THE DAY OF CHRIST
THE DAY OF CHRIST Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
The Day of Christ, the Day of the Lord, the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to the earth, is the blessed hope of the Christian Church. It is the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth—that which was preached by John the Baptist, Jesus of Nazareth, and the Apostles of the Lamb.
In this booklet we are speaking of Christ’s return in glory, the Day of Redemption, the promised worldwide revelation of Christ to set up His Kingdom on the earth. We are stating there will be no secret coming of the Lord for His Church before His worldwide appearing and that the current teaching of a pre-tribulation "rapture" is a destructive error.
Table of Contents
The Following Four Passages Record the Same Event!
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:29,30)
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. (I Thessalonians 4:16,17)
And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: (II Thessalonians 1:7,8)
Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. (Revelation 1:7)
THE DAY OF CHRIST
The Day of Christ, the Day of the Lord, the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to the earth, is the blessed hope of the Christian Church.
It is the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth—that which was preached by John the Baptist, Jesus of Nazareth, and the Apostles of the Lamb.
Jesus is coming again!
The coming of the Lord is in several stages. In this booklet we are speaking particularly of Christ’s return in glory, the Day of Redemption, the promised worldwide revelation of Christ to set up His Kingdom on the earth.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church of the Thessalonians concerning the return of Christ—the time of the resurrection of the saints. The following are the terms that Paul employed:
"The coming of the Lord" (I Thessalonians 4:15).
"The day of the Lord" (I Thessalonians 5:2).
"The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Thessalonians 5:23).
"The Presence of the Lord" (II Thessalonians 1:9).
"The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and . . . our gathering together unto him" (II Thessalonians 2:1).
"The day of Christ" (II Thessalonians 2:2).
"The brightness of his coming" (II Thessalonians 2:8).
Paul uses the word coming seven times in First and Second Thessalonians. In every instance Paul employs the Greek term parousia, the same word used by the disciples of the Lord in Matthew 24:3. The common use of parousia (always in the singular) supports our position that Paul did not switch back and forth in First and Second Thessalonians between a special secret "rapture" and the long awaited return of Christ to set up His Kingdom on the earth.
Paul is teaching the saints in Thessalonica concerning the return of Christ to the earth as King of kings and Lord of lords. Other passages of Scripture that announce the same event are as follows:
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:29,30)
And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. (Luke 21:28)
Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:11)
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 will be changed. (I Corinthians 15:52)
Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. (Revelation 1:7)
In order to gain an accurate picture of the Day of Christ we must study the pertinent passages in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Paul has much to say on the subject in his two letters to the church of the Thessalonians.
Let us begin by considering I Thessalonians 4:13-5:23.
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. (I Thessalonians 4:13)
"Not ignorant." Paul is writing in order to add to their understanding.
"Concerning them which are asleep." The subject of the passage immediately under discussion is Christians who have died physically, and the comforting of the surviving Christians—the relatives and friends of the deceased. Here is another reason why we believe the current doctrine concerning an any-moment pre-tribulation "rapture" is incorrect. The principles of sound interpretation suggest we should not use a passage of Scripture to teach a secret disappearance of the saints to escape tribulation when the stated purpose of the passage is to comfort surviving Christians concerning their deceased loved ones.
Physical death is spoken of as sleep. The spirit and soul of the deceased believer are in Heaven, in the spirit realm; but the body is asleep in the ground awaiting the Day of Christ, the time of the resurrection of the saints, the Day of Redemption.
Physical death is not a true death.
Because of sin, the mortal body of both the saved and the unsaved is spiritually dead during their lifetime. There is no resurrection life in the body (Romans 8:10).
The human being who is without Christ is dead spiritually and will not be more dead when he dies physically.
The person who is living in the pleasures of the world truly is dead (I Timothy 5:6).
The individual who is cast into the Lake of Fire is in the second death. Spiritual death is the absence of God from our spirit, our soul, and our body. The Lake of Fire, the second death, is spiritual death in an area of torment.
Physical death is not an eternally significant death, a permanent separation. In physical death, the spirit and soul are separated temporarily from the body. The spirit and soul will be reunited with their body in the Day of Judgment. But as far as we know, the true and lasting personality of the individual continues after physical death in the same relationship to God that was the case during his lifetime on the earth.
We know of no passage of the Scriptures that suggests physical death alters the spiritual realities of our personality. It appears that physical death does not bring the change in our spiritual life and relationships that often is assumed.
The victorious saint is living in the Presence of the Lord. His relationship with the Lord will not change when he is separated from his body. He will continue living in the Presence of the Lord, drawing eternal life from the Head—Christ.
He who lives and believes in Jesus shall never die.
Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? (John 11:25,26)
At the last trumpet the bodies of the righteous dead will be awakened from their sleep in the dust of the earth. Therefore we do not grieve excessively over the death of our saved loved ones. We know that we shall see them again. We shall be joined together with them in the spirit realm after we die. Also, we shall see them again in their bodies in the day when Christ returns to the earth.
Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. (Isaiah 26:19)
We yet shall hear the dead singing for joy.
"That ye sorrow not." We who are Christians do not wail in anguish when a relative or friend passes into the spirit realm. We believe that our deceased loved one has been gathered to his friends in Heaven, old acquaintances being renewed there. Our relationship with him or her will be restored fully and wonderfully when the Lord comes.
It is the writer’s belief that we shall be gathered to our loved ones when we die. But it is interesting to note that in the present passage (I Thessalonians 4:13-5:23) Paul does not point toward our going to Heaven as being the time of our reunion with the deceased. Paul indicates that our reunion with our loved ones will take place in the Day of the Lord’s return to earth.
One may suppose from this that Paul expected the Lord to return with His saints in a year or two and that the Christians of Thessalonica would not die but would be changed into an eternal form. They would meet their deceased loved ones in the Kingdom that soon was to come from Heaven.
No doubt this was part of the reason why Paul stressed the coming of the Lord as being the hour when we would be reunited with our loved ones. But we feel there was a deeper reason for Paul’s emphasis on the Lord’s coming.
A careful study of the New Testament writings will demonstrate that little is said about what happens to the Christian after he or she dies. We Christians have developed fables about "mansions in Heaven." But there is no such emphasis in the New Testament.
The emphasis of the New Testament is on what will happen to us in the Day of Christ—in the day when Jesus appears in the clouds of the heaven. All of us need to reexamine our ideas concerning what happens to the believer when he dies, realizing that our conscious life will continue in the spirit realm. What we are, we are. If we are disobedient to Christ, following Him afar off, there is no Scripture that indicates this will not continue to be our pattern when we die physically.
Apparently the spirit realm is an area of waiting until the Day of Christ. What will happen to most of us, what our experiences will be during the period of waiting, is not—as far as we know—discussed in detail in the Scriptures.
The Christian Gospel does not prepare us for death as much as it does for the Day of Resurrection. It is not what happens to us after we die that is so critically important but what awaits us in the Day of Resurrection. It is in the Day of Resurrection that our rewards are given to us and our eternal roles and responsibilities are assigned to us.
The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead and of eternal judgment has been lost to the Christian Church but now is being restored by the Spirit of God (Hebrews 6:2).
