My last article dealt with the blessed hope of all Christians. If you would the last article in this series, please click this link He is Coming in the Clouds! Part III
Today we will begin to examine, the seven events, prior to the rapture of the church, or what scripture declares is “our gathering together to Him”, of which the blessed hope or otherwise called the sign of the Son of man is.
Please note the beginning of the sorrows is one of the events or signs of Christ’s return, but because we may be in the midst of it, we will not discuss its nature or duration.
Below is the list of signs/events which proceed the rapture, in the timeline of the Lord Jesus Christ, from Matthew 24:3-44, Mark 13:1-37 and Luke 21:5-36. Before you read list of signs, I encourage you to read these three passages as well as reading Revelation 7 through Revelation 14, noting the events in common with Christ’s words in Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, and the passages in Revelation.
- Worldwide persecution as the Gospel is preached in the whole world.
- Jerusalem surrounded.
- Great apostasy.
- The abomination of Desolation (revelation of Antichrist) with great tribulation.
- The sign of the Son of man
- The last trumpet of God
- The voice of Archangel
Please note that in all three Gospel accounts “our gathering together to Him” or what we have labeled the “rapture” after all these signs/events. Some teachers in error have deemed the rapture takes place in chapter 4 of Revelation, because of some similar language. Regard that John heard a voice, like a trumpet.
This is different than hearing the voice of the archangel and the last trumpet of God. The language of Revelation 4 means that the voice was distinct, not that it sounded like a trumpet, but that voice blasted through his person distinctly. He was told to “Come up here” and immediately he was in the Spirit. John was not “caught up” physically and changed in a “moment in the twinkling of an eye”. John did not meet Christ in the air but was immediately in a vision of God’s throne.
As it’s the case with almost all events and in Revelation, they are founded in Old Testament Jewish prophecy. Consider Ezekiel 1, 8, 11 and see very similar visions and interaction, with those who are the Spirit.
All of these events are listed in chronological order.
#1 WORLDWIDE PERSECTION AS THE GOSPEL IS PREACHED IN ALL THE WORLD
Remember that these events occur after the beginning of the sorrows as detailed by Christ Himself.
Matthew 24:9-14 9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
*Please read Mark 13:9-13 and Luke 21:13-19 to corroborate Matthew’s context and timeline
In these passages we see very clearly that those who follow the Lord Jesus Christ in the last days, will face persecution; that persecution. The hatred against saints will be worldwide. The tribulation period begins with the words “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation”. The first phase of the tribulation is 3 ½ years.
It is important to understand that through Christians preaching Christ over the radio, internet and television, that the gospel has been preached virtually over the entire globe. As the Gospel has reached most of the geography of the world, those who would refuse its message, are growing in agitation. It will not take much to push the haters of God over the edge. Recall some of the aggression against flowers of Jesus Christ, during the Covid hoax.
Note that in all three accounts we are told that those who “endure to the end will be saved” or “by patience you possess your souls”. Again, this implies that those who truly follow Christ will face existential trouble for their faith in Christ.
When one considers the horrors of persecution against the church in 95% of the world, we understand that tribulation like persecution has existed in the world, against Christians, since the beginning of the church. History reveals that more Christians have been martyred since 1948, than in the all the previous years since the birth of the Church, on the Day of Pentecost.
One of the key bases for the pretribulation rapture is the error filled belief, that Christians will not suffer, and we will be gone before the real trouble starts. The idea that Christians will not suffer is not biblical.
2 Timothy 3:12-13 12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.
Of great importance to us, ought to be that the first hearers of these prophecies and that of Revelation. They would have seen themselves in the various events. The thought that they would not suffer tribulation was foreign to them, and had been to the church until the early 1900’s. Do not forget that the pretribulation rapture is the new interpretation.
#2 JERUSALEM SURROUNDED
Luke 21:20 20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.
We have every reason to believe that this event/sign will occur sometime in the latter portion of first 3 ½ years of the tribulation period. The reason for this is that Daniels’s prophecy places the abomination of desolation (which we will talk about next), right at the midpoint.
Scripture in both testaments detail this event (do your homework), therefore, that Luke’s gospel is the only of the three synoptic Gospels to mention it, should not diminish its importance. As a matter of fact, it is a clear sign to believers that Antichrist is about to reveal his true nature. This event is in the run up to the battle of Armageddon and may reveal why Antichrist is pushed to reveal his true satanic nature.
#3 THE GREAT FALLING AWAY
2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 1 Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 3Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
In review, we must remember “our gathering together to Him” is a reference to Paul’s first letter, specifically I Thessalonians 4:13-18, which is a very specific passage concerning what is popularly termed “rapture”. Once more we must maintain good exegetical discipline, or risk divorcing these two letters from one another.
In the passage above we can clearly see that “that Day”, which is “the day of Christ”, which is the time of “our gathering together to Him”, “will not come unless…”
- “the falling away comes first”
- “and the man of sin (antichrist) is revealed.
Concerning “the falling away comes first”, it is important to understand the Greek phrase behind our English words. Remember that placing “the” before the phrase “falling away” makes “the falling away” a growing movement of people influenced by something powerful. In the context of our passage, that which is moving the people to fall away, is THE LIE, which we read of in II Thessalonians 2:9-12.
2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
It is correct to associate “the falling away” with the revelation of “the man of sin”, as both Testaments do. Let us consider a couple of New Testament passages affirming this truth.
Revelation 13:11-13 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. 12 And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. 13 He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.
Matthew 24:23-25 23 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand.
Both passages, chronologically speaking take place in the last events timelines at or near the revelation of antichrist to the Jewish people. It is important to understand the “falling away” begins before the revelation of antichrist to the Jewish people.
We understand “the falling away” or what we term apostacy (Greek word for falling away is apostasia), means to forsake, to fall away or to defect from. Some pretribulation rapture folks, in error, declare that “the falling away” or “great apostacy” is in reference to the Jewish people. This is patently false, as they are already fallen away from Him, if they reject Messiah.
The “falling away” is in reference to those who call themselves Christians. The reason this is controversial, is because the vast majority of pretribulational Christians, are those who purport the false doctrine of “once saved always saved”.
Biblically honest and exegetically correct Christians understand their potential to fall way, from clear passages of scripture, concerning the issue.
Romans 11:19-23 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” 20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. 22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
Hebrews 6:4-6 4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
The potential to fall away from Christ, has been with every follower of Jesus Christ since the beginning. What occurs exponentially excel this potential in many who call themselves Christians in the end times? Well, the hardships of the beginning of the sorrows and of the tribulation period, until we are gathered to Him.
Not only is it the difficulty of the circumstances, but the unfolding agenda of antichrist, which wears out the saints (Daniel 7:25), before antichrist is revealed to the Jewish people. After His revelation His program of slaughter of the true Christians (Revelation 13:7), shakes those whose are mere professing Christians—as well as the miracles, sings and lying wonders done—and that multitudes who call themselves by the name of Christ, do not love (serve, worship, hold to) THE TRUTH—to whom God sending those not receiving a love for the truth a strong delusion.
This is difficult for Christians in America to receive, for we have never faced overt encompassing tribulation. That said, we must remember the tribulation is used by God to produce Christ’s character in us (Romans 5:3-5), to prune His vine (John 15:1-8) and to purify our lives of the patterns of sin (I Peter 1:6,7, 4:12-13).