Author: Fuel For Faith

RAPTURE 17: WHEN? PAUL’S CLEAR STATEMENT!

Last time I discussed what Paul didn’t say about the rapture, which omission is a strong indicator of its timing. Here, in a mercifully shorter post, I’ll briefly include what Jesus didn’t say. Then I will point out one of the clear statements which Paul did make concerning the rapture’s timing. I once ignored such statements, as others do now…

WHAT JESUS DIDN’T SAY

In his Olivet Discourse Jesus spoke of the destruction of the temple, which was to occur a few decades later (Matthew 24:1-2). When his disciples then asked him about the end of the age, he summarized what was to come, from verse 4 and ending at verse 14. Then He gave them the clearest clue, or the most significant event to look for, as the trigger of last-days events. He called  it “the abomination of desolation”, first spoken of by Daniel (verse 15). The abomination of desolation will occur in association with the revealing presence of Antichrist on the temple mount in Jerusalem. According to Jesus, this will effectively be the sign that the turmoil of great tribulation is beginning. In verse 21 we read:

For then will be great distress, unequaled from beginning of the world until now-and never to be equaled again”.

When Antichrist goes to work on the temple mount, said Jesus, there will be “great distress”, unequaled through all history. This initial sign of tribulation given by Jesus aligns with what Paul wrote, saying that the first signs of “the day of the Lord” would be a “falling away” and the revealing of the man of sin. 

Neither Jesus or Paul said anything about a rapture or a gathering of believers happening before the “abomination” event. Why not? Paul did tell the Gentile church about the rapture in  his first letter to the Thessalonians, chapter 4, so why didn’t he tell them in his second letter that it would occur as a first sign, in order to put their fears to rest? Jesus spoke about the resurrection and the gathering of his elect at the end of the tribulation: why didn’t he say anything about a gathering which would precede tribulation events? Neither of them said anything along these lines:

When you see millions of believers vanish from the earth, know that the time is near”

Instead, Jesus said :

..but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (verse 14).

MYSTERY UNVEILED

Pre-tribulation teachers answer the problem of why Paul and Jesus omitted talk of the rapture while discussing the Day of the Lord by saying that the rapture was a “mystery”. But Paul did speak about the rapture, in his first letter to the Thessalonians-the one before the second letter in which the signs of the day of the Lord are given. He also discussed the rapture in his first letter to the Corinthians, saying, “I tell you a mystery”. He didn’t say “I know a mystery but I’m not going to tell you what it is”. He didn’t say, “Behold, I hide a mystery from you”: the rapture was an open topic. Thessalonians and Corinthians (and so probably others also) were told about the mystery. And we too know it, because we’ve read these letters many times. Yet when giving the initial signs of the Day of the Lord, Jesus and Paul said nothing about the rapture!

Another pertinent fact is that Jesus was in fact speaking to his  closest disciples during the Olivet Discourse: people who would shortly become the first members of his spirit-filled, saved and sanctified Christian Church at Pentecost. To them-born again Christians-he gave the signs of tribulation and things to look out for during that tribulation.

A CLEAR STATEMENT: 1 THESSALONIANS 3

Paul’s wish and prayer was that the Thessalonians would be, “…blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” (1 Thess. 3:13). This thought about being blameless is echoed by John in one of his letters:

And now, dear children, continue in him so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming (1 John 2: 28).

Paul hoped that the Thessalonians-predominantly Gentile believers- would be blameless and holy when Jesus comes “with all his holy ones”. When, according to Scripture, will Jesus come with all his holy ones? Is it in a pre-tribulation rapture, or at his visible appearing to the entire world? Paul answers the question himself:

God is just: he will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels” (2 Thess. 1:6-7).

Didn’t Paul want the Thessalonians to be “blameless and holy” at a secret coming of Jesus, years before Christ’s “blazing fire” appearance with all his holy ones? Why be in the presence of Jesus for seven years before you have to be “confident and unashamed before him at his coming”? And the “relief” which the Thessalonians would receive, says Paul, does not come before the Tribulation, but at the visible appearing of Jesus Christ to bring judgment and rewards.

Paul is telling the Thessalonians that he wants them to be blameless and unashamed when Jesus appears in his grand entrance for all the world to see-which is at the end of the tribulation. This statement-ignored by pre-tribulation believers-directly contradicts the concept of a pre-tribulation Rapture.

