In the book The Last Trumpet: The Mystery of God is Finished and a New Age Begins, author Robert Johnston explores biblical prophecy and the promises of God that relate to the end times. This excerpt is from chapter 3:
Then, before Jesus opened the seventh seal, John looked and saw those who had been raptured and resurrected from the earth. John tells us in Revelation 7:9 that he saw “a great multitude” suddenly appear in heaven “clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.” Palm trees have a certain spiritual significance in the Bible. Date palms are described many times as being tall and upright and prized for their dates. Almost every part of the tree can be used for shelter, roofing, fences, and other useful items. The palm tree exemplifies righteousness. Psalm 92:12 tells us, “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” The following is what John saw and heard:
After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. . . . And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
—Revelation 7:9–10, 13–14
The questions that beg to be asked are these: Who are the ones who have washed their robes and made them white? Are they those who claim to have accepted Christ as their Savior, or are they only the ones who have made him Lord and strived to walk in righteousness? Are they only the ones worthy and deserving, as described in Revelation 3:4? The scriptures give us some insight into this.
Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow. “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool. If you consent and obey, You will eat the best of the land; But if you refuse and rebel, You will be devoured by the sword.”
—Isaiah 1:16–20 (NASB)
When the rapture comes, those who made themselves ready will be taken. They will be ready for the marriage of the Lamb, even though it does not take place until all the saints are gathered immediately before Christ returns to earth to reign. “‘For the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.’ It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Rev. 19:7–8 NASB).
Preceding what the apostle Paul wrote about the rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17, he wrote the following admonition to Gentile believers, spelling out what God expected of them:
For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.
—1 Thessalonians 4:2–8 (NASB)
When Jesus broke open the seventh seal, John observed silence in heaven that lasted about half an hour. This silence could indicate a time of prayer in heaven for loved ones left behind (Rev. 8:1, 3–4). The seventh seal, the last seal, begins and ends the last three and a half years of the seven-year tribulation period. This period begins with the trumpet judgments previously listed in chapter two.
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