We have no need to sorrow for our loved ones if they are in the Lord. The Lord Jesus will restore them to us in the Day of Christ. Whether or not our loved ones are in the Lord depends on the particular family under consideration. The best inheritance we can give to our loved ones and friends is the godly example we have set as we have pressed into Christ with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength. If we do this we will save ourselves and those who hear us. The final decisions are made by our righteous and compassionate Lord.
"Even as others which have no hope." How bleak is the outlook of the unsaved! A mother, or father, or son dies—and that is the end. It appears that the deceased has vanished into oblivion. To have no hope beyond this present world is to be bound horribly by the fear of death.
Some Christian people live "in the flesh" to such an extent they nearly are as afraid of death as the unsaved.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. (I Thessalonians 4:14)
"For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again." Our hope of being reunited with our deceased loved ones is based solidly on the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because the Lord Jesus returned to life as a real, identifiable Person, able to eat the fish and the honeycomb, being solid flesh and bones, we know beyond all doubt that we shall see our deceased loved ones again as living, identifiable individuals.
"Them also which sleep in Jesus." What does it mean to "sleep in Jesus"? It means to die physically while one is abiding in the Lord. If we die physically while we are not abiding in Christ we are not sleeping in Jesus.
It is one matter to "accept" Christ in the sense of assenting to a theologically correct concept of Jesus as the Lord and Savior of men. It is quite another matter to accept Christ truly and to live and walk in Him in the Spirit of God.
The parable of the ten virgins is a warning to us concerning the Day of Christ and of the division between those who merely are correct in their doctrine and those who are full of the Presence of the living Jesus.
Each of the ten was a "virgin," that is, a Christian. Each had her lamp, her testimony concerning the truth of Christ.
But only five had sufficient "oil," that is, the eternal Life of Jesus dwelling in them. Only these five went in with the Bridegroom to the marriage.
To be "sleeping in Jesus" is to have not only the lamp of truth but also the oil of the Spirit that keeps the lamp shining. We must worship Christ not only in truth but also in the Spirit of God. Apart from the oil of the Spirit, the lamp of the Word will not shine. The letter without the Spirit kills.
By "having the Spirit of God" we do not mean that the believer speaks in tongues. The writer speaks in tongues. Being filled with the Spirit is evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit, not by speaking in tongues as valuable as tongues are to the believer. Many believers speak in tongues who are not filled with the Spirit of God. Their lives reveal clearly they are not abiding in the Lord Jesus.
It is our point of view that those who are sleeping in Jesus consist not only of the saints of the new covenant but also the saints of the old covenant. All will come forth in the Day of Christ.
But how could the saints of the old covenant be saved in Christ? It is possible because the Gospel was preached to them in the spirit world.
For for this cause [in order that all might be judged on the same basis] was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. (I Peter 4:6)
That the old-covenant saints will appear with the new covenant saints was demonstrated on the Mount of Transfiguration. The Mount of Transfiguration was a preview of the Day of Christ.
Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. (Matthew 16:28)
Six days after stating this, Jesus took Peter, James, and John up into a high mountain. The preview of the coming of the Kingdom of God, which will occur in the Day of Christ, included Jesus, Moses, Elijah, Peter, James, and John. This is one reason why we believe that those who sleep in Jesus include the saints of both covenants.
Another interesting episode concerning the old-covenant saints took place at the time of Christ’s resurrection when "many bodies of the saints which slept arose" and appeared to people in Jerusalem (Matthew 27:52,53).
It is the saints, the holy ones, both of the old covenant and the new covenant, who will be raised in the Day of Christ. This does not include the lukewarm, casual professors of Christ who are so abundant today. They may subscribe to correct doctrine but they will not be raised in the Day of Christ because there is not enough eternal life dwelling in them.
It is the army of Christ that will be raised, because the Day of Christ is the time of the Battle of Armageddon.
"Will God bring with Him." This is the return of the saints in glory spoken of so many times in the Scriptures:
. . . and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. (Zechariah 14:5)
When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)
Who will see the saints when they appear with Christ? Everyone will see them, and seeing, the world will believe.
When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. (II Thessalonians 1:10)
The nations of the earth will behold the Glory of God in Christ in the saints and they will believe that it is God who has sent Christ.
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. (John 17:21)
When the sons of God are revealed together with Christ the creation will be set free from the bondage of corruption:
For the earnest expectation of the creature [creation] waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. (Romans 8:19)
The Day of Christ is the Day of Resurrection of the saints. It is the raising of God’s army from the dead:
So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. (Ezekiel 37:10)
The army of Christ will accompany Christ at His coming. The saints will execute the Divine judgment on all sinners—human and angelic:
And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. (Jude 1:14,15)
This is the time of the possessing of the Kingdom of God by the saints.
God will permit Antichrist to make war against the saints and to overcome them. But Antichrist will be destroyed by the appearing of Christ with the saints as they descend from Heaven to assume the rulership of the world:
I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom. (Daniel 7:21,22)
At their appearing the soldiers of Christ will be riding God’s war horses:
And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. (Revelation 19:14)
It is an honor to be chosen to return with Christ in the Day of the Lord:
These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. (Revelation 17:14)
Even the Lord’s own people will tremble because of the fierceness and majesty of the Lord Jesus when He appears from Heaven with His army:
When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops. (Habakkuk 3:16)
When Christ descends from heaven in the clouds He will shout for the battle:
And the Lord shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can abide it? (Joel 2:11)
All who have died in the Lord, from the beginning of the creation of mankind to the time of His appearing, will return with the Lord Jesus to set up the Kingdom of God on the earth.
Many of these who will return, such as Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Daniel, Malachi, John the Baptist, Paul, Peter, and multitudes of saints whose names we do not know, have been dead for hundreds or thousands of years. They are familiar with the ways of Heaven. But their bodies, as far as we know, are still sleeping in the ground.
What have they been doing while they are with Christ in Heaven? Perhaps they have been planning with Him the setting up of the Kingdom of God on the earth:
And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:30,31)
The establishing of the Kingdom of God on the earth requires a carefully planned military campaign and numerous political considerations and decisions. After the Battle of Armageddon has been concluded the assigned rulers and governors will be dispersed (no doubt with angelic armies) to every nation, village, and tribe on the earth. Every ruler and angel warrior will know precisely what to do.
Zion is being prepared for battle and for the rule of Christ in the earth.
When Jesus appears, in the Day of Christ, His kings, governors, rulers, priests, generals, angel warriors, executives, counselors, and so forth will descend from Heaven with Him.
Many of these dignitaries are so endued with Divine glory that they are as great mountains of fire, huge weights of glory that will make the sun by comparison seem as a flickering candle.
God’s kings and priests are returning to earth to bring forth their own bodies from the grave, just as the Lord Jesus brought forth His own body from the grave, and then to confront those who are working wickedness and rebellion in the earth.
This will be a frightful hour for the sinners in the earth, including the "Christians" who have the mark of the Beast in their head or in their hand. These are "believers" who name the name of Christ but who are part of the present world system. They want Christ to "cover" them as they continue to "eat their own bread and wear their own clothes" (Isaiah 4:1).
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [go before] them which are asleep. (I Thessalonians 4:15)
"By the Word of the Lord." Paul was declaring the revelation that had been given to him by the Lord Jesus.
