Just when I thought I knew 'em all.
Just when I was convinced that I was familiar with every single passage of Scripture in the Bible and every single scriptural argument that clearly and irrefutably supports and establishes the doctrine of the pre-tribulation Rapture: the resurrection of dead and the catching away of living Church Age saints to be with the Lord at some point before the start of the seven-year period of God's judgment commonly known as the Tribulation.
I would have bet you money that I knew 'em all.
And I would have lost.
When I learned about this recently, I immediately knew that I had to write about it if for no other reason than to help myself digest it.
There are numerous angles from which one can see clearly that the Rapture must precede the Tribulation, and numerous passages of Scripture point to it with stark clarity unless sloppily misinterpreted or clumsily misapplied. So, those who hold to a pre-trib view of the Rapture certainly have no need to cling to any one single passage of Scripture to support the doctrine—once you see the truth of it, you begin to see it hidden under every rock and behind every bush in the Bible. Once you grasp the theological necessity of it and understand the Scripture that clearly supports it, hints of it begin to emerge everywhere you look.
I have often been tempted to put together an article that covers all the various biblical and theological reasons why the Rapture must occur prior to the Tribulation and carefully explores all the Scripture that points to it, but it would be a daunting task and I know for a fact that I couldn't do it in one article of reasonable length. I can see it now:
"Why the Rapture Must Be Pre-Trib—Part XVII."
The Rapture would probably happen before I could finish such a task, so I'm not going to try to do that here. Besides, I have discussed many of the biblical reasons for the pre-trib view of the Rapture in previous articles, so I would be plowing a lot of the same ground anyway.
Having said that, what I would like to do in this article might be called a pre-trib Rapture redux, because in a sense I'm going to bring it back and do it all over again. The difference is that I'm going to do it with a passage of Scripture that I never connected with the Rapture at all until recently. In fact, the great majority of those who hold to a pre-trib view of the Rapture today have either completely overlooked or casually dismissed this passage for many decades; but I've become convinced that it's a passage of Scripture that, when properly understood, puts yet another padlock on the doctrine of the pre-tribulation Rapture.
As if it needed one.
A story in the stars
There is an enigmatic passage of Scripture in the book of Revelation that seems to be a separate part of John's vision, distinct from the general flow of seals, trumpets and bowls which herald the outpouring of God's wrath on "them that dwell upon the earth." It comes right in the middle of the book, and is a bit like an intermission during a play.
Here is the first part of the passage in question:
1A great sign was seen in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2She was with child. She cried out in pain, laboring to give birth.
3Another sign was seen in heaven. Behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven crowns. 4His tail drew one third of the stars of the sky, and threw them to the earth. The dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.
5She gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. Her child was caught up to God, and to his throne.
John opens the chapter by describing two signs in the heavens, but it's what follows the second sign—the male child being caught up to heaven in verse 5—that is going to be the primary focus of this discussion, and here's why:
I believe it can be clearly and compellingly demonstrated from Scripture that Revelation 12:5 is nothing less than a picture of the catching away of the Church, and that this catching away—the Rapture—occurs before the judgments of the Tribulation begin.
Although I may end up writing about this in greater depth in a future article, it is worth noting that the first sign John describes in Revelation 12:1–2 will be fulfilled on September 23, 2017. The "woman clothed with the sun" (with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars) is represented by the constellation Virgo, and on that day the sun will be above her head, the moon will be under her feet, and she will have a crown of 12 stars, just as Scripture says.
The constellation Leo, which contains nine primary stars, is always above Virgo's head. However, the planets Mercury, Mars, and Venus just happen to converge in Leo on that day and round out the crown of 12 stars (and before somebody out there gets all snooty, understand that the Bible doesn't make a technical distinction between stars and planets—planets are just "wandering stars"). It is the confluence of these extra three wandering stars in Virgo's crown on this particular day that makes this configuration so exceedingly rare.