Thanks for reading. This post is an updated and edited excerpt from my book, “All Left Behind: The Case Against a Pre-Tribulation Rapture”, by Nicholas Fisher, available on Amazon.

Advertisements

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT

Here’s one of those posts just crying out to be blocked and censored by social media giants! If you manage to read it, you’re probably quite lucky…

13161575-ussr--circa-1976-a-stamp-printed-in-the-ussr-shows-portraits-karl-marx-and-v-i-lenin-circa-1976

How does a person go from being an a-moral, leftist communist in their thinking, to being a Trump-loving conservative? It’s easy, really…

ROOTS

I began my political understandings on the far left of the spectrum, in Britain. My dad, a wonderful Christian man, lived his early life in the days when unions were still struggling to win fair working conditions for working people, and his socialist views shaped mine. I was also influenced by my friends, still firmly entrenched in their way of thinking, and believing me now to be a brainwashed, “far-right” neo-nazi who isn’t worth knowing.

IRON LADY

In the eighties I witnessed Thatcher-“the iron lady”- come to power in the UK, and Reagan in the US. While I know now that they were both grossly misrepresented in most of our news media, as Trump is, Thatcher and her cabinet really were a band of cold, heartless, uncaring individuals. Even if their economy did pick the country out of a deep recession caused by socialist policies, they had no communication graces, and their snooty attitudes and some of their policies left a permanent scar on the British psyche. At that time and for years after I would rather be pulled around the streets by wild horses than vote Conservative.

THE MAKER’S INSTRUCTIONS

In the course of time, I became a Christian. My life was changed radically, because until then I was living with absolutely no thought of God but only how to get more stoned. I had no views on morality and no care for what might be right or wrong except for myself. I also moved to the US to live near relatives, and to be in a part of the world where there was space to breathe. It was there (here) that my Christian mind and heart developed, being shaped by Biblical Scripture and the few who were really preaching it. For a number of years I still saw myself as being completely “left” of any Republican ideals, including the claimed right to bear arms. I thought then that all guns should be illegal, and that no-one should be wealthy.

Cutting out the details and the process of my conversion, I find myself well and truly on the opposite end of the political spectrum in these times. Scripture and life have taught me a whole new way of seeing things. I now know that God made the world with a specific set of principles attached, and didn’t present them as being optional. For best results, follow the Maker’s instructions.

THE FAMILY

God designed the nuclear family (mum-dad-kids) as the basic building block of a safe, stable and functional society. Our society is crumbling partly because of its rejection of this fundamental fact. The “Left” of the political spectrum, in the vein of Carl Marx, wishes to see this unit destroyed or at least to be regarded as unhealthy and damaging. One of the instruments of destruction is the corruption of sexual expression, with the assertions that sex is love, and that any sexual preference is acceptable. This is encouraged through entertainment and fashion, and now politics also.

WORK

God instituted work and the enjoyment of its rewards. Whereas I once believed that those unwilling to work should be provided with all their needs and wants anyway, at the expense of the rich, I now realize that genuine hard work and enterprise should be rewarded with the wealth it creates. And it doesn’t only create wealth for the businessman (or woman) but for all he employs and for all who are paid by him for their services. Work builds our society and keeps us from wasting our time. It honors God who is a creator and a builder, and who has given us all the abilities we need in this world. It’s good for us all.

NATIONS, NOT WORLD GOVERNMENT

God divided the nations at Babel. He did not want to see a global or a “trans-national” community, which he knew would be united in opposition against him. In our world the Left wishes to have another go at building that tower to the heavens, and opposes the Christian gospel and faith in the Biblical God (any other god is just fine). It seeks global governance and power over every aspect of our lives, coercing us into believing and trusting in government, not God. The Left, along with its own father, wishes to take power from God, and to become god.

God set up borders between nations. He has no qualms about borders and territories, so long as we care for those who are genuinely in need. But God wishes us first to care for our own: 

If anyone does not take care of his own relatives, especially his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8).

DEFENSE

Self-defense is not an ungodly concept. If we had no means of self-defense, we would be at the mercy of the ungodly, and of ungodly government, and may not be able to protect and take care of our own. We would actually be encouraging those who wish to take, kill and destroy. The police would simply show up to clean up the mess and perhaps blame the victims (does that sound familiar?)

DEATH

Life is of enormous value, and to take it-particularly to take it from those who are helpless and who just need a chance to come into the world like the rest of us did, is one of the most despicable practices on earth, yet is loved and defended by the Left. I could never vote Left again for that reason alone.