"That we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord." The expression "the coming of the Lord" identifies the passage we are studying. It is not the setting forth of a "secret rapture." Rather, Paul was speaking of "the coming of the Lord," the parousia.
The coming of the Lord, the Day of the Lord, the Day of Christ, the Day of Redemption, is taught in the Old Testament and the New Testament. It is the time when the Kingdom of God comes to the earth, when the kingdoms of this world become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.
Paul taught that rebellion against all authority will take place on the earth and that Antichrist (the man of lawlessness) will be revealed before the Lord returns to redeem our mortal bodies.
To teach that Christ will return before the period of tribulation, before the hour of temptation, before the rebellion against authority, before the man of lawlessness is revealed, and to divide the Body of Christ into Gentile and Jew after it has been made one in Christ, is to disregard the written Word of God concerning these concepts.
There will be saints, a remnant of believers who, by the grace of God and through their own life of prayer, holiness, and obedience, will escape the spiritual dangers and deceptions of the last days. They will stand before Christ, filled with His Spirit and blessing, in that hour.
The perils of the tribulation period will be so great there is a danger of the total destruction of mankind. But God’s elect, His saints, will be crying out to Him from the earth. Therefore God will shorten the days of the great tribulation:
And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. (Matthew 24:22)
We understand that there will be a remnant of believers who will survive the great tribulation period including the worldwide reign of Antichrist. They will worship God and testify of Him through all the days of trouble (although their sphere of influence will be cut back greatly during the last three and one-half years) and will be alive on the earth when the Lord returns.
Notice in Matthew 24:29,30 that Christ Himself declares His return to earth will take place "after the tribulation of those days."
Those who "are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord" will be Christians of faith and perseverance, filled with the eternal life of Christ.
They will be able to be changed from mortality into immortality while standing on their feet.
It is true also that there will be a great multitude of "Laodicean Christians" when the Lord returns. They will not "go forth to Him to the wedding." They will be vomited from His mouth in that Day.
If we hope to stand in the midst of the satanic darkness that even today is deceiving God’s people we must give ourselves to prayer. We must shun the cares and drunkenness of the materialistic culture in which we are attempting to survive spiritually.
And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day [the Day of Christ] come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. (Luke 21:34-36)
Even today many believers have not been able to stand against the increase of spiritual darkness. They are living in the spirit of the age.
Antichrist already has overcome many believers by means of covetousness and the cares of this life. Although they have agreed to the "four steps of salvation" they are more in union with Antichrist than they are with Christ. They have fallen before Antichrist because they have not, in many instances, been taught to watch and pray with utmost diligence.
Christ promised the overcomers of the church in Philadelphia that He would guard them from the hour of temptation. But in order to be guarded they must guard the Word of Christ’s patience. They must be faithful unto death throughout the days of testing.
Because thou hast kept [guarded] the word of my patience, I also will keep [guard] thee from the hour of temptation [testing], which shall come upon all the world, to try [test] them that dwell upon the earth. (Revelation 3:10)
The key concept is patience in cross-carrying obedience to the Lord Jesus at all times and in all places.
I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 1:9)
If we are patient in tribulation, guarding the Word of Christ, Christ will guard us, keeping us from the snare of sin and lawlessness during the era of testing that has commenced already.
If we do not follow Jesus with the utmost care in the present hour we will be deceived and will fall into sin.
Mankind is rushing toward demon possession. Mankind is rebelling against all authority, including God’s authority. The supreme goal is to make people happy. People love themselves. The worship of money and continued indulgence in pleasure, lust, violence, and sorcery are on the rise.
We must exercise great patience in prayer and waiting on the Lord’s will if we are to escape the lust and corruption that are in the world. Many Christians have yielded to the lusts of the flesh. The churches are filled with entertainment, lust, and the love of money. The ministers of the Lord compete with one another for the largest congregations, the finest buildings. They speak to please their listeners. Sometimes they are engaging in adultery while they are preaching the Gospel of Christ.
A faithful few keep before the Lord, patiently obeying His Word and waiting for Him to reveal the true nature of these synagogues of Satan.
We can stand in Christ today if we so desire, but not without unceasing prayer and self-denial. If we are willing to forsake our own life, take up our cross, and follow Christ, we will not be deceived. Otherwise we will be deceived—Christian or not.
In the last days the majority of the believers will grow cold in their love for God and His Christ. But there will be a remnant of saints alive on the earth at the coming of the Lord.
"Shall not prevent (precede; have an advantage over) them which are asleep." The remnant who are alive on the earth at the coming of the Lord will not enter the Kingdom of God ahead of those saints who previously have fallen asleep in Jesus.
The saints in Thessalonica were expecting the imminent return of Christ to set up His Kingdom on the earth. While they were waiting for Christ’s return, some of the members died. This caused concern on the part of the remainder of the church. The believers were worried and sorrowful, thinking that the deceased brothers and sisters would not be present to witness the glorious return of the Lord; that they were gone and would not be seen again.
Notice the absence of the current tradition of "dying and going to Heaven." The emphasis of apostolic teaching was not on "dying and going to Heaven." It was on the coming of the Messianic Kingdom to the earth. Because of this emphasis there was concern about the entrance of the deceased believers into the Kingdom of God.
There would be no such concern today because we have changed the Gospel of the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth into a gospel of dying and going to live forever in Heaven. The converting of the subject of this passage, which is the comforting of the hearts of the believers concerning the entrance of the deceased saints into the Kingdom, into a special revelation concerning the removal of the Church from the threat of Antichrist, reflects ignorance of the nature of the Kingdom of God as well as a misconception of the passage.
It is true that the deceased saints cannot be made perfect apart from us (Hebrews 11:40). It is true also that we who are alive and remain unto Jesus’ return to earth will not enter the Kingdom of God ahead of the saints of past generations.
All God’s elect will enter the Kingdom at the same time. We understand from this that we do not enter the Kingdom of God when we as an individual die physically.
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: (I Thessalonians 4:16)
"The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven." This is the coming of the Lord spoken of in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. We can see from Paul’s teaching that Christ will descend from Heaven into the air above us, into the area from which the earth has been ruled by fallen angels who, though bound in chains of spiritual darkness, are expressing their nature in mankind. Paul refers to Satan as "the prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 2:2).
Apparently Christ will remain for a season at the level of the clouds before continuing to the earth. This interval of time is necessary so the members of His army can descend in the Spirit and take up their bodies from the ground or from wherever they are "sleeping." Then His army will ascend in their redeemed bodies to be gathered about Him.
How long Christ and His saints will remain in the clouds before descending to the Mount of Olives is not known to us. Neither do we know what will be accomplished at that time. This may be a period for the assigning of roles, responsibilities, and rewards.
It is not reasonable that the members of His army will be judged when they ascend to be with Jesus, as some are claiming. The army of royal priests have been judged while living on the earth. To rise in glory to be with the Lord is not so they may be judged but is in fact their sentence —their reward for being faithful unto death. The remainder of the dead will not regain their bodies until the end of the thousand-year period.
