Many in this world speculate about what happens next. Religious leaders are busy pondering the “end times”. They have elaborate expectations about what happens next in the Bible. For example, a search on “end times timeline” reveals countless charts, documents, and presentations that have been put together to illustrate what happens next. One such timeline that maps out what happens next is from GotQuestions.org where it lists twelve things that will occur next! The list includes many “events” that are based on a single verse in Scripture (what we call ‘Scripture weighting‘). What’s worse, they presume a confident interpretation of an otherwise very unclear, even cryptic, prophetic statement without an inspired writer’s confirmation.

Wild speculation aside, what do the inspired writers make plain about what happens next in the normal course of their writing?

How Scripture answers "What happens next in the Bible?"

What happens next is Jesus Christ’s appearing again1,4,8,9,12,13,14,18,19,20 in glory2,6,12,16,17 for the final judgment3,5,7,9,15. In other words, it’s “the end”8,10, when Jesus turns the kingdom back11 to the Father8. This final judgment is referred to in different ways: Jesus says, “end of the age”10 and “last day”21, Peter says, “day of visitation”3, Paul says, “appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ”2, and the Hebrews writer calls it, “the Day drawing near”7. What happens next for saints that endure to “the end”8,16 is a salvation4,18/eternal life17,21 and glorification with Christ6,12,13 that includes a bodily resurrection8,19,21. What happens next for those unsaved or fallen away13 is destruction10,15,19.

Note the absence of elaborate charts! According to Jesus, what happens next is very straightforward1,10,17,21…same with Paul2,6,8,13,18,19,20…same with Peter3,9,16. These writers never bother to mention any “seven-year period”, some personification of an “Antichrist”, a formal (capital “T”) tribulation, or a “rapture” of living saints. Christians in this “present age”2 and current end times will regularly “proclaim the Lord’s death”20, endure persecution16 while “waiting for our blessed hope”2,12.

Answer built on scripture-blocks below

Jesus said to him, You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.
Jesus told him [the high priest] that the next time that he sees the Son of Man [Jesus], He will be seated on His throne at the right hand of Power [God] returning on the clouds.

The night (or early, next morning) of Jesus’ trial and the first of His interrogations in front of “the chief priests and the whole council” (vs 59). Mark (14:53-65), Luke (22:66-71), and John (18:12-13, 19-24) are parallel accounts.

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus said they would see Him again when He returns “on the clouds” in power.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

God’s grace appeared, bringing salvation for all people and training us to renounce sin and its passions.  As a result, we live godly, righteous lives, controlling ourselves in the present age and waiting for the appearing of the glory God – Jesus Christ, our hope.  He gave himself to redeem us from all lawlessness, purifying us as a people for His own possession and eagerly doing good.

Paul is writing to a young preacher, Titus.  He provides instructions regarding many of the other roles in the congregation including pastors/elders and deacons in chapter one. He continues to give instruction regarding behavior to certain segments/groups within the church: older men (2:2), older women (2:3), younger women (2:4), younger men (2:6), and finally slaves (2:9).  With all of these, their behavior is to be exhibited as would “accord with sound doctrine” (1:9, 2:1, 2:10).

Scripture-block application to this question

Paul says Jesus appeared once, and after “the present age” He is appearing again.

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Please, as strangers in this land, resist the passions of the flesh that will capture your soul. Among the Gentiles, behave honorably, so that when they accuse you of being evildoers, they will see your good works and God will be glorifed in the final day.

Peter is writing to the “elect” of the “dispersion” – Christians that have been scattered throughout Galatia and Asia Minor.  He is encouraging them to stand firm in the face of current persecution and reminding them of the promise they have in and through Christ.

In this chapter, Peter calls forward several prophetic statements including Isaiah 28:16 (vs 6), Psalms 118:22 (vs 7), and Isaiah 8:14 (vs 8).  In verse 9, Peter takes all of the characterizations that God made (through Moses) to his people in

Exodus 19:5-6
and applies them to Christians. Finally, in verse 10, he recalls Hosea 1:6, 9, 10, the same verses that Paul applies to the Gentiles being grafted in by God in
Romans 9:25-26
.
Scripture-block application to this question

Same as Paul1, Peter warns about good behavior and fighting sin in light of what was next — “the day of visitation”.

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Just as man’s appointment is to die and then face judgment, so also Christ has already been offered to bear the sins of many and will appear a second time not to deal with sin but to save those still waiting for His return.

The Hebrews writer is in the midst of his argument about why Jesus and the new covenant are better than the old – here specifically arguing about His superiority as a High Priest.

Scripture-block application to this question

Man will die (once), and then comes the judgment.

After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you. At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him.

