The Rapture and the Wrath of God

Part Two 

The First-fruits amongst the Overcomers

And

The Two Witnesses

 By

Mark Greenwood


We now come to the part that causes a lot of discord in the Body of Christ, the sequence of events that brings in the rule of Christ to the earth.  Before we start I need to clarify myself.

I do not believe in being dogmatic but open minded about certain topics of scripture, the return of the Lord is one of them.  We can have our opinions based on scripture; others may have a different opinion based on how they see scripture this then develops into what we call “schools of opinion”, serious contentions can exist between these schools.  When it comes to the return of Christ I have heard people who believe in the preterist version of events denounce everyone else, and even many people who believe in the pre-millennium return of Christ attack others vehemently because they believe differently as regards whether Christ returns according to the pre-trib, pre-wrath or post wrath theory.  To become contentious over this is a work of the flesh which God warns us against.  I believe we are so close to the return of Christ that we can have our viewpoint, which must line up with scripture, but also watch closely as events unfold keeping an open mind just in case one aspect of the actual return of Christ is different from our presumed point of view.

The following is what I see at this moment in time as a possibility of the sequence of events concerning the Lord’s return.  As it gets closer to the Lord’s return my viewpoint may be changed or adjusted, we can only watch and pray.  Previously I believed in the pre-trib theory, although I now believe the rapture is more likely to be in the mid position, i.e., after the first three and a half years and before the three and a half years of God’s wrath.  However, I still enjoy reading articles by people that believe in the pre-trib position. 

In the west we often view prophecy on a straight time line where once it is fulfilled that is it, while the Hebrew approach allows for more than one event fulfilling the same prophecy. Sometimes we may get a type in the Old Testament then an anti-type in the New Testament both regarding the same prophecy.

The seventy weeks of Daniel’s prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27) is an Old Testament timeline concerning the Jewish nation which was given to Daniel by the angel Gabriel (see www.gotquestions.org/seventy-weeks.html).  This timeline involves the exact date of the coming of the Messiah to the Jews.  People who work out these dates don’t always come to the same conclusion but most of them are convinced they are correct.  In general they work out the date of the crucifixion to be somewhere in the range of AD 30 to AD 33.  The reason I mention this is because Daniels prophecy shows that there is one week left to the Jewish people from the time of Messiah the Prince (one week in this prophecy is actually representative of seven years).  Jesus openly acknowledged who He was when He rode into Jerusalem on a colt fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold your king is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9).  A few days after this He was “cut off”, that is crucified.  There is one week (seven years) left to the Jewish people from the time of the crucifixion.

Basically this “one week” is given to the Jewish nation as a time when God calls them to believe in the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  This is their chance to accept Jesus as the One to “Finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy” (Daniel 9:24).  The first time Jesus came to them they rejected Him but one day the Lord will once again reveal Himself to them, this time they will accept Him as their Messiah and anoint Him as their King.

The Chronology of the New Testament by Lewis A. Foster (The Expositors Bible Commentary Volume 1) gives a time of four years from the crucifixion to the conversion of Saul.  I think this is logical considering all the things that took place between these two events. This makes the stoning of Stephen probably 3 to 4 years after Christ was crucified (some believe it was in the same year as Christ was crucified).  Even after the crucifixion of Christ God still didn’t give up on the Jewish nation but the Spirit witnessed to them continually right up to the testimony of Stephen when they finally rejected Christ and stoned Stephen to death.  After this the Lord appointed Paul to go to the Gentiles, and in Acts 13:45-46 we read, "But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul.  46 Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.   47a For so the Lord has commanded us:""

Because of the above I do not think there is necessarily another full seven years allocated to the children of Israel to receive Jesus as their Saviour, I would guess at three and a half years, it will be the time that the Bible says, “They will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn” (see Zechariah 12:10).   However I do believe there is a significant seven year period; the first three and a half years are the two witnesses and the second three and a half years given to the reign of the antichrist (beast from the bottomless pit) and this also includes the wrath of God on the earth.

Now let us get on with looking at the sequence of events that bring us to the reign of Christ on this earth.

I have named part two of this article, “The First-fruits amongst the Overcomers”.  All Christians are overcomers however there are first-fruits who are to be presented to the Father; these are representative of the whole. 

The first-fruits are the fruit or produce that ripens first.  They are collected first and give an indication of what the rest of the crop will be like (see Romans 11:16).  When the rest of the crop has become ripe it is gathered in together at the main harvest.  At the Harvest Festival the farmers would bring their first-fruits and present them to the church as an act of thanksgiving to God for a good harvest.