One point must be brought to the attention of God’s people with great emphasis. The first resurrection from the dead is for the royal priesthood. It is the time of giving the spiritual thrones that govern the creation to those who through Christ have overcome Satan, the world, Antichrist, and their own lusts and self-will. The following passage appears to us to imply strongly that not all who profess belief in Christ will attain the first resurrection from the dead. Rather, the first resurrection is for the overcomers, for those who are prepared to be revealed with Christ:
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: upon such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4-6)
Christ may abide in the air for a long period of time, establishing the thrones of spiritual authority and sending the wrath of God on the rebellious of the earth. Perhaps those who are alive on the earth at His coming, and now have been changed and have ascended with all the saints, will have this opportunity to find their positions in the army poised to invade the earth.
Then, with the pealing of the trumpets of God, the Lord Jesus Christ and His army will proceed downward until their feet touch the Mount of Olives—no doubt at the place from which He ascended.
His generals and mighty men await His command. He sends them to Har-Magedon, north of Jerusalem, there to crush the forces of Antichrist.
Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem upon the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. (Zechariah 14:3-5)
"With a shout." This is a word of command, a shout of battle. It is the voice of the Commander in Chief, Christ, at the head of His troops.
And the Lord shall utter his voice before his army: . . . . (Joel 2:11)
The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; . . . . (Joel 3:16)
The Lord shall go forth as a mighty man, he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war: he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies. (Isaiah 42:13)
"With the voice of the archangel." The archangel is Michael, the leader of the warrior angels.
Whenever there is a battle against the Lord’s enemies there must be two armies (Mahanaim —Genesis 32:2). There must be the army of saints and the army of angels.
As soon as Joshua crossed over Jordan and invaded the land of promise he encountered the leader of the army of angels (Joshua 5:14).
When Christ was born in Bethlehem the army of angels appeared in order to pay homage to the King of kings and Lord of lords:
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and upon earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:13,14)
The saints must overcome the accuser by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of their testimony, and by loving not their lives to the death. But it is the army of angels, commanded by the archangel, Michael, that wages war in the spirit realm.
"With the trump [trumpet] of God." This is the kingdom-wide fulfillment of the Old Testament memorial of blowing of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:24).
The trumpet of God announces the coming of the King, the beginning of the Battle of Armageddon, and the Year of Jubilee—the setting free of Satan’s prisoners and the lifting of the curse from the earth.
This is the seventh trumpet, the last trumpet, of which Paul spoke (I Corinthians 15:52). It is heralding the Day of the Lord, the resurrection of the dead, the establishing of the Kingdom of God, the rule of God, on the earth. The royal priesthood will receive their bodies at this time. The remainder of the dead will be raised at the end of the thousand-year period.
Here at last is the blessed hope of the Church. It is the Day of Redemption to which all Christians have been sealed. It is the new-covenant fulfillment of the Year of Jubilee. The thousand-year period, as we understand it, is the spiritual fulfillment of the Levitical Day of Atonement—the era of reconciliation to God.
John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus, and the Apostles pointed toward the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth.
Here is the return of the Lord Jesus "in like manner as ye have seen him go into Heaven" (Acts 1:11).
This is the time when "every eye shall see him" (Revelation 1:7).
This is the moment when "we shall be changed" (I Corinthians 15:52).
This is the hour of the gathering together of Christ’s elect "from one end of heaven to the other" (Matthew 24:31).
This is the Day of the Lord spoken of by the Hebrew Prophets.
The Lord Jesus Christ will descend from Heaven.
Christ will shout for the battle.
The archangel, Michael, will command the army of angels.
The trumpet of God will announce the Day of Christ.
The dead in Christ will rise first.
No man took Christ’s life from Him. Although He was slain at the hands of wicked men, in actuality He laid His body down and took it up again.
Now Christ is permitting His saints, the soldiers of His army, to go down to earth in spiritual form to their bodies sleeping in the ground and to take them up again.
The term rise, as used in I Thessalonians 4:16, does not mean ascend. It means to rise in resurrection life, as the Lord Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. This is the point at which the dead bodies of the saints come forth from the grave and stand on the surface of the earth.
The Lord Jesus did not ascend into Heaven until forty days after He rose from the dead.
There is a great difference between resurrection and ascension. Resurrection is the climactic act of the Divine redemption, the restoring of that which was lost in Eden. The immortalizing of the body of the Christian saint is the destruction of the last enemy—physical death (I Corinthians 15:26).
Resurrection, the redemption of our mortal body, marks our adoption as sons of God. We are declared to be the sons of God by the resurrection from the dead (Romans 8:23).
Ascension from the surface of the earth into the clouds of the sky is a comparatively insignificant event. After we have been raised from the dead, all such movement is possible.
It is not true, as some have supposed, that we ascend from the earth in order to escape Antichrist or to avoid tribulation. There simply is no evidence in the Scriptures for this concept. Once we have been raised from the dead we have conquered Antichrist and all other power that the world has to harm us. There is no need for a resurrected saint to leave the earth in order to escape Antichrist. After our resurrection no further victory is necessary for us personally.
God lifts us from the earth into the clouds in order to be with Christ, not in order to escape tribulation or Antichrist.
Ordinarily, escape from the sufferings of this present world comes to the saint by means of physical death (although the Scriptures do not stress this—it is our assumption). There may be some who will escape pain by being made immortal at the moment of the Lord’s appearing. This is suggested by the following passage:
And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, (II Thessalonians 1:7)
There is no indication in the Scriptures that the Lord God will deliver people from trouble by means of plucking them from the earth.
It is true, rather, that it is the Lord Jesus who delivers His saints from trouble; and He does so in the most unlikely circumstances and ways. He delivers us while we still are in the den of lions. He sets a table before us in the very presence of our enemies.
Since there was an interval of forty days between the resurrection and the ascension of Christ it seems not unlikely that the saints also will enjoy a period of time after they have been raised from the dead and before they are lifted from the earth to meet the Lord in the air.
The Scriptures do not state exactly what will transpire during the period of time between the appearing of Christ in the air and the ascending of the saints to meet Him in the clouds. But it is probable there will be an interval of time between the sounding of the trumpet of God and the summoning of the Lord’s army to meet Him in the clouds.
The believers who are alive on the earth at the time of the Lord’s return have important decisions to make if they would be saved.
Some of the Lord’s parables concern those Christians who are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord.
Let us look at the events of the Day of the Lord, in order to pinpoint the period of time, and the group of people, of which we are speaking.
The shout of command.
The voice of the archangel.
The trumpet of God.
The dead in Christ come forth from their graves.
The living saints are changed in a moment from mortality into immortality.
All God’s elect are caught away in clouds to meet Christ in the air.
Sudden destruction falls on the world government of Antichrist.
The Battle of Armageddon results in the destruction of Antichrist.
Christ sits on the Throne of David in Jerusalem.
The thousand-year rule of Christ and the saints commences.
Now, let us go back to the third item above:
It is our point of view that after the trumpet of God sounds, the living believers in Christ will be required to take certain appropriate steps if they are to be saved—steps that can be taken only if proper preparation has been made beforehand. It is not possible that one can lead a careless Christian life and then be able to go to meet the Lord when the trumpet blows. The return of Christ will be sudden. There will be no opportunity for a change of heart in that moment.
