“The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD come..” – (Joel 2:31)
The Old Testament prophets speak of the “latter times” and “That Day” – the Prophet Joel calls it the “Day of the Lord.” But the Bible also speaks of the “Day of the Lord,” the “Day of Christ” etc.
The Scriptures speak of four distinct “Days” – all of which apply to the overall “latter times.” Let’s get the “latter times” out of the way, first.
The “latter times” and “last days” don’t refer to the Tribulation Period. The terms refer to the times of the New Testament – the entire Dispensation of Grace from Pentecost until now.
What we would think of as the last days is actually what Daniel terms the “time of the end.” What I want you to see is that without an understanding of exactly what each term means, it is impossible to rightly divide the Word.
The Scriptures speak of four “Days” relevant to understanding unfolding Bible prophecy.
The “Last Days”means the entire span of this present Dispensation. (Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17) It is separated from the “former things of old” (Isaiah 46:9) separating the former things “come to pass” from “the new things” to be declared.
“Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.” (Isaiah 42:9)
The “former things” refers to the Dispensation of the Law, which concluded with the start of the Dispensation of Grace. Just before His ascension into heaven, the Apostles asked Jesus if this was when He would restore the kingdom to Israel.
Jesus told them instead to get to work on building His Church. He said they would “receive power after the Holy Ghost has come upon” them, instructing them to bear witness to the “uttermost part of the earth.”
“And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)
The Day of Christis the day that the two angels were talking about when they said that Jesus would return in the same manner in which He went up into heaven.
There are two “brackets” that are on either end of the Church Age.
It begins with Jesus quietly ascending into heaven witnessed only by His Apostles and the angelic witnesses. This brackets off the Dispensation of Grace from the Dispensation of the Law.
The Lord’s final words were not addressed to the world, but only to those charged with bearing witness to his Gospel, the “Apostles whom He had chosen.”
The two angelic witnesses provide a clue to the other ‘bracket’ telling the Apostles that it will end the same way – with the Lord descending from heaven for His Church at the Rapture. (Philippians 1:10, Philippians 2:16, 2 Thessalonians 2:2)
The Day of the Lord refers to the Day of the Vengeance of Our Lord. It refers to the Tribulation Period which begins at some point after the Day of Christ. The Tribulation Period, the Apostle Paul writes to the Church at Thessonica;
“. . . is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:” (2 Thessalonians 1:8)
The Prophet Daniel’s vision of the 70 Weeks is similarly divided. After sixty-nine weeks, the Messiah was “cut-off” stopping the clock and leaving an unfulfilled ‘week’ of years.
That final ‘week’ begins with the covenant between the antichrist and Israel referenced in Daniel 9:27 when God turns His focus to effecting the national redemption of Israel. Jeremiah calls it the ‘time of Jacob’s Trouble.’
Revelation separates the purpose and destinies of all three spiritual creations of God. To the new creature, (the Christian) Jesus promises,
“Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” (Revelation 3:10)
Note that Jesus said that it would come upon ALL‘that dwell upon the earth’. Beginning with John’s translation from earth to heaven in Revelation 4:1, the only ones pictured as dwelling upon the earth are Israel and the Gentiles.
That is consistent with the time of Jacob’s Trouble and the Day of the Lord’s Vengeance. What would be inconsistent would be the inclusion of those already purchased by the shed Blood of Christ.
The Day of the Lord and the Dispensation of Judgment begins with the breaking of the first seal of judgment as recorded byRevelation 6:2:
“And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.”
The Rider on the White Horse is the antichrist and his ride does not begin until after the brackets are closed on the Age of Grace. Grace and Judgment are mutually exclusive.
This is further confirmed by the sealing of the 144,000 servants of God in Revelation 7. They are the only ones in the Tribulation that are specifically sealed (not necessarily indwelt) by the Holy Spirit.
They are not the Church or leftovers from the Church Age, since the sing a new song that ONLY those 144,000 who ALSO have the special status of being “redeemed from the earth”. (The Church was redeemed from sin.)
If there are any living saints depicted on the earth afterRevelation 4:1 apart from the 144,000 of Revelation 7 and the saints overcome by the antichrist in Revelation 13, I have been unable to locate them.
