The End of the Church Age...and After
More information on the Two Witnesses
The command to go into all the world with the Gospel was given at the beginning of the church age. The carrying out of this command was typified by the two witnesses that we read about in Revelation 11. Revelation 11, verses 3 and 4, declare:
These two witnesses prophesy for a period of 1260 days which equals three and a half years. This figure must come from Daniel 9:27 where God speaks of a final seven of years called one week. There we read that the last half of this last week (seven) will go from the time of the cessation of sacrifice and offering (the time of the cross), to the time of the overspreading of abominations, until the consummation (the end of time). Thus, the two witnesses are to bring the Gospel all the way to the end of the world.
The three and a half years are spoken of as 1260 days to distinguish this period of time from the 42 months (also three and a half years), during which the temple was trodden under foot. The 42 months symbolically represent the first part of the Great Tribulation season. It is the same period indicated in Revelation Chapter 13, verse 5, during which time Satan begins to rule in the local churches and congregations. It is the period that goes from the official beginning of the Great Tribulation period (probably 1988), until the official end of the church age (1994).
On the other hand, the 1260 days represent the entire period from the cross to the end of the world. It is the same period during which the woman of Revelation Chapter 12 is nourished in the wilderness. This woman is, first of all, the true believers (that is, the eternal invisible church), in the local churches and congregations during the church age, and finally, also includes the true believers during the latter rain season. This 1260-day period is also called a time, times, and half a time (thus, a total of three and a half times), in Revelation 12:14. She is nourished (by God) from the face of the serpent (Satan). Thus, during the church age as well as during the latter rain season, the true believers need have no fear of Satan.
As we have seen, the two witnesses are identified in Revelation 11:4 as two olive trees and two candlesticks. The two olive trees identify with the olive tree of Romans 11:16-24. This underscores the fact that these two witnesses represent true believers.
The two witnesses also identify with the two candlesticks. This immediately identifies them with the church age. Revelation 1:20 and Revelation 2:1 teach us that symbolically, each church is represented by a candlestick amongst which Christ walks. The candlestick represents the light of the Gospel as it was sent into the world during the church age by the churches, and during the latter rain by true believers who are outside of the churches.
The number two (two witnesses, two olive trees, two candlesticks), identifies with the true believers who faithfully bring the Gospel. Remember, Jesus sent the twelve disciples out two and two (Mark 6:7) and the 70 two and two (Luke 10:1).
The two witnesses of Revelation 11 embrace both the church age and the latter rain season. Note the language of Revelation 11:6, "These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy." The period when the heavens are shut up is the time that divides the church age from the latter rain season.
One verse we must look at in connection with these two witnesses is Revelation 11:7, which declares:
The duration of the time that the two witnesses lie dead is three and a half days. Utilizing a day for a year, this period during which the witnesses lie dead is symbolically three and a half years. As we have already learned, this is the first part of the Great Tribulation, which also identifies with the 2300 evening mornings of Daniel 8.
The end of the three and a half days of Revelation 11 appears to coincide with the end of the 2300 days of Daniel 8. We read in Daniel 8:13-14:
The last phrase of verse 14 more correctly should be translated, "then shall the holy place be made righteous." During the church age, the holy place was the local church. But during the latter rain, the only holy place, that is, the place wherein the Holy Spirit is saving, is outside of the churches. Outside of the churches is where we find the true Gospel that is altogether free from a works-grace gospel. The latter rain, during which the end-of-the-year harvest is brought in, thus officially began 2300 days after the end of the church age, and the beginning of the Great Tribulation. The church age ended on May 21, 1988. Thus, it is also true that the beginning of the latter rain officially began on September 7, 1994.
Returning to the two witnesses, we learn that the two witnesses lie dead in "the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified" (Revelation 11:8). Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem. We learned earlier that during the Great Tribulation, Jerusalem identifies with the churches and congregations of our day. God now is speaking of them as Sodom and Egypt. We are reminded of the language of Revelation 18:2 where God speaks of the churches as Babylon which, "is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird."
