We’ve already talked about the signs of the end times. We’ve talked about the rapture of the church. Today, we’re going to dig into the timeline of the end times and the tribulation.
End Times Timeline
I put together a timeline to help you understand how this is all going to play out. And by timeline, I mean the chain of events, not specific dates.
The interesting thing about Bible prophecy is that we can know what is going to happen next, but we cannot predict the exact time it is going to happen.
So when you hear someone give you a date the rapture is going to happen, or a date anything is going to happen, take it with a grain of salt. They’re probably wrong. But here is the chain of events.
We are currently in the church age. As noted by the red dot, that’s where we are, at the end of the church age.
The next thing that is going to happen is the rapture of the church. If you want more details on why I believe in the pre-tribulation rapture, you can watch my message from last week on YouTube. Just search for NoLimits Church.
As soon as we are raptured, all believers will approach the judgment seat of Christ. This is not to judge whether you are saved or not, because salvation is a gift that can only be received by believing in Jesus Christ.
Plus, the only people who will get raptured are those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ. So the simple fact that you were raptured proves that you are saved.
So, the judgment seat of Christ is not to determine whether you are saved or not. Your salvation is secure through your faith in Jesus Christ. But will be judged on what you did here on the Earth.
2 Corinthians 5:10 NLT – For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.
Some might read this and think, “So, if I’ve done good, I’ll be given a pass into heaven. And if I’ve done evil, I’ll be cast out of heaven?”
But, that is not what it is saying. This scripture is written to believers whose salvation is secure because of their faith in Jesus Christ. They will spend eternity in heaven.
But first, they must give an account for what they did in their earthly body.
The Apostle Paul relates our earthly lives to building a house. There’s a variety of materials used to build a house and some are better than others. But the most important thing is the foundation.
Here’s the cool thing. All believers are building their lives on the same foundation: Jesus Christ. So, no matter what you build, the foundation is strong and secure.
But it is important to give attention to how you are building on this foundation. The Apostle Paul explains why:
1 Corinthians 3:12-15 NLT – Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.
This is a clear explanation of the judgment seat of Christ. It is extremely clear that even if everything is burned up in that judgment, you will be saved.
On this judgment day, Jesus is going to blast this earthly house you’ve built with fire. Everything you did that was evil or worthless will be destroyed in a second.
Then, you will look around to see what survived. And you will receive a reward for all the good things you did while on the earth.
This scripture makes it clear that some people will look around after the fire with nothing left to show. And that’s not going to be an easy thing to take. It will feel like you’ve suffered great loss.
So, don’t let that be you. Make it your goal to have lots of gold, silver, and jewels survive that fire. Let’s not enter heaven like someone barely escaping the flames. Let’s enter heaven with a truckload of rewards.
Marriage Supper of the Lamb
After this day of judgment, we will enter the marriage supper of the lamb. While the earth is experiencing tribulation, we’ll be having a seven-year feast with the Lord.
The marriage supper of the lamb is revealed in Revelation 19:
Revelation 19:7 NLT – Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself.
Of course, just like the rapture, there are disagreements on when this event will take place. But I am going to explain at the end of the message the strongest evidence in the Bible that reveals it is going to happen during the tribulation.
While we are enjoying the marriage supper of the lamb, the earth will be suffering through the tribulation.
Seven Year Tribulation
The tribulation is split in half. The first half will be somewhat mild compared to the last half. Although, those experiencing the first half will probably think, “It can’t get any worse than this.”
It all starts with the Antichrist coming on the scene promising peace and most of the world will buy it. But his counterfeit peace will be short-lived.
Almost overnight, peace will be stripped from the earth. Common decency and human kindness will become a vague memory from the past.
Nation will go to war against nation. Children will rise up against their parents. Neighbors against neighbors.
We’ve seen a taste of this already. But in the tribulation, it won’t be an isolated act of violence here and there. Violence will become commonplace in every neighborhood and every nation.
Then the world will experience global famine. Not one nation will go unaffected. During this time, people will have to work an entire day just to pay for a loaf of bread.
At this point, animals will start attacking and killing humans. And to top it all off, everyone who doesn’t take the mark of the beast will be martyred.
When it comes down to it, one-quarter of the population will be wiped out in the first half of the tribulation by war, famine, and wild animal attacks. And this is just the beginning.