TAKING SIDES

The list does go on. The point is that once I came to know who God is, and to understand some of his principles, I came to realize that while God does not vote one way or the other, and while good and bad are found on both sides of the political divide, he is most likely to be found among those who honor his ways.

RAPTURE 16: WHAT PAUL DIDN’T SAY

Hi everyone. Today’s excerpt from my book on the rapture is taken from a chapter titled “WHAT PAUL AND JESUS DIDN’T SAY”, because what they didn’t say is as instructive as what they did say. But first, I wish to disassociate myself with certain religious ads which are being placed upon my blog. I’m not a part of any organization or cult. For the record, again, I am a born-again Christian, trusting only in the sacrifice and resurrection of the only Son of God for my salvation. 

August 2013 010

WHAT PAUL DIDN’T SAY: CLUES FROM 2 THESSALONIANS CHAPTER 2

Paul warned the Thessalonians not to be falsely led into the notion that the “day of the Lord” had already arrived. Evidently some such deception was going around at that time. Exactly when will the day of the Lord come, and what will it look like? According to Peter, the day of the Lord includes the destruction of this present earth (2 Peter 3:10-13), and according to Paul it will include sudden destruction falling on an ungodly world of people (1 Thessalonians 5:1-4). Peter’s sermon early in the book of Acts declares that the day of the Lord will occur after the sun is darkened and the moon turns to blood (Acts 2:20). So the “day of the Lord” seems to include the tribulation, or perhaps the wrath of God as discussed in a previous chapter, and following events.

Paul told the Thessalonians what must happen before the day of the Lord can begin. He said:

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:3 KJV).

In a bout of circular reasoning which says, “We know the rapture comes before the tribulation, therefore Paul is speaking of the rapture here”, it’s claimed that Paul’s motivation was that the saints in Thessalonica were afraid they’d missed the pre-tribulation rapture, and had been “left behind”. But there’s no word about the rapture here. Please notice what Paul did not say. He didn’t say anything like this:

The day of the Lord cannot come before we’re all taken into heaven and gathered to him-therefore comfort one another with these words”.

This to me is very telling. It seems a serious omission, if Paul really knew and was preaching, as some claim, that there was a rapture coming before Antichrist is revealed and before any other tribulation events occur. The whole world can today read Paul’s discussions on the rapture, in 1 Thessalonians and in 1 Corinthians. It isn’t a secret, and Paul had already shared the “mystery” of the resurrection and the rapture in his first letter to the Thessalonians, in order to encourage the Church. The rapture therefore didn’t need to be hidden any more-if it ever was-and there’s no attempt in Paul’s letters to hide the rapture as though it’s some sort of secret. Yet in his instruction to a predominantly Gentile church-to a believing church which was fearful that the day of the Lord had begun; a church which Paul said was not in darkness but in the light of salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6); in his warning about the first signs of the true beginning of the tribulation, he does not mention the rapture at all. The first sign of the Day of the Lord, said Paul, will be a falling away, and the second the appearance of the man of lawlessness. The rapture is missing from the list!

OUR BEING GATHERED TO HIM

The second chapter of 2 Thessalonians is, “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him” (verse 1). It’s very important to bear in mind that the content of this first verse is the reason for Paul’s following discussion. Significantly, and I don’t mean to be flippant, it’s connected with the second verse, and the phrase “the day of the Lord”. So in relation to the coming of Jesus and our gathering to him, Thessalonians were not to think that the day of the Lord had already come.

There’s no reason to consider “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” and “our being gathering to him” as two separate events. It’s important to see that the two are not spoken of independently in the following discussion. The “coming” of Jesus is mentioned again, and it’s undoubtedly his appearance in power and glory for all the world to see (verse 8) but “our gathering to him” is not mentioned again. Why is that, when it’s part of Paul’s subject in this chapter?

The possible answer is that if the two are actually one, and parts of the same set of events rather than being separated by seven years or more, there would be no need to mention them separately. As an everyday example of distinctions which are in fact inseparable, we might talk with our families about getting together for “the coming weekend and our trip to the mall”, or we might talk about “the coming birthday party and the cake-lighting ceremony”. The weekend and the trip to the mall are immediately and inseparably associated, as are the party and the cake-lighting ceremony.

