Rapture (3) First: Apostasy & Antichrist



In 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Paul encouraged his readers that the Rapture of believers in Jesus would occur before the judgment of the Day of the LORD’s wrath would fall on the Antichrist and the world. (See Rapture (1) and Rapture (2) posts for more detailed definitions of the Rapture and Day of the LORD, and their relationship to one another as back to-back-events).







Returning to 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul listed two events that his readers would watch for to occur first before the ‘coming and gathering’ of the Rapture and the Day of the LORD judgment. Remember, Paul was setting the timeline strait. The Thessalonians had received a false letter saying they were experiencing the Day of the LORD. But Paul had just promised them that they would not suffer this wrath. Like believers of every generation since, Paul and the Thessalonians believed that Jesus could come back in their lifetimes. And these two signs they were to watch for, are the same we are to be looking for today.

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him [RAPTURE], we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless [1] the apostasy comes first, and [2] the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction...” 1 Thessalonians 2:1-3


In Rapture (2) post, the first two verses were shown to be laid out as a math problem:

PART 1: COMING: “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”

+ PART 2: GATHERING: “our being gathered together to Him“

= Rapture Events at the onset of the Day of the LORD


But Paul wanted to remind his readers that there were two events that believers will see as signs even before the Rapture and Day of the LORD occur. He would not have given these signs unless he expected them to be witnessed first hand by those who would then experience the Rapture. They are not simply theoretical, but practical helps and encouragement for those going through the very difficult Seven Years to know that soon the rescue will come. These verses specifically say that FIRST two things will happen - 1) the apostasy 2) the man of lawlessness (sin) will be revealed. So now two more events can be added to the equation and the timeline of the Seven Years.


1) APOSTASY

+ 2) REVEALING: of the MAN OF LAWLESSNESS/SIN - ANTICHRIST

= Events that occur FIRST

- then -

3) COMING: “the coming of our LORD JESUS CHRIST”

+ 4) GATHERING: “our being gathered together to Him“

= Events at the onset of the Day of the LORD


The two signs Paul gave to look out for before the Rapture and Day of the LORD, were The Apostasy and The Revealing of the Antichrist (Man of Sin/Lawlessness).


The Apostasy and the Antichrist


The word ‘apostasy’ means ‘rebellion, falling away, or departure from religious or political beliefs.’ This particular use of the word for apostasy in 2 Thess. 2 does have a definite article with it (THE Apostasy) in the original Greek text showing that this is not speaking of a general departure from beliefs, but that Paul was referencing a particular event or period of time. Since it is THE Apostasy, it must have been an event known by the readers. One would expect that this particular apostasy has been spoken of already by Jesus, the apostles and even the Hebrew Old Testament prophets. There are two aspects of The Apostasy that have been spoken of by other Biblical writers. One aspect has to do with ‘Israel’ and the other has to do with ‘Christians/the Church’, with each group containing individuals who will fall away from God during the Seven Years.


Israel

Israel’s Apostasy and Revelation of the Antichrist


It is important to understand that Israel has both a national and a spiritual relationship with God. God chose Israel to be his people through whom He would bless the nations with the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who came through their family tree. Abraham was given a covenant for his descendants through his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob (named Israel).


“Now the Lord had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3


In this eternal covenant, God promised Abraham and his descendants a specific land, many descendants and a blessing for the whole world which was and is the Lord Jesus Christ. These promises were unilateral, meaning that God made these promises regardless of Israel’s cooperation. No matter what the people of Israel did historically, even with their sins and exile and occupation, God still brought Jesus Christ into the world to save the world. He also promised them a very literal portion of land in the Middle East, and brought them back to it in 1948. It is the land of Israel. But to this day, they don’t own the entire land that God gave them because they don’t yet accept Jesus as their King. At the end of the Seven Years, Jesus promises to return to the Earth, to defeat the Antichrist and the armies against Him, and to set up His Kingdom in the entire land of Israel restored to the people of Israel - Abraham’s, Isaac’s and Jacob’s descendants - forever. When He returns, they will see Jesus for who He truly is, as their King and as God, and at this time all the promises to them will be completely fulfilled.


“Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God drives you, and you return to the Lord your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, that the Lord your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the Lord your God has scattered you. If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you. Then the Lord your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” Deuteronomy 30:1-6


These were national promises made to Israel. God has been faithful to restore them to their land in these last days, and He will be faithful to return to sit on the throne as their King when He returns at the end of the Seven Years. It is important to understand that ownership of the land of Israel has always belonged to the people of Israel, but occupation of Israel was based upon their faithfulness to God. When they followed Him, they were blessed in many ways including occupation of the specific land where God brought Abraham. When they fell away into apostasy, they would be taken into captivity by other nations. In 1948, God brought the people back to the land, but they came back in unbelief, just as the Bible foretold. As a whole today, Israel does not accept Jesus as their Messiah and King.


When the Seven Years begins, the ‘many’ in Israel will make a covenant with the Antichrist, known in 2 Thessalonians as the Man of Lawlessness or the Man of Sin. Israel has covenants with the one true God, and it is a violation, idolatry and apostasy for them to make a covenant for their peace and security with the Antichrist or anyone else. As the Seven Years progress, the book of Daniel says that ‘many’ will follow the Antichrist as times get darker. But after he has gained their trust, the Antichrist will deceive them and will break his covenant with them, by setting up an idol of himself in the re-built Jewish Temple. He will be filled with Satan and will do many signs and wonders. He will go on a terrible genocide against the Jewish people. So many in Israel will make a covenant with Satan himself. This is the greatest of apostasies for the chosen people of God.


Returning to 2 Thessalonians 2, after telling the Thessalonians that the two signs were The Apostasy and the Revelation of the Antichrist/Man of Sin, Paul gives details of this revealing ‘transformation’ of the Antichrist.


“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, 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. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12


In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul specifies exactly when the Antichrist is revealed. It is at the time when he exalts himself above God and sits in the Temple of God, and even has an idol of himself put there for people to worship called the Abomination of Desolation. This happens at the mid-point of the Seven Years. It is true that he makes a treaty with Israel at the beginning of the Seven Years (Daniel 9:27) and that he is going out conquering areas regionally around Israel in the first 3.5 years (Daniel 11). But the Bible describes him as a little horn growing up amongst the 10 Kings of the rising World Government during this time (Daniel 7). When Jesus’ disciples asked Him in Matthew 24 “When will these things be? What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”, He did not specifically mention the confirmation of covenant at the beginning of the Seven Years. Jesus focused on the mid-point as Signpost #1 for His coming - He focused on people falling away and the Abomination of Desolation.



The GREAT SIGN: The Abomination of Desolation - Antichrist and his Idol

The prophet Daniel was given many dreams by God concerning the final years before Jesus’ return to set up His kingdom. Many centuries before Jesus came the first time, God told Daniel about the Abomination of Desolation that would be set up in the Jewish Temple one day. These verses reference this time when the Antichrist will sit in the temple of God as the Abomination of Desolation, and even has an idol of himself erected there. The Antichrist will stop the sacrifices and offerings and will require that people take his economic and religious mark of allegiance, and worship him instead of the real God. This is great Apostasy for Israel and the entire world. Instead of worshiping Jesus Christ, they will worship the Satan-filled Antichrist.

“He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation [REVELATION OF Antichrist], until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” Daniel 9:27


“At the appointed time he will invade the South again, but this time the outcome will be different from what it was before. Ships of the western coastlands will oppose him, and he will lose heart. Then he will turn back and vent his fury against the holy covenant. He will return and show favor to those who forsake the holy covenant [APOSTASY]. His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation [REVELATION OF Antichrist]. With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant [APOSTASY], but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.” Daniel 11:29-32


“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered... From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up [REVELATION OF ANTICHRIST], there will be 1,290 days.” Daniel 12:1,11