OK, so what do I mean by "exceedingly rare"?
Numerous prophecy students (this writer included) have been busily searching with software programs such as Stellarium in an effort to pinpoint any other time when this exact same configuration has occurred in the past or will occur in the future. At this point, this is what I can tell you:
I read one article that vaguely claimed it occurred when Christ was born, and I checked on Stellarium and I can confirm that on August 15, 3 BC, Mercury, Venus and Jupiter were in Leo (with the sun and moon in the right positions). So, technically I think this one should count (although there is little agreement on exactly what year Christ was born).
I also read something that claimed it occurred in 1850 BC, and I checked that one, too. This one is a little weird because I discovered that 1850 BC is a mistake, but on August 15, 1851 BC there were three planets in Leo, with Saturn nearby for a potential fourth. It could be argued that Venus is not quite above Virgo's head, but it's very close. This would give the woman a crown of 13 stars. And here's something that would blow the minds of more than a few Bible prophecy students. There isn't universal agreement, but some biblical scholars put the birth of Isaac in 1851 BC: the son of promise, and the official inauguration of the messianic line!
Somebody call 911...I think my hair is on fire!
Then I read on another website that this exact same configuration hasn't happened in the last 7,000 years and won't happen any time in the next 7,000 years.
At any rate, if you were wondering what I meant by "exceedingly rare," you should be starting to get the picture.
Nevertheless, it's fulfilled perfectly on September 23, 2017.
It gets better. Not only that, but Jupiter, the King planet that is associated with the King of kings, enters the "womb" of Virgo on November 20, 2016 and due to its retrograde motion doesn't emerge out of Virgo's "birth canal" until September 9, 2017. Thus the King spends 41 weeks in the womb, the length of a normal pregnancy, and is "born" two weeks before the sign of Revelation 12:1–2.
Feel free to do with that as you will. When this stunning, literal fulfillment of Revelation 12:1–2 was discovered by well-known prophecy YouTuber Scottie Clarke about five years ago, it was believed by some at the time that it might represent the midpoint of the Tribulation, partly because Revelation 12:1 marks the center of the book (which contains 22 chapters). If that had been the case, however, the Tribulation would have had to begin 3.5 years earlier, or the spring of 2014.
Needless to say, that didn't happen (although many quietly had their hopes up). So those who thought that the vision of Revelation 12:1–2 was out of the flow of the rest of the book and didn't necessarily have to occur at the actual midpoint of the Tribulation itself were ultimately vindicated.
As I said, it is the second sign in verses 3–5 that is of particular interest in regard to the Rapture, and the focus is primarily on verse 5:
5She gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. Her child was caught up to God, and to his throne.
Some of the earliest modern-day proponents of the pre-tribulation Rapture, men such as John Nelson Darby (1800–1882), William Kelly (1821–1906), William Blackstone (1841–1935), and Henry Allen Ironside (1876–1951), all highlighted this particular passage of Scripture as the primary basis for their belief that the Rapture must precede the seven-year Tribulation.
In view of this fact, it is rather ironic that the great majority of people today who hold to a pre-trib Rapture have casually glossed over this verse, blithely assuming the male child referred to is just a reference to Christ (which it is, in a sense) and His being "caught up" to heaven is a picture of the Ascension two thousand years ago.
This has long been the standard interpretation of this verse, but is it the correct interpretation? For years I assumed it was nothing more than a picture of the Ascension, and scarcely gave it another thought. I saw no reason to question this interpretation and never connected this passage with the Rapture at all, let alone the pre-trib Rapture.
And I am now convinced that the standard interpretation comes up short.
A tip of the hat: Before I go any further, I want to openly acknowledge my tremendous debt to Michael Svigel. Many of the details I will discuss here come from his article entitled "The Apocalypse of John and the Rapture of the Church: A Reevaluation." It was his article that first opened my eyes to much of what I am about to share with you and set my feet on the path to a correct understanding of this critical passage.