In our subsequent discussion of the weekend we may not need to mention the mall again: the subject of the mall is already accepted as a part of the coming weekend. When the weekend comes we will go to the mall. We may not mention the lighting of the cake again, but just the birthday party. The cake lighting is already an acknowledged part of the birthday party. When we have the birthday party we will light the cake. Similarly, “our being gathering to him” in Paul’s first verse of this chapter may well just be an intrinsic part of “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”, so that when Jesus Christ comes we will be gathered to him, and there’s no need to mention the “gathering” again.

THE DAY OF THE LORD

In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul associated “the day of the Lord” not with a pre-tribulation rapture, but with judgment:

For you know very well that ‘the day of the Lord’ will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety’, destruction will come on them suddenly…” (1Thessalonians 5:2-3).

In his second letter Paul says about the day of the Lord:

Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed…” (verse 3).

Believers were not afraid that they’d missed a pre-tribulation rapture: that isn’t what Paul said. It seems instead that they were afraid that the day of the Lord had come, and perhaps that they had missed “the coming of the Lord”.

Since Paul had said at the beginning of the second chapter that his following discussion concerns “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him”, and if by this Paul meant a pre-tribulation rapture, the following discussion should be about the rapture, if that was what the believers thought they had missed, should it not? Instead, it’s about “the day of the Lord”-the time of prophesied events on the earth, and “the coming of the Lord”, which, Paul informs us, comes after two unmistakable signs. Put simply: first in the realm of significant events would come a “falling away” and the revealing of Antichrist, as signs of the coming of the day of the Lord.

So where is “our being gathered to him” in the remainder of the second chapter, if this phrase is referring to a pre-tribulation rapture? Has Paul forgotten his subject? It must be there somewhere. Wouldn’t a more honest, straightforward reading tell us that “the day of the Lord”, and “the coming of the Lord” is synonymous or closely contemporaneous with “our being gathered to him”? Is this perhaps why Paul placed “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” in the same sentence as “our being gathered together to him”?

The only “coming of the Lord” which Paul writes about in this chapter is the one which sees the Antichrist brought to justice:

…whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:8 ESV).

There’s not a separate and distinct “coming of the Lord” in the passage to bring about our gathering to him.

The two signs Paul gives-or rather the fact that they haven’t yet occurred- are given to believers in the church as reassurance and evidence that the day of the Lord had not yet come. However, the rapture is not given- in any form. Paul did not say, “We would not be here if the day of the Lord had begun”. There’s no mention of the rapture not having taken place yet as reassurance. And perhaps more importantly, there’s no mention of the coming of the Lord before the day of the Lord! Surely, if Paul is aiming to inform the people and to stop them being deceived into thinking the rapture had happened already, he would say something about the rapture. He might say “Hey church, we apostles are still here-we haven’t been snatched up yet, so don’t sweat! Our snatching-up is still to come, and it will come before these events unfold!”

We saw that Paul’s topic in this chapter is “the coming of the Lord and our gathering to him” (verse 1), yet his following discourse is on the day of the Lord and things that must happen before it. Why didn’t he write about the rapture? Trying to squeeze the pre-tribulation rapture into this passage, when it is not here, is a way of avoiding facing up to the reality of what it is saying.

Again, Paul’s topic is the coming of the Lord and our being gathered to him. At what point in Paul’s discussion does he write of Christ’s coming? Is it before Antichrist is revealed? No, it’s after the point when we see Antichrist defeated:

And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the splendor of his coming” (verse 8).

The “coming” Paul speaks of is the event at which Antichrist is stopped and judged (verse 8). Paul does not speak of the “gathering” as a separate event, either here or earlier in the sequence of events.

Let’s look back at Paul’s first Thessalonians letter, and the passage widely seen as Paul’s informative talk on the rapture. In it he says:

…we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord…” (1 Thessalonians 4:15).

Paul is using the same phrase “the coming of the Lord” in his rapture talk as he uses in his “day of the Lord” talk to bring judgment in the second letter, again indicating that the two are one.

Thanks again for reading this long post. The next post will continue with what Jesus didn’t say.

*ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE, by Nicholas Fisher, available on Amazon (see the link below).

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=all+left+behind+the+case+against+the+pre-tribulation+rapture&ref=nb_sb_noss

I’M NOT JOINING THE MOVEMENT

There’s a movement away from scriptural authority: I’m not going with it…

Ary_Scheffer_-_The_Temptation_of_Christ_(1854)

There’s a movement which asks the question, “Did God really say…?” (Genesis 3:1). Famous and not so famous ministers, including, unfortunately, those in a church my own family attends, are claiming that the Old Testament doesn’t really say what we think it says, but that some of the New Testament does. It can’t be trusted they say-if they ever mention it at all.