The following considerations apply to the period of time after the trumpet of God sounds and before the living believers are changed into immortality and caught away with all the elect to join the slain Lamb in the clouds.
Having lived the Spirit-filled life in preparation (the ten virgins).
Not looking back, covetousness, entanglement with the world (remember Lot’s wife).
Selectivity based on our abiding in Christ (two will be at the mill).
If a believer who is alive on the earth at the return of Christ is to be successful in being changed and caught up with the resurrected army, he or she must pass the test of prior preparation, the test of entanglement, and the test of abiding in Christ.
Failure in one of these areas will result in inability to respond to the summons of Christ.
The Lord Jesus warned us in the parable of the ten virgins to keep ourselves prepared for the sudden appearing of the Lord from Heaven:
And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. (Matthew 25:6,7)
After the trimming of the lamps there followed a discussion concerning oil.
It is obvious that the announcement of the Lord’s coming will necessitate decision-making and action on the part of the Lord’s people. In the above instance, some of the believers were not able to go to be with the Lord.
The "lamp" represents the Christian testimony, the Word of God. The "oil" represents the Holy Spirit.
At no time in the Gospel accounts does the Lord Jesus raise the question of doctrine when discussing His coming. He deals with the use of talents, how we treat our fellow servants, giving a cup of water, but not doctrine. Religious people stress doctrine because doctrine is important to the religious. God stresses character and our being filled with the Spirit because these are important to God.
"Oil" is important in the Day of Christ. That we are filled with the Spirit of God is critically important.
One time the writer asked the Lord why he would not be allowed to share his "oil" with the needy in the Day of the Lord. The Lord seemed to reply that in that Day one would have only enough oil for himself. Even the righteous are saved with difficulty (I Peter 4:18). A sobering thought!
In the eighth chapter of Romans, Paul reveals to us why "oil" is so important in the Day of Christ.
We Christians possess a physical body that is dead because of the sin that resides in it (Romans 8:10).
God already has placed within us the Spirit of life that, in the Day of Christ, will raise us from the dead:
But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken [make alive] your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. (Romans 8:11)
We have a dead body but within us is the Spirit of the resurrection.
If we choose to put to death through the Holy Spirit the deeds of our body, overcoming the lusts of our flesh and our pride and self-will, the resurrection life within us will be powerfully present, awaiting only the trumpet of God to make alive our mortal body.
But if we choose instead to live "in the flesh," thinking and acting according to the desires of our flesh and fleshly mind, the resurrection life within us will decrease in vitality until it is present in minimal amount or not present at all:
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify [put to death] the deeds of the body, ye shall live. (Romans 8:13)
We still have our Christian "testimony"—our profession of belief in Christ, but the resurrection life is gone out of us.
When the trumpet of God sounds there will be no response from within us. We shall understand, because of our knowledge of the Word of God, what is taking place. But we will find, to our panic and terror, that there is no eternal life rising up from within us. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in that hour.
Now Satan will turn against us and mock us because he has been successful in causing us to believe we can be involved in the prosperity of this world’s culture and still be a servant of Christ. Satan will gleefully remind us that we have been as faithless as he himself has been.
The Day of the Lord will come as a snare on the inhabitants of the earth, including the believers who have not been looking constantly to Christ. The Christians who have allowed the love of the world to interfere with their sowing to the life of the Spirit of God will not have the inner power to enable them to join together with the elect who have been raised from the dead.
It is not possible to be entangled with the things of the world, as so many Christians are today, and then respond successfully to the trumpet of God in the Day of Christ.
Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. (Luke 17:30-33)
Why would the Lord Jesus urge us to "remember Lot’s wife" if it were not possible to lose our crown at the very moment of the return of the Lord?
When the Lord appears and the dead are raised, we who are alive and remain will be summoned by the Lord’s power and by His angels to join ourselves with those who have been resurrected.
If we have been living in the world—our heart being entangled in things, in circumstances, in human relationships—we will not be able to respond. We will delay while we are attempting to tear ourselves loose from our material entanglements. The delay will prove to be fatal.
Lot, his wife, and his two daughters were dragged out of Sodom by the angels of God. But before they had reached safety Lot’s wife looked back. Lot’s wife had left Sodom in her body but not in her heart. She was out of Sodom but Sodom was not out of her. Thus she was destroyed.
So it will be when Christ returns. Christians all over the world will be summoned by the Spirit to join themselves with those who have been raised from the dead so all may be lifted up together to meet the Lord in the air.
But each believer must respond in faith or else he or she will be destroyed with the world.
We may imagine that it will be easy to respond to Christ’s Word of command in that Day. Indeed it shall be a joyous opportunity to respond to Christ’s summons if, like the Apostle Paul, we have turned aside from everything in life in order that we may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
But for the average believer of today it will be extremely difficult and—in numerous instances—utterly impossible to respond to the trumpet of the Day of Christ.
For the Christian who is entangled in the affairs of this world it will be impossible to go forth to meet Christ.
The conduct of Lot’s wife, who was yearning after her home and sons-in-law, proves that such is the case.
It will not be a light matter to go to meet Christ, leaving behind all that we hold dear, not giving a second thought to our home, our possessions, our valuables, our loved ones and acquaintances.
For those who are entangled in the world it will be impossible to leave at a moment’s notice.
Christ asks us to forsake all today, to lose our life for His sake today.
If we find it difficult to leave all now, let us realize it will be infinitely more difficult to drop everything at a moment’s notice and go to meet Christ when He appears. The pressures of a society which in that day will be totally corrupt, having mocked all that has to do with Christ, will hinder and confuse us. Even though it appears that Christ is calling, our habits of delay and unbelief will spring up and make it impossible for us to act quickly and decisively.
Our conduct now is the portrayal of what we will do then.
Only those who today are leading a totally committed life will possess the faith and determination, the abandonment of flesh and blood existence, that will be required immediately when the trumpet of God sounds. Even they scarcely will be saved.
The Day of Christ is the great and terrible Day of the Lord of which Malachi and the other Prophets spoke. It is not a day of lightness and pleasantries. It will be the most terrifying hour in the entire history of the creation. It is the Day of God’s wrath!
It will be difficult to go to Christ in the Day of the Lord because there will be a tremendous weight of spiritual oppression on mankind at that time as the result of the rule of Antichrist.
Antichrist will have spiritual, as well as material, authority and power. He will be able to make it very difficult or impossible to pray.
Some believers find it difficult to leave all and follow Christ now. It will be much more difficult in the days to come.
A certain pastor had been teaching concerning this future period of decision-making.
A young man of the church said he was questioning the concept of the difficulty of responding in the Day of Christ, until he had a dream.
In his dream the face of Christ appeared in the clouds. The young man said he could see the face of Christ but just could not bring himself to believe what he was seeing was real. Christ was there in the clouds but he could not believe it enough to act on it. When he awakened he was convinced that faith will be required for participation in the first resurrection from the dead.
We may be assuming we will have no trouble in the Day of Christ, that we can put off until the last moment a serious dedication to Christ. But if we are having trouble letting go of the world today because of our lack of faith in Christ, we will have terrible trouble in that Day because of our lack of faith in Christ.
