After Armageddon

After Armageddon

1 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
16 And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS., gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army…
20 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.

(Rev 19: 11-16, 20 KJV unless otherwise noted)

Many Christians believe that this, the return of Christ, is the proverbial end of the story; that God’s work is finished at this moment. They envision a and-they-lived-happily-ever-after type of conclusion. But is that a correct belief? Has the work of God and in this regard the work of the church been concluded at this point? When Christ returns and reestablishes the Kingdom of God here on Earth is there nothing left for Christ and the saints to achieve? The truth may surprise you; a careful examination of what the Bible says about what happens after the return indicates that, honestly, the work will have has just begun. While Christ’s return signifies the removal from power of Satan there is still a lot of work still required and although Satan is removed from power he will still cause trouble; albeit briefly.

A careful examination of the Bible reveals that his plan of salvation will be expanded and offered to the entire human race. Examination of the scriptures will provide one an overview of how this will be done. While the Bible tells what God will achieve, still working through his elect, it does not provide hard details and/or schedules. It is a multi-faceted adventure that will encompass the whole world and all of humanity throughout the entire human existence. What the Bible says about the fantastic post Armageddon work that the Church will under take is awesome and exciting.

Remember we are admonished by God through his written word to, Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21) so don’t just accept what you are told but get your Bible and make sure that is what the Bible says. Also recall that we are told that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. (2 Peter 1:20) so we must let the Bible explain itself.

Second, while we are told that God is not the author of confusion (I Corinthians 14:33) rarely does God place all the information on a subject in a single spot in the Bible; he tells us that, For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little (Isaiah 28:10). One may ask why; why does God hide things throughout the Bible and why should we search the Bible? God answers these questions; first recall that he instructs us to prove all things and the reason for this is because All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). So why does he hide things that requires us to search the scripture for understanding, because It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. (Proverbs 25:2 NIV)

Day of the Lord

Many claim and have been claiming that we are in the end times or last days; that the end is near and the Day of the Lord is imminent. The apostle Paul for awhile thought that the return of Christ was soon to occur (I Thessalonians 4:15). Many speak of the end time and the Day of the Lord as being the same event; but are these two terms, according to the Bible, synonymous? Is the end time and the Day of the Lord the same event or are they separate but related?

The Bible uses the phrase last days or latter days depending on the translation and also the phrase Day of the Lord; it also uses terms such as that day and day of visitation. A careful examination of these terms reveals that the two events are tied to together but are also separate events. The Day of the Lord, as detailed in the Book of Revelation, is a specific series of events where God’s wrath is poured out on a sinful world which culminates with the return of Jesus Christ and the reestablishment of the Kingdom of God here on earth. However the phrase last days covers a much broader span of time; while it definitely includes the Day of the Lord, it also includes the events leading up to and following the Day of the Lord. In simpler terms; the Day of the Lord is one event, albeit a very important one, that happens during the last days.

A brief aside here while speaking of the Day of the Lord. Many talk of the climatic end-time battle of Armageddon where the armies of the world are gathered to fight against the retuning Christ. Many commentators say that this last great battle occurs at Armageddon but an examination of the one scripture in Revelation that mentions this particular event shows that the armies simply gather there (Rev. 16:16). There is no mention of an end time battle occurring there; in fact scriptures indicate that these armies head south from Armageddon towards Jerusalem and the final battle occurs outside of the city. We find reference to this battle in Joel;

Alas for the day! for the day of the LORD [is] at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come… 1 Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for [it is] nigh at hand;
2 A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, [even] to the years of many generations…I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and [for] my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land…11 Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD.
12 Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about.
13 Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness [is] great.

14 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD [is] near in the valley of decision. 15 The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. (Joel 1:15; 2:1-2; 3:2, 11-15)

Today the valley of Jehoshaphat, mentioned by Joel, is known as the Kidron valley. How can we know for sure that this is the great last battle; there are certain key elements mentioned that are unique to the Day of the Lord that allows us to be certain. It is important to know these identifiers are to help in locating where in the last days these events are slated to happen. First off the prophet Joel himself says that he is speaking of the Day of the Lord but further confirmation is found in other specific events contained in the above scriptures and recall we need to let the Bible explain itself.

