The following is a study I recently ran across. Although slight in variation, never the less deserves serious consideration. I believe you will find this an interesting read.
The Rapture, Gog, and Hanukkah Puzzle: Putting It All Together
The title got your attention, right? Up front I want to say that I understand that it's impossible to calculate the exact day and hour of the Rapture. Jesus himself said (in Matthew 24:36) about the End Times: "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only."
However there are some important considerations when speculating about when the End Times, also known as the Tribulation or Great Tribulation, may arrive. Christ admonished his disciples to watch for his second coming at least twice (once in Matthew 24:42 "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come." And in Matthew 25:13 "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.")
Doing so may also be important for all Christians; In Revelation 3: 3, Jesus warned the church at Sardis, "...If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee." Christians are to hold fast to their salvation and to watch, less they be unready for the return of the Lord.
Not knowing the hour of His return and watching for it may seem like an impossible task. However once the Tribulation events start, it becomes possible to determine when our Messiah actually returns to rule the Earth by simply calculating the time frame outlined in Daniel and the other prophets regarding the construction of the new Temple in Jerusalem and the start of the reign of the Antichrist.
While we don't have the space to go into detail about this in this article, studying the times set in Daniel and the other prophets as well as the book of Revelation suggests that it should be possible to calculate this date with some precision, using the 360-day Hebrew calendar, once the Antichrist sets up his image in the new Temple in Jerusalem. Once the ball is set into motion, the ability to calculate the time and hour of various events will become possible for those aware of Biblical prophecies.
What is it that we don't know the day or the hour of then?
It would seem what is unknown is the beginning of the Great Tribulation itself, an event which many feel will be initiated by the Rapture of the Church (the Rapture being the time when the dead in Christ are raised and go -- along with the living Christians -- to Heaven so they will be spared going through the Great Tribulation). So, while it may not be possible to calculate the "day and the hour" of the occurrence of the Rapture, it appears that a person might be able to calculate the season in which it occurs with some accuracy. Jesus appears to expect that those living near the beginning of the Tribulation will be able to understand what is about to happen.
After Jesus had told his disciples about what the End of the Age would be like, he added, "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth near." (Luke 21:28). This suggests that those approaching the End Times spoken of throughout the Bible would be aware of the season, while not actually knowing the day and the hour. While Biblical prophecy is designed to display the power and majesty of God, it seems logical that it also serves the purpose of preparing God's people for what lies ahead of them.
In Luke 12:37-38, he said, "Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants." This suggests that those who are watching for his return will be rewarded for their vigilance.
MULTIPLE JIGSAW PROBLEM SOLVING
To find this season of the Rapture, it is necessary to exploit a "Multiple Jigsaw Puzzle" system. What?
Well, that's perhaps the best way to describe it. Imagine that you have a jigsaw puzzle with three- fourths of the pieces missing. You assemble it, but the picture is far from complete. This is somewhat of the picture you get from any one of the books of the prophets in the Old Testament or even from the book of Revelation when it comes to the End Times and especially in the case of the Rapture (which is only hinted at, with the word "rapture" not even appearing in the Bible). With all the parts missing in the puzzle, it's impossible to get a complete picture even after all the parts you have are assembled. You have an idea of what the picture is, but not all the details.
Suppose that instead of just one copy of the puzzle, you had four or five jigsaw puzzles, all of the same scene. They all have parts missing, but some have parts that the others do not have. Suddenly you're presented with the possibility of taking the complete portions of one puzzle and placing it together with the others to create one entire picture. With careful comparison of parts that are common to all the puzzles, you can slowly piece together one complete picture.
This same idea can be applied to the prophecies of the End Times. By carefully comparing the pieces from each passage in the Bible to determine which have common parts, it's possible to then figure which are talking about a common event. Then these can be used as anchor points to assemble a complete picture of what appears in one part of the "puzzle" but not the others. Little by little, the prophesy puzzle can be produced to create an idea of when the Rapture is likely to occur.
Here's what can be discovered using this technique.
PEACE AND SAFETY
First puzzle piece: The Rapture occurs when leaders of Israel as well as the "man on the street" will be operating under the assumption that "peace and safety" has come to the region. This is supported by 1 Thessalonians 5:3 "For when they shall say peace and safety then sudden destruction shall come upon them as birth pains upon a woman with child and they shall not escape."