The faith of the average Christian in our time is by no means at the level required for him or her to be able to respond to the summons of Christ in the hour of His appearing.
Are we truly ready to turn our back on everyone and everything we know and love and to march forward, without once looking back, into a change in our body? Are we spiritually, mentally, and emotionally prepared to be transformed from flesh and blood life to spiritual life such that relationships are changed from the familiar into the unfamiliar?
Could we leave at a moment’s notice the natural and embrace totally the supernatural?
Could we, if we were caught away from home, walk straight toward Christ without returning to take care of our family or to lock our house against theft of our possessions? Could we go forward without once looking back?
If we are that strong in faith we are of the spiritual stature of Enoch, Elijah, and Paul. There will indeed be strong people of faith in the last days, as it is written: "And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last" (Luke 13:30).
Then there is the problem of our selection—that inner pull based on the Life of Christ dwelling in us and we in Him.
When Jesus returns, the world will be "prospering" under the reign of Antichrist. People will be marrying, giving in marriage, buying, selling, planting, reaping.
Some of us at that time may be living and working alongside the people of the world, or worldly Christians.
I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. (Luke 17:34-36)
Today the cold, the lukewarm, and the righteous all live and work together—and so to the end of the age.
But the Kingdom of God is without mixture. Every creature will be placed in the realm for which he or she is suited. Mixtures will not be permitted in that Day. (Revelation 22:11.)
On what basis will one be taken and the other left? On the basis of the development of the Life of Christ within the individual.
Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together. (Luke 17:36,37)
Jesus was quoting from the Book of Job:
Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high? She dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock, and the strong place. From thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off. Her young ones also suck up blood: and where the slain are, there is she. (Job 39:27-30)
When the Lord Jesus appears He will be as the slain Lamb. Christ is our Passover Lamb. We saints are the young eagles who live by eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Lamb of God.
Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:54)
If we wish to be "taken" in the Day of Christ then we must be among those who live by eating the flesh of Christ and drinking His blood.
For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. (John 6:55)
The weekly or monthly Communion service of the Christian assemblies portrays our eating the flesh of Christ and drinking His blood. But every day of our Christian discipleship we are to be spiritually eating the flesh of Christ and drinking His blood. We are learning to live by His body and blood.
We keep ourselves "in Christ" by prayer, praise, meditating in the Scriptures, obeying the Holy Spirit, mixing faith with the written Word, gathering together with fervent believers on a regular basis (as possible), and by practicing all other aspects of the Christian life.
Each day the Spirit of God brings us down to the death of the cross. Each day the Lord gives us to eat and drink of His flesh and blood. We live by His Life. Because He lives we also live.
He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. (John 6:56)
Either we are living according to our life in the flesh or else we are being transformed such that the Life of Christ is becoming our life. If we are following the Holy Spirit, trusting in the Spirit’s wisdom and power rather than in our own wisdom and power, confessing our sins as the Spirit directs, and obeying the Lord, then the Virtue of Christ is being formed in us. We are conquering the lustful corruption of the world by means of the Divine Substance, the body and blood of Christ being fed to us each day by the Spirit of God.
The Lord Jesus stands at the door of each Christian personality. He knocks, and speaks. If any person will open the door the Lord will come in to him and dine with him and he with the Lord.
The food on which they dine is the flesh of Christ. The drink they share is the blood of Christ. It is the Lord’s Supper being repeated in each Christian personality each day.
It is not that we participate in the Communion service every day. It is that Christ gives us each day to eat of the hidden manna of His own Life’s Substance and Virtue. It is an inner romance in which we are brought into fiery, incorruptible union with Him. This is how the true saint lives.
As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. (John 6:57)
We become the Bride of the Lamb by eating the Passover Lamb, Christ; and it is the inner Life of the body and blood of Christ that selects one to be taken and the other to be left, in the Day of Christ.
What is it that pulls us out of the world?
Flesh calls to flesh. Blood calls to blood. Life calls to life. Fire calls to fire. Love calls to love.
It is the body and blood of Christ that will raise us in the Day of Christ: first, into eternal life, and then to meet Him in the air.
If we are not living today by the body and blood of Christ we are not prepared to be taken when the trumpet of God sounds.
We will be left!
We must be filled with the "oil" of the Holy Spirit.
We must possess enough faith and determination to not look back.
We must be living by the flesh and blood of the Lamb of God.
Multitudes of professing Christians are unable to achieve victory over smoking, drinking alcohol, profanity, personal bitterness, the love of money, fear, unbelief. Yet they imagine that in the Day of Christ they will possess the faith to leave all that is familiar and pass into immortality.
But if they cannot follow Christ now they will not be able to follow Him in that dreadful hour. If the ways of God weary them now, what will they do in the "swelling of Jordan" (judgment)?
Notice that each of the three examples mentioned above (the ten virgins; the deliverance of Lot and his wife; and the two at the mill) has a joyous aspect and a tragic aspect. The ministers of today who are attempting to preach only a "positive" gospel are betraying their role as God’s spokesmen.
God draws the Church out from the world in order that the Church may stand with God against the world and rebuke the world in the name of the Lord.
God draws His prophets out from the Church in order that the prophets may stand with God against the Church and rebuke the Church in the name of the Lord. The prophet usually is in an adversarial relationship to Israel. Search the writings of the Prophets and see how often they complimented the Israelites on their behavior.
God draws out from among His prophets yet sterner prophets in order that the sterner prophets may stand with God against the prophets and rebuke the prophets in the name of the Lord.
Then comes the Lord Jesus Christ who stands with God and rebukes and chastens the sternest of the prophets.
All this separating and rebuking is motivated by the love of God for His creatures. He is making us partakers of His holiness.
As many as Christ loves He rebukes and chastens.
In the hour of Christ’s appearing we shall have a marvelous opportunity to be joined together and have fellowship with God’s heroes of faith from all ages of history. But this will be no place for the lukewarm, pleasure-loving, entertainment-satiated, nominal believers of our day. They would be miserable indeed!
This is a holy brotherhood—men and women who have lived as strangers and pilgrims on the earth, many of them having been tortured and slain for the Gospel’s sake. The world is not worthy of them; neither are the lukewarm professors of comfortable Christianity.
We shall not be allowed to participate with such people until we forsake our life, take up our cross, and follow Christ without looking back.
The saints will stand on the earth, after they have been resurrected, until the period of orientation and reunion has been completed. They will have no fear of Antichrist but Antichrist will be terrified of them.
What will Antichrist and the rebels of the earth do when they behold the sign of the Son of Man in the heaven and the resurrected saints walking on the earth and having fellowship with one another and rejoicing in the Lord?
There is nothing whatever they can do just as the Roman soldiers and the leaders of the Jews were totally unable to harm the resurrected Christ.
This is the hour when God has set a table for His saints in the presence of their enemies.
There will be no bounds to their rage and despair when the ungodly realize that the hated Christians have been raised from the dead and no longer can be harmed by them.
The persecuted remnant still alive on the earth will rejoice exceedingly as the Kingdom of which they have been testifying, and of which they are such a valued part, finally has been revealed for the whole world to see.
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. (I Thessalonians 4:17)
"Shall be caught up." Before we are caught up to meet Christ in the air we must be changed from a mortal human being into an immortal son of God. This transformation is exciting to contemplate. But let us remember that such a change marks the end of flesh and blood life as we have known it.