At the midpoint of the tribulation is what’s referred to as the Abomination of Desolation. This is when the Antichrist takes over the temple in Jerusalem.
The temple, created to worship God, will be raped, for the lack of a better term. The Antichrist will take over God’s city and set up an image of the beast in the temple.
This is the event that triggers the last half of the tribulation, called the great tribulation. It will be the worst three and a half years in human history.
One-third of the vegetation on the earth will be burned. One-third of all living things in the sea will die. A third of the drinking water will become bitter and kill those who drink it.
One-third of the day will become dark. We’re talking where there is no light coming from the sky. One-third of the day in complete darkness.
After this, the bottomless pit will be opened and locusts will descend on the earth to torture people. These aren’t your normal locusts. They have the face of a human and teeth like a lion.
They will have tails that sting like scorpions and they will torture people for five months, but will not be allowed to kill them. In those days, people will seek death but will not find it.
After these five months of torture, God will release four angels to kill one-third of all people on the earth.
Then, at the very end of the tribulation will come seven final plagues in quick succession.
Everyone who took the mark of the beast will break out in horrible sores all over their bodies. Everything in the sea will die. All drinking water will become blood. The sun will scorch everyone with its fire.
All those who took the mark of the beast will be grinding their teeth because of their pains and sores. Then the kings of the earth will gather for the greatest war ever fought, referred to as Armageddon.
Lastly, an earthquake unlike any other will shake the entire earth. Every city will be destroyed. Every island will disappear and every mountain will be leveled as 75-pound hailstones fall from the sky.
Return of Christ
At the end of the seven-year tribulation is the return of Jesus Christ. He will come back with eyes of fire and destroy the beast, the false prophet, and everyone who worshiped the beast.
We come back with Jesus to rule and reign the earth for a one thousand year period called the millennium. I’ll get into the details of that next week.
After the thousand years is the final judgment where everyone who rejected Christ will be sentenced to eternity in the lake of fire.
At this point, the earth will be destroyed by fire. For those of you looking for global warming, this is when it happens, at the end of the millennium.
Then, God will create a new heaven and new earth. This will complete a seven-thousand-year trip from the garden of Eden to the end of the millennium.
At this point, eternity will begin. Time will end. And we who put our faith in Jesus Christ will be forever with the Lord.
7 Thousand Years
Now let me explain the seven-thousand-year trip I just mentioned.
When God created the heavens and the earth, He established a seven-day rhythm for us to follow. He took six days to create the earth and then rested for one.
Likewise, we are to work for six days, and rest for one. The day of rest is what is referred to as a Sabbath. And if you are not following this rhythm in your life, you are shooting yourself in the foot.
Working for six days and resting for one is God’s rhythm. Yet, most Americans work for seven days and rest only when they are forced to because of a health challenge or burning out.
I’ve taught on the gift of the Sabbath many times. You’ll find those messages on our YouTube channel.
Do yourself a favor and do it God’s way. It works. God’s rhythm of time is to work for six days and rest for one.
Now, let me show you something else about God’s perspective of time.
2 Peter 3:8 NLT – But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.
What this is saying is that we perceive time differently than God. We always feel like He is being slow, but from His perspective, it is all moving very quickly.
Keep these two things in mind as I show you the next chart:
God’s rhythm of time is to work for six days and rest for one.
A day is like a thousand years to the Lord.
Time started when God created Adam around six thousand years ago. Then, for two thousand years, men just did what they thought was best. It’s called the age of chaos for obvious reasons.
Then God gave Moses the Torah, or the law. This includes the first five books of the Bible which give us instructions on how to live godly lives.
This began a two-thousand-year period of the law. At the end of that time, the Messiah came, which is Jesus, and ushered in the church age, also referred to as the end of days.
We are now at the end of the end of days. We will soon be raptured. The seven-year tribulation will take place. And then comes the millennium.
At the end of the millennium, God’s design for time will be fulfilled and we will enter into eternity.
Since a day is like a thousand years to the Lord, this is His seven-day timeline fulfilled across seven thousand years.
Everyone who enjoys a good chart should be very fulfilled right now. The rest of you are hoping I don’t have a third chart.
Good news, these are the only two charts I have for you today. Now I am going to walk you through a Jewish wedding to help all my non-chart people understand the timeline of the end times.
A Jewish wedding is nothing like an American wedding. This puts us at a disadvantage when Jesus uses all His wedding symbolism in scripture. After I explain this to you, those scriptures will come alive.