The association of birth pains with the time of the Tribulation is clear from what Jesus told his disciples. When Jesus' disciples asked what would signal His return, He gave them several signs to watch for. He also taught that the time immediately before His coming would be known as the "beginning of sorrows" (Matthew 24:8); a literal translation of "beginning of sorrows" into English would be the "onset of labor pains." Jesus was saying the signs of His coming would start out as mild pangs spaced widely apart like human labor and then gradually become closer together and more intense, like the birth process, until this period of suffering and judgment would culminate in the coming of the Messiah.
It's logical that Paul would have been fully aware of this allusion that Christ had given His disciples. Therefore, it seems likely that these two passages are talking about the onset of the same event: The Great Tribulation. Therefore, people believing they are about to enjoy peace and safety is most likely one of the signs of the Great Tribulation.
If this is true, then the Rapture might be rapidly approaching since the term "peace and safety" was being bandied about by the Israelis and the press during the recent peace negotiations between the PLO and Israel. Likewise Benjamin Netanyahu, when addressing the Kenesset in the summer of 1996, made it clear that he was interested in making peace with Israel's former enemies only if the cessation of hostilities arrived with Israel's security interests intact.
GOG AND MAGOG
Another puzzle piece shows that another event preceding the Great Tribulation is the Battle of Gog and Magog. This event is outlined in Ezekiel 38:18- 22:
18 And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, that my fury shall come up in my face.
19 For in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken, Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel;
20 So that the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground.
21 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.
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.
There are several important puzzle pieces in this passage that give us a fuller picture of the Great Tribulation. First, there's reference to a great earthquake or "shaking" at the presence of the Lord with mountains being thrown down, etc., and a raining of pestilence on the Earth. This same picture appears in Matthew 24, where Christ told his disciples, "For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows..." Thus it appears that these two stories are one and the same, marking the beginning of the Great Tribulation.
Now another piece of the puzzle becomes apparent: Ezekiel 38:18 tells us that this is also the same time when Gog comes against the land of Israel. Thus it appears that this war marks the beginning of the Great Tribulation. (It is important to note that this war is quite different from the Battle of Armageddon, though the two events mirror each other, with one occurring at the beginning of the Great Tribulation, and the other marking its end.)
WHO ARE GOG AND MAGOG?
Gog and Magog appear a number of times in the Bible. In addition to the above passage, these two are mentioned in Ezekiel 39:1, Ezekiel 39:11, and Revelation 20:8. However their first appearance in the Bible is as actual, living historical individuals.
The first appearance of these two figures is in Genesis 10: 2-3. Here we find the descendants of Noah's sons listed. The children of Japheth are Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Mesech, and Tiras. The Sons of Gomer are Ashkenas, Riphoth, and Togarmah. According to Hebrew tradition (as well as hints in the Bible starting with verse 5 of this chapter), it is assumed that these are the ancestors of those who comprise the Gentile nations including the Chinese, Tartars, Greeks, Persians, Germans, Muscovites, and other Sclavonian races. When Ezekiel writes of Gog and Magog, the offspring of these two individuals are most likely the nations or powers that he's referring to.
Some manuscripts/translations of the Bible also list "Rosh" as a leader within this group of countries. It is interesting to note that the first Czar of Great Muscovie was called Rosh, and that it was from this leader that Russia derived its name. Past historians divided Russia into three independent States. One was the main Russian state, also known as "Muscovie", "Muscovy" or the Eastern and Southern Russia states, and "Tobolsk" or Northern Russia. Obviously it's easy to draw parallels with Rosh being modern-day Russia; Meshech, Muscovy; and Tubal, Tobolsky.
Now we can make another connection when reading Ezekiel 38:2-3: "Son of man, set thy face against Gog the land of Magog...and prophesy of him...Behold, I come against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Mesech and Tubal."
To make it even clearer, Ezekiel 38: 14-15 gives the direction that the Gog and Magog empire are from Israel, "Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say unto Gog... And thou shalt come out of thy place from the northern parts."
Reading these passages with the knowledge of geography and Russian history, Russia becomes the prime candidate in the Gog and Magog sweepstakes.
WHAT COUNTRIES ARE ALIGNED WITH GOG AND MAGOG?