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. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (I Corinthians 15:51-53)
We enter the Kingdom of God by means of the resurrection from the dead. As soon as the change takes place in our body we are ready and prepared to be caught up together with those who have just been raised from the dead.
We who are alive and remain on the earth, being part of the eternal company of saints, will be changed in an instant from human beings into spiritual creatures and will go to join the groups of saints who have just emerged from their graves.
"Together with them in the clouds." The newly resurrected Christians, and we who have been ready to leave the earth at a moment’s notice, will be joined together as one Church—one perfect, unblemished Body of Christ.
The Holy Spirit of God will abide on the Church of Christ. To the horror of Antichrist and his deceived followers, including many who profess to be Christians, the whole body of saints will begin to ascend from the surface of the earth.
Slowly, majestically, with anthems of praise rolling from horizon to horizon as a tremendous thunder to accompany the lightning of Christ’s Glory, all those who live by the body and blood of the slain Lamb will be caught away in clouds to be joined to Christ for eternity.
If Christ and His saints were, at this point, to leave the earth forever, the rebellious nations of the earth would destroy each other because of the sight they just have witnessed.
But the ascension of the victorious saints is the merest beginning of the sorrows of Antichrist and his followers.
"To meet the Lord in the air." The air is the area from which the fallen angels plague the world with their wicked, perverse, rebellious natures. Now their thrones will be given to the saints of the Most High.
Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom. (Daniel 7:22)
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4)
The Glory of Christ and of the holy angels will be seen in the heavens and on the saints on earth at the same time. As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be at this time. The waters of glory will come from beneath and then from above (Genesis 7:11).
We shall meet the Lord in the air. For those of us who are alive at the coming of the Lord this will be the first time we have seen Jesus in Person. Those who came from Heaven with Him may know Him better than we—in the visible, external sense. This may or may not be true, for it is certain that the knowledge of the Lord comes to us as we walk through the fire with Him, not from a mere external contact with Him.
But all of us will ascend together to meet Him in the air so the whole Christ, Head and Body, can commence the work of the Servant of the Lord (Isaiah, Chapter 42).
The fact that the Lord’s army will meet Christ in the air at His coming will place Antichrist and his armies, who are confined to the earth, at a great military disadvantage.
The meeting in the air will be no place for weak, lukewarm professors of Christ. This is the gathering into one disciplined army of the true saints of the Lord, Christ’s conquerors, His mighty men. Each of these saints has been called, chosen, and proven faithful under the most exacting testings. The least among them is as David. One can put a thousand to flight; two, ten thousand.
The Day of Christ will not be a gala event even for the faithful. It will be a period of utmost gravity as the Lord God prepares to judge men and angels. It is the beginning of the pouring out of the vials of Divine wrath on the world.
The gala event, the joyous celebration, will take place after the battle.
"And so shall we ever be with the Lord." It is the desire of Christ’s heart that His beloved saints be with Him always. No word of ours could possibly describe the intensity of the love Christ has for His Body, His Bride.
She never will be removed from His side—not for an eternity of eternities.
When the youngest of the new stars has grown old and decrepit with age and has fallen into the ocean of eternity, the love of Christ for His Bride and His faithfulness toward her will just be beginning.
Christ has waited patiently such a long time for this union to take place! Never again will He be required to be without His predestined Wife.
We may play various roles in the ages to come and we may perform many different tasks, as we serve the Father and behold His countenance. But one fact is certain—we shall be with the Lord Jesus all the while.
Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (I Thessalonians 4:18)
We Christians do not weep in anguish concerning our loved ones who go to be with the Lord. We know that they and we will enter the Kingdom of God at the same time through means of the resurrection from the dead. We will see them again and never again will be separated from them by death.
But of the times and the seasons, brothers, ye have no need that I write unto you. (I Thessalonians 5:1)
"The times and the seasons." These are the two Greek terms used in Acts 3:19 and 21. The plurality of these words reminds us that the Day of the Lord is a complex event. It is well for us to remember that the Prophets and the Apostles have sketched out only the outline of the Day of Christ.
Even when we put together all that the Scriptures state concerning the Day of Christ, some questions remain unanswered. We shall have to wait until the several aspects take place before we are able to comprehend the complete picture.
The most important concept for us to grasp in the present hour is that of serving Christ now with all diligence, remembering that an attempt will be made by unclean spirits to lead us away from genuine discipleship. Only the most dedicated of the believers will be able to survive the darkness that even now is coming upon us.
We always must be ready for Christ’s coming. We are not of this world. It is time we Christians begin to demonstrate this fact.
For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. (I Thessalonians 5:2)
"The Day of the Lord." Remembering that chapter divisions did not exist in the original Greek manuscripts, we understand that Paul still is speaking concerning the coming of the Lord (I Thessalonians 4:15), which is synonymous with the Day of the Lord, the Day of Christ.
Some teachers have attempted to present Paul’s teaching in First Thessalonians as signifying a secret disappearing of all professing Christians several years before the coming of the Lord, the Day of the Lord.
There are numerous problems with this viewpoint. Three of them are as follows: (1) it does not fit with Christ’s own discourse concerning His coming, as set forth in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew; (2) it suggests that Paul changed to another topic when he began Chapter Five of First Thessalonians (but there were no chapter divisions when Paul wrote this letter); and (3) it is not reasonable that God (or anyone else) would announce a "secret" coming with a shout of command, the voice of the archangel, and a trumpet. This certainly is questionable.
As far as we can observe, there is not one statement in either First or Second Thessalonians suggesting in any manner whatever that Paul is speaking of two separate comings divided by seven years or by three and one-half years. In fact, the flow of the discussion throughout both of the letters implies quite the contrary. One has to approach the texts with a preconceived "secret" in order for a special coming to be isolated from Paul’s comments. The assuming of secrets within the body of the Epistles is not, of course, a proper approach to sound interpretation.
It may be noted in addition that Paul, in both letters to the church in Thessalonica, used the same Greek term (parousia ) whenever he spoke of Christ’s "coming."
If we are correct in our knowledge, there is not one passage in the Old Testament or the New Testament that speaks of a disappearing of the Christian Church. Do you know of any verse that tells us the Church will disappear? Should we be believing and teaching that which is not set forth clearly in the written Word of God?
It is obvious there is no such teaching in either First or Second Thessalonians.
Perhaps we have been deceived and it is time now to repent.
From our point of view, the teaching of a special coming of the Lord prior to the scriptural Day of Christ, the Day of the Lord, has had an adverse effect on the believers in that they have not in numerous instances armed themselves to suffer in the flesh.
We must ask ourselves, What type of Christians have the current teachings produced? Are they walking in the Spirit? Do they possess the faith and determination to not look back in the Day of Christ? Are they living by the body and blood of Christ?
In both First and Second Thessalonians Paul is teaching concerning the coming of the Lord, the Day of the Lord. If there is to be a special appearing of Christ prior to the Day of the Lord, Paul either did not know of it or else was hiding it from the church of the Thessalonians.
Also, the Lord Jesus hid it from His disciples (see Matthew, Chapter 24).
