In our previous studies, we discussed the concept of “Sorting Prophetic Material,” suggested by Otis Q. Sellers in his pamphlet of the same name. We talked about creating “bins” into which we could sort the prophecies of Scripture predicting events in the future. We had used the book of Revelation to establish four future time periods that are set forth in Scripture, and called these our “bins” into which we could sort future prophecies. However, by examining other evidence, we concluded that there was a fifth time period “bin” we could create, coming before all these, and which we called, as a working title, the “last days.”

Once we had established this fifth time period called the “last days,” we went through all the Scriptural occurrences of it to get an idea in our minds of what this term means. We concluded that this phrase does not speak of only one time, but that none of the time periods of which it speaks fit into that time period called “the millennium.” We concluded that the word “last” in this case means “result” or “outcome,” and the phrase “last days” indicates a time period that is the result of all that came before it. Thus, the last days of Isaiah 2:2 and Micah 4:1 are the result of God’s great work to bring in His order upon the earth through His government.

I had been bold in saying that the “last days” of Isaiah 2:2 cannot be the millennium. One reason I believe this is because of what the Bible says must happen “before the day of the LORD.” An examination Revelation 1:10 led us to the conclusion that the “Lord’s Day” of Revelation is the same thing as the “Day of the Lord,” and so that all of Revelation takes place in that Day. However, the “last days” take place before the Day of the Lord, so they are a time period not found at all in Revelation, and that precede all the prophecies made there. This is truly a unique prophetic time period of God’s future kingdom on earth, coming before the Millennium, and having some characteristics that are similar to it, but some that are very different.

Now as we study the Bible’s predictions of future events, we are bound to eventually ask ourselves, “What comes next?” Which of these predicted events is to follow the time in which we live? The common idea is that it is the 7 years of Daniel 9 followed by the second coming of Christ. Yet if this were the case, then most of the earth would be wiped out. We have seen this in our examination of II Thessalonians 1:7-10, where Christ in His second coming is described as coming “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” (Verses 8-9.) In our day, how many men actually know God? If we were honest, we would have to admit that most men do not. In fact, even we believers would have to admit that we don’t know God as well as we might know Him, or perhaps even should know Him. And if the criterion of obeying the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is added in, how many even know what that gospel is, not to mention obeying it? If God were to put men to this stringent a test today, most would fail, and the result would be an earth all but denuded of her inhabitants. No doubt whole towns and villages would exist where none survived, and nothing could be found but the dead bodies. Is this the second coming of Christ that we all desire? I hope I am not an overly self-centered person, and I have to say that if this is the reality of Christ’s return, then I would have to sincerely pray that He delay it as long as possible, for I have no desire to see such a calamity come upon the world.

Mr. Sellers once pointed out that even C.I. Scofield, the dispensationalist responsible for popularizing the modern idea of the order and scope of future events in his Scofield Reference Bible, recognized this, and wrote that between “the coming of the Lord for His church, and His return to earth with His saints, the overwhelming majority of living humanity will be saved.” (Scofield Correspondence Course, Volume 2, pages 344, 345.) This was clearly an attempt to get around the problem of what would happen if the Lord held the world today to the standards set forth in II Thessalonians 1. But it is clear that this idea would destroy what Scofield believed about future events altogether, for this would mean that in the tribulation a greater number of people would be saved than this world has ever seen before. This would make the tribulation, instead of a time of unparalleled trouble, perhaps the greatest period of blessing the world has ever known! Of course, such a thing does not fit the description of the tribulation period, either as set forth in the Bible or in modern theology. Thus even Dr. Scofield had to abandon this idea in his later writings. Yet this passage in II Thessalonians 1 presents the greatest difficulty to the Bible student who wishes to make the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ be imminent, or at least soon to follow after the start of the tribulation, and yet who does not wish to see the horrible destruction come upon the earth that II Thessalonians 1 would necessitate if that were indeed the case.

Yet I do not think this difficulty is insurmountable. Malachi 4:6 tells us that Elijah is going to do a work before the day of the LORD comes that will mean He will not have to come and strike the earth with a curse. I believe that this work will take place in a time period that most Bible scholars have missed.

I believe that what comes next in God’s program for this world is a period of enlightenment and blessing from God, not a period of punishment and wrath. This period of blessing precedes the second coming of Christ, and makes the number of those whom He will find not knowing Him and obeying the gospel when He comes to be relatively small. This period is often called the “last days” in Scripture, and will be one stage of the Kingdom of God. Notice, please, that I say “one stage,” not “stage one.” I will discuss what I believe is the overall course of the Kingdom in a future message.