My goal in this article is to establish three fundamental points in regard to Revelation 12:5, and they are as follows:
1. The male child isn't Christ alone, it's the body of Christ.
2. The child being caught up to heaven isn't the Ascension, it's the Rapture.
3. This catching up precedes the judgments of the Tribulation.
The first item is the key—the identity of the male child, and is what I will primarily focus on. After we establish that the male child in verse 5 is in fact the body of Christ—the Church—and not just Christ Himself, the second and third items follow in a clear, straightforward manner.
So first and foremost, let's determine the true identity of the male child.
Christ alone or the body of Christ?
In establishing the first point that the male child in Revelation 12:5 is not merely Jesus Christ alone but rather the Church as the body of Christ, there are four basic items I want to flesh out:
• Corporate symbolism
One of the most obvious points to make about the image of the male child in verse 5 is the fact that all of the symbolism in this part of John's vision in chapter 12 is corporate, not individual.
For example, the woman. This is one is already reasonably well established, with few competent biblical scholars seriously disputing the fact that the woman primarily symbolizes the nation of Israel as a corporate entity, and not an individual. The associated images of the sun, moon, and stars are first seen in Joseph's dream in Genesis 37:9–10, and the nation of Israel is clearly in view.
Similarly, the dragon in verse 4, who is prepared to devour the child, represents not just Satan himself, but the God-hating, Christ-rejecting, Jew-killing, Church-persecuting world system he controls. In other words, the dragon symbolizes a corporate entity, not an individual. The seven heads and ten horns mentioned in verse 3 correspond to the total number of heads and horns of the series of four beasts mentioned in Daniel 7:1–7, as well as the beast of Revelation 13:1, and most likely represent nations and their rulers who stand in opposition to God, His Word, His plans, and His people, both throughout history and in the last days.
The bottom line is that the dragon is not just Satan—it's Satan's system.
So, if the woman is the nation of Israel—a corporate entity, and the dragon is Satan's world system—a corporate entity, why would the male child suddenly be a symbol of Jesus Christ, the individual? It is completely inconsistent with the symbolism of the vision. It is much more in line with the overall symbolism to interpret the male child as Christ in union with His corporate body as in 1 Corinthians 12:12, rather than Jesus alone.
• Bad grammar or an allusion to Isaiah?
This is an exceedingly subtle point that the vast majority of Christians miss because they only focus on the English translation of the Bible and seldom investigate the actual wording of the original Greek or Hebrew—and this applies to me as much as anyone.
I am a puttering amateur as far as the original languages of Scripture are concerned; but with the tools freely available today, anyone can easily find out all they need to know about the meaning actually conveyed in the original text. And again, I am deeply indebted to Michael Svigel for the following information.
In Revelation 12:5, however, even someone trained in biblical Greek would be inclined to think John has inexplicably made a careless grammatical error. When he writes the words "male child," he literally writes the Greek huion arsen, modifying the basic noun huios (son) with the adjective arsen (male). There's just one problem: he used the wrong form of the adjective. For some strange reason, John used the neuter form of the adjective rather than the male form, which would have been arsena.
Of course, it's all Greek to me, but the point is that to anyone who actually knows Greek, this would ordinarily stand out as a dumb mistake.
But it's not a dumb mistake, and what alerts us to this is the fact that in verse 13, John again refers to the male child, only this time he writes it properly, expressing the phrase simply as arsena.
So, what's going on?
Beginning in the third century BC, the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Koine Greek, which was rapidly becoming the lingua franca of the day. Known as the Septuagint, from the Latin septuaginta (seventy, a reference to the number of translators employed), this task was ultimately completed over the next couple of hundred years, and so the completed text of the Septuagint (commonly referred to by the Roman numerals LXX) and various translations thereof were readily available to John and all the New Testament writers.
In the book of Isaiah, there is a prophecy concerning the rebirth of the nation of Israel in the last days:
7Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she delivered a son.