In the New Testament God’s people are looked at as wheat that when fully ripened need to be harvested.

Jesus spoke a parable about the kingdom of heaven being like a man who sowed good seed in his field but while he slept his enemy came in and sowed tares amongst them.  He then explains that He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world and the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one.  The tares will first be gathered together in bundles to burn them, but the wheat, which is from the good seed, will be gathered into His barn (Matthew 13:24-43).

In the Old Testament we have illustrations or laws which have significant meaning for us today. This is the same with the harvest.

Grain was harvested in April, May, and June, beginning with the barley harvest and ending with the wheat harvest, the grapes were harvested after the wheat harvest, sometime in August and September.  The first-fruits of the barley harvest were usually collected in early April which is the month Nisan in the Jewish calendar.  The month Nisan is the time when the Feast of Passover, the Feast of unleavened Bread and the Feast of First-fruits took place.  The Feast of First-fruits involved bringing a sheaf of the first-fruits of the harvest to the priest.  The Feast of First-fruits is during the Feast of Unleavened Bread therefore no leaven could be involved in this presentation as it represents Jesus presenting Himself before the Father at His resurrection from the dead.  Leaven represents sin and Jesus was sinless, He dealt with all sin on the cross and now came before the Father without sin.  

The priest waved this sheaf of the first-fruits of the barley harvest before the Lord on the day after the first Sabbath following the Passover which is the first day of the week.  This happens usually about early April.  It is a picture of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is the First-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Fifty days later or seven weeks of Sabbaths is the Feast of Weeks, also known as the day of Pentecost, and falls round about May or June time.  It is the time of the summer wheat harvest and once again an offering is made to the Lord, this time with the first-fruits of the wheat harvest.  This is also known as the latter first-fruits, or second first-fruits.  This new grain offering is two wave-loaves of two tenths of fine flour baked with leaven.  These are the first-fruits of the wheat harvest which are presented to the Lord fifty days after the Feast of First-fruits (Leviticus 23:15-17).  Are these the first-fruits of the church? It would seem so.

After the first-fruits of the wheat harvest are taken, the rest of the wheat becomes ripe and is harvested.

We can see that if the rapture took place today not all the church would be ripe at the same time; however at the removal of the first-fruits the rest of the church would quickly mature ready for the main harvest.

Now it is important to note that the wheat harvest takes place before the grape harvest.  The grape harvest represents the time of God’s wrath upon the earth.  So by the time of God’s wrath, the church (wheat) has already been removed from the earth.

Romans chapter 8:19-23 says, “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 

“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and labours with birth pangs together until now.

“Not only that, but we also who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.”  (NKJV).

A word of explanation here, we are not adopted into God’s family in the modern sense of adoption but rather we are born into God’s family, we are children of God not by adoption but by birth. When God adopts us it is that He recognizes His children have matured and He now acknowledges them as sons.  It is the placing of children into the responsible position of a son.  Romans 8:14 says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”

Full adoption it would seem is at the redemption of our bodies.

So at this moment in time we are awaiting the redemption of our bodies.

The sequence of events after the seven seals, as I see them, is that first the two witnesses (more on them later) after giving testimony for three and a half years (1260 days), are overcome and killed by the beast.  They are overcome physically not spiritually, in fact they overcome the accuser of the brethren, by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their life unto death (see Revelation 12:11).  These are resurrected and meet the Lord in the clouds (Rev. 11:12).  They are acknowledged as first-fruits (Rev14:1-5), afterwards those Christians who are still alive on the earth at this time are caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:13-18).

The three and a half years of the two witnesses are followed by three and a half years of the beast reigning and enforcing everyone to take the mark of the beast. It is during this time that the seven bowls of God's wrath are poured out on the earth.

Who are the two witnesses in Revelation chapter 11?  For three and a half years they have exalted the Lord Jesus Christ with powerful signs and wonders.  These two witnesses have a different kind of ministry than what we normally expect from Christians, “If anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner.  These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire” (Revelation 11:5-6).  This fire which proceeds from their mouth is possibly not literal fire, but fire that is symbolic of the word of God (see Jeremiah 23:29). The death it brings to the hearers of the word is a death to the intentions of harm they purposed to do to the witnesses (see John 7:45-47). The message is still, “Grace, grace” (Zechariah 4:7), but I believe we are right at the end time where lawlessness has increased beyond believe, everyone doing their own thing, no one wanting to listen any more, God in His mercy is making Himself heard in such a way that man can have no excuse.   The Bible says, “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him” (see Isaiah 59:19).  These two witnesses are the restrainers who restrain the lawlessness  until  they are gone and then the lawless one shall be revealed (see 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7).