Oh really? That’s interesting, because the New Testament itself is filled with the defense of scripture, including the defense of what we have in the Old Testament. The two are inextricably linked. Jesus himself said to Satan, who was attempting to derail the Son of God from Scripture:

“It is written…” (Matthew 4:4).

There’s a train of unbelief and of calling God a liar. Its engine has always been Satan, and its cars consist of atheists and agnostics, and those wishing to rid the world of godly standards of morality. But joining the procession are many in the church who think they know better than God, and that God is incapable of speaking his mind, of having convictions, and of preserving his words. I’m not on the train, I’m not going to get on the train, and I’m not the slightest bit interested in going to the final destination of that train. Count me out.

In coming weeks I’m going to develop this topic.

RAPTURE 15(b): SUPPER TIME

Greetings dear reader. Here’s a continuation of my post on the Bride of Christ in relation to the rapture…

There’s some disagreement as to the actual timing of the marriage supper mentioned in Revelation chapter 19. Is it immediately after the rapture, when the tribulation is about to commence; just before the middle of the tribulation when things will really begin to heat up on the earth, or is it towards the end, just before the physical return of Christ? Is it even after the return of Christ to the earth? 

220px-The_Four_and_Twenty_Elders_(William_Blake)

We’re introduced to the wedding supper by an angel in verse 9 of chapter 19. He speaks immediately after a great multitude in heaven declares that the “wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready” (verses 6-8). It seems to be a natural conclusion that this multitude in heaven, before Christ rides out of heaven on his white horse, praising God for the wedding and the wedding supper, must indeed be the raptured Church, meaning that the rapure occurred before or at least during the tribulation. But when we read the chapter a little more carefully we find some serious problems for this conviction, because the wedding supper is announced at some time after the destruction of the “great prostitute”, or false religion, is celebrated in verses 1 to 3. It’s the Antichrist and his ten henchmen “kings” who are the ones to destroy the prostitute:

They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire” (Revelation 17:16).

To think that the reference to the supper in chapter 19 is a random interjection; an “Oh by the way-don’t forget that the wedding will be before this” sort of reference to something which already happened years ago, and that it is not at all related to its position in the dialogue, is a hopeful assumption without reason.

Since Antichrist can only rule for the last three and a half years of the tribulation (13:5 with 17:12) and his destruction of the “great prostitute” is announced just before the wedding and the wedding supper are also announced, it would seem logical to deduce that the wedding supper of the Lamb is being announced after the mid point of the proposed seven year tribulation, because this is when Antichrist and the ten will gain power. There is therefore no certainty that the bride-if this is the bride in chapter 19- has been in heaven for the entirety of the assumed seven-year period.

There’s also no certainty that the bride is in heaven at all when the wedding and the wedding supper are being proclaimed. As the bride is merely mentioned in chapter 19 before Christ rides in glory to the earth, it’s assumed that she’s been in heaven for the entire tribulation, and that the supper is either occurring at this point or has already taken place. But is she actually, really there at all, even in chapter 19?

A great multitude shouts:

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready” (19:7).

The multitude is speaking not of itself but is speaking in the third person: “his bride has made herself ready”. The KJV also uses the word “herself”, and doesn’t say “We have made ourselves ready”. In other words, the multitude seems to be shouting about other people, not about themselves or even those to whom they’re shouting. The bride is not located or pointed out in this chapter 19 scene. John does not say, “And behold, I saw the bride of the Lamb”. The wedding supper event is not described at all: it’s not in progress. If it’s already been held, it seems almost inconceivable that it hasn’t been at least mentioned or noticed by John. And how many grooms would have a wedding supper with his bride and then take her straight out onto the battlefield?

The angel tells John to write, “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb” (verse 9).

We’re reading about a celebration of the invitation to the wedding supper, not the wedding supper itself. Again, if John was living through these events in real-time, it seems he would surely have described or at least mentioned the supper, if it had already been held, particularly as Revelation is written “For the churches” (Revelation 22:16). If Jesus Christ was seeking to reassure and inform the Church of his grand plan, why is there no description of the marriage supper?