8Who has heard such a thing? who has seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? shall a nation be brought forth at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.
(Isaiah 66:7–8 / emphasis added)
This prophecy was fulfilled on May 14, 1948 and set the stage for the final act of prophetic fulfillment that is currently nearing its grand finale. This is all well known to alert students of the Bible, but here is something that is not so well known.
When the translators of the Septuagint translated "son" in Isaiah 66:7 above, take a wild guess how they translated it into Greek.
Bingo. Arsen, not arsena. This would have been known to John, and so by writing arsen instead of arsena, John is deliberately pointing us back to Isaiah 66:7, where the "son" is clearly a corporate body rather than an individual. Writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, this was John's way of telling us that the male child in Revelation 12:5 is a corporate body: the corporate body of Christ. The Church.
• A rod of iron
In Psalm 2, God promises the Messiah the following:
7I will tell of the decree. Yahweh said to me, "You are my son. Today I have become your father.
8Ask of me, and I will give the nations for your inheritance, the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession.
9You shall break them with a rod of iron. You shall dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."
(Psalm 2:7–9 / emphasis added)
Although God is speaking directly to His Son the Messiah, Jesus extends this promise to the Church in Revelation 2:
26He who overcomes, and he who keeps my works to the end, to him I will give authority over the nations. 27He will rule them with a rod of iron, shattering them like clay pots; as I also have received of my Father.
(Revelation 2:26–27 / emphasis added)
Then in Revelation 19, we see Christ returning to earth with His armies (interpreted by most to be the Church), and we see this promise being fulfilled by a corporate body, and not just Christ Himself:
14The armies which are in heaven followed him on white horses, clothed in white, pure, fine linen. 15Out of his mouth proceeds a sharp, double-edged sword, that with it he should strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He treads the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God, the Almighty.
(Revelation 19:14–15 / emphasis added)
This promise from Psalm 2:9 above is being quoted in Revelation 12:5, and so it is clear that we should interpret the male child who wields that rod of iron as a corporate body as well—the Church.
It is becoming clearer with each step that interpreting the child as Christ alone just doesn't make good biblical sense.
• Resurrection? What Resurrection?
One final point to be addressed here is in regard to the Resurrection, and it is this:
Uhm, where is it?
In John's vision in chapter 12, the woman clothed with the sun gives birth to a male child, the dragon is set to devour it, and then the child is caught up to heaven. So...if this is Jesus Christ Himself, we are being asked to believe that there is no mention of the Resurrection. Oooh-kay.
The single most significant, history-altering event of all time, the absolute sine qua non of the gospel. Not a hint.
Of course, interpreting the male child as the body of Christ rectifies this glaring omission.
The Ascension or the Rapture?
So, we have established our first point, that the male child in Revelation 12:5 is the Church—the body of Christ. Of course, for people who interpret the child as Jesus Himself, seeing the part about Him being caught up to heaven as the Ascension is a no-brainer.
But if the child is the Church, then...
• Raise vs snatch
Jesus wasn't suddenly
snatched up to heaven:
He just rose.
In Revelation 12:5, we see the male child being "caught up" to heaven, and the first order of business is to see what word is used in the Greek. Hey, how about that? It's our old friend harpazo, the same word used to describe the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
What a coincidence.
Note that the word harpazo is never used in reference to Christ ascending to heaven. Not once. Jesus wasn't suddenly snatched up to heaven: He just rose. These are two different things. He just went up, gradually, and the disciples stood there with their mouths hanging open and watched Him go (Acts 1:9–11). That's not what harpazo means.
Several different terms are used to describe Jesus ascending or being lifted or taken up to heaven, such as forms of epairo (Acts 1:9), anabaino (John 20:17; Eph. 4:8–10), and analambano (Mark 16:19; Luke 1:11). And please understand that John was well aware of these various ascension-related terms. But not one of these words suggests being seized or snatched up, suddenly and decisively with an open display of force, which is exactly what harpazo means.