After Daniel wrote the prophecies concerning the future of Israel, the Antichrist, the Abomination of Desolation and the Coming of the Son of Man (Jesus) to Rule and Reign, there were two similar ‘antichrists’. Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanes (215 BC to 164 BC) was a foreshadowing of the final Antichrist. He himself gained the trust of Jews who were apostate and desecrated the Jewish Temple. In fact, when many Jews went along with him in rejecting the true God, it was historically called THE Apostasy. But Jesus, who came after Antiochus, also referenced the final fulfillment of THE Apostasy, the Abomination of Desolation and the Antichrist, which He placed a time in the future from His perspective - a time that would occur right before His Second Coming. In His Sermon on the Mount, also called the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24-25, He spoke of The Apostasy and the Abomination of Desolation that reveal the Antichrist for who he is, back to back, just as Paul described these same two signs that precede the Rapture.


Matthew 24:9-14 - THE APOSTASY “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 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.


MATTHEW 24:15-22 - THE REVEALING of the ANTICHRIST/MAN of SIN The Abomination of Desolation and The Great Tribulation “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.”


Matthew 24:23-28 - THE APOSTASY - warning against following a False Christ “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. “Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.


MATTHEW 24:29-31 - THE RAPTURE “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. 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.”



What does it mean that the Antichrist will be ‘revealed’?


Back in 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul tells his readers that the Man of Sin will be revealed. This word ‘revealed’ in the original Greek text is “apokaluptó” and means ‘to make known the inner make-up, uncover what has been hidden, to manifest’. For the first 3.5 years, the Antichrist is rising to power in subversion. His relationship with Israel is a false peace based upon a lie. He is not revealed for who he is when he makes the covenant. He is revealed when he breaks it, by saying he is the true God, deserves worship, and goes on a rampage against the Jews, Christians and those who won’t take his mark of allegiance. The context of 2 Thessalonians 2 shows that this is the case when “he opposes and exalts himself above all that is God, setting himself in the temple of God to be worshiped.”

These verses go on to talk about how he is revealed or made ‘manifest’ a word often used for being indwelt and empowered by a spiritual being. This will occur when Satan gives him supernatural powers.

“Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:5-12

The Antichrist is empowered by Satan, and many think he may even be possessed by Satan at this point. He is a man, but he is empowered with all the power, signs and lying wonders of the Devil. Satan throws every last trick in the book at this final great deception to destroy as much of humanity as he can, to take them down with him. The Bible says that at this point, Satan knows his time is short, and he is angry. So he will use the Antichrist to seduce and trick as many as he can, and for whoever does not comply, then to murder as many as he can. Either way, destruction is his goal. This happens when the Abomination of Desolation is erected at the mid-point of the Seven Years. An interesting thing to note in these verses, is that it says that the people who join the Antichrist and Satan will refuse ‘to receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved’. Remember, that in the context of Thessalonians, ‘saved’ has meant ‘raptured’. This is an added indication, that at the time of the Antichrist’s revealing through the Abomination of Desolation, and the use of Satan’s powers, that the rapture has not occurred yet. So, on the timeline of events, the Rapture, (the Coming and Gathering), occur after these events at the mid-point of the Seven Years.



There are two really important passages in Revelation that give details of the revealing of the Antichrist at the mid-point. They take place within a section of symbolic visions that Jesus gives John. In Revelation 12, the symbols of the Woman, the Child and the Dragon describe Israel, Jesus and Satan (respectively) through the span of their historical interactions in the Bible. Verses 1-6 describe the Israel giving birth to Jesus Christ, and Satan’s attempt to destroy Him. But Jesus is caught up to heaven (resurrected and ascended), and Satan’s plan is thwarted. Jesus is described as the one “who will rule the nations with a rod of iron”, at His return to rule the world in His Millennial Kingdom. The picture goes on to describe the Woman Israel as fleeing into the wilderness for 1,260 days. This is the second 3.5 years of the Seven Year period. Those in Israel who see the Abomination of Desolation set up and recognize that it portends evil, will flee Jerusalem and be protected by God from the genocidal campaign of the Antichrist for the final half of the Seven Years (Revelation 12:1-6).


