Bible prophecy can be very confusing if you don’t understand that there are different tracks running at the same time for different people groups. We have already discussed how there will soon be a sharp divide of the earth’s population into two main tracks:
- Believers – those who are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ are about to be snatched out of a time of great anguish upon the earth as it begins to unfold. This is known as the rapture of the church. Believers will enter the heavenly track known as the Day of Christ. This involves both Jew and Gentile, there is no distinction.
- Unbelievers – those who are not “born again” into God’s family are about to face the Day of the Lord on earth.
Dividing Those Left Behind
It is the unbelievers, who are left behind, that we will further examine here! The Left Behind are about to be further divided:
- God’s 2 Witnesses – Before the Day of the Lord begins, the Jews are expecting Elijah to appear. Whether one of the witnesses is Elijah or not, God will arise two witnesses for Himself. These will almost certainly be Israelites (Hebrew – not limited to the tribe of Judah (Jews)). These two will function as prophets for a period of 1260 days and will be granted authority and power from God. During their ministry, they are offered special protection from God and will be invincible (the fact that this invincibility is necessary suggests to me that people will be actively trying to kill them). They will perform miraculous signs and wonders, as in Old Testament times. They are referred to as “lampstands” and “olive trees”, indicating that they are God’s light to the world (having replaced the church) as well as of Hebrew lineage. For more on the 2 Witnesses see this post: Who are the Two Witnesses in Revelation 11?
- 144,000 Israelites – Once the church is removed from the earth, God’s Holy Spirit moves to supernaturally seal 144,000 Israelites. These are described as “firstfruits to God and to the Lamb” and are likely the first Hebrew believers in Jesus Christ after the rapture. They may not know their tribal lineage, but God certainly does. How they are saved is not detailed. These are specially protected against Trumpet #5’s demonic locust army. They are not protected against death, as we see them all appear on the heavenly Mount Zion as firstfruits redeemed from the earth shortly after the 2 witnesses are killed. For more on the 144,000 Israelites see this post: Who are the 144,000?
- Hebrew “Tribulation” Believers – With the partial blindness of Israel lifted after the fullness of the Gentiles was completed at the rapture (Romans 11:25), many Hebrews will come to know Jesus Christ at this time. Zechariah 13:8 tells us that 1/3 of the Israelites will be brought through the trials of the Day of the Lord to be His people. These Hebrew believers represent “Elect Israel”, who is portrayed as “The Woman” in prophetic passages. The woman (the elect portion of Israel, written in the Lamb’s book of Life since the foundation of the world) will be offered two different chances to be protected and we will discuss that further below.
- Hebrew Unbelievers – While most of the Hebrews/Jews will likely be inspired to rebuild the Third Temple and re-institute the Old Testament sacrificial system, many of them (the other 2/3 – Zech 13:8) will continue to reject Jesus Christ as the Messiah. It seems that instead, they may actually embrace the antichrist as their “messiah” and later, after his apparent resurrection from the dead, as “god”. They will be so enamored with the antichrist, in fact, that they will entice the nations of the world to worship him as well. In doing so, they will perform the ultimate act of harlotry towards God and become “Mystery Babylon“. When Jesus comes at the second coming, these will wail and mourn because of how they were deceived.
- Gentile “Tribulation” Believers – Many who are “left behind” at the rapture event will know enough to realize what has possibly occurred. This is where the seeds planted today may finally sprout! While the 2 witnesses and the 144,000 Israelites will be likely centered in Israel, they may also play a part in witnessing to the world during the Day of the Lord. While the first 3.5 years after the rapture may be relatively peaceful for believers, all that will change when the antichrist proclaims to be “god”. It is these “tribulation” believers that will face the greatest persecution and martyrdom of all time. Because of the increase in lawlessness (and persecution), many will fall away and betray other believers. These saints will be delivered into the antichrist’s hand, and they will be offered no special protection from God. “If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.” (Revelation 13:10) Before God pours out His final Bowls of Wrath, He will send an Announcing Angel to give a final boarding call – declaring the eternal gospel to every tribe, language, nation, and people. In this way, the gospel will be preached to all nations, and then the end will come.
- Gentile Unbelievers – This group will be deceived by the antichrist and the false prophet. They may not actually buy into his religion, but will be definitely tempted to go along with him and take his mark in order to be able to buy and sell. No special protection is offered from God to this group; in fact, they are the target of His wrath because “they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2). When Jesus comes at the Battle of Armageddon, these also will wail and mourn at how they were deceived.
We have covered how God will specially protect His 2 Witnesses and the sealed 144,000 to some extent. Gentile believers and all unbelievers will not have any special protection. Now we need to further examine the special protection afforded to Elect Israel. The elect remnant of Israel will be offered protection at two specific times – for the duration of the “greatest tribulation” and a last-minute-protection right before the destruction of Mystery Babylon. Let’s take a look at these two times.