It all started with the betrothal. The groom would leave his father’s house and visit the bride. There, they would enter into a covenant together.
They sealed the covenant by sharing a glass of wine. At this point, they were officially married, but the marriage would not be consummated until later. In other words, they were committed before they ever had sex.
For all the unmarried people reading, this is still a great strategy. Save the sex until after you’ve committed to each other in marriage.
The groom prepares a place
Then, the groom left the bride to go prepare a place for her. They agreed not to drink wine again until the groom came back for the bride.
It would take the groom about a year to prepare the bridal chamber. In other words, they entered into the marriage covenant and then didn’t see each other for an entire year.
To make things even more shocking, no one knew the day the groom would go back for his bride because only the groom’s father could decide the day.
The groom would be working on the bridal chamber. The father would be inspecting it along the way. And only when the father thought it was ready would he tell the groom to get his bride.
The groom returns
When it finally came time, it would usually happen in the middle of the night. The father would give the groom the go-ahead. The groom then gathered the wedding party and they went down the street blowing trumpets and yelling, “The bridegroom is coming!”.
The bride had to always be ready because she had no idea when the groom was coming. So she slept in her wedding dress.
Hopefully, they were more comfortable than the dresses women wear today.
The bride would keep a lamp lit all night long because she had to be ready at a moment’s notice. As soon as she heard the trumpets, she had to run out and meet her groom.
Then they went back to the groom’s father’s house and they had a seven-day wedding.
Reminds me of something I mentioned earlier: the Marriage Supper of the Lamb during the seven-year tribulation.
Now, let’s take a look at something Jesus said before He ascended into heaven after the resurrection
Jesus Promises to return
John 14:1-3 NLT – Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.
Now that you understand a Jewish wedding, doesn’t this scripture come alive?
We are the bride of Christ. So, if you want to understand the timeline of the end times for the church, all you have to do is examine where we are in the Jewish wedding process.
Our groom went to prepare a place for us. And as soon as His Father gives Him the green light, He’s going to come to get us and take us back to His Father’s house for the wedding, also known as the marriage supper of the lamb.
A Jewish wedding lasts seven days. Our wedding with Christ will last seven years. While the earth is in tribulation, we will be feasting and celebrating with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now let me show you some more wedding parallels in scripture. Shortly before the crucifixion, Jesus had one last Passover meal with the disciples. Take a look at what happened:
Luke 22:17-18 NLT – Then he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. Then he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. For I will not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God has come.”
Jesus left His Father’s house to come to visit His bride, the church. He made a covenant with us. Then, He shared a glass of wine with His bride and promised not to drink it again until He returns.
When teaching about the end times, Jesus shared a parable about ten virgins in Matthew 25. Yet another marriage parallel.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins
Matthew 25:1-13 MSG – God’s kingdom is like ten young virgins who took oil lamps and went out to greet the bridegroom. Five were silly and five were smart. The silly virgins took lamps, but no extra oil. The smart virgins took jars of oil to feed their lamps. The bridegroom didn’t show up when they expected him, and they all fell asleep. “In the middle of the night someone yelled out, ‘He’s here! The bridegroom’s here! Go out and greet him!’ “The ten virgins got up and got their lamps ready. The silly virgins said to the smart ones, ‘Our lamps are going out; lend us some of your oil.’ “They answered, ‘There might not be enough to go around; go buy your own.’ “They did, but while they were out buying oil, the bridegroom arrived. When everyone who was there to greet him had gone into the wedding feast, the door was locked. “Much later, the other virgins, the silly ones, showed up and knocked on the door, saying, ‘Master, we’re here. Let us in.’ “He answered, ‘Do I know you? I don’t think I know you.’ “So stay alert. You have no idea when he might arrive.
As I explained earlier, the bride’s role is to always be ready for the groom’s return. In this parable, Jesus reveals that around half of the church is not going to be ready. They’re going to be left behind for the tribulation while the rest of us enjoy the marriage supper of the lamb.
How to Stay Ready for Christ’s Return
So, the question is, how do we make sure we are the ones who are ready when Jesus comes to get us? I am going to give you three things. And you might want to write these down.
#1 Remove your dirty clothes.
Jesus isn’t coming for a disheveled bride. He’s coming back for those who have removed the dirt from their lives and embraced the way of Christ. Take a look:
Romans 13:11-14 NLT – This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.