The second section of John’s symbolic vision in Revelation 12 describes a war that breaks out in heaven between the Archangel Michael and the angels who fight a heavenly spiritual war with Satan and his fallen angels. Satan is thrown out of heaven to earth and goes into a rampage because he knows his time is short. Satan is called the ‘accuser of our brethren’ because he is a deceiver who tries to tell Christians that they aren’t truly forgiven for their sins. But Romans 5:1 states “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Those who have faith in Christ have been set free from God’s judgment and from the penalties of the Day of the Lord and eternity in the Lake of Fire.


Satan is thrown to earth during the Seven Years at the mid-point. He fills the Antichrist, and goes after Jews, Christians and those who don’t take his mark of allegiance. This will result in the martyrdom of many believers in Jesus who will die for their faith in Christ. (Revelation 12:7-12).


In the final section of Revelation 12, it is repeated that the Dragon tries to attack the Woman, but she flees to safety for time, times and half a time (3.5 years). Those of Israel who recognize the Abomination and the Antichrist for who they are will immediately run and hide. God will protect them for 3.5 years, until Jesus comes to rescue them and defeat the Antichrist. The end of the section repeats that the Dragon Satan will then turn his rage on the Christians. “And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:13-17).


Revelation Chapter 13 goes on to explain the details of what happens when the Dragon in thrown to earth. A beast like the one described by Daniel which represents the kingdoms of the world rises out of the sea. Like the kingdoms of the past it has a king. This beast is the Antichrist, and he is given authority to rule for 42 months (3.5 years), and to make war with Christians of all nations. Many followers of Jesus will be martyred and many will be enslaved. The Antichrist is healed of a mortal wound, and the whole earth will worship him and the Dragon Satan who gives him his power. This is the ultimate Apostasy of the World. At this point everyone on earth will either choose the Antichrist or Jesus Christ. The Bible is clear that those who take the Antichrist’s ‘mark’ of allegiance will have sealed their fate, and will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 13:8, 20:15). In the vision, Satan and the Antichrist are joined by a third beast, a figure also known as the False Prophet, who builds the idol and gives it the ability to speak, and does incredible miracles. Then the Antichrist forces everyone on earth to take his ‘mark’ of identification on their right hand or forehead that will enable them to pay their bills and feed their families, ‘buy and sell’ (Revelation 13:1-18).


This is a description of the image, the Abomination of Desolation that the Bible’s writers mention over and over again. It is a statue of the Antichrist that will be set up in the Jewish temple at the mid-point of the Seven Years, and all the earth will be required to worship it. Jews who are aware, will flee Judea and hide for the remainder of the 3.5 years that the Antichrist rules, and God will protect them. Christians will be hunted, captured and killed (Revelation 13:10). This time period containing the revealing of the Antichrist when he sets up the Abomination of Desolation, and the persecution of Jews and Christians, is called the Great Tribulation in Matthew 24. But it will not last during the entire 3.5 years that the Antichrist is ruling on earth. The Great Tribulation will be cut short by several very important events: The Gospel Preached to the Whole World, Celestial and Earthly Events (Sun, Moon, Stars, Earthquake, Sea Waves Roaring...), the Sign of the Son of Man will Appear, the Coming and the Gathering Rapture.


“Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.... “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. 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.” Matthew 24:15-22, 29-31



Christians (the Church)

The ‘Church’’s Apostasy and Revelation of the Antichrist


While it is true that Matthew and Thessalonians contain different details, it can be seen that the events Paul spoke of in 2 Thess. 2 occur in the same order as they do in Jesus’ sermon in Matthew 24. This is to be expected, since Jesus taught Paul, and they were teaching about the same time frame. In review, the order of events are: The Apostasy, The Revealing of the Antichrist with the Abomination of Desolation, The Rapture, The Day of the LORD’s Wrath.