Incidentally, one of the shades of meaning of harpazo is to snatch up or out of the way as if to rescue from an imminent threat or immediate danger. Is there any imminent threat to the child here?
4His tail drew one third of the stars of the sky, and threw them to the earth. The dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.
(Revelation 12:4 / emphasis added)
You bet there is—the dragon is standing by with jaws open wide, ready and waiting to devour the child. But he doesn't get the chance because of the harpazo in verse 5. Now, ask yourself:
Before the Ascension, was Satan a threat to Jesus in any way?
Are you kidding me?! Absolutely not! When Christ was crucified and then rose from the grave, He won a total and complete victory over Satan for all time. It was game over for the devil, and Christ ascended to His Father in consummate victory.
Devour this, Satan: Imagining that the child in verse 5 is Jesus Christ alone and that He is snatched up to heaven even partially for the reason of escaping the clutches of that nasty old dragon who wants to devour Him is absurd, and demonstrates at best an inexcusable ignorance and at worst a deliberate watering down of what Christ accomplished on the cross.
On the other hand, however, if we interpret the male child as the body of Christ, this makes perfect sense. Is the Church in danger from Satan, his system, his demons, and his principalities? Is Satan seeking to devour the body of Christ?
8Be sober and self-controlled. Be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
(1 Peter 5:8 / emphasis added)
He sure is. Scripture confirms this point blank. That's why we are repeatedly counseled in Scripture on spiritual battle tactics:
10Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. 11Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world's rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13Therefore, put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand. 14Stand therefore, having the utility belt of truth buckled around your waist, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and having fitted your feet with the preparation of the Good News of peace; 16above all, taking up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. 17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Not only that, but we know that Satan and his world system will not succeed in "devouring" the Church. Again, Scripture confirms this point blank:
18And I say also to you, That you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
(Matthew 16:18 AKJV / emphasis added)
At the Rapture we will go sailing right through enemy territory, and Satan and his minions will be powerless to stop us.
Before, during, or after?
So, we have established that the male child is the Church and the catching up is the Rapture, and the final point has to do with the timing of this catching up in regard to the judgments of the Tribulation. In order to get a sense of the timing, all we have to do is read what happens after the male child is caught up to heaven—and as we read the rest of chapter 12, we see ample clues that point us in the right direction.
• A hungry dragon has work to do
Let's pick up the narrative in verse 5 (where the dragon misses his chance for a tasty meal) and continue until the end of the chapter:
5She gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. Her child was caught up to God, and to his throne. 6The woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that there they may nourish her one thousand two hundred sixty days.
7There was war in the sky. Michael and his angels made war on the dragon. The dragon and his angels made war. 8They didn't prevail, neither was a place found for him any more in heaven. 9The great dragon was thrown down, the old serpent, he who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world. He was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now is come the salvation, the power, and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ; for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night. 11They overcame him because of the Lamb's blood, and because of the word of their testimony. They didn't love their life, even to death. 12Therefore rejoice, heavens, and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and to the sea, because the devil has gone down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has but a short time."
13When the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. 14Two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, so that she might be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. 15The serpent spewed water out of his mouth after the woman like a river, that he might cause her to be carried away by the stream. 16The earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the river which the dragon spewed out of his mouth. 17The dragon grew angry with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed, who keep God's commandments and hold Jesus' testimony.
There is a great deal of depth here, and I'm not going to wear myself slick trying to unpack this entire passage in excruciating chronological detail. Bible teachers that are light years beyond me interpret and shuffle the events described in these verses in different ways; however, here is a rough version of how many people interpret these events, informed by various other passages of Scripture, not just Revelation 12. Like most everything else in the book of Revelation, there are other pieces of the puzzle to be found in other parts of the Bible.