One of the other confirming bits of information is the signs mentioned in this prophecy; the darkening of the sun and moon, this is an event unique to the Day of the Lord, we find these events being spoken of occurring only during the Day of the Lord (Isaiah 13:10; 24:21-23; Ezekiel 32:7; Joel 2: 10, 31; 3: 15; Amos 8:9; Matt. 24:29; Luke 21:25; Mark 13:23; Acts 2:20; Rev. 8:12). One should also note that a number of the scriptures also mention a great tribulation that leads up to the Day of the Lord; so, despite as some claim, the great tribulation is separate from the Day of the Lord.

It is important to be aware of these specific events when discussing the last days so we can know where in the last days the scripture is speaking of for as we shall see, without this knowledge prophecies relating to the last days can appear to be contradictory and extremely confusing. This is especially true when talking about the last great battle, as we shall see as we go along; the battle that is erroneously called the Battle of Armageddon and it is not the last battle. As we shall see there are actually two battles mentioned in the Bible that happen during the Last Days where the nations of the Earth engage in combat against Christ.

The Last Days

So now that we have seen that the Day of the Lord and the Last Days are not one and the same but the Day of the Lord is actually a part of the events that comprise the Last Days we now need to determine what, if possible, the Bible means when it speaks of the Last Days. An examination of the relevant scriptures reveals that one can not truly put a distinct time span relating to the length of the Last Days, although it is possible to point to when they end.

There are eight scriptures in the Bible where the phrase “last days’ is found (Gen. 49:1; Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:1; Acts 2:17; II Timothy 3:1; Hebrews 1:2; James 5:3; II Peter 3:3). A similar phrase is latter days and there are 11 scriptures in the Bible that use that particular phrase (Numbers 24:14; Deut. 4:30, 31:29; Jeremiah 23:20, 30:24, 48:47, 49:39; Ezekiel 38:16; Daniel 2:28, 10:14; Hosea 3:5). With regard to the phrase “last days” except for the scripture in Hebrews they are all speaking of a future event. The other scriptures also seem to be referring to two different periods of the end time. Some of them seem to be pointing to the close of the final days, the end of the end time if you wish, when the Kingdom of God is fully established, salvation has been granted to all that want it and Satan and his followers are finally and totally vanquished (Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:1; Acts 2:17). The remaining scriptures speak of a broad expanse of time but apparently increase in intensity and severity (see Mat. 24: 21-22 to see what Christ says about this time). Many refer to this period as the great tribulation it may be suggested that the Great Tribulation is simply the culmination of this aforementioned time; it’s simply the climax of it all. Again it would appear that in the Bible the term “last days” has two possible applications and somewhat ironically the two periods are completely opposite; one is a time of world wide peace and the other a time of worldwide stress and danger. These two states of being, stress/conflict and peace/security, are locators or signposts that will help place an end time prophecy correctly.

The situation regarding the phrase “latter days” appears similar in its setting. Most of the scriptures (Numbers 24:14; Deut. 4:13, 31:29; Jer. 23:20, 30:24, 49:39; Daniel 2:28, 10:14) appear to be referring to the turbulent time which includes the Day of the Lord. Hosea 3:5 is difficult to accurately place but it would seem to be referring to the time between the conclusion of the Day of the Lord and the end of the Last Days. As we shall see later Ezekiel 38:16 is referring to an incident that will occur at the end of the Millennium rule of Christ; in other words, at the end of the Last Days.

As we have seen the Day of the Lord is a significant part of what is known as the last days; it culminates with the return of Jesus Christ (Rev. 19: 11-16). His return signifies the reestablishment of the Kingdom of God here on Earth. This event is marked by two events; the massive battle involving the armies of the nations of Earth against Christ and the heavenly army that comes with him (Rev. 19: 19-21). The other major event that occurs, if not simultaneously with the final battle, then swiftly after it, is the capture and restraint of Satan.

1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
(Rev. 20: 1-2)

It should be noted and we will discuss it more, later, but Satan’s restraint is only temporary; after one thousand years he is to be released once more, but only for a short while. This thousand year period is commonly referred to as the Millennium. Our interest is three fold; first, what work is said to be done during the Millennium, second, what will happen when Satan is released after the thousand years and third, what happens after that? We shall see that actually the major work of salvation and forgiveness occurs during the first and last periods mentioned above.