So then, the question is who are these two witnesses? Some say Moses and Elijah, others Enoch and Elijah, some say the Christians and Jews.  The Bible tells us who they are, "These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth" (Revelation 11:4).  That actually makes four, so there is more to the meaning than just two persons. We also have an almost identical passage in the Old Testament that we can refer to, an angel is talking to Zechariah, "And he said to me, "What do you see?" So I said, "I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps. v3"Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left"" (Zechariah 4:2-3). 

So the main difference between the passage in the book of Revelation and the one in Zechariah is that there are two lampstands in Revelation but in Zechariah there is only one.  That is very significant; it is the key to what the lampstands represent. They are witnesses because they have a testimony that must be given out in its entirety (Rev. 11:7).  In Zechariah there is only one lampstand because at that time there was only one lamp, that is, the Old Testament, in Revelation there are two lampstands which are the Old Testament and the New Testament.  The lampstands are what hold the lamp in order for it to shine in the right place. The Old Testament as well as the New Testament both testify of Jesus (Luke 24:27, 1 Corinthians 15:1-6). The Bible says, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105), so the word is a lamp.  Also we are told, “—the seven lampstands that you saw are the seven churches” (Revelation 1:20), so the word is a lamp and the church is a lampstand.  We have the church of God, proclaiming the word of God (see Acts 9:15), this is one witness.

However we need something more because without the Spirit the word is dead.

What about the two olive trees? The Bible tells us in Zechariah 4:14, "So he said, "These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth."" The olive trees represent the anointing of the Holy Spirit. It is no longer by our own might or power that we proclaim the word of God but it is by the Spirit of God that the word is proclaimed.

Who are the two anointed ones?   Well, they are represented here by Joshua and Zerubbabel the two ministers that this passage has in view (this is a different Joshua from the one who led the Children of Israel into the Promised Land).  Joshua belongs to the priest line and Zerubbabel belongs to the royal line of David.  Both the priesthood had the anointing and also the royal line (the king) had the anointing. The oil represents the Holy Spirit (see Zechariah 4:6). Jesus Christ is both the King and the Priest, the anointed one of God.  So we have the  lampstand (the church),  the lamp (the word) ,  the oil (the anointing of the  word)  revealing Jesus the light of the world.

John 15: 26-27 when Jesus is speaking to His disciples He says, “But when the Helper comes (the Comforter), whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”

So we have the Spirit and the disciples (the church) proclaiming the truth which is the word of God concerning Jesus who is the light of the world. These are the two witnesses.

So Jesus is the anointed word of God who is revealed in the Old Testament by the Law and the Prophets and also in the New Testament by the Apostles.

How does the word witness to the unsaved?

Psalm 107:20 says, "He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions." How did God send His word? Hebrews 10:5 says, "Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body you have prepared for Me.""  In John 1:1 we read, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Then in verse 14 we read, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."

So the word needs a body in order to be revealed to the people. We are the body of Christ, 1 Corinthians 12:27 says, "Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually."  1 Corinthians 12:13 says, "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body --- whether  Jews or Greeks, whether  slaves or free --- and have all been made to drink into one Spirit." 

So we, the church, are one body which is His body, and we have the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit teaches us the word of God and it is the Holy Spirit who will testify of Jesus through us (see John 15:26, Matthew 10:20).

The two witnesses are the vessels of the anointed word of God, the Old and New Testaments.  In the Old Testament it was Moses and the prophets who gave God's word, and in the New Testament it is the body of Christ.  In the Old Testament He says to the children of Israel, "Therefore you are my witnesses, says the Lord that I am God" (Isaiah 43:10-12).  In the New Testament He says to the disciples, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

It is possible then, that the witnesses who go to Israel with the word concerning their Messiah are two "Old Testament" saints, but it is also possible that these two witnesses are modern day Jews who are saved and part of the body of Christ today, they go in the spirit of Elijah and Moses, just as John the Baptist went in the spirit of Elijah. Malachi prophesied that before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord, God would send Elijah the prophet to testify (Malachi 4:5), whether it is actually Elijah or someone acting in the spirit of Elijah remains to be seen, the point is, it is before the coming of the Day of the Lord not after it. There is also a much larger group of Christians filled with the Spirit (see Acts 1:8) who are the first-fruits to the Lord (Revelation 14:1-5).  Between them they are the two wave loaves of Leviticus 23:17 who are the first-fruits of the wheat harvest which are presented to the Lord. These first-fruits are also mentioned in Revelation 14:1-5 as 144000 first-fruits redeemed from the earth. 