After the male child is caught up there is war in heaven, and Michael and his army defeat Satan and his army. And keep in mind that even spiritual warfare takes real time, as when the prince of the kingdom of Persia (a demonic power) hindered the angel who had come to speak with Daniel for 21 days (Dan. 10:13). Satan and his gang are cast down to earth, and when that happens there is rejoicing in heaven (hmm, I wonder what group of people could be among those rejoicing—a group that has more reason than anyone to rejoice).
By the way, some Bible teachers believe Satan's being cast out of heaven occurred at his judgment in millennia past, but this can easily be refuted from Scripture. Although he may have been divested of his position, titles and authority there, he's had access to heaven all along. This is readily seen in the book of Job:
6Now it happened on the day when God's sons came to present themselves before Yahweh, that Satan also came among them. 7Yahweh said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Then Satan answered Yahweh, and said, "From going back and forth in the earth, and from walking up and down in it."
(Job 1:6–7 / emphasis added)
Revelation 12:10 strongly suggests the same thing: the time has come for the King of kings to claim the kingdom He won by virtue of what He accomplished on the cross two thousand years ago, and one of the first orders of business is to finally throw that usurper Satan and all his cronies out on their collective duffs once and for all.
And speaking of Jesus preparing to claim His kingdom...
I have shown in another article that it makes perfect sense for this to occur after the Rapture. After the Church is raptured, Jesus will no longer have to perform priestly duties for us, and the reason is simple: we will no longer be sinful men on earth—we will be perfected men in heaven.
After Satan is cast down to earth, it appears that during the first part of the Tribulation Satan manipulates coalitions of nations to launch multiple invasions in order to destroy Israel (presumably the invasions described in Ps. 83 and Ezek. 38–39). These attacks fail spectacularly because God fights for His people and will vindicate His holy name, both in the eyes of Israel and in the eyes of the nations of the world. Satan is so angry that he can't get to Israel that he changes tactics and unleashes his fury in the form of his man the Antichrist on "the rest of her seed" (v. 17), or Tribulation saints and the 144,000 Jewish evangelists of Revelation 7 and 14.
Note that in the very next verse (Rev. 13:1), we see the rise the Antichrist, who is given authority for 42 months (3.5 years) for the duration of the second half of the Tribulation, or the Great Tribulation (Rev. 13:5). This begins with the Antichrist's cotillion: the abomination of desolation at the midpoint of the Tribulation. The faithful remnant of Israel will be protected in the "wilderness" (most Bible teachers believe this is a reference to Petra in Jordan) from the Antichrist for the 1,260 days (3.5 years) of the second half of the Tribulation, until Satan's proxy finally marshals the forces of the entire world against them and the Jewish remnant implore their real Messiah to return to save them at the climax of the Tribulation.
And return to save them He will.
Again, it is notoriously difficult to be dogmatic about the exact sequence and timing of events here, and there are Bible teachers I love and respect who arrange things slightly differently. But in terms of establishing the truth of the pre-tribulation Rapture, it ultimately doesn't make much difference. Why? Because the key point is this:
Satan's direct attempt to destroy Israel through invasions by coalitions of nations, his later attempt through the Antichrist to destroy the Tribulation saints and the 144,000 because he can't get to Israel, and his final effort to gather the nations of the world against the Jewish remnant near the end of the Tribulation which culminates in the battle of Armageddon and the Second Coming all apparently occur after the male child is caught up to heaven in Revelation 12:5—the Rapture.
Something else that shouldn't be ignored is the simple fact that Satan apparently has free reign to do all of the above after he has been cast down to earth. What we see during the Tribulation is Satan running amok, having unprecedented control over nations and individuals (as with the Antichrist). I believe that's because the restrainer has been taken out of the way, and the restrainer is the Holy Spirit indwelling the Church and that is what is taken out of the way at the Rapture:
6Now you know what is restraining him, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season. 7For the mystery of lawlessness already works. Only there is one who restrains now, until he is taken out of the way.