The First Resurrection

Actually this, for lack of a better phrase, rehabilitation of Earth begins just before the climax of the Day of the Lord; right before Christ returns to Earth and prior to the final battle, the capture and restraint of Satan. This dramatic event is known as the First Resurrection (Rev. 20:5-6). We shall look to see who will be part of this first resurrection, what are the effects of this resurrection, what will these resurrected beings be doing and what will be happening here on the Earth.

First let us see exactly when this resurrection occurs in the grand scheme of the events of the last days. Without going into great detail regarding the Book of Revelation a very brief synopsis is that the Book reveals details of the events of the last days; primarily the Day of the Lord (Rev. 1:10). The Book records the opening of a scroll that is sealed with seven seals Rev. 5:1-14, 2:1-17), with the opening of each seal visions of the events are given. The last seal is composed of the sounding of seven trumpets (Rev. 8: 1-13, 9: 1-21, 11: 15). It is at the sounding of this last trumpet that it is announced that;

And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.

This trumpet, the last one, is mentioned elsewhere in the Bible and details what also ensues with its sounding. Christ himself spoke of the sounding of this trumpet and what would happen;

And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24: 31)

Paul tells us what, besides being with Christ, the rewards are of this first resurrection;

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: (I Thessalonians 4:16)

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (I Corinthians 15:52)

So those that are part of this first resurrection are changed from mortal, physical beings to immortal, spiritual beings and they shall be made priests and will rule with but under Christ (Rev. 5:10; 20:6). Of those that are part of this resurrection God through his written word tells that they are blessed (Rev. 20:6). Jesus confirms the new spiritual nature of these resurrected beings;

29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.
(Mat. 22: 29-30)

34 And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage:
35 But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage:
36 Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.
(Luke 20: 34-36)

These beings are the first fruits of God’s plan of salvation;

20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.
(I Corinthians 15:20, 23)

Also note how the concluding part of the scripture confirms that this reward is not bestowed until Christ returns. As we saw in Christ’s words about this event that the angels gather the elect and we have seen that this gathering includes both living and dead being transformed into immortal spirit beings so one may ask, just who are these elect?

To discover the identity of these people we must first look at the meaning of the word elect and see if that will assist us. The Greek word translated as elect in this passage is, eklektos, and means "picked out, chosen" (ek, "from," lego, "to gather, pick out")[1]. So another word for the elect could be the chosen; the chosen of God, so does this help us in identifying who these people might be? There would appear to be two possible choices for who this group might be.

The first possibility is the nation of Israel; in this regard we are referring to the Biblical nation of Israel and not the modern nation of Israel. The modern nation of Israel is composed of members of the Jewish faith. A brief history lesson is required here. The word Jew is a shorten term for someone of the tribe of Judah, which was one of the tribes of the nation of Israel. In fact the first time the word Jew is used in the Bible (II Kings 16:6) we find them at war with the nation of Israel. In 930 BC the nation of Israel split into two separate countries; ten of the tribes separated and moved their capitol to Samaria, but retained the name Israel for their country. The remaining tribes, Judah, Benjamin and Levi, kept Jerusalem as their capitol but named their country Judah. Eventually the northern ten tribes Israel, were invaded, conquered and removed from their land. It is unknown, except to God, what happened to the northern ten tribes; they are known as the lost Ten Tribes of Israel. So the Jews are part of God’s chosen people but they do not compose the entirety of the chosen people.

Returning to the ancient nation of Israel let us see what God told Moses that he would do with the nation after he had rescued them from Egypt;

…tell the children of Israel;
4 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself.
5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel
(Exodus 19: 3-6)

While Israel enthusiastically accepted God’s offer of deliverance and said they would obey God and his laws they soon strayed and began to disobey God. This disobedience was what eventually led to Israel being conquered and removed and later also Judah suffered a similar fate. God announced that he had put Israel away (Isaiah 50:1); many incorrectly claim that Israel is no longer God’s chosen people. This claim is a misunderstanding of what God meant by putting away Israel. This was not a nullification of God’s selection but a separation between God and his chosen people. In other words it was not a divorce but a temporary estrangement.

Let us now examine the claim that the elect mentioned is the church. Many voice the belief that the church, usually the church they belong to, compose the elect incorrectly claiming that God has divorced himself from Israel. Many point to the statement in I Peter;

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: (1 Peter 2:9)

Essentially the same thing that God said to Israel when he called them out of Egypt; so does this confirm the belief that God has discarded Israel for Christians? A careful examination will show that both claims are slightly correct but at the same time definitely not accurate.