Protection in the Wilderness
“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. (Matthew 24:15-22 ESV)
Jesus, when teaching His disciples on the Mount of Olives, warns those who will be alive during the latter days that when they see the “abomination of desolation” they must immediately flee. Although most of His teaching in this discourse spans a wide range of time, this part of His teaching is addressed to a specific group of people who will be living in Judea (Jerusalem) at a specific point in time. It also suggests that the people He is addressing will be observing the Sabbath (and thus be observant Jews/Hebrews). He warns that great tribulation is about to follow this event. From the books of Daniel and Revelation, we know that this is when the antichrist/beast declares to be “god” and begins persecuting anyone who doesn’t worship him. Jesus is offering protection for those who flee (note, if you are a Gentile living in Jerusalem, feel free to flee with them – you will also be protected!). Where should they go?
and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days. (Revelation 12:5 ESV)
And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. (Revelation 12:13-16 ESV)
The woman, who is the elect remnant of Israel, will be assisted by God to flee to the place He has prepared for her in the wilderness for 1260 days (equal to time, times, and half a time; where time= 1 year). Most people interpret this location to be Petra, in Jordan (ancient region of Edom, which will be spared from the antichrist’s hand – Daniel 11:41). (For more on Petra, see THIS YouTube clip)
That she is given wings like an eagle to flee, speaks of her speed and God’s assistance in her flight. It brings to mind when God brought them into the wilderness the first time in the first Exodus, in which He also refers to bearing them on wings like an eagle:
‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. (Exodus 19:4 ESV)
Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. (Exodus 23:20 ESV)
That the dragon/serpent pours water like a river out of his mouth in order to sweep her away, I really just see as the antichrist sending his troops after her. That the earth opens up and swallows them could be sinkholes or an earthquake.
I believe this point in time is when Michael, the angel prince in charge of Israel, rises. He rises to protect the elect remnant that have obediently fled, and perhaps stands guard to protect them in the wilderness. This would also parallel the first Exodus, where God’s angel went before them in the wilderness. It also might explain why Edom (Petra) is untouchable by the antichrist.
At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. (Daniel 12:1 ESV)
Michael is the angel assigned to protect Israel (Jude 1:9). It appears that Michael will stand for the obedient elect Israel who flee to the wilderness. He will stand guard over them for the 1260 days of the antichrist’s rule – this is why Edom (Jordan) escapes out of the antichrist’s hand. This leading to, and protection in, the wilderness is a similar parallel to the first exodus.
And so the faithful woman will be sheltered under the shadow of the Almighty:
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. (Psalm 91:1-4 ESV)
Remember that Jesus has longed for this moment:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! (Matthew 23:37 ESV)
Israel’s children have been gathered at last, to be safely sheltered under the wings of the God who loves her so. Perhaps the Lord will supply manna for this chosen remnant; wouldn’t that be a beautiful thing?
Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.” (Revelation 18:4-5 ESV)
In Revelation 18, during the description of the destruction of Mystery Babylon (the end-times city of Jerusalem), we are introduced to a voice from heaven which calls forth – “Come out of her, my people!”. Since these people belong to the voice, this voice can belong to none other than Jesus Himself. Jesus is offering a final escape, before the imminent destruction of Mystery Babylon commences. But how are the people supposed to come out? Where are they supposed to go? The option to flee to the wilderness and be protected for 1260 days after the abomination of desolation (as per Revelation 12 and Matthew 24) has long since passed. The answer comes to us through the prophet Zechariah:
Behold, a day is coming for the Lord, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light. On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one. (Zechariah 14:1-9 ESV)
In Zechariah chapter 14 we learn of God’s last-second-grace towards the last few stragglers of His believing remnant in Jerusalem. Now, it’s a little confusing, so let’s go over the passage a little bit at a time. The day that is coming is the End of the Day of the Lord – the Second Coming of Christ. This is the time when all the nations will gather against Jerusalem to battle for the Battle of Armageddon. Note that Zechariah 14 ties together our previous discussions that Mystery Babylon is the end-times city of Jerusalem. When the nations amass for the Battle of Armageddon, they also destroy Mystery Babylon – much to her surprise and dismay. She will “sit as a queen” no longer. This likely happens between the 6th and 7th Bowl Judgments, although Jerusalem (in its current form) will be destroyed more completely at the 7th Bowl.
Also of note is that Jesus inserts a warning that He is coming like a thief in between the 6th and 7th Bowls, and that “Blessed is the one who stays awake”. Those who are awake and watching will hear His call to “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities” (Revelation 18:4-5 ESV). It seems that possibly half the city will go into exile (come out of the city) in obedience. On that day, the day that the city goes into exile, the Mount of Olives will be split to create a path for the exiles to flee “as before a great earthquake”. Whether Jesus literally touches down on the Mount of Olives at this time, I am not sure. What is clear is that the Mount of Olives splitting in two to allow fleeing, is not at the same time as Jerusalem splitting in three at the 7th Bowl Judgment. The fleeing is a true escape option.
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls. (Joel 2:31-32 ESV)
This escape route is also detailed in Joel 2. Remember how when Peter quoted Joel 2 in Acts 2 he stopped after “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved”? That salvation was for the church age, and marked its’ end at the rapture. Now, we see the final fulfillment of that verse. Again, “it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved”, but this time it will be those who flee from Mount Zion and Jerusalem – “there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.”. This is the elect remnant of Israel – “and so all Israel shall be saved.” (Romans 11:26).
God, in His faithfulness, will extend every opportunity to His elect.
Are you CERTAIN of your Salvation, beyond a shadow of a doubt? Do you KNOW that no matter when the rapture occurs, you will be counted worthy to escape? If not, please read What Must I do to Be Saved.
Edom, Moab, and Ammon (GraceThruFaith)
What is the Significance of the City of Petra in the Bible (gotquestions)
Jerusalem at the End of the Age (GraceThruFaith)
The Bible is infallible. I am not. Be a Berean – examine the scriptures for yourself to see if these things are so!