Palm Sunday is the day when the church remembers Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Riding on a donkey, He paraded into the city as the crowd shouted “Hosanna” which is Hebrew for “Lord, save us!” Waving palm branches in the air and spreading their cloaks before Him, they welcomed the Messiah and proclaimed Him as their King. We view this situation as unique, yet it wasn’t the first time this scenario had been played out. Welcoming a hero into town was a well-known practice, and there was a right way to do it that the people all knew about.
In those days, when a conquering hero would return to the capital city, the people would leave town and greet him on the road before he entered the gates. They would join in the procession and re-enter the city with him, celebrating as they went. In this way, the people identified with their hero, and he with them. He had gone out and conquered in their name. His triumph was theirs, and their joy was his. This is what they did with Jesus, meeting Him on the road before He entered Jerusalem and hailing Him as Messiah.
As they acted out the first Palm Sunday, the people were simply doing what they had done before, as they welcomed other dignitaries into town, with the exception of their declaration of Jesus as their Savior. Little did they know that they were also serving as a prototype for the second coming of Christ.
In our study through the book of Revelation, we have used the word “Rapture” many times. Though the word itself never appears in the Bible, neither do many other theological terms that we use. While some deny the Rapture, I believe that the concept is found throughout the scriptures. Among other passages, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18[i] says:
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
While some Bible scholars deny the Rapture, others affirm it but disagree on when it will take place. Some believe in a pretribulation rapture, while others believe that it will take place somewhere in the middle or the end of Jacob’s Trouble. It is not my purpose to figure out timelines, other than affirming the Bible’s teaching that believers will be instantly translated to their glorified forms and will meet Jesus in the air. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 says, “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”
Whether it happens at the beginning, middle, or end of the Tribulation, it is certain that when Jesus returns, He will do so along with the dead in Christ who have risen, and with those still alive who have met Him in the air. In Revelation 19:11-16, John writes about the Second Coming, which may be at the same time or some time after the Rapture:
And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
Just as the residents of Jerusalem welcomed Jesus as their victorious Hero by leaving the city and parading back in with Him, so the raptured and resurrected Church will be taken up, to return with Him along with the heavenly host. No matter whether you believe in a pre-trib, post-trib, or mid-trib Rapture, the fact is that we don’t really know when it will happen, so why not live as if it’s today? Our Daily Bread has a story about the need to be ready at any time:
While on a South Pole expedition, British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton left a few men on Elephant Island, promising that he would return. Later, when he tried to go back, huge icebergs blocked the way. But suddenly, as if by a miracle, an avenue opened in the ice and Shackleton was able to get through. His men, ready and waiting, quickly scrambled aboard. No sooner had the ship cleared the island than the ice crashed together behind them. Contemplating their narrow escape, the explorer said to his men, "It was fortunate you were all packed and ready to go!" They replied, "We never gave up hope. Whenever the sea was clear of ice, we rolled up our sleeping bags and reminded each other, 'The boss may come today.'"
In the same way, Christians need to be ready for the Lord to return at any moment. Since we don’t know when He will return, we should be found ready when He does split the sky.
In Revelation 19, after the return of Christ, we see the doom of the Beast and False Prophet, who are thrown into the Lake of Fire. Their followers are destroyed with the sword that proceeds from the Lord’s mouth.
Chapter 20 records the binding of Satan, and his imprisonment in the Abyss for a thousand years. Just as people debate the timing of the Rapture, they also disagree on the meaning of the Millennium, or thousand-year reign of Christ. Verses 4-6 say:
Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
Some say that the Millennium has been taking place since the beginning of Christian history. Others who look to a future unfolding of the Millennium see it as a literal thousand year period. Still other futurists look toward an actual future reign of Christ, but maintain that this is a symbolic number. Personally, I don’t think it matters much. The important thing is that not only will Jesus be reigning, but that His followers will rule with Him. The afterlife isn’t a time for believers to placidly play their harps on clouds, but a time to get to work serving the Lord. When the Millennium is complete, Satan will be unbound for a time, to make one last-ditch effort at deception. This will cleanse the earth of any who might possibly reject the Lord’s rule before Satan’s followers are destroyed and he is thrown for the last time in the lake of fire (verses 7-10). The Millennium will have ended, but now the eternal reign of Christ begins—it is interrupted by so short an interlude that it doesn’t matter whether the 1,000 years are literal or symbolic. In reality, Jesus will reign forever and ever.
Verses 11-15 describe the Great White Throne judgment, where the dead are judged, and those whose names are not found written in the Book of Life are thrown into the lake of fire.
Chapter 21 tells of a new beginning. People who talk about the “end of the world” should read this chapter, because in it they will see that instead of an ending, God is bringing about a new beginning:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new (verses 1-5a).”
Heaven is a place where believers go now when they die, but there’s coming a time when the raptured, resurrected, and redeemed will reside on a renewed earth, with a restored Jerusalem at its center. Here, both the holy city and the garden of God are united in one perfect harmony. The city is bedecked with bejeweled walls, pearly gates, and streets of gold. The garden is resplendent with a river of life flowing from the throne of God. Trees grow along it, bearing fruit which heals the nations (chapter 22).
These final chapters of John’s Apocalypse clearly say that there are those who are admitted to this new kingdom, and those who are on the outside. Not everyone is saved. Some have been thrown into the lake of fire, and some are simply left out because of their immorality and idolatry. John warns his readers to “wash their robes,” meaning that they should put on the purity of Christ.
Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book…Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end (v. 7, 12-13).” This is echoed in verse 17, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” In verse 20, Jesus says, “‘Yes, I am coming quickly.” Then John replies, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”
These final words, “Come, Lord Jesus,” or “Lord Jesus is coming” were a common greeting used by first-century Christians. Revelation 22:20 is rendered in Greek as “Erchou Kyrie Iesou,” but the common expression “Come, Lord” was in Aramaic: “Maranatha.” This term came to replace the typical Jewish greeting of “Shalom” (Peace), because Jesus had said that there would be no earthly peace. Instead, in their greeting they encouraged one another to wait for His coming. Believers of past, present, and future generations can hang their hats on this one word, “Maranatha,” and trust that the Lord will come, just as He said He would. [ii]
Today, as we come to the close of our study on Revelation, we move from “Hosanna,” which is a cry asking salvation, to “Maranatha,” a cry of expectation. Only those who have truthfully pleaded the former can say the latter with any hope. The truth is that the Lord is coming—but only those who are saved have anything to shout about. If you haven’t received the Lord as your Savior, God’s Word gives a vivid picture of your eternity apart from Him. But if you ask the Lord to save you, He will give you an eternal home and hope for each day. I pray that you will trust the Lord for your future, and ask Him to save you today.