While today the word church tends to refer either to a building of worship or an overall term referring, generally, to the Christian faith. However in the Bible the word that is translated as church had a different meaning. The Greek word that is translated as church in the New Testament is, ekklesia from ek, “out of,” and klesis, “a calling”[2]. In Greek it was used to refer to a group of citizens gathered to discuss affairs of state. It was also used to refer to the gathering of a riotous mob (Acts 19: 32, 41). There is a similar situation with the wording in the Old Testament.

The word used in the Old Testament was, sunagoge, and the meaning is basically the same as ekklesia and that is a bringing together[3]. It is from this word that we get the term synagogue. So it would seem that both of these groups could be the elect mentioned of as being gathered and transformed at the return of Christ.

So we see that Christians have been called by God (John 6:44) but the Bible also tells us that “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 20:16; see also Matthew 20:16). So obviously simply claiming to be a Christian or belonging to a church is not the only thing required to be among the elect. Does the Bible give us any other clues as to who the elect are? It should not be surprising that the answer is a definite yes.

In the Book of Revelation it is revealed who these elect are. We find that they:

had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands (Rev 20: 4)

So it is their actions or their faithfulness to God that qualifies them to be called the elect of God. This is echoed elsewhere; consider what is mentioned in all of the letters to the churches at the beginning of the book of Revelation, he that overcometh (Rev. 2: 7, 11, 17, 26; 3: 5, 12, 21) and recall what Jesus said that is those that do the will of God that shall enter (Mat. 7:20-23). To fully expand on the will of God and the mark of the beast mentioned in Revelation is beyond the scope of this paper but suffice it to say the Bible clearly tells us that we are not just expected to talk the talk but most definitely walk the walk.

The work begins

A brief review of the events or more aptly the results of the events of the Day of the Lord is necessary. Recall that Jesus tells us that the time leading up to the Day of the Lord are turbulent (Matt. 24: 21-22); in fact if God did not intervene “no human being would be saved” (Matt 24: 22). While no mention is made of casualties resulting from the great tribulation we can assume they will be extensive. While the Bible is mute on this ghastly death toll it does tell us the ravages that shall be inflicted on Earth during the Day of the Lord.

In Revelation 8 we are told that a third of the trees and all of the grass shall be burned up (vs. 6), a third of the sea becomes blood (vs. 8), that a third of the sea life will die and a third of the ships would be destroyed (vs. 9). Next a third of the rivers become bitter and many men will die as a result (vs. 10-11). In the next chapter we are told of four angels that are held captive at the river Euphrates are released and allowed to kill a third of mankind (9: 15). Then in Chapter 16 as the events of the Day of the Lord are being drawn to their conclusion we see that every creature in the sea dies (vs. 3). Finally in Chapter 19 we read where the armies of the nations of the Earth, along with their leaders, are slain (vs. 21). So we see that at least one third of the human race will die and it appears that this total will be higher. Other scriptures allude to this horrendous death toll; And the slain of the LORD shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be dung upon the ground. (Jeremiah 25: 33).

Also the planet will be devastated; both from mankind’s abuses and from the Lord’s punishment upon mankind. Paul tells us that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now (Rom. 8:22). Isaiah also tells us that The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant…The earth mourneth and languisheth (Isaiah 24: 5; 33:9). While the Bible does not say, it would seem that some of the early work would be repairing the damage that has been inflicted upon planet Earth. While this repair is necessary when it will be preformed is not detailed, however another major task is talked about and it would seem that this will be the primary task in the beginning.

The Homecoming

As was said above the northern ten tribes split from the southern tribes; they retained the name Israel for their nation and moved their capitol to Samaria. Eventually they were invaded and taken away becoming known as the lost ten tribes of Israel. However this is not correct. While they may have lost their knowledge of their origin and historians can not locate them God knows where they are and has not forgotten them;

For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth. (Amos 9: 9)

Also we are told that the descendents of the ten tribes have forgotten their true identity;

My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace. (Jeremiah 50: 6)[4]

While the descendents of the northern ten tribes have forgotten their true identity God has not. He repeatedly assures us that eventually the nations of Israel and Judah shall be reunited. As we shall see this reunion appears to be the main task at the beginning. From scripture we see that Christ will gather the descendents of the tribes of Israel but it will not be as he gathered the elect at the time of his return. Let us look at the scriptural evidence describing this great homecoming.

Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will even gather you from the people, and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel…13 And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. (Ezekiel 11: 17; 34:12)

And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly…11 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. 12 And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth…12 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall beat off from the channel of the river unto the stream of Egypt, and ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel. 13 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem. (Isaiah 5: 26; 11: 11-12; 27:12-13)

1 But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.
2 When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. 3 For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. 4 Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life. 5 Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; 6 I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; 7 Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.
8 Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears.
(Isaiah 43: 1-8)

For thus saith the LORD; Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O LORD, save thy people, the remnant of Israel. 8 Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together: a great company shall return thither. 9 They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn. 10 Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock. 11 For the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he. 12 Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the LORD, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all…16 Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. 17 And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to their own border (Jeremiah 31:7-12, 16-17)

While we saw that the elect are changed into immortal spirit beings at Christ’s return and that the angels gather them unto the Lord there is no indication of a similar act here. In fact it would appear that the return of the ten tribes is by foot or similar mode of transportation.

will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way (Jeremiah 31: 9)

And the LORD shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea; and with his mighty wind shall he shake his hand over the river, and shall smite it in the seven streams, and make men go over dryshod. 16 And there shall be an highway for the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria; like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt. (Isaiah 11: 15-16)

It appears that at least initially God’s intent is solely upon the return and settling the ten tribes in the land he had promised to Abraham Gen. 12:7); hence the term the promised land. This Promised Land, that God swore to Abram that his descendents would occupy, is much larger then the approximate eight thousand square miles of the current nation of Israel.

In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: (Genesis 15: 18)

Also scripture tells us that the terrain will be significantly altered by God to make it more habitable for the returning people;

10 All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem: and it shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place, from Benjamin's gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king's winepresses.(Zechariah 14:10)

This massive homecoming also generates a huge rebuilding mission. The Bible tells us that there will be much work conducted; construction and agricultural;

4 And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.
5 And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.
6 But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles…And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. 22 They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands
(Isaiah 61:4-6; 65:21-22)

And they shall come thither, and they shall take away all the detestable things thereof and all the abominations thereof from thence… and shall build houses, and plant vineyards… (Ezekiel 11:18; 28:26)

A new world

While scripture does not tell us how long this gathering and resettlement of the Promised Land shall take we are told that relations among Israel and the remaining people on Earth shall be very different then it has been. One major reason is that Satan will be bound and restrained during this time and therefore unable to fan the flames of tension and hatred. Whether this change of attitude will be accomplished through divine transformation of their minds or if it will be a learning period for the survivors is unclear. What is clear is that the tension that now pervades the Holy Land will end.

The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.(Zephaniah 3:13)

And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited (Zechariah 14: 11)

19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:
20 That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God…26 And they shall dwell safely therein, and shall build houses, and plant vineyards; yea, they shall dwell with confidence, when I have executed judgments upon all those that despise them round about them; and they shall know that I am the LORD their God
25 And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land: and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods. 27 And the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase, and they shall be safe in their land, and shall know that I am the LORD, when I have broken the bands of their yoke, and delivered them out of the hand of those that served themselves of them. (Ezekiel 20: 19-20; 28:26; 34:25, 27)

Scripture tells us that upon his return to Earth Christ will be King over all the Earth, but he will rule essentially through Israel. The new Israel will be an example or more correctly a light for the nations during this time. While Christ will rule with a rod of iron scripture seems to indicate that he will not use this rod to beat the nations over the head to get them to obey. Recall that during this time Satan is restrained from roaming the Earth so the resistance to God and his ways can not be encouraged. The scripture tells us how exactly Christ will teach them that God’s way is the right way;

16 And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. 17 And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. 18 And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the LORD will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. 19 This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. (Zechariah 14: 16-19)

To some it may seem that God is favoring Israel in his action; he gives them a huge area of land, he establishes his world capitol in Jerusalem and he rewards the nation with the wealth of the Gentile nations;

ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles (Isaiah 61:6)

and the wealth of all the heathen round about shall be gathered together, gold, and silver, and apparel, in great abundance (Zechariah 14:14)

But don’t forget that God had chosen Israel as his (Deut. 32:8-9) and God said he does this so Israel will:

stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious…raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. (Isaiah 11:10; 49:6)

As was said the Bible does not tell us how long this will take, true world peace, but we are told it will occur and it is a true peace and not just an absence of fighting. But the Bible tells us that there will be one last episode involving Satan.