Felix and his Jewish wife Drusilla sent for Paul to hear him speak about faith in Jesus Christ.  Paul reasoned about righteousness, self-control and the coming judgement.  Felix was alarmed by the message and sent him away but continued to meet with him as he had other motives of getting a bribe from him.

Paul has been arrested upon a return trip to Jerusalem (following his third missionary journey) and is being held by the Roman governor, Felix.
Scripture-block application to this question

In speaking “about faith in Christ Jesus,” Paul spoke to Felix about the “now” (“righteousness and self-control”) and the “next” (“the coming judgment”).

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
For you have died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ appears, in whom you have life, you also will appear with Him in glory.

Paul is encouraging the Colossians to “keep seeking the things above” (vs 1)  and imploring them to “put off” (vs 8) the sins of the world. He continues to give specific “in the Lord” behavioral instructions for wives (vs 18), husbands (vs 19), children (vs 20), fathers (vs 21), and slaves (vs 22).

Scripture-block application to this question

When Jesus does appear, the saints will also appear with Him in glory.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Lets all think about how to provoke each other to love and good works by not skipping worship as some are doing, but coming together to encourage each other more and more as the final day of judgement draws near.

This letter to Jewish Christians that were now scattered throughout the region contrasts their Old Covenant worship practices (e.g. sacrifices, High Priest, etc.) with the New Covenant under Jesus Christ.  Specifically here, the writer is relating the practice of the High Priest entering the Holy Place to the Christian’s responsiblity to do the same (in worship).
Scripture-block application to this question

Saints meet together and continue in “love and good works” and “encouraging one another” until “the Day” comes.

But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

But in this order: first [was] Christ’s resurrection, then the resurrection of those that belong to Him when He comes [again].  Finally, the end when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed every rule, authority and power.  Because of this, He must reign until He has put all of His enemies under His feet.

Paul is making a great defense for the resurrection of Jesus and what that means for the Christian’s faith.  Without Jesus being raised, their faith would be “in vain” (vs 14), they’d still be in their sins (vs 17), the dead “in Christ” would have truly perished (vs 18) and everyone else “in Christ” should be “most pitied” (vs 19).  He then shifts to highlight an order of things that begins in verse 20 and continues through 28.
Scripture-block application to this question

Christ reigns (currently) until all enemies are subdued, “then comes the end” when He delivers the kingdom back to God. Paul’s timeline is Christ’s resurrection, then His coming when those who belong to Christ are raised19, then “the end”.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, prepare for action by being sober-minded, and be fully committed to the assurance of the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Peter is writing to Christians in difficult times, reminding them to continue in their faith in Jesus. He goes on to say they should be “as obedient children” (vs 14) and “conduct yourselves with fear” (vs 17).
Scripture-block application to this question

Peter’s “call to action” for the Christian is based on what happens “at the revelation of Jesus Christ”. No mention of some period of “rapture” or “tribulation”.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Peter goes on to describe the current time for the Christian as “the time of your exile” (vs 17) contrasted with God’s time of judgment. So there are just two “states” described by Peter in this context – now and what’s next.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Again the kingdom of heaven is like a net that’s thrown into the sea to catch fish of every kind.  When it’s full, men draw it in to sort the good from the bad.  The good are kept and the bad are thrown out.  So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out to separate the evil from the righteous.  The evil will be thrown into the firey furnace in that place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Jesus is teaching in parables and in this chapter Matthew shares a series of “kingdom parables” including the sower, the mustard seed, and the hidden treasure.

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus describes the “end of the age” (this age or the current time) as final judgment for all. There is no hint of any event or period between the “now” and the “end”.

But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.
The fact is, there are some here today who will not die before seeing the kingdom of God.

Near the end of Jesus’ public ministry and roughly eight days before (vs 28) the transfiguration before Peter, James, and John.  Jesus has been trying to prepare them for His death through several different teaching moments (including at the transfiguration).

Parallel accounts are in Matthew and Mark where the ending, or what some will see before dying, is stated as, “until they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom” (Matthew 16:28) and, “until they see the kingdom of God” (Mark 8:27).

Scripture-block application to this question

While Jesus shares what comes next here, it is for those alive in His day which isn’t part of this question directly. He tells His audience that they would see the kingdom of God (His church on the day of Pentecost). He’s clearly not speaking about “end times” events.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Specifically, throughout the entire context, Jesus is telling them that He is about to go to Jerusalem and be crucified, will rise again on the third day, and then they would “see the kingdom of God.”

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

After the tribulation of those days, the material elements of this world will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven causing all on earth mourn, seeing Him coming on the clouds in the sky with power and glory.  He will send His angels with a loud trumpet and they will gather the saints from the all the earth.