It is clear that the direct warning of the Abomination of Desolation will be for eye-witnesses in Israel to run and literally escape the city. They are the ones who were first warned in the Hebrew Scriptures in Daniel about the Abomination of Desolation Antichrist Statue to be set up in their Temple in their city of Jerusalem. But this warning isn’t only for them. Some believe that because the prophecy of the Seventy ‘Sevens’ in Daniel 9:24-27 was given for Daniel’s people (Israel) and Daniel’s city (Jerusalem), that it does not have to do with Christians. But it is important to remember that the Bible is a progressive book. It moves through time. The Christian Church did not exist at the time of Daniel’s writing. It did not exist until after Jesus rose from the dead, ascended and sent the Holy Spirit. The Church is called a mystery, because in the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures, it had not yet appeared on the timeline. Jesus had to be born, to offer Himself as the Savior and King of Israel, be rejected by the leaders and majority of Jews and be killed. After His resurrection, He established the Church with the remnant Jews who accepted Him at the time, and sent them into all the world to create a family, a body of believers of both Jews and Gentiles (those of all other nations).


In looking at the original prophecy in Daniel of the Seventy ‘Sevens’ (some translate the Seventy Weeks of Years), it can be determined that it covers a total of 490 years and contains divisions within. The first 69 Sevens can be shown to span from Persian King Artaxerxes decree (445 BC) until the Triumphal entry of Jesus Christ (30 AD) (aka Palm Sunday). The fuller explanation of this prophecy timeline can be read under the post titled ‘Seven Years Prophecy’.


In looking at how this prophecy relates to the timing that Jesus gave the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24, some very important sequential events are seen. According to the timing of the prophecy, the 69 Sevens ended at the Triumphal Entry when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey offering himself as King of the Jews. This event happened in Matthew 21:1-11. The 69th Seven ended in Matthew 21. Then the many centuries long GAP between the 69th Seven and the 70th Seven (the Final Seven Years) began. In the book of Matthew, the next thing to happen between the Triumphal Entry and the Olivet Discourse was Jesus’ pronounced judgment on Israel for rejecting Him as their King and God. Jesus is seen clearing the Temple in anger (21:11-17), Cursing the Fig Tree, the symbol of National Israel (21:18-27), telling the parable of the Two Sons and the Wicked Tenants (21:28-46) against the fruitless chief Priests and Pharisees of Israel. In this second parable, Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed” (vs. 43-44). Israel was chosen to bring the Messiah into the world, but they did not recognize Him for who He was, so they could not bring the good news of His salvation to others. They became a fruitless nation, and the vineyard, the Kingdom was given to another, who would take the gospel into the world.


In Chapter 22, Jesus continues with the parable of the King who prepared a wedding banquet for His Son. The guests did not care to show up, so he went out to find peoples on the highways and byways to fill the banquet. The guests, the leadership and majority of the Jewish nation at the time, did not bother to come to the banquet of the King’s Son, so He brought in those on the streets to join with Him, these people are the Church of Jesus Christ that is made up of the remnant of believing Jews and people of all nations (Gentiles) who will take the message of the gospel of salvation to the rest of the world (v. 1-14).

In Chapter 23, Jesus pronounced a specific judgment against the Pharisees and that generation who rejected Him. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your fathers. You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape the sentence of hell? Because of this, I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify, and others you will flog in your synagogues and persecute in town after town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I tell you, all these things will come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling! Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you that you will not see Me again until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” (23:29-36).


Jesus ends with a pronouncement that the blood of the prophets will be brought against the Pharisees, Jerusalem and its inhabitants. This occurred in 70AD when the Roman legions destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple scattering the Jews all over the earth. This was the second foreshadowing of the final Antichrist, though not the fulfillment because the Abomination of Desolation was not set up and Jesus did not come. But it is against this backdrop, that Jesus begins His conversation with His disciples in Matthew 24. They are shocked at this pronouncement of doom and ask Jesus about the Temple. He tells them it will be destroyed, and then He tells them what part they are to play in this story as a part of His newly formed Church made up of Jews and Gentile nations - all peoples. He told them that great persecution was coming for them as they went about sharing the good news to all peoples. They would be dragged into synagogues and courts, persecuted and killed. And persecution would be a part of every Christian’s life who chose to follow the Lord Jesus from the time of those first disciples all the way up to the final generation who will face the Antichrist. The armies would surround Jerusalem again, but this time the Antichrist will be revealed and set up his Abomination of Desolation. Some Jews would recognize the sign and will run and be kept safe. But Christians will be persecuted and will die in large numbers before Jesus puts an abrupt stop to the killing when He comes in the clouds. All of this persecution will test the faith of believers in Jesus, and as it has down through the centuries, will prove the truth, and many more will come to faith in Jesus because of this testimony. “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. 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” (Revelation 12:10-11). The book of Revelation is written to the Church, to the ‘overcomer’. 1 John 5:4 says, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”