Why does it just say two? Well, apart from the Old and New Testaments, to have a witness there has to be at least two.  Jesus sent the twelve apostles out two by two (Mark 6:7), and later He sent seventy out also two by two to be His witnesses (Luke 10:1).  Each pair were His two witnesses to the place that He sent them.  In these last days those sent to Jerusalem to minister to the Jews will no doubt be Jewish, others of the first-fruits could be sent, two by two, to their own native lands. They will expound to the people the word of God, showing them in the Old Testament and in the New Testament the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.  When they have finished their testimony they are overcome by the beast from the bottomless pit, that is, the physical bodies of the saints are overcome by the beast not their spirits, the saints overcome the beast as far as the spiritual side goes.

 The two witnesses are left on the street of the city of Jerusalem where everyone rejoices over their death, however three and a half days later they rise to their feet, this is followed by a loud voice from heaven saying "Come up here" and they ascend to heaven in a cloud in view of all the people that were rejoicing at their death (Revelation 11:12). The angel sounds the seventh trumpet. The rest of the dead in Christ are also caught up to meet the Lord in the clouds.  After these things there is an angel flying in the midst of heaven proclaiming the gospel to all who dwell on the earth, followed by a second angel saying Babylon is fallen, and then a third angel warning against taking the mark of the beast.  These are followed by the rapture of all the saints who are alive on the earth (see Revelation 14:1-16).  It is after this that the wrath of the Lord God Almighty finally comes (Revelation chapter 16, see also Revelation 11:17-18).  There are three and a half years of the reign of the beast which is also the time of God's wrath upon the earth. The saints do not go through God's wrath; the beast makes war with them and overcomes them. So it seems that at the time when the beast makes war with the two witnesses, overcomes them and kills them, he also makes war on the saints and overcomes them (Revelation 13:7).

I believe that there is a possibility that when the two witnesses ascend to heaven on clouds they are followed soon after by the rapture of the saints.  Not only is there a loud voice telling the two witnesses to come up into the clouds but at the same time there is also a shout when the Lord returns for His saints, and the dead in Christ rise first (this shout could be the same "loud voice" to the two witnesses).  Not only do the two witnesses rise up but I believe it is shortly after this, that all of the dead in Christ rise up to meet the Lord in the clouds.  This is followed, not long after, by all the Christians who are alive and remain who will also be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.

In Revelation chapter 12 we read of the overcomers and how they overcome the devil, verse 11 says, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”  Even in their death they overcame.  The beast was not allowed to overcome and kill the two witnesses until they had finished their testimony (see Revelation 11:7).

In Revelation chapter 14 there are 144000 first-fruits who are redeemed from the earth, from among men (see verse 3-4), these are the two wave loaves, the first-fruit of the wheat harvest (not to be confused with the 144000 Jews in Revelation chapter 7).  In Romans 8:23 we read, “Not only that, but we also who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.”  Is this the adoption (the revelation of the son's of God) that Paul says we are eagerly waiting for, the redemption of our body?

 After the two witnesses have risen to the clouds we read in Revelation 14:14-16 that the harvest of the earth is ripe and ready for reaping, that is, the Christians who are alive on the earth have now matured therefore they too are caught up to meet the Lord in the air with those who have died and gone first. Here we have the main harvest of wheat as in Matthew 13:24-43 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.  In 1Thessalonians 4:16 there is the voice of the archangel while in Revelation 14:15 it is the loud voice of the angel encouraging the Lord to reap the harvest. The harvest is reaped and all the saints are now safe with the Lord.

After this there is the harvest of the vine, the “ingathering” of the fruit harvest where the grapes are gathered and thrown into the winepress.  Revelation 14:17-20 says, “Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.” So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs.”

Finally the harvests of the Lord are complete and are a perfect illustration of God’s dealings with man.

Updated June 2020

 Next:   Seven Churches, Seven Seals, Seven Trumpets


Unless otherwise stated scripture quoted is from the New King James Version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Inc. Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

The article above is the possible development of events as I see them at the moment.

The reader is advised to keep an open mind and to “watch” as world events bring us nearer to the coming of the Lord.