Note also that the Gospel is carried, not by the Church, but by an angel.
The Day of God: The “Day of God” begins with the conclusion of the Dispensation of Judgment with the Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:4).
The Day of God continues through the Millennial Kingdom Period and through to the destruction of this present creation and its replacement with the new heaven and the new earth. (2 Peter 3:12)
One of the most important doctrines concerning the last days is the doctrine of immanency. The doctrine of immanency says that the Lord’s return is a sign-less event that cannot be calculated.
Jesus explained it using the example of a thief coming to burglarize a house.
“And this know, that if the good man of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.” (Luke 12:39)
The lesson is clear. If it were possible to calculate when the Lord was to return at the Rapture, then there would be no reason to watch. Therefore, there are no signs that precede the Rapture.
The Rapture could have occurred in the 1st century like the Church at Thessonika feared had happened.
If the Rapture were dependent upon definite signs, then no generation in history would have been looking for it except the generation that saw the signs.
So instead, the Scriptures give signs pointing to the Tribulation. While every generation could be the generation of a sign-less Rapture, only one would be the generation that would see all the signposts of the approaching Tribulation.
So the Bible extended the Blessed Hope to every generation, but to the generation that sees the signs of the Tribulation there is an added sense of urgency.
The Dispensation of Grace began with the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven after having given His Own the Great Commission to occupy until He comes.
The Dispensation of Grace concludes, according to the bystanding angels, in ‘like manner’ as He left. He ascended in a cloud, seen only by His own and the angels.
He returns with a shout and the voice of the archangels for His own, — the dead in Christ first, then we which are alive and remain. (2 Thessalonians 4:16-18)
But the Dispensation of Judgment – the Tribulation Period – begins with the breaking of the 1st Seal Judgment in Revelation 6:2.
The Day of Christ does not take place during the Day of the Lord. They describe distinct and separate events. The Day of Christ makes way for the onset of the Day of the Lord.
The Rapture cannot take place, as Pre Wrath postulates, with the breaking of the seventh seal judgment—without making Jesus a liar.
“Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” Matthew 24:44
According to the Pre Wrath Theory, that verse cannot be true. Instead, the Rapture is triggered by the breaking of the seventh seal. That isn’t such a time as I think not, but a very definite time, indeed.
It is no longer a sign-less event, but is preceded by six very definite signs, including the Revelation of antichrist and the deaths of a quarter of the population from famine, pestilence, war, persecution and death.
Do you see the problem?
In this view, the Rapture will coincide with the opening of the Sixth Seal, the great earthquake, the sun becoming black as sackcloth and the moon as blood. It certainly must take place afterthe first five seal judgments.
It could NOT have taken place at any time in history past—and it cannot take place tomorrow. Or even the next day. There is no need to look up and lift up our heads, for our redemption is NOT nigh—it is still an antichrist and five more judgments way.
There is a reason why understanding the divisions between the Dispensations is so essential. Without Dispensational truth, there is no explanation for why we are no longer under the Law.
The rules under which the Dispensation of the Law worked are different than those of the Dispensation of Grace, which are different than the operational rules of the Dispensation of Judgment, which are AGAIN different than those in operation during the Millennial Kingdom.
Is it an eye for an eye?
Or is it turn the other cheek?
Stone blasphemers and adulterers to death?
Or love the sinner and hate the sin?
Do lions eat lambs? Or lie down beside them and smell flowers?
Without a clear division between the Dispensations it is not possible to reconcile these different and seemingly contradictory spiritual economies.
The Rapture belongs to the Dispensation of Grace – it signals its conclusion. It occurs at such a time as ye think not – that disqualifies the breaking of the 7th Seal since that event is preceded by the Blood Moon.
In the Pre Wrath view, the Rapture CANNOT happen until after the Sixth Seal.
But the Rapture is not triggered by a judgment for sin – the Rapture concludes the Dispensation of Grace.
Judgment for sin cannot begin until Grace is withdrawn.
Grace has no place in the Dispensation of Judgment. The Dispensation of Grace ends with the Rapture.
The Dispensation of Judgment begins with the breaking of the first seal judgment.
“Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:14-15)
It is often pointed out that the rain falls on the evil and the just alike. But judgment is more like lightning. It hits what God aims it at.