Can you see how Satan is using the woke church to turn people into the silly virgins Jesus talked about in the parable?
They are being deceived into thinking that living a life of sin has no consequences. The woke church proclaims, “Just say you believe in Jesus and then live how you want. He’ll understand!”
Those words are Satan himself deceiving people. And those who buy into it will be left behind in the rapture. They’ll have another chance at salvation during the tribulation, but it is going to be tough.
A Warning to the Woke
I want you to know, if you are one of those who side with the LGBTQ agenda in the name of love, you are doing Satan’s dirty work. You are playing a part in causing others to miss the marriage supper of the lamb.
If you are siding with abortion, you are doing Satan’s dirty work. If you are fussing at people and allowing yourself to be jealous of others, you are doing Satan’s dirty work.
So, remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes. And clothe yourself with the shining armor of right living.
The way you live will determine if you are one of the smart virgins or one of the silly virgins.
Don’t believe the lie that choosing a life of sin has no consequences. The only people ready for Christ’s return are those who have come under His Lordship.
If you truly believe Jesus is who He says He is, you’ll follow Him by following His Word.
I’m not saying you have to live a perfect life. But what I am saying is that when you believe in Jesus and something is revealed in your life that is contrary to the Bible, you abandon your way and embrace God’s way.
#2 Expect His return.
This past Friday, I was cleaning up dinner after we put the kids to bed. I was gathering all the plates on the table and something caught my eye out the front window.
Chris and Gina’s car was in our driveway. I was about to ask Beth if she invited them over and I suddenly remembered, we have a leadership meeting tonight at our house!
Beth scheduled the meeting. She sent out reminders. And somehow we both forgot.
So, here come Chris and Gina down the sidewalk and our house is a hot mess. As you can imagine, with five kids, our house is usually not ready for guests.
But, when we are expecting guests, we pick up the house. We clean the bathroom. We put away all the piles of stuff on the countertops. It looks really nice!
Take a look at what Jesus says about expecting His coming:
Luke 12:35-36 NLT – Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning, as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast. Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks.
Now, I’m pretty sure the Lord caused us to forget our guests were coming so I could have an illustration for you today. Because that’s never happened before.
Always be Ready
We are to be ready to open the door and let Jesus in the moment He arrives and knocks. So let me ask you a few questions to determine how ready you are.
Would you have been comfortable if He had come back during your activities this past weekend?
Are there books or magazines or videos that you need to get rid of before He comes to your home?
Do you watch TV shows or play video games where you would be mortified if Jesus knocked on your door while they were on?
If Jesus came back today, would you have to yell, “Wait a minute!” while you hide a bunch of embarrassing stuff in the closet?
The only people who will be ready for Christ’s return are those who are expecting Him to return at any moment.
#3 Multiply what God has given you.
One of my favorite parables is the parable of the talents. I’ve taught on this one many times, but did you know it was part of Jesus’ teaching on the end times?
In Matthew 25, the parable starts off talking about a man going on a long trip. While he was gone, he entrusted his servants with his money.
He gave one servant five bags of silver, another three bags, and another one bag. The first servant multiplied his five bags by investing and earning five more.
The one with two bags went to work and earned two more. The servant with one bag hid the money and maintained what he had.
When the master returned, he was pleased with the two servants who multiplied what he gave them.
The master was furious with the servant who returned exactly what was given to him. He even called him wicked and lazy.
The master took the servant’s one bag of silver and gave it to the one with ten bags. Then he threw the useless servant into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
When Jesus taught this parable, He was illustrating the end times. If you want to be ready for the return of Jesus, He must find you multiplying what He gave you.
He doesn’t want to find you sitting on your fanny and waiting for His return. He wants to find you using your gifts and callings to serve the body of Christ and advance the kingdom of God.
Do the work YOU were called to do
If you are overcome with laziness, if you are sitting at home consumed with yourself and your own comfort, you are in a dangerous spot and you need to snap out of it.
There are no duds in the body of Christ. We all have a part to play. Take a look:
Ephesians 4:16 NLT – He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
When you gave your life to Jesus, He gave you a special work to do. And as you do that work, you help others grow so the body of Christ can be healthy and growing and full of love.
The only people who will be ready for Christ’s return are those who are working to multiply what God has given them.