We learned earlier that to be killed means to be driven from the churches. Verse 10 of Revelation 11 tells us why they were killed (driven from the churches). There we read:
Why had these two prophets tormented those that dwell on the earth? The answer can be found if we understand that true believers want truth and wish to declare truth. But truth begins with a fact that is unacceptable to the unsaved. The fact is that before we are saved, each and every one of us is dead in sin. We are under the wrath of God, and there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. We have to trust totally on the mercy of God. This is an unacceptable doctrine to those who have not truly been saved.
Moreover, doctrines we have been taught in our church that are not altogether in harmony with the Word of God must be repudiated. Our water baptism, our faith, our reaching out to God and accepting Jesus, have nothing to do with becoming saved. All of these ideas are reprehensible to those who are not truly saved.
The true believers want all of these wrong ideas to be corrected. They
fear God, and they earnestly want all of their witnessing to be altogether faithful to the Bible.
Thus, when these two believers are killed (driven from the churches), there is great happiness in the churches. Now, those who remain in the churches can do whatever they think is right without receiving criticism from true believers who always insist that the congregation should be more and more faithful to the Word of God.
Revelation 11:7 informs us that these two witnesses will be killed when their work is finished. It is not finished in the ultimate sense because the period of the latter rain still must come. But it is finished insofar as the churches are concerned. God had used the churches for 1,955 years, as His means to send out the Gospel into the world. By this means, the complete fullness (the 144,000 of Revelation 7), of all those who were to become saved as the churches sent the Gospel into the world did become saved. We must remember that the 144,000 is not an actual number. It is a symbolic number that signifies complete fullness.
But at the beginning of the Great Tribulation period, the work of the churches was finished. Simultaneously, the Holy Spirit was no longer operating in the midst of the churches. Satan, the abomination of desolation, has become the ruler of the churches. Those who insist on remaining in the churches are given a strong delusion by God that they should believe a lie (II Thessalonians 2:11). No wonder there is such happiness in the churches when the true believers are driven out.
However, the work of the two witnesses is not finished. There is still the season of the latter rain that must follow the first part (symbolically, three and a half days or 42 months or three and a half years), of the Great Tribulation. Revelation 11:11 declares:
At first blush, this might appear to indicate that the rapture is in view. This cannot be for several reasons. First, nowhere in the Bible does God use the language "they stood upon their feet" in connection with the rapture.
Secondly, nowhere, in connection with the rapture, does the Bible speak of the Spirit of life entering those who are being raptured.
Furthermore, there are at least two passages in the Bible that use language that is very similar to this verse to record God's command to send forth the Gospel into all the world. The first passage is Ezekiel Chapter 2, verses 1 through 4, where we read:
Notice that before Ezekiel is to be sent to speak to Israel, he is commanded to "stand upon thy feet" and then "the spirit entered into me." Note the parallel language in Revelation 11:11, "the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet."
Similarly, in Acts 26:16, the Apostle Paul was commanded to rise and stand upon his feet at the time he was commanded to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles. Therefore, we can be very certain that when the two witnesses stand on their feet as the Spirit of life from God enters into them, they are about to continue their witnessing. This signifies the witnessing of the true believers during the latter rain season.
We next read in Revelation 11:11, "and great fear fell upon them which saw them." What could this mean? Remember, we learned that the emphasis of the latter rain preaching is, "Fear God, and give glory to him" (Revelation 14:7). One characteristic of the true believer is that he fears God. He works out his salvation (the salvation that God has given him), with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:13).
Therefore, those who see the true nature of the two witnesses (the believers during the latter rain season), will experience great fear as they hear the true Gospel being proclaimed. This will be the occasion of a great multitude which no man can number being saved.
In fact, the primary work of the true believers during the latter rain season is to bring the Gospel to the world. Jesus said, "Occupy till I come" (Luke 19:13). In Mark 13:15, Jesus commands:
To be "on the housetop" is to be busy proclaiming the Gospel. In Matthew 10:27, we read:
Being "on the housetop" identifies with publishing the Gospel. According to Mark 13:15, we are not to go into the house to take anything out of the house. The house identifies with the churches from which the true believers were driven out or they obeyed the command to leave. We are not to go into the churches again. We are to stay on the housetop, that is, we are to diligently continue with the God-assigned task of bringing the true Gospel to the world. And we know that a great multitude will become saved during the latter rain season, which coincides with the last part of the Great Tribulation.