Ezekiel 38:5 lists the allies of Gog and Magog as being, "Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya." This is a surprise considering that most analysts of the Middle East feel Syria, Jordan, and Egypt are the biggest threats to Israel today. However the portrait presented by the Bible makes perfect sense if we remember the puzzle piece that talks of "peace and safety." This suggests a peace treaty of some sort is in place between Israel and its closest neighbors. This may be why these countries are missing in the invasion. (Again, the current treaty being proposed for peace in the Middle East suggests this prophecy may be very close to being fulfilled.)
The Bible tells us that Gog and Magog's effort to destroy Israel will collapse before the fury of the Lord. This destruction will apparently be compounded by confusion or a civil war within the ranks of Gog and Magog, with brother slaying brother. In the aftermath of the slaughter, Israel will spend seven months decontaminating the countryside of all the dead invaders' bodies, as noted in Ezekiel 39:11-12:
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 Hamongog.
12 And seven months shall the house of Israel be burying of them, that they may cleanse the land.
Another key puzzle piece is in the disposal of the military equipment left behind by the defeated Gog and Magog armies. Israel burns the trash for a period of seven years, according to Ezekiel 39:9-10:
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 hand stave's, 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.
This time frame of a seven years' cleanup may reflect Daniel's Seventieth Week. If so, then this war signals the beginning of the 7-year Tribulation. If this is true, then the Rapture most likely occurs sometime before the battle of Gog and Magog (perhaps even causing Gog and Magog to launch their attack under the assumption that this is the best time for it).
THE DESIRE OF NATIONS
Turning to Haggai 2:6-7, we find another bit of our missing puzzle.
6 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land;
7 And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts.
This passage links the "shaking" or great earthquake to the coming of the "desire of all nations", a phrase that must mean the return of the Lord as the Messiah or Prince of Peace. (This being the desire of all godly people in the nations, though obviously not the desire of the wicked on the earth at the time of His return.) This conclusion is reinforced with the idea that His house will be filled with glory, surely an indication of both a divine reign as well as an allusion to the House of David from which the Messiah's royal lineage comes.
PUTTING A DATE ON THE EVENT
Now a key piece to the puzzle that will give us a fuller picture of these End Time events. Haggai 2:18- 22 gives an exact season and day for this event.
18 Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the Lord's temple was laid, consider it.
19 Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you.
20 And again the word of the LORD came unto Haggai in the four and twentieth day of the month, saying,
21 Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth;
22 And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother.
This passage contains an obvious allusion to the Tribulation with earthquakes (shaking the earth) and may also be linked to Revelation references to stars falling from the sky (shaking the heavens). The reference of brother being slain by the sword of brother is another link to the parallel passage in Ezekiel; and the Lord destroys the kingdoms, suggesting his destruction of Gog and Magog. Additionally, there is the picture of brother fighting brother, again suggesting that infighting or confusion that will put the nail into the coffin of Gog and Magog's invasion.
Notice that Haggai gives the exact day of the month for this event (which, remember, comes after the Rapture). In both verse 18 and 20 it is noted that the 24th day will be key -- as if God wants to be sure there's no mistake about which day in the ninth month of the Jewish calendar, Kislev (also known as Chisleu), this will occur.
(The laying of the foundation for the Lord's Temple suggests the building has commenced. However this may only refer to the date of the first Temple. Or it may be that the new Temple will be built on the foundation stones of the original.)
A SPECIAL DATE
This date is of interest because it occurs just one day before a very special Jewish festival: Hanukkah. Anywhere else, such timing would seem rather an odd coincidence. With God, things are different. As most Biblical scholars know, there's no such thing as "an odd coincidence" when it comes to Bible prophecy.
For those unfamiliar with Hanukkah (also spelled "Chanukah"), it's a Jewish festival that occurs in December (on the 25th day of the Hebrew month Kislev). The festival marks the re-consecration of the Temple of Jerusalem after its recapture from the Syrian Greeks (c.165 BC).
The original celebration of Hanukkah took place on the day after the Jews recaptured the temple site. So even the event that Hanukkah commemorates, actually took place on the 24th day of Kislev.
Another key event in Jewish history also took place on the day before Hanukkah. In 1917, the Allied Expeditionary Force under General Allenby to take control of Jerusalem following the destruction of the Turkish Ottoman Empire at the end of WWI. The day that Allenby and his force entered Jerusalem was Dec. 9, 1917 -- the 24th day of Kislev.
JESUS AND HANUKKAH
One might think that Jesus would have ignored this festival since it wasn't ordained in the Old Testament. In fact, he appears to have taken part in it and had a very provocative response when questioned during the event.
