditions radically changed. Satan, with all evil spirits, is removed from the scene of action. The nation of Jews, baptized by the Holy Spirit, is the missionary force, under the direction and help of the Church. The Holy Spirit will have been poured out upon all flesh, making all peculiarly open to the truth.
What a wonderful time of continual revival it will be! But that much abused word "revival" will have its sweet, original meaning restored. It will mean a re-living, a new life of the Spirit coming, that will naturally include the body, too.