This chapter, along with the next (chapter 25), constitutes a discussion between Jesus and his disciples sometimes referred to as the “Olivet Discourse.” Matthew is the only gospel writer to record the second half (chapter 25), while shorter versions of the first half can be found in Mark 13:1-37 and Luke 17:20-27 & 21:5-36.

Upon leaving the temple, Jesus comments on its destruction (vs 2).  Subsequently, they wanted to know about three things from Jesus: 1) the timing of the temple’s destruction, 2) the sign of His coming, and 3) the end of the age (vs 3). Jesus begins His answer, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ, and they will lead many astray.” (vs 4-5)

Taking this backdrop and chapters 24 & 25 together it is clear Jesus is addressing God’s judgment on both the nation of Israel and His final judgment on all mankind. We can further contextualize this discussion by looking at other instances when God, through a prophet, would pronounce judgment on a nation. When we read Amos or Hosea regarding Israel’s judgment, Isaiah or Jeremiah regarding Judah’s judgment, or Obadiah regarding Edom’s judgment, we read about not only God’s judgment on that nation (a near-term “day of the Lord”) but also His eventual judgment on all mankind (a longer-term final “day of the Lord”). In fact, often the prophet (e.g. God) will go back and forth between near-term judgment events and long-term judgment events.

This is the same with Jesus and how He speaks about God’s judgment in chapter 24. Remember, the disciples had asked about both the timing of the destruction of the temple and His return (vs 3). Jesus shares events (vss 15-28) that will take place in their generation (vs 34) regarding the destruction of the temple (in fact, taking place about forty years later in 70AD).  He then speaks primarily about what will happen “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (vs 29), namely His return (vss 29-44), before concluding with three parables and describing what the final “day of the Lord” will look like.

Detail of the sequencing of Jesus’ prophecy re: a near-term “day of the Lord” and the final “day of the Lord”:

  • 24:4-14 – A broad review of events during the ‘end times’ (both near-term and long-term) when “lawlessness is increased”.
  • 24:15-28 – A near-term description of events that they would experience relating to the destruction of Jerusalem.  Something that in fact, would happen about forty years later (70AD).
  • 24:29-31 – A long-term description of the events of the second coming, the final judgment.
  • vss 32-34 – The near-term timing that He relates and explains with a parable about the fig tree for how they would identify the occurrence of “these things” (vs 33) and says, “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (vs 34).
  • 24:35-44 – The long-term timing, transitioned by contrasting things that will and won’t pass away (vs 34-35) and with “But…” (vs 36). This timing “no one knows” – not even Himself (vs 36).
  • 24:45-25:30 – Three parables about being ready for His coming because we don’t know when it will be:
    • 24:45-51 – The “faithful and wise servant”
    • 25:1-13 – The “ten virgins”
    • 25:14-30 – The “talents”
  • 25:31-46 – Description of how it will be on that final “day of the Lord”. A good portion of this is repeated by Jesus in a different setting in Luke 17:20-27.
Scripture-block application to this question

Similar to what Jesus had done earlier11, He describes some immediate (“before you die”) events while mentioning “what’s next” at the end.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

This chapter is prophetic, where Jesus goes back and forth between some things happening “in their generation” and some things happening “with a loud trumpet.”

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In conclusion, may the God of peace Himself perfect you and may you keep your whole being without blame at the final coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The closing admonitions of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians.

Scripture-block application to this question

Paul prays they remain “blameless” until what’s next — “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” where Christians are sanctified “completely”.

In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea. He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

In that day, God will reach out a second time to gather the remnants of His people from the ends of the earth.  He will raise a signal to which all of Israel can gather.

Isaiah chapters 11-12 serve as a near continuous vision of things/events/signs “in that day”. In fact, chapter 11 begins with a near identical statement to vs 10 – “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit” (11:1). Paul confirms that Jesus is the “root of Jesse” in Romans 15:12 and Jesus states in Revelation 22:16 that “I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

Qualifiers that jump out as familiar New Testament themes include:

  • descendent of David to emerge (11:1),
  • God’s Spirit will be on Him (11:2),
  • He will judge the world (11:3-4),
  • He will be a “signal” to the nations/Gentiles that gathers to Him along with the Jews (11:12),
  • The people “will draw water from the wells of salvation” (12:1-3),
  • God will be in their midst (12:6)
Scripture-block application to this question

God’s words through Isaiah suggest a “second time” where He will “recover the remnant”. We know the “root of Jesse” is the raised “signal” (vs 10), which is also confirmed by Paul to be Jesus. The question is the reference to “second time.” It could be the second time God sends salvation to His people, but since the historical context of Isaiah’s message is the coming judgment on Judah, it could be that “second time” refers to the ultimate gathering of His remnant in the way Peter3,9 and Paul6,8,13 speak of it for saints. Therefore, it is possible this applies but without an inspired writer’s interpretation, we cannot be sure.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

The angels did not remain within their authority, and because they usurped it, He [God] has kept them in bondage and darkness until the great day – a day as it was with Sodom and Gomorrah, when they were consumed with sexual immorality and homosexuality and suffered a final punishment of fire.

