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End times

We now live in the so called time of the dispensation of grace. It began with the New Covenant of Christ's blood (Luke 22:20). This time is also called the "Age of Grace" or the "Church Age", which occurs between the 69th and 70th year-week of of Daniël 9:24. The church age actually starts with first Pentecost (Acts 2) and ends with the Rapture of the church. This 70th yearweek of Daniël now takes already about 2000 years, which is pure grace. Many scholars estimate that the end times are about to start.

The Bible says a lot about the end times. In the end times God's grace will turn into wrath for those who don't repent. The book of Revelation, a prophesy reveiled to the apostle John on the island of Patmos, describes in detail how God's wrath will be. Nearly every book of the Bible contains prophecy regarding the end times. Very specific are the words of Jesus in Matthew 24. In order to get a view on the end times understanding of the book of the prophet Daniël is crucial. It is, however, difficult to give a clear and brief summary of what will happen. A couple of events will mark the end times. The sequence of future events is what many church leaders have devided in the years passed.

Heaven
Jesus Christ will remove all born-again believers and those who died as born-again believers from the earth in an event known as the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-54), in which Jesus will not set foot on earth. They will taken from the earth in a twinkle of an eye (1 Cor. 15:52) and be brought to heaven, where they will be with Jesus. At the judgment seat of Christ, these believers will be rewarded for good works and faithful service during their time on earth (1 Cor. 3:11-15; 2 Cor. 5:10); see also judgments. In heaven the wedding feast/supper of the Lamb takes place (Revelation 19:7-10), in which Jesus, the Lamb, is the bridegroom and the raptured church is the bride. This supper takes place right before the second coming, and it is not the same supper as the great supper of God in Rev. 19:17.

Earth
On earth there will be a 7-year time known as the tribulation, in which the Antichrist (the beast or the lawless one) will first sign a peace covenant with Israël for seven years (Dan. 9:27). Half-way that time of seven years Antichist will break the covenant. The following 3.5 years of the tribulation on earth is called "the great tribulation" (Revelation 7:14) or "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:7) foremost focused on Israël. Antichrist (1 John 2:18) will set up an image of himself (the abomination of desolation) to be worshipped in the Jerusalem temple (Dan. 9:27; 2 Thes. 2:3-10), which has been rebuilt by then. At the end of the 7-year tribulation on earth, Antichrist will launch a final attach on Jerusalem, culminating in the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:16; 20:1-3). At this point in time Jesus Christ will return to earth, also called the second coming (Revelation 19:11-16), with His armies, and cast Antichrist along with his false prophet and his armies into the lake of fire. Jesus Christ will then bind Satan in the Abyss (hell, bottomless pit) for 1000 years. Jesus will judge the nations as King of kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:11-16) regarding their position and acts towards Israël (Matthew 25:31-46, see also judgments). Then Jesus will rule His earthly kingdom for 1000 years, also called the millennium (Revelation 20:1-6). At the end of the thousand years Satan will be released for a short time and defeated again, and cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:7-10) for eternity. Christ then judges all unbelievers (Revelation 20:10-15, see also judgments) at the great white throne judgment, casting them all into the lake of fire. Christ will then usher in a new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1-8); there will be no more sin, sorrow, nor death. And the New Jerusalem comes down from God, the eternal dwelling place of believers (Revelation 21:9-27). There is no temple in the city, because the Lord God and the Lamb are its temple.

As we look at Revelation, we see that it seems to be all prophecy. In chapters 2 and 3 we see warnings, praises and encouragements to seven churches: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea (Rev. 1:11). The names of the churches are the names of real churches in Jesus' time. The chapters are part of the Revelation-prophecy. Some scholars think that the messages to these churches are just a report of history. I personally believe that the messages also have a prophetic content that is applicable to us today, when we prepare ourselves for the events to come; just because Rev. 1:19 speaks of "what is now and what will take place later".