In my last posting, we investigated the first three events of seven to precede the rapture of the church or what the Bible refers to as “our gathering together to Him” (click to read part IV). Those events are  World-wide persecution of the Church  Jerusalem surrounded and  The great apostacy or “falling away”.
As we move into the last events, we will move into areas of eschatological controversy. This controversy is unnecessary, but when it comes to end times positions, Christians in America, battle against each other as if we are enemies. It is quite sad. Let us begin with the next event, the revelation of Antichrist.
REVELATION OF ANTICHRIST (The abomination of desolation)
When we reach the abomination of desolation, those who follow Jesus Christ, will have a good idea of who antichrist is, yet it is what occurs between revelation of the son of perdition (antichrist) and shortly before the wrath of God is poured out, when “our gathering together to Him” occurs. In that time, prior to the rapture, we see and exponential increase in “the falling away”. Let us revisit the same passage that speaks of the “falling away” as an event prior to the “in gathering”.
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.
The revelation of antichrist comes through a much-prophesied event called the abomination of desolation. The first occurrence of this prophesied event was in Daniel 8:13, 9:26-27; 11:31, 12:11. From Daniel’s prophecy we gather that antichrist will make a covenant with Israel of seven years. Prior to or at the beginning of the 7-year period, Israel, under the allowance of antichrist will build a third temple, and begin Old Testament sacrifices again.
At midpoint of three and a half years, and defined in the phrase “time, times and half time”, in Daniel and “42 months” or “1260 days”, in the book of Revelation; antichrist will break his covenant with Israel. He breaks his covenant in a vile fashion.
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 3 Let 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.
Matthew 24:15-16, and Revelation 13:11-14 reveal this revelation of antichrist to be prior to the rapture of the church. The rapture does not take place in Matthews 24 until verse 29-31 and Revelation 14:14-16. Remember this is consistent with what we have already studied In II Thessalonians 2:3 where we read…Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day (the rapture of the church) will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed”
THE SIGN OF THE SON OF MAN
It must be noted that the final three events occur in the order, in a relatively short fashion. How much time occurs between them is anyone’s guess. In the Lord Jesus Christ’s timeline in Matthew 24:29-31, Mark 13:24-27, and I Thessalonians 4:13-18, the sign of the Son of man precedes the last trumpet of God and the voice of the arch angel.
Revelation’s timeline, at first glance may appear to place the last trumpet ahead of the sign of the Son of man and the voice of the arch angel, but a little examination, helps us to see it is the same as the other three passages.
We must remember that Revelation 11:15 reveals the last trumpet. What follows through chapters 11, 12, 13 and 14 are largely parenthetical. There are actual timeline events in the text, but the events in the timeline cover from the mid-point on. In addition to the timeline events, there are historical and prophetic events, not in the last seven years, given for context in the war between the Seed of the woman (Messiah) and the adversary (Satan).
This gives the appearance of a longer time frame, than is revealed. This is important, because the last 3 ½ years of the world as we know it are not all tribulation. Tribulation is the world, the flesh and the Devil’s persecution of the church.
After the rapture, when we are gathered together to Christ, tribulation ends, and the wrath of God is poured out on the world (More on the nature of tribulation as different than God’s wrath later).
When understanding this reality, we must also understand that the sign of the Son of Man is distinct in that the whole world sees it. Remember Matthew 24 reports “…then all the tribes of the earth will mourn and they will see the Son of Man riding on the clouds with great power and glory”.
Note Christ’s timeline…
Matthew 24:29-31 29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, 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 His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Please consider that Revelation 14:14-16 described this event, followed directly by God’s wrath being poured out, which lines up with I Thessalonians 5:9 which declares “for we are not appointed for wrath”, in a chapter following the most complete passage on the rapture (I Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Please consider God’s mercy to the wicked throughout the Old Testament. Does He ever just destroy or is it His way for suffer long, give many warnings and signs that are clear, so that no one would miss what He is warning them of?
Consider the Noahic flood. The LORD warned them for 120 years, through Noah’s preaching and object lesson, in the building of the ark. History, geology and archaeology all corroborate that the earth was changing physically, in ways that were unable to be missed years prior to the flood. We believe that God broke the fountains of the great deep, in a second and then water. That is not necessarily true.
The breaking of the fountains of the great deep would have occurred over time, through massive earthquakes and geological events, which raised the level of water gradually in places unable to be seen by the people of Noah’s time. This would have taken months if not a few years.
Then there is the reality that it had never rained prior to the beginning of the flood (Genesis 2:6-8). For rain to fall for 40 days, as it did, it would take time to form clouds that could bring the rain.
In all these realities, we see that for 120 years, where God was attempting to get their attention, as not to miss the call to the salvation of the ark. Sadly they did.
How does this relate to the sign of the son of man?
Christ coming on the clouds does not just appear suddenly but is “coming” on the clouds. Remember this is a word of progressive revelation, one of growing visibility, as He draws nearer the earth and the time of the gathering of the saints.
It is quite possible that His great and glorious appearing occurs well before the last trumpet, to turn the eyes of the unbelieving toward God, for repentance.
It is possible this occurs because as we come closer and closer to the midpoint of the tribulation and slightly beyond, where antichrist kills anyone not worshipping him (See Revelation 13:6-18), seeing Him coming on the clouds is to strengthen us to endure till the end (Matthew 24:13). The end for us is the rapture before the wrath of God is poured out.
In the my next post we will examine the last two events prior to “our gathering together to Him” (I Thessalonians 4:13-18; II Thessalonians 2:1-2) or what is today commonly referred to as the rapture.
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