Bible prophecy includes events commonly known as The Rapture of the Church and the Tribulation Period. Both of these events will precede the return of Christ who will then fulfill His rightful position on the throne in Jerusalem as ruler over all the earth.
THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH
“In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
If you look closely, you will notice that these verses speak about being with Christ in Heaven (my Father’s house). He promises to come again for the purpose of bringing us, the Church, there to be with Him. This precedes Christ’s Second Coming, the time which He establishes His kingdom on earth. That means an event will occur which will result in our being with Christ before His Second Coming. That event is called the Rapture of the Church, the sequence of which is identified in the following verses:
1 Corinthians 15:51-52
“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
The Apostle Paul provides more information about this “mystery”, which means that this is something now revealed that had not been revealed before. Further, those Christians who are still alive (not sleep) will be transformed from our sinful bodies into incorruptible bodies along with those Christians who have died before this event. This change makes sense since we cannot enter Heaven with our sin-stained bodies.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
Paul adds to the information previously provided in his letter to the Corinthian church. Here, he states that it is at this time when Jesus Christ comes to collect His Church. Christ appears in the clouds of heaven and those Christians who have died before this blessed event are raptured up first. Then, those Christians who are alive are raptured up to meet with the Lord. The Church, the bride of Christ (Revelation 9:7), will remain with Him forever.
THE TRIBULATION PERIOD
“And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”
The 70th and final week of Daniel’s prophecy introduces several elements involving God’s disposition of Israel. This period has come to be known as The Tribulation Period. Jesus Christ spoke about it at length in Matthew 24, specifically using the word “tribulation” four times, and its description is not pretty. In fact, it is a horrible, terrible time when God judges not only Israel, but mankind at large. Truth be told, Moses used this word for the first time in Deuteronomy 4:30. There he used the term in connection to the “latter days”, which most scholars agree refer to the end times.
According to Daniel, what’s clear is there’s a central character (“he”) with whom Israel covenants with, but “he” breaks the covenant in the middle of the 7-week (years) period. Israel’s sacrifices and offerings will not be permitted, and because of his abominations he will cause a dispersion, or an abandonment of Jerusalem. The Apostle Paul's insight (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4) into these abominations reveal his desire to be worshipped as God. As Christ mentions in Matthew 24, mankind is also punished for its sin and rebellion against God. It will be a time of judgment and great fear.
“And these are the words that the Lord spake concerning Israel and concerning Judah. For thus saith the Lord; We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.”
This period is also known by another name … The Time of Jacob’s Trouble … because it is at this time that God deals with Israel’s sin and rebellion. As such, this term is specific to Israel because its purpose is to bring Israel back to Him and address the points made in Daniel’s prophecy. If you were to read the verses that follow, it’s clear God is speaking of a time far distant in the future since it refers to Israel serving the Lord and David, their King. The Book of Revelation includes a lot of events and prophecies about Israel, the persecution they face, and miraculous redemptive acts undertaken to bring them to accept Jesus Christ, whom they rejected.
“And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.”
Jesus summarized just how terrible a time it would be. If not for the grace of God, no one would survive, but He does so for the sake of those who come to Christ during this period.
“But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark,”
Jesus told His disciples that there would be no specific warning concerning when this period would begin … just like it was in the days of Noah. In the time of Noah, evil was rampant. Men thought of doing evil all the time (Genesis 6:5). Evil was practiced with such regularity that it became normal behavior … just like it is today. Bad behavior is expected and shrugged off like it was no big deal. If we are not there yet, we are certainly right at the edge of it occurring.
“And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.”
The Book of Revelation, written by the Apostle John, describes what that will occur doing this period, and the central character (the “he” in Daniel 9:27) of this period is known as The Antichrist. He is so named because he is empowered by Satan (Revelation 13:4) and is thus opposed to all that Jesus Christ represents. Using very figurative language, John describes this person as a beast, a testament to his character. The heads, horns and crowns are emblematic of his authority, which, in this case will be world-wide over many nations and religion.
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.”
The Apostle Paul gave advance notice regarding the declining spiritual conditions under which the Antichrist will arrive on the scene. These conditions portend the most opportunistic conditions for the Antichrist to appear. Paul calls it a “falling away”, which is generally interpreted as an apostasy or rebellion against the truth of God. Talk of God will be a “lip talk” without any sincerity in intent. It is without faith in, obedience to, or truth toward honoring God or Jesus Christ. Mankind will reach its lowest point with respect to acknowledging and honoring God, although the people during the time of Noah might dispute that. This clear falling away from God is consistent with what Christ said about the days of Noah.
2 Thessalonians 2:7-8
“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:”
The Antichrist cannot make his appearance until “he who now letteth will let”. This is interpreted as the work of the Holy Spirit, who came into the world to, among other things, convict man of his sin (John 16:8). Once removed, this will allow the Antichrist, that “man of sin” to roam free without resistance. Mankind will be subjected to a life without the “presence” of God, whom they’ve rejected. In other words, man gets his wish, but will pay dearly for the price.
God’s judgments will come by way of seven seals, seven trumpets and seven vials. The sheer number of deaths (50% of mankind), destruction, and catastrophe resulting from these judgments are almost unimaginable, which might be why some people don’t take it seriously.
THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST
“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.”
The Second Coming of Christ is the highlight event which ends the Tribulation Period. Christ returns to set up His Millennial Kingdom on earth. This will be an absolutely wonderful and glorious time.
Next: THE KINGDOM