In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul tells the Thessalonians, Gentile Christians who are being persecuted for their faith, to look for the sign of the Apostasy and the Revelation of the Antichrist and his Abomination of Desolation, because Christians will see these events take place. The Abomination is not a sign to Christians to flee Jerusalem like it is for Jews, rather it is a sign that the Rapture is soon. A great Apostasy will take place within Christianity as well during the Seven Years. Persecution will be at an all time high. The world will be in turmoil from every angle, and the Antichrist will offer his ‘mark’ as a way for people to survive. Many will take the bait, and will leave their churches, to follow the Antichrist. It will be a very difficult time showing who truly has faith in Jesus to the point of ‘loving not their life event to death’ and who was simply a part of the community, going to church, for social or traditional reasons alone.


When Jesus established His Church after His resurrection, He gave them the Great Commission, telling them Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20). This is the same phrase He gave used as one of the signs of His coming for them in the Rapture in Matthew 24.


“Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (v.3) “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 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” (v. 9-14).


In answer to the disciples’ question, Jesus told them that the End comes when the gospel is preached to all nations. And this is the mission He put them on. When the Church tells all nations about Jesus, then the Rapture will occur. Within the context of Matthew 24, this occurs during the greatest of persecutions of the Great Tribulation. The Church will go through the Great Tribulation, because a part of its purpose is to bring every last soul who wants to turn to Jesus to Him before the judgments of the Day of the LORD’s wrath begins.


After Jesus rose from the dead, but before He ascended into heaven, He spent 40 days on earth with His followers, teaching them about the Kingdom. They thought for sure that now that He had risen from the dead, He would take control, kick the Romans out of Israel and establish His Kingdom right then. “Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 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 1:6-8). He reiterated to them that the Kingdom would not happen until first they took the gospel to the world. This has been the mission of the Christian Church for nearly 2,000 years. And until all nations have heard, and had a chance to choose or reject Jesus, He cannot come and gather His entire Church family to Himself in the Rapture. This was the great concern that Paul was addressing in Thessalonians. He promised his readers that Jesus would come and get all of His Church at the same time - together. For this reason, there cannot be a Rapture before the Seven Years, and then another group of ‘tribulation saints’ that He brings into the family later as some believe. All Christians must receive their resurrection bodies at the same time. This will not happen until the great divide occurs, where the earth is presented with the choice of the Antichrist or Jesus. Those who choose Jesus will be hunted, captured and killed while the Antichrist’s mark is being presented to everyone. Those who take it, will get his 666 stamp of approval and will be able to buy and sell. Those who don’t, will be hunted, captured and many killed. As this process is going on, people will see the faith of believers and will come to believe in Jesus too. So the persecution must go on until that very last person believes.


The letters to the Thessalonians was written to one of the very first little Christian churches who faced persecution. They thought Jesus would come back in their lifetime. But He wanted to offer salvation to many more, and so He has delayed His return. So in the end, these letters will most directly apply to the last churches who will experience The Apostasy, the Revealing of the Antichrist, see the Abomination of Desolation and if they escape martyrdom, will be Raptured. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 says, “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep [dead]. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” The word ‘remain’ in these verses actually means ‘to survive’. Those who survive the Antichrist’s persecution will experience the Rapture without death. They will be caught up with those who have died down through the centuries, and even by the hand of the Antichrist. But the great expectation of the believer is that Jesus will save every last soul who chooses eternal life, and we will all spend eternity together with Him.


“Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:1-9).