Jude is writing a scathing letter about the false teachers that have “crept in unnoticed.” (vs 1)

Scripture-block application to this question

A final judgment is what’s next — final just as it was final for Sodom and Gomorrah.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

Brethren, don’t be caught off guard when extreme trials come upon you in order to test you.  It’s not strange but to be expected.  You should rejoice since you are sharing in Christ’s sufferings, and so rejoice when He returns in glory.

Peter’s first letter to the “elect exiles” (brethren) who were faced with “various trials” (1:6). He wrote to strengthen and encourage them.

Scripture-block application to this question

Christians will suffer trials/persecutions as they live out their faith, but next comes Jesus returning in glory.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Peter has just declared that it is “the end of all things” (vs 7) which is in keeping with his broad sequencing of times/ages in his letter when he opened stating that Jesus’ appearance was in “the last times” (1:20).

Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And all that have left earthly family or wealth for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and inherit eternal life.
Jesus said that in the new world (“regeneration” or “age when all is renewed”), He will sit on His throne and His disciples (apostles) will sit on twelves thrones, judging the twelve tribes. Indeed anyone that calls on His name leaving all of this world behind will receive a hundredfold more with inherit life.

Jesus has just told them the difficulty of a rich person entering heaven and the apostles are shocked.  They don’t understand and can’t believe that anyone could be saved as a result.  This was Jesus’ response after Peter states that they’ve “left everything” and – probably excited – asks, “What then will we have?”  In His answer, Jesus goes beyond the “twelve thrones” statement to say that “everyone” that puts Him over material things (relationships, wealth, etc.) will receive a “hundredfold” and “inherit eternal life.” (vs 29) He concludes with what appears to be the real lesson and intent of His teaching, “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (vs 30)

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus tells His disciples that what happens next is eternal life for those that follow Him, forsaking all.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Jesus is not stating some literal, special role for His disciples, no more than He’s declaring that all those who follow Him will receive a literal hundred times of physical family and wealth in the afterlife. His statement is within the context of their astonishment over the difficulty for a rich person to enter heaven.

For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

For they [other Christians abroad] tell us about the reception from you, and how you have turned from serving idols to now serve the only true and living God while we all wait for His Son, who He raised from the dead, to return from heaven to deliver us from the wrath that is to come.

Paul’s introduction to the “church of the Thessalonians” (1:1), he recalls the events around their first hearing Paul bring them the gospel (Acts 17 during his second missionary journey) and the subsequent word he has received about them from other “believers in Macedonia and Achaia” (vs 7).
Scripture-block application to this question

Paul speaks of the Thessalonians’ present service to God while they “wait for his Son from Heaven” when they will be delivered “from the wrath” that comes with His return.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we await our Savior, Jesus Christ, who will change our physical bodies to be like His glorious body with the same power that allows Him to subject all things to Himself. Because of this brethren – you who I love and long for and are my joy and crown – stand firm in Christ.

Paul is urging them to “rejoice in the Lord” (vs 1) in spite of the false teachers among them.  He has just expressed his own striving to attain “the resurrection from the dead” (vs 11).  This is what he has “not yet obtained” (vs 12) but continues to “press on toward.”

Scripture-block application to this question

Paul says we are waiting for Jesus to return from heaven who, at that time, will “transform our lowly body”8.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Paul has just finished pointing out those who “walk as enemies of the cross of Christ” (vs 18) and says “Their end is destruction.” (vs 19)

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
As often as you partake of the bread and cup, you are publicly announcing Jesus’ death until He returns.

Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth gives many admonitions and instruction about their worship practice.  In this case, he’s admonishing about the divisions created in their inappropriate Lord’s Supper practices.

Scripture-block application to this question

Christians are to partake of the Lord’s supper until He returns again.

And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

The will of Him [the Father] who sent Me [the Son] is that I deliver all those who have been given to Me. They will be raised on the last day. This is the will of My Father. Anyone who looks to Me and believes will have eternal life. I will raise him on the last day.

Jesus has just fed the large crowd (5,000 men) by performing a miracle and departed to the other side of the Sea of Galilee where He walked on the water and calmed the storm. The next day, the crowd again finds him in order to be fed, and a discussion contrasting physical and spiritual food ensues.

Scripture-block application to this question

The saved will be raised “on the last day”.

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