Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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by John David Clark, Sr.
“Jesus will return to earth to reign with the saints for a thousand years, but he will not come tonight, next week, or next year. His return is years away.”
Pastor John, June 1992
Just days before Jesus was crucified, his closest disciples approached him privately as he sat on the Mount of Olives and asked him what would be the sign of his return to earth and of the end of the world. There, on the hill overlooking Jerusalem, those four disciples, Peter, James, John, and Andrew, listened as the Lord quietly described events that would precede his return to earth and the end of the world. Years later, while exiled on Patmos Island, John was given a vision of the end, and the events John saw in that vision matched very well the events Jesus had previously described to him on the Mount of Olives.
On the Mount of Olives, Jesus called the earliest end-time calamities “the beginning of sorrows”. Those calamities were the rise of many false teachers who claimed to speak for him, the dramatic increase in “wars and rumors of wars”, and lastly, famines and other natural disasters on a scale not yet experienced on earth. In Revelation 6, which mirrors Jesus’ words on the Mount of Olives, John describes false religion riding on a White Horse. Next in Revelation, a fierce spirit on a Red Horse appears, representing the “wars and rumors of wars” foretold by Jesus on the Mount. And following what is perhaps a world-wide economic restructuring (John’s Black Horse), a fourth horseman named Death comes riding on a Pale Horse. This spirit oversees the killing of one fourth of the earth by the very things Jesus predicted: diseases, natural disasters, and wars.
The first and second of those four horses have already arisen; false religion and strife now fill the earth. The other two have not yet appeared, but they will come. But even when they do, Jesus said, “The end is not yet.” So, these horrific events will only be “the beginning of sorrows.”
After these four events are accomplished, the greatest revival and the greatest persecution which the people of God will ever experience will occur. It is the time when “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the earth,” and yet, it is the time when “many will be offended, and betray one another, and hate one another” (Mt. 24:10, 14). Heaven will receive so great a multitude of martyred saints that John, in his vision, could not count them (Rev. 7:9–14). And then God, avenging the slaughter of His saints, will blacken the sun for a time, make the moon “as blood”, and cast the “stars of heaven” down on the earth (Mt. 24:29; Rev. 6:12–13). Still, the return of Jesus and his “catching away” of the saints does not yet take place.
Paul said that the saints will remain on earth until “the last trumpet”, but only in John’s revelation do we learn that there are seven trumpets that will be sounded. Angels will blow those trumpets, each one signaling an approaching disaster. The first four trumpets signal unprecedented natural disasters, but with the last three trumpets, God turns to the use of monstrous creatures.
At the fifth trumpet, God brings up from “the Abyss” terrifying creatures that will torment men for five months. “In those days, men will seek death and will by no means find it, and they will long to die, but death will flee from them” (Rev. 9:6). God allows these horrific creatures to hurt “only the men who do not have the seal of God ” (Rev. 9:4). Child of God, pray to escape these things! The seal of God is the holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13), purchased for us by Jesus’ sacrificial death. Do you have this precious blessing? Are you keeping it as a “pearl of great price”? Or are you neglecting your gift from God? My Friend, we are “born into trouble” when we are born into this world, and nothing but God’s Spirit can deliver us from it. Let us not neglect our only help!
At the sixth trumpet, one third of humanity is slain by a terrifying two-hundred-million-man army from the East. During these days, God will send men called the “Two Witnesses” to preach in Jerusalem (Rev. 11:1–13). These prophets will be hated by men and slain by the man called “the Beast”. But after three days, they will be revived by God’s Spirit and, as men watch, they will ascend into heaven.
In the days of the seventh trumpet, Satan will give his power to the Beast. Daniel spoke of this man as one who would “wear out the saints” and “destroy mighty men and the holy people” (Dan. 7:25; 8:23–24). John confirms this, saying that the Beast will “make war against the saints and overcome them” (Rev. 13:7). Then, at the end of this seventh trumpet time, John “looked, and there was a white cloud! And sitting on the cloud was one like the Son of man [Jesus], having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to the one sitting on the cloud,‘Put in your sickle and reap, for the time to reap has come’ ” (Rev. 14:14–15). This catching away of the faithful to be with Christ will take place, just as Paul said, “at the last trumpet” (1Cor. 15:52).
Many have been teaching for decades that all the signs of Jesus’ return have been fulfilled. May I ask, then, “Why hasn’t he come?” The obvious answer is that all the signs have not been fulfilled. If God had truly sent such men to teach that it is time for Jesus’ return, then Jesus would already be here. Such false teaching has greatly confused and disappointed the saints and has brought scorn from the world upon the gospel of Christ. It is good for us all that Jesus will not come soon, for were he to do so, he would be embarrassed to take such a divided and confused body of Christ up to heaven and present it to the Father. May God have mercy on us and deliver us from our many divisions and our great confusion!
When asked by his disciples concerning signs of the end, the first warning Jesus gave was this: “Many will come, using my name, saying, . . . ‘The time is near!’ Don’t follow after them” (Lk. 21:8). The fact that there are now so many teachers saying that Jesus’ return is imminent, when that is clearly not true, marks those men as the deceivers of whom Jesus spoke. It may be good to ask, “Are you ready for Jesus to return?” But it the more pertinent question is, “Are you prepared for Jesus not to come yet?” That is a better question because that is the reality. The time for Jesus to come is not near. So, what will we do with the years we have left?