John 10:22-28: At that time the Feast of Hanukkah (Dedication) took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. The Jews therefore gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, "How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly." Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand."
This statement has an obvious meaning. However one might speculate that the "hear my voice" might also refer to the voice that brings the dead to life at the first resurrection and brings the living with them as they are "snatched up" to heaven just before the Great Tribulation begins. Interestingly, Christ refers to holding sheep in his hand and that they can't be snatched from his hand by anyone else.
Could this be a veiled reference to the Rapture? In the English translation this seems like a stretch. But a closer look makes the possibility seem likely. In English translations, Jesus' reply to the Jewish leaders at the Festival of Hanukkah doesn't seem to hint at the Tribulation prophecies. But in the original Greek, a very important link appears, especially when this verse is compared to what Paul wrote about the Rapture.
Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, "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; then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord." This is the reference to the rapture in the New Testament.
The Greek word used for "caught up" in this passage is harpuzo, which means to catch up, pluck, snatch, pull, or take by force. (Translated into Latin, this word becomes raptiere; anglicized, the word "rapture" is born.) So the word that means "Rapture" is harpuzo.
And here's the connection: When Christ said, "...no one shall snatch them out of My hand.", his statement employs the same Greek word: harpuzo. Arguably we should not make too much of this, yet it seems like another of the "amazing coincidences" that are actually part of God's plan. The use of harpuzo in both instances suggests a link.
If so, was Christ saying that the Rapture will have taken place and that he will have already snatched his believers from the Earth, making it impossible to snatch them back again? This seems like a viable conclusion and fits very nicely with the links between the day before Hanukkah and the prophecies about it.
MY SHEEP HEAR MY VOICE
There may be another hidden reference to the Rapture in Christ's statement that his sheep hear his voice. In Revelation 4:1-2 there's another piece to the puzzle that shows the Rapture occurring before the Tribulation.
John writes, "...I looked and behold, a door was opened in heaven; and the first voice that I heard was, as it were, a trumpet talking with me; which said, 'Come up here and I will show thee things which must be hereafter.' And immediately I was in the Spirit and, behold, a throne was set in heaven and one sat on the throne."
It should also be noted that the order "Come up here" has a familiar ring to it. In John 11:43-44, Jesus gives a similar command
43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth."
44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.
Thus the Lords simple command that brought Lazarus miraculously to life, is echoed in the Revelation's "trumpet talking" and that not only John but all the Christians on earth go into heaven at this time, answering the command to, "Come up here." That this order is likened to a trumpet provides another piece to the puzzle. This links Christ's spoken command to the sound of the last trumpet, a point of importance to those familiar with Jewish traditions (as outlined below).
This also fits into the puzzle outlined above in the Old Testament passages since it places the Rapture of the Church into heaven ahead of the plagues and destruction that follow during the Tribulation, as outlined in the rest of the book of Revelation.
THE LAST TRUMPET
There are links between the Jewish trumpet in both battle as well as references to the same trumpet in the Rapture. Paul wrote another short passage that refers to the Rapture; First Corinthians 15:51-52 "Behold, I show you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised..."
The "last trumpet" to the Hebrews (and to early Christians also) is a key phrase with meaning beyond what most of us realize. This "last trumpet" in this passage isn't the metallic trumpet of the West; rather it's a ram's horn known as the shofar. Blown during the religious festival of Rosh HaShanah (also known as Yom Teruah or the Feast of Trumpets), the shofar marked the beginning of the Jewish New Year.
The shofar is also linked by Jewish tradition to the raising of the dead to life and for sounding the alarm when battle is imminent. (As noted in another article we've written, this is also one reason that some scholars feel that Rosh HaShanah might be the day that the Rapture occurs.)
The important thing to note here is that the shofar is linked by Jewish tradition to the resurrection of the dead (which, according to Paul, takes place for those who have died in Christ at the time of the Rapture) and that the shofar is also linked by Bible as an instrument used to worn of battle and conflict.
When one realizes that the shofar is linked both to battle as well as resurrection, another passage adds important chunks to our puzzle. This passage links the "Day of the Lord" (or Great Tribulation), the invasion of Israel by a great army from the North, and the delivery of Israel by God (the "fear not" in the last verse of this passage).
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.
3 A fire devourers before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them.
4 The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run
5 Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devourers the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array.
6 Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness.