Now in closing this message, I would like to deal with several arguments that are commonly made against this view when it is brought forward. First is that you will note that, if this long period of the government of God takes place before Christ’s second coming, that would mean that Christ would be ruling over the Kingdom from heaven, not from earth. It is a common phrase that “there can be no Kingdom without the King.” By this is meant that the return of our Lord Jesus Christ to the earth must precede any period of the Kingdom of God. But where does this idea come from?

Now there has been an idea in theology that some have held, although fewer do now than once did, that has been called “postmillennialism.” The viewpoint of this theology is that the “church,” through its own programs and efforts, will eventually succeed in bringing the kingdom of God to the earth. Then, they will reign over the earth for a thousand years. Only when these thousand years are over will Jesus Christ return to earth.

This idea of postmillennialism is demonstrably untrue. Passage after passage from the Old Testament Scriptures could be brought forward to show that it is God Who will bring about the victory upon earth, not the efforts of even the best of His people. Not only that, but the “church” has a track record here. We already tried to bring in God’s kingdom by our own efforts. What resulted was the thousand years called the “Dark Ages.” This was not God’s kingdom, but a millennium of ignorance and superstition. I know some will argue that it was the Catholic Church that did this, but I do not believe that the Protestants could be any more successful. We can no more bring in God’s government than the Catholics could, and if we tried, we would just have the Protestant “Dark Ages.” Only God can bring in God’s government.

Now in trying to answer the arguments of the postmillennialists, it seems that some came up with this rebuttal that only by being present on earth could Jesus Christ bring in His kingdom. “There can be no kingdom without the king” was the rallying cry of this argument, and it must have seemed an effective tool to use against the postmillennialists. Yet what does the Bible say? For that must ever be the standards against which our arguments are measured, not whether or not they effectively confound our opponents. Let us look at a few passages that have a bearing upon this. First of all, let us examine Psalm 103:19.

19. The LORD has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all.

In this verse, we have described a time when God’s government has already taken charge of the world, for it is declared that “His kingdom rules over all.” Yet, it clearly declares that the LORD’s throne is in heaven, not on earth. Now a throne, as I have explained before, is not just an ornate chair that a king sits in. It is a symbol for power or authority. One’s throne is the seat of one’s government. We could say that the “throne” of the United States of America is in Washington, D.C. Now we are not a monarchy, and so we are not used to using such terms about our government, and yet this is how this word was used, and it would be accurate to say it this way. So what this verse is setting forth is a time when the LORD is reigning over the earth, and yet His seat of government is in heaven, not upon earth. Another passage that sets forth a similar idea to this is Acts 7:49.

49. ‘ Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the LORD, Or what is the place of My rest?

In this passage again, heaven is described as the LORD’s throne. And this time, He describes the earth as His footstool. In the Biblical figure, what is under your feet is under your control. So this is describing a time when the LORD is reigning from heaven, and the earth is under His control. If this is true, then Jesus Christ does not come back to reign. When He does come back, He has already been reigning even before He comes!

A very interesting passage that I believe has a bearing upon this is the story given in Matthew 8:5-13. Let us look at this portion of Scripture briefly.

5. Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, 6. saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.” 7. And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.”

In this passage, we have one of those rare instances where our Lord dealt with a Gentile. This man, a Roman centurion, has a servant lying sick at home, and pleads with the Lord to heal Him. The Lord agrees to come and do so. Yet this would have been an act that would have brought Him under severe criticism from His enemies, for the Jews traditionally did not enter under the roof of a Gentile’s home.

8. The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. 9. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

The centurion answers Christ with a plea, that He only speak the word and his servant would be healed. This man is the commander of a hundred soldiers, and thus is familiar with authority. He knows that when he commands it, his servants do as he says, even if it means going somewhere far away. Thus, he is assured that the Lord can just speak the words, and even from a distance his servant will be healed.

10. When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!

We see that the Lord marveled at this man’s faith. Yet what was it about his faith that caused the Lord to be so impressed? Rarely was our Lord ever caused to marvel at anything. What was it about this man’s belief that was so much greater than the belief the Lord had found in Israel?

Now I believe that there can only be one answer to this. The Israelites believed that Christ could heal them, and they came to Him in droves to have Him do so. The unique thing about this man’s faith was not that he believed that the Lord could heal his servant. Rather, it was that he believed that the Lord could do it from a distance. He knew that the Lord did not have to be present in the room to perform this healing. He believed that He did not even have to see his servant to work this miracle. He believed in Christ’s power to heal at a distance!