(2 Thessalonians 2:6–7 / emphasis added)
In other words, the restrainer is removed at the Rapture in Revelation 12:5, and so after Satan gets unceremoniously cast down to earth, it's game on. This corresponds precisely to what we see in the remainder of chapter 12. It all fits, and it leads us to one inescapable conclusion.
Slice and dice it all you want: No matter how you rearrange, reorganize, or reschedule the events of Revelation 12, one thing is crystal clear: the dragon (Satan and his world system) is primarily focused on devouring the male child (the Church) until it is caught up to heaven in verse 5 (the Rapture), which takes the restrainer out of the way (1 Thess. 2:7). Then and only then does Satan get cast down to earth and go on his "unrestrained" rampage against the Jewish remnant, the Tribulation saints, and the 144,000, both by influencing the nations of the world and through the Antichrist during both the first and second halves of the Tribulation.
And that can only mean one thing:
Adios post-trib. Adieu mid-trib. Sayonara pre-wrath.
And hello pre-trib.
It's all coming together
When I served in the U.S. Navy many years ago, we had a lot of colorful, often sarcastic expressions that would get tossed around on a regular basis. In a situation where everyone who had a role to play in something goofed up whatever it was they were supposed to do and it seemed that everything that could go wrong actually went wrong, someone would invariably quip:
"I love it when a plan comes together!"
But anyone who studies God's Word with an open mind today and rightly divides Scripture can see one thing clearly:
The plan is coming together.
Writing this article has been for me one of those sublime moments when I deeply appreciate John's words at the outset of the book of Revelation:
3Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things that are written in it, for the time is at hand.
(Revelation 1:3 / emphasis added)
Of all the 66 books in the Bible, the book of Revelation is the only one that promises a special blessing to those who read, hear, and keep the words that are written therein, and part of that blessing is the fact that it gives you the perspective needed to see God's plan of the ages come together.
Yet many today toss it off and dismiss it as scary, incomprehensible, and sadly, extremely divisive. What's even worse is that many others content themselves with regarding it as fanciful allegory and delight in making it say whatever their itching ears want to hear. Still others use it as a weapon (or maybe I should say marketing tool) to scare people into buying various types of survival equipment and supplies, and others simply take perverse delight in using it to make themselves out to be purveyors of end-time doom and gloom and send chills down people's spines:
You're going to be eating out of garbage cans...hunted down like animals and beheaded by the Antichrist! Mua ha ha ha ha!
But the book of Revelation is none of those things. It brings together all the major themes of the Bible and weaves them together in a prophetic tapestry that forces its readers to drink deeply from God's Word—all of it. It's like a layered cake that continues to yield insight after insight the more deeply one slices into it.
It succinctly brings together in one sweeping panorama God's grace and mercy for those who will humble themselves before Him in faith and His judgment and retribution for those who will not, and ties it all together and underscores it with the rock-solid certainty of His promises.
And for me, seeing one of the most blessed promises given to the Church in the entire Bible confirmed yet again in such a profound and unexpected way is just the icing on the cake.
Greg Lauer / July 2016
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1. Deriv. of "Sunset Over Grass Field" © AOosthuizen at Can Stock Photo
2. "The Woman Clothed with the Sun" by Benjamin West [PD]
3. "The Revelation 12 Sign"—derivative work based on screenshot from Stellarium
4. Deriv. of "Vintage Scroll" © Alex Staroseltsev at Fotolia.com
5. "Victory in Jesus"—derivative work based on 5a–5b:
5a. "Jesus Looks Down from Heaven" © mbolina at Fotolia.com
5b. "Dragon's Family" © ddraw at Fotolia.com
6. Der. of "Exiting the Siq at Petra" by David Bjorgen [CC BY-SA]
7. "Piece of Layered Cake with Chocolate Topping" © golubovy at Fotolia.com
(All PD and CC-licensed works are via Wikimedia Commons.)
All Scripture is taken from the World English Bible, unless annotated as KJV (King James Version) or AKJV (American King James Version).