7 They shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men of war; and they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks:
8 Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path: and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded.
9 They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief.
10 The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining:
11 And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executes his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?
12 Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
13 And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repented him of the evil.
14 Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly:
16 Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet.
17 Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?
18 Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people.
19 Yea, the LORD will answer and say unto his people, Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith: and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen:
20 But I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things.
21 Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the LORD will do great things.
The above passage links the blowing of the trumpet of God (and -- through our other links -- the rapture) with the beginning of the Day of the Lord (AKA the Great Tribulation). It also ties into Gog and Magog in verse 20 as the "northern army".
THE REVELATION TIE-IN
We now have enough puzzle pieces to flesh out another Biblical passage.
12 And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;
13 And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.
14 And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
15 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;
16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:
17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
When we realize that the great earthquake in this passage most likely occurs in a close time frame to the defeat of Gog and Magog by God's hand, then we see that this is the start of the Great Tribulation and, therefore, the Rapture must have preceded this event. The key elements that can be recognized in this passage are the great earthquake and the raining down of plagues upon the inhabitants of the earth.
Placing the Rapture before this even also supports the idea that the voice (sounding like a trumpet) that calls John up to heaven in Chapter 4 of Revelation must indeed be the event signaling the Rapture of the church. Furthermore, this explains why the Church is missing from the account of what's happening on earth during much of the rest of Revelation's narrative from Chapter 4 on. The Church isn't mentioned after that point, because it is in Heaven with Christ.
Revelation Chapter 6 records the first appearance of the Antichrist as the man on the white horse. The white horse suggests a charismatic leader who portrays himself as a good man. In fact he is being accompanied by the other horsemen who kill and destroy. Riding with this first figure on a white horse is a similar man on a pale horse; this fourth horseman is Death.
This is an interesting parallel to Isahiah where we learn of the "Covenant with Death and Hell" (perhaps alluding to the idea that "Hell" is the figure of the Antichrist and "Death" is the fourth rider traveling with him).
Isahiah 28:15: Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves:
The timeline of these prophecies also rules out the possibility that the destruction of Gog and Magog is part of the Battle of Armageddon since Christ returns much later in Revelation (Chapter 19).
There's an important picture that can be assembled from all of the puzzle pieces in these passages. First, the beginning of the Great Tribulation may begin on the 24th day of the ninth month of the Hebrew calendar. The catch is in knowing which year this will occur in -- hence the "no man knows the day or hour" still applies.
However that year may be very, very near, as shown by the events mentioned which have either already occurred or which might easily happen with little or no major changes on the world scene. For example in Ezekiel, God lays out the events that lead up to the invasion by Gog and Magog. This passage tells of the end of Jewish exile and the creation of a Jewish state:
Ezekiel 36:24: For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.
This idea is repeated in Chapter 37:21-22
21 And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land.
22 And I will make them one nation upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.
These passages were written when Israel was a divided nation. Now, after over 2,000 years later, Israel is a single entity once again. These conditions have now been met with the creation of Israel in 1948 and the return of the Jews to this homeland. This event has occurred and the next chapter of Ezekiel is the invasion by Gog and Magog.
On our assembled puzzle timeline then, the next event is the Rapture. The stage is set for this to occur.
How far ahead of the invasion the Rapture occurs is unknown; but it would seem logical that it will come a very short time before the invasion, given the fact that such a momentous event as the sudden vanishing of a large chunk of the world's population will create the type of confusion that Gog and Magog might try to use to their advantage in attacking Israel. Or it may be that the two events will very nearly coincide so that the Rapture is missed during the noise and confusion of the fighting, earthquakes, and plagues.
Some have argued that the Jewish Temple must be built before the Rapture occurs. However this goes against the time-line of Ezekiel. Not until we reach Chapters 40 - 47:12 are the details of the rebuilding of Israel's Temple in Jerusalem given. The Rapture and the invasion must surely happen before the Temple is built, perhaps after the Antichrist has established his power.
Given the fact that plans are currently being made for the building of the new Temple in Israel, with some of the instruments and furnishings of the Temple being purchased and constructed, this also suggests that the time of these events may be very close.
The assembled puzzle shows that the picture is almost to take place. This is undoubtedly the most important point for both the believer and unbeliever alike. Time is short and must be used carefully, in prayer and witnessing so the world can know about the saving grace of God's Son, the Jewish Messiah and the Savior of all who would make Him their Lord.
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