11. And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13. Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour.

So as this man believed, Christ worked, and proved that He has the power to heal from a distance. I believe we can learn an important lesson from this. This centurion realized that the Lord did not have to be present to heal. But can we not say the same thing about His power to rule the earth? If He could heal from a distance, why could He not also rule from a distance? If He did not have to be present in the room with the servant to heal him, does He really need to be present on earth in order to take it over by His power? I do not believe He does. The Lord Jesus can rule the earth just as well from heaven as He can from earth. I believe He can do this, and I believe that the Bible teaches that He will do this. This will not be some postmillennialist kingdom brought about by the church. This will be God’s kingdom, brought about by His power, with the Lord ruling over the earth from His seat of government in heaven.

So this is how I would answer this first objection that many would immediately have. But there is a second objection that some would raise. Looking at the timeline that I have set forth, you can see that I would place this period I have called the “last days” before that time period of Daniel’s seventieth week, the last 3.5 years of which comprises the period commonly called the “great tribulation.” So many would ask, “How could the tribulation follow the Kingdom of God?” In their minds, the tribulation is an unparalleled period of sin and suffering, and they have always believed that this period is led into by the sinful acts of men and conditions of things we see on every hand today. The common conception is that these will culminate in the period of time known as the tribulation. Yet how could something like the kingdom of God lead into this tribulation period?

Now I do not believe that the events of the tribulation are the result of our sinful day. Rather, I believe they are the results of a rebellion against the Kingdom. I will not go fully into this issue now, but will save a more complete study for a lesson in my audio series. Yet I will take the time to say a few brief things about this. First of all, consider with me II Thessalonians 2:1-4.

1. Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2. not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 3. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4. who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.

This passage, speaking of the parousia of our Lord Jesus Christ, which we believe begins with His second coming, says that that Day will not come unless “the falling away” comes first. This “falling away” is in Greek the word apostasia, from which we get our English word “apostasy.” So there must come an apostasy before Christ comes. Yet in our day, how could men fall away from God, when they have never followed Him in the first place? To fall away from something, you have to be there first. I cannot fall down a mountain if I never took one step up it in the first place. So how can men fall from God if they never were yielded to Him in the first place?

Some have tried to argue that this means falling away from traditional, “Biblical” morals and ideals. And yet men in general have never really held with “traditional” morals all that strongly. I think people who get the idea we have fallen away from traditional morals have a perspective of looking back on a certain period in the history of the United States, perhaps the 1950s, with the rather rosy glasses of an idea that men really were pretty good then, and are much worse now. Well, perhaps morals were better then than they are now, but as a whole our world has never had all that much time for God’s idea of the right way to live, even in the 1950s.

Others try to argue that the word “falling away” could also mean a “departure,” and suggest it does in its one other occurrence in the New Testament. Then, they argue that this means that the tribulation cannot happen until the “rapture” happens first, when the believers depart to heaven. Well, the passage where apostacia is sometimes translated “depart” is Acts 21:21. “But they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.” The word translated “forsake” in the New King James is the word apostacia. I will leave it up to the conscience of my readers to decide if the idea of a rapture-type departure would honestly fit into this word in this passage.

Another interesting passage in regards to the tribulation is Matthew 24:5-8.

5. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. 8. All these are the beginning of sorrows.

False Christs, wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes are declared to be “the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age.” (Verse 3.) Yet how could these things be signs of any such thing, when they have been common occurrences in this world ever since the time Christ spoke these words even up until today? And they did not start when Christ said these things, but they had been going on for a long time before that. These calamitous events would be much better signs if they would stop and then start again than they would be now, when we have always had such things going on. How can these mark the beginning of sorrows in a world that has never seen the end of sorrows? Yet if there were to be a period when the government of God would rule over the earth before the tribulation and Christ’s second coming, then it would make perfect sense that all these things, being taken under control by the Lord, would cease, and then it truly would be a notable sign when they start up again.

I believe that the tribulation is not just the natural outgrowth of all the evils of this world that we see around us every day. Rather, it is the result of a revolt against the kingdom of God, a revolt that divides that kingdom from the next stage of God’s work: Christ’s personal presence on earth for 1,000 years. So I believe the tribulation does fit into the picture, even with the kingdom of God being the next great event.

So, in conclusion, I believe that there is one crucial time period, one important bin into which we can sort the predictive prophecies of the Bible, that has been left out of the thinking of most modern-day students of eschatology, or the study of future things. I believe that this period of time is the kingdom of God on earth, when Christ is ruling the earth, not from His throne in Jerusalem, but from His throne in heaven. The bottom line is that I do not believe that the next great event prophetically is the tribulation, the most terrible period this world has ever known. Rather, I believe that the next event is a great enlightenment of all mankind. The Lord will take control of the earth, and make it the way He has always wanted it to be. That is the “bin” that most students of the word are missing, but that is an important period to recognize if we wish to believe all that is taught in the Word of God. God’s plans for the future are glorious. Let us continue to learn all we can of them.