The last war

Recall that at the beginning of the Millennium Satan was bound, cast into the bottomless pit and was restrained from wandering the Earth (Rev. 20:3). But we are told that he will be released at the end of the Millennium for a short while (Rev. 20: 3). One may ask why this is done. Remember that he has been prevented from deceiving the people of the earth and there is no indication that during the Millennium children will not still be born. God grants us all the freedom of choice and so too he offers it to those people that will be born during the Millennium; the right to decide if they wish to follow God’s way of life or Satan’s way of death.

While the Bible does not tell us just how long Satan is allowed to roam the earth during this time, it simply says a short season, but he apparently is able to deceive a large number of the people. This in and of itself is amazing that after all the evidence of how good God’s ways are; they would have the entire span of human history to compare to the past thousand years to look back over and still they decide to follow Satan’s lie. It is a sorry tribute to his cunning abilities.

Revelation 20:7-9 gives a very brief description of this final climatic episode. It tells us that the chief agents Satan works through are two entities called Gog and Magog, many have conjectured who these two are and it is not the intent of this paper to delve into that matter let us just say that it isn’t important at this time who they might be. The Bible tells us that Satan is able to deceive the nations of the earth and he gathers them together to attack Israel (Rev. 20:9). We find a more detailed account of the outcome of this final conflict in the thirty eighth and thirty ninth books of Ezekiel.

Many erroneously have claimed that the account in Ezekiel deals with the great battle that occurs upon Christ’s return to earth at the end of the Day of the Lord; ignoring the clear evidence in Revelation that states exactly when this does occur. A careful look at the account and making note of the signposts that was mentioned above in Ezekiel will confirm this fact.

In the thirty eighth book of Ezekiel God directs Ezekiel to prophesy against Gog; in verse eight we read;

in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them. (Emphasis added)

that at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought:
11: And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates… to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land.
(vs. 10-12)

Note that when this happens God’s people have been brought out of many lands, that the desolate places are inhabited and that they are living safely; this is obviously not speaking of Israel as it is now. Ezekiel tells how this massive army, Revelation says it as many as the sand of the sea (Rev. 20: 8) comes against Israel and how God defends Jerusalem and destroys the force.

Another signpost to note, recall that at his return Christ vanquished the armies that were attacking Jerusalem in what is now known as the Kidron valley here in Ezekiel we see that God will strike these armies in an open field (Ezekiel 39:5). Again the Bible does not tell us just how long this last battle will take but God does destroy them;

And I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains, saith the Lord GOD: every man's sword shall be against his brother.
22: And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone…

6 And I will send a fire on Magog, and among them that dwell carelessly in the isles: and they shall know that I am the LORD (Ezekiel 38:21-22; 39:6)

Along with defeating Satan once and for all the results of this last battle is to;

23 Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the LORD.

7 So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel. (Ezekiel 38:23; 39:7)

While this ends the threat to Jerusalem there is still work left to be done relating to this last battle. Ezekiel tells us that after the battle;

9: And they that dwell in the cities of Israel shall go forth, and shall set on fire and burn the weapons, both the shields and the bucklers, the bows and the arrows, and the handstaves, and the spears, and they shall burn them with fire seven years:
10: So that they shall take no wood out of the field, neither cut down any out of the forests; for they shall burn the weapons with fire: and they shall spoil those that spoiled them, and rob those that robbed them, saith the Lord GOD.
11: And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will give unto Gog a place there of graves in Israel, the valley of the passengers on the east of the sea: and it shall stop the noses of the passengers: and there shall they bury Gog and all his multitude: and they shall call it The valley of Hamon-gog.
12: And seven months shall the house of Israel be burying of them, that they may cleanse the land.
13: Yea, all the people of the land shall bury them; and it shall be to them a renown the day that I shall be glorified, saith the Lord GOD.
14: And they shall sever out men of continual employment, passing through the land to bury with the passengers those that remain upon the face of the earth, to cleanse it: after the end of seven months shall they search.
15: And the passengers that pass through the land, when any seeth a man's bone, then shall he set up a sign by it, till the buriers have buried it in the valley of Hamon-gog.
16: And also the name of the city shall be Hamonah. Thus shall they cleanse the land.
(Ezekiel 39:9-16)

Returning to Revelation we see that after this last battle Satan is seized and cast into the lake of fire where he is unable to deceive the nations anymore (Rev. 20:10). It is at this point we are told that the really massive work of granting salvation occurs.