Indeed, had the supper happened during the events of the tribulation, and since John was supposedly “raptured” at its commencement, he should have been a vital part of it. He would surely say something like, “And behold, I saw the wedding supper of the Lamb, and feasted with my fellow disciples”. Instead, though the bride has “made herself ready” in chapter 19, she’s nowhere to be seen, and her groom is on the way out the door to slaughter his enemies and gather his elect!

ARE THE ELECT NOT INVITED?

Context is always vitally important in interpretation of scripture. The context here in chapter 19 and the next chapter is that the great whore has been destroyed, the wedding supper of the Lamb “has come”, and the Lamb himself, Jesus Christ, is about to turn roaring lion and burst forth onto the world in the most spectacular event of the ages. He’s going to defeat his enemies, then he’s going to send angels to gather his elect from the four winds.

This gathering of the elect is described in the Olivet Discourse as happening upon the glorious, visible return of Jesus. Is it possible that Jesus Christ would hold that wedding supper without inviting his elect- those who had been bravely and faithfully opposing the Antichrist and refusing his mark, upholding the testimony of Jesus, and gaining great victory over the beast, the false prophet and the world? Would Jesus Christ really hold that wedding supper without them? I personally very much doubt it. We’re told that those who are invited are blessed (19:9). Are the elect-those who have withstood Antichrist, not blessed? Could they not be at least a part of his Church? They are, after all “his” elect (Matthew 24:31). And remember that once the groom in the parable of the ten virgins had taken his bride, the door was shut and no-one else was allowed to the wedding: there was only one collection of the bride by the groom-not two.

Could it be that the “elect” are Christ’s bride? Could it be that the gathering of his elect which we read about in the Olivet Discourse is the point at which the resurrection takes place and believers still living are gathered, as Paul shared in his first letter to the Thessalonians?

The entire issue of the bride thickens in chapter 21 of Revelation: it isn’t quite so straightforward as we think it is before we dive into the subject. Paul spoke of the marriage between a man and a woman as representing the relationship between Christ and the Church (Ephesians chapter 5). He called the relationship a “mystery”, just as he called the rapture a mystery. We’ve seen how, in Revelation chapter 19 the “bride” has made herself ready for marriage, but when we get to chapter 21 we’re confronted with something of a challenge to our view of the bride, and also to the timing of that wedding.

It is after the new heavens and new earth appear at the start of chapter 21 that we find another mention of a bride. Here the bride is a city, or is it actually the Church metaphorically described as a city: the New Jerusalem? This is a difficult passage, because we evangelicals think of the New Jerusalem as a literal city which we will live in. But when an angel tells John that he will show him “the bride, the wife of the Lamb”, he shows him not a multitude of people, but a seemingly literal, physical city, with gates, walls, a river, trees, and all kinds of decorations. But how can the bride of Christ, the Church, made up of millions of believers, be seen as a literal city? Are both somehow synonymous, so that the Church along with the city are the bride? Or is there perhaps no literal city at all? It seems unlikely that there will be no cities in God’s creation for eternity: why could there not be a literal New Jerusalem? And if we look further into the chapter we see more reference to apparently literal, physical objects and actions. For example, “…its gates will never be shut” (verse 25). How can this be describing people?

It seems that this appearance of the New Jerusalem, which is described as being both “like” a bride (21:2) and as the bride herself (22:9) must be a thousand years after the glorious return of Jesus to the earth and after his thousand year reign (21:1-2). Each is seen by John to descend out of heaven at this time. Perhaps the bride has been based in heaven for the millennium but is transferred to the new earth after it. This is obviously a subject for debate, research and prayer: it is for now its own “mystery” which will only become clear when the time is right.

When does the bride make her first actual appearance, rather than being just spoken about? Is it in Revelation chapter 4, when John arrives in heaven to see the events of the tribulation? No. Is it in chapter 19, before the conquering, vengeful Christ rides out of heaven? No, it’s in chapter 21. It’s after Antichrist and the false prophet are thrown into the Lake of Fire (19:19-20); after those beheaded in the tribulation are raised (20:4); after the first resurrection (20:5) and after our introduction to the thousand year reign (20:6-10).

It’s true that the bride does indeed come out of heaven, but only just in time for the beginning of eternity after the millennium. In verse 2 of chapter 21 the city-the bride- appears, and she has been “prepared”:

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband”.

Remember that the bride of chapter 19 was also “prepared”, but she made no appearance at that point:

…his bride has made herself ready” (19:7).

It’s only when the New Jerusalem appears, after the millennium, that we’re told God is now living with his people:

Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them” (21:3).