We stand in awe as we see the opportunity God gives us at this time to send the true Gospel into all the world. Never before has the population of the world been as great as it is presently. It is about seven billion individuals, and it continues to grow as about 10,000 more people are added each and every hour of the day and night.
But simultaneously, God has provided us with some magnificent means of communication. By radio, by satellite, by Internet, and by massive tract distribution, the people of entire continents are potentially under the hearing of the true Gospel. A very high percentage of the peoples of the world can hear the Gospel in their own language. They can hear it seven days a week. They can hear it for a minimum of a whole hour once or twice a day. In many instances, they can hear it many hours each day. It seems very obvious that God has allowed all the electronic discoveries and inventions to take place in this age so that His last season, the season of the latter rain, would be facilitated so that in the briefest time, the whole world can hear the true Gospel.
Of course, a great many people have the opportunity to hear false gospels. False gospels, too, can be found on the Internet and on the airways. However, it is the true Gospel that God has made available to the world. Thus, the prophecy of Revelation 7 might be fulfilled. Indeed, we believe that a great multitude which no man can number is being saved at this time.
Significantly, the next experience of the two witnesses is that they are raptured. Revelation 11:12 declares:
*Footnote: We now understand that the true believers will be raptured at the end of the Great Tribulation, and the unsaved will see them ascending, as this verse states. But the unsaved will be left behind to face five months of an outpouring of God's wrath, and then total destruction.
This harmonizes with those verses that teach that Jesus will return only after the last of the elect have become saved. In II Peter 3, God speaks about the end of the world and declares in verse 9:
In Matthew 24:14, we read:
We can now understand Matthew 24:22 which declares:
The Great Tribulation occurs at the very time that there is a population explosion in the world, and amongst these people there are many of God's elect. But if this is happening right at the time the church age has come to an end, and if the churches had been given the command to go into all the world with the Gospel, how will the elect who are a part of this end-time population explosion become saved?
God provides the answer. For the sake of the elect who still must become saved, God dramatically causes the latter rain Gospel to be sent out into the world. Thus, the terrible impact of the Great Tribulation is shortened. We must remember that the Great Tribulation brought about a most awful situation in the world. God had given the task of evangelizing the world to the New Testament churches. Therefore, during the church age, as they were engaged in this magnificent task, great blessings came to the churches. But also, great blessings came to the world as God blessed the Gospel that was sent out by the churches into the world.
Therefore, when the Great Tribulation began, it was tribulation for the churches and the world. It was Great Tribulation for the churches because the Holy Spirit was no longer in the midst of the churches applying the Word of God to the lives of those who were hearing the Gospel.
But it was also Great Tribulation because the churches were no longer being used of God as a means by which God was saving people in the world. In
other words, the Gospel impact of the churches has been reduced to zero, and no one will become saved through the ministrations of the churches.
However, for the sake of the elect who still must become saved, right in the middle of this time of the Great Tribulation, God began His program of the latter rain.
The latter rain does not benefit the churches in any way. They remain under the judgment of God. Satan will rule in the churches and congregations all the way to the end. That is why Jeremiah was told not to pray for Judah. We read in Jeremiah 7:12-16:
The ark of the covenant was placed in Shiloh when Israel entered the land of Canaan. But when the ark was taken out of Shiloh (I Samuel 4:10-11), it was never returned to Shiloh, like when God left the churches at the beginning of the Great Tribulation, He will not return. Therefore, we are not to pray that somehow this terrible judgment might be removed from the churches. Surely, we can continue to pray for individuals within the churches, but we are not to pray that the church, as a formerly divine organism, might repent and again be used as God's servant to send the Gospel into the world.
God speaks of Judah and Jerusalem in Jeremiah 7:17, and in that context, He declares in Jeremiah 7:20:
Therefore, now that the Great Tribulation is being experienced by the
churches all over the world, we can be certain that they will be in this terrible situation to the very end of time.
But what about the tribulation that impacts the world from the moment God was no longer using the churches to evangelize the world. Outside of the churches, there is an exploding population in which there must be many of God's elect.
It is for their sake that God begins to pour down the latter rain in the midst of the time of the Great Tribulation. Outside of the churches, the Gospel goes forth so that the time of the tribulation's impact upon the world is shortened. Indeed, there is a great final harvest of souls being brought into the kingdom of God.