The great harvest

Looking back over history and forward at the prophesied events in the Bible we can see how God’s plan of salvation is being preformed. In a very broad sense we can see that; one, he has and is working primarily with his chosen ones (i.e. the church) preparing them for their positions in the Kingdom of God. Two, after the Day of the Lord and Christ’s return he will work through the new nation of Israel and now finally he is ready to work with the rest of humanity. We shall see that this final phase of his plan of salvation is incredibly vast; it encompasses everyone that is living or has lived on earth!

Before we begin to examine this we must first consider something. We are told that Christ is the only way a person can enter the Kingdom of God;

1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
6 This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.
7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
(John 10:1-11)

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

So the question must be asked; if Christ is the only way that a person may enter the Kingdom of God, what about all of those people that lived before Christ? What about those millions, possibly billons that have never heard of Christ over the years; are they essentially out of luck due to things far beyond their control? Can a loving, merciful God be that way and deny these people a chance for eternal life simply because they were born either in the wrong place or at the wrong time? No as we shall see it is at this point that he will extend the opportunity to everyone that has ever lived.

We see in Revelation that after Satan is bound and this time for ever the next event is a mass resurrection.

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
(Rev. 20:12-13)

There is one major difference from the people that were resurrected in the first resurrection and the people that are involved in this second one. While it is not implicitly stated the people in the second resurrection are not immortal as those that were raised in the first. We are told that the people raised in the first resurrection are “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power” (Rev. 20:6). Just what is this second death that the elect are immune from?

We find this explained, albeit briefly, in verses 14 and 15 in Revelation 20;

14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

This “lake of fire” is only briefly talked about in Revelation; it is alluded to in Rev. 14: 9-11 where we read;

9 And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,
10 The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb;

11 And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name

The lake of fire is first specifically mentioned in Rev. 19:20 where we are told that the beast and the false prophet are thrown there after Christ returns and reestablishes the Kingdom of God. It is next mentioned in Revelation 20:10 where we are told that after Satan has committed his last act of deception on the world he is then cast into this lake of fire too. The last mention of this lake is in Revelation 21:8 where we are told who else shall be cast into this lake of fire. As can be seen while in Rev. 14 there is no mention of a lake the other elements are there, i.e. torment, fire and brimstone and so it is probably referring to the same thing.

Although this lake of fire is only briefly talked about in Revelation it has generated an enormous amount of theory, it is essentially from this that modern Christianity has developed the idea of an ever lasting place of torment for the unbelievers. As we shall see this concept is very incorrect.

Into the lake of fire

As was stated the concept of an ever lasting place of torment where God casts sinners finds it basis in the Book of Revelation. But is this theory, that God would cast nonbelievers into a place of torment because for whatever reason they did not or were unable to accept Christ? That he would consign someone to this place forever? Does that honestly sound in line with an all loving, caring God who gave his only son to die for us (John 3:16) and who desires that all would be saved (I Timothy 2:3-4)? A careful examination of the scripture will show that this concept is not correct; that the God of the Bible is nothing like that.

Most of this misconception can be blamed on two things; one, an incorrect translation of Revelation into English and two, an ignorance as to the original meaning of the words used. There are basically two misconceptions that need to be corrected; one, the never ending aspect of the lake and two, the torment aspect.

Most translations of the Bible say that persons thrown into the lake of fire will be tormented there forever, but careful examinations of the original Greek words reveal that somehow these words have suffered a strange, unique and also incorrect rendering[5]. In other ancient writings where these two words are used, aion and aionios[6], they did not infer eternity or everlasting. In fact, the original meaning of these words meant a period of time, with beginning and end; it wasn’t until the sixteenth century that the connotation of eternity was applied to them. Apparently this new meaning to the words was used essentially by theologians and as related to the scriptures.

Remember we are charged by God to “prove all things” and as we have seen the never ending aspect of the lake of fire is Biblically unfounded we must see how correct the popular image of one being tortured in the lake turns out to be. Again a careful examination of the original words will show a much different and honestly a more loving design by God.

As with the words that are incorrectly rendered as never ending or ever lasting the same problem with the original words that are now rendered as torment and tormented occurs here. The two Greek words we are speaking about are, basanizo and basanismos[7]. Originally these meant "strictly, rub upon the touchstone…to test the genuineness of metals; hence, test or make proof of anything ..."[8]. Originally the word related to the testing of coins. In the Bible the words initially retained their original meaning; a way of testing. Somehow over time the originally meaning of the word, testing, was transformed so that it now meant torture.

One last misunderstanding that needs to be clarified that will assist in correctly understanding the prophesied lake of fire is the word brimstone. Again looking at the original meaning of the word reveals a much different situation than what is currently proclaimed. It was believed in Biblical times that burning brimstone had the power to purify[9].

So we now have a clearer, Biblically correct understanding of this lake of fire. We now see that those that are condemned to the lake (Rev. 21:8) are not consigned to a place of never ending torment and suffering but a place of testing and purifying. While there is no solid mention of how long this testing will last in the lake it is possible that it may last one hundred years; There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed. (Isaiah 65:20)

This idea that God would require that these people must be tested to gain acceptance to the Kingdom of God is also keeping with Biblical teaching; that God proves our value through trials (Psalms 34:19; 66:10-12; Proverbs 17:3; Isaiah 48:10; Jeremiah 9:7; Daniel 12:10; Zechariah 13:9; Malachi 3:2-3; II Corinthians 4:17; Hebrews 12:10; James 1:3-4; I Peter 4:12-13).

Some may point to Revelation 20:12-13 that says;

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works

Do these two verses indicate that there is no period of testing, as the other scriptures indicate, but simply a pronouncement of their fate? Again we must consider all of what the Bible says and second we once more need to examine the original word used that is here rendered as judged. The Greek here is krino and one of its meanings is to govern[10] and recall the elect are to be priests under Christ during the Millennium. Further the word krino denotes not simply rendering a decision but also essentially hearing the case. So as we can see these verses present us with a much different situation then what most Christians are taught. Instead of a place where sinners are tortured for the rest of eternity we now see, based on a better understanding of what the Bible actually says, that the lake of fire is a time of testing to purify sinners and this is done under the tutelage of Christ and the saints.

And then the end

As was said above there is no clear idea of how long this period of testing and refinement will last. There is also no mention of just how long the great resurrection will take; if the dead mentioned in Rev. 20:12-13 are brought up all at once or if in some kind of order. We also do not know how these raised people will be granted immortality; if it will be on an individual basis or if it will be done in mass at some point. But it really doesn’t matter how it will be done because at this point, with Satan removed, God has all the time he needs.

We do know that eventually there will truly be peace on Earth;

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. 9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea…

The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD. (Isaiah 11: 6-9; 65:25)

8 And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. 9 And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one (Zechariah 14: 8-9)

We are told in Rev. 20:14 that after the time of testing and refinement is finally completed death and the grave (rendered as hell) are destroyed. It is at this point that the truly greatest event on Earth will finally happen. God the Father comes to make his place here on Earth with his children;

24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. (I Corinthians 15_24-28)

:Conclusion

As can be seen the popular belief that upon Christ’s return all the work of the church will cease is Biblically unfounded. In fact the opposite is true, as we see truly the work of the church begins in earnest after Christ returns; it is then that God, through Christ and the saints begins to really save the world. So one might ask, what is God doing now if he is not trying to save the world now? He is working with his elect, preparing them for their positions in the Kingdom. And how? Recall the discussion about judging, another meaning is to separate, put asunder, to pick out, select, choose[11] and that is what God is doing now with his church;

For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (1 Peter Chapter 4:17)

We are told that eventually we will all have to face the judgment seat (II Corinthians 5:10) and hope to hear from Christ our Lord the following;

Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. (Matthew 25:25)

NOTES

[1] Vine’s Greek Dictionary

[2] Vine’s Greek Dictionary

[3] Vine’s Greek Dictionary

[4] See also Hosea chapters 1-2.

[5] http://www.herealittletherealittle.net/index.cfm?page_name=Death

[6] IBID; Aion refers to an age or ages such as the age of man. Aionios means age-lasting.

[7] IBID

[8] Friberg's Analytical Lexicon

[9] http://www.herealittletherealittle.net/index.cfm?page_name=Death

[10] Krino -- http://www.searchgodsword.org/lex/grk/view.cgi?number=291

[11] http://www.searchgodsword.org/lex/grk/view.cgi?number=2919

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