"So cometh as a thief in the night." The concept is not that Christ is coming to steal something from the earth. Rather, the idea is that of the unexpectedness of His appearing. The success of a thief depends on his not being expected.
Over and over again Christ warned us that He is coming suddenly and unexpectedly. We are to hold ourselves always in perfect readiness. When Christ appears the world will not be prepared and the lukewarm churches will not be prepared.
Satisfaction with the world and security within the world system will increase, even during the dark hours that are ahead. Numerous believers in Christ will be seduced into entanglement with the world system. We see that very entanglement today on a fairly wide scale.
The Lord’s coming will catch these worldlings unprepared. They will not be able to move with the Lord just as they cannot move with the Lord today. The bondages and weights of the cares of life will hold them back then as they hold them back today. The believers are binding themselves with their own chains.
Like Lot’s wife, they will be brought out from the city of destruction but will be unable to respond properly to the Lord at that time.
The Lord’s coming will be sudden, abrupt, at the point in history that the world and the lukewarm Christians are the least prepared to receive Him. It will be in an hour least envisioned by those who are not serving the Lord.
The conquering remnant will be prepared instantly to welcome Him, to be changed in body, and to ascend to meet Him in the clouds. The Day of Christ will not overtake the victorious saints as a thief.
Sometimes it is taught that the so-called "secret rapture" must take place before the great signs in the heavens that the Lord Jesus mentioned. The idea is that if the signs take place first then the Lord’s coming would not be unexpected. While this reasoning is more substantial than some of the other teachings about the "rapture" it also is incorrect.
The assumption here is that people can repent and turn to the Lord at any point. When the signs occur they can repent and thus be prepared for the Lord’s coming. This will not be true when the signs in the heavens occur. They will be part of the coming of the Lord as a thief to the world. The world at that time, except for the godly remnant, will be worshiping Antichrist instead of Christ. The spiritual oppression will be so great the wicked will not be able to turn to the Lord even though the heavenly signs take place in their sight.
For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. (I Thessalonians 5:3)
"For when they shall say, peace and safety." The peoples of the earth are going to experience some very difficult times in the period of history just ahead of us. But even with all this tribulation there finally will come a day when a world leader will bring about worldwide peace and worldwide economic security. In those days the people, including the lukewarm Christians, will be worshiping Antichrist.
The so-called "Christian" churches will be subsidized by the new world order and will flourish but the Spirit of God will not be in them. Their teachings will be taken from the Scriptures and they will believe they are following Christ. This is the church of Laodicea, the church of the rights of people. The foreshadowing of the worldwide ruler and of the church in which human rights and pleasures are held to be the highest good is here already.
And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; (Luke 17:26-28)
In the days of Noah the people were violent and wicked. In the days of Lot the people were violent and wicked. It is true today in some nations that the people are violent and wicked.
But in the above passage God does not mention the violence and wickedness. Christ states they were eating, drinking, marrying, buying, selling, planting, building. People were going about their business as usual.
A major sin of the last days will be the sin of neglecting salvation, the sin of conducting one’s life apart from the diligent worship and seeking of the God of Heaven. It is the sin of indifference toward, and rebellion against, the Presence and rule of God Almighty. Their neglect of their salvation will open the believers to the deceptions of Antichrist, just as is taking place in our time.
Numerous Christians of our day are worldly and are neglecting their salvation.
The Christian believers increasingly are occupied with eating, drinking, marrying, buying, selling, planting, building. They are indifferent toward the demands of Christ and will not be able to ascend to meet Him in that Day.
God will allow Antichrist to establish for a brief period a world system in which there will appear to be material security. But suddenly the heavens will split open and the slain Lamb will appear.
This will take place at the time that the saints are resurrected and caught away in clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
"Then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape." The wrath of God will fall on Antichrist and his world system the moment the saints are caught up to meet the Lord in the air:
. . . until the day that Noe entered the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. (Luke 17:27,29)
If our understanding is correct, the teaching that there will be a seven year period, or a three-and one-half year period, after the saints leave and before the world system is destroyed, is not scriptural.
As soon as the saints are gathered together to meet the Lord in the air, the wrath of God will be poured out on the world. Christ will destroy Antichrist and his followers by the fiery glory of His appearing. The Lord’s coming will immediately bring to an end the persecution of the elect (II Thessalonians 1:7,8), not by removing them from the earth but by destroying the works of Satan. The saints will not assemble in the air in order to escape persecution from Antichrist, or so they will not suffer tribulation (remember, they are in glorified bodies), but in order to work with the Lord in bringing judgment on the wicked (compare Psalms 149:6-9; I Corinthians 6:2,3).
From the day that Cain murdered Abel the righteous have suffered afflictions and tribulation. From the time of the flood of Noah until now there have been periods when the Divine wrath has fallen on the sinners of the world and also on the sinners among the Lord’s own people.
The fiery wrath that will fall on Antichrist and his followers, including the professors of Christianity who have become part of the world system, will be as the judgment on the civilization in which Noah testified and as the judgment on the prosperous agricultural cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. It will be totally destructive. There will be no chance of escape from it.
The "escape" will take place before the Divine wrath begins to fall from Heaven. Men and women, boys and girls, right up to the moment that Christ appears, can choose to flee from the world system and to seek refuge in the name and blood of Christ.
During the various tribulations that are yet to fall on mankind there will be places of refuge. There will be saints who possess the authority and power to provide deliverance and covering in the name of Christ. Such "cities of refuge" will be available on the earth until the Lord returns—even through the darkest part of the reign of Antichrist.
Also, some of the peoples of the earth will assist and protect the saints (compare Revelation 12:16).
And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence. And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain. (Isaiah 4:5,6)
Notice, in the following passage, what will be true at the hour of the Lord’s coming:
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come. And it shall come to pass, that whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call. (Joel 2:31,32)
It has been true from the days of the Lord Jesus until now that the Lord’s people, and the unsaved as well, have suffered from wars, famine, sickness, and every other type of pain and distress. The unsaved have found little relief, while in a multitude of instances the Lord’s saints have experienced miraculous healings, provisions, and every other form of deliverance and blessing.
We who are abiding in Jesus have the Thirty-fourth, the Thirty-seventh, and the Ninety-first Psalms to sustain us in our hour of distress, and a multitude of other promises and comforts found in the holy and unchanging Scriptures.
The future will bring the opening of the seals (Revelation, Chapter Six); the sounding of the trumpets (Revelation, Chapters Eight and Nine); the plagues and destructions wrought at the hands of God’s witnesses (Revelation, Chapter 11); and the war of Antichrist against the saints (Revelation, Chapter 13).
Throughout all these tribulations the conquering saints will be kept by the power of God, just as Israel was secure in the land of Goshen. In fact there may be times when the saints will assist the peoples of the earth in their efforts to survive, just as God’s wisdom in Joseph delivered Israel, Egypt, and the remainder of the nations of the earth.
Many of the saints will suffer imprisonment and death. But that is nothing new for such has been true throughout the history of the Christian Church. Though the victorious saint is slain for the Gospel’s sake, yet not a hair of his or her head will perish in the Presence of Christ. All will be restored gloriously in the Day of Christ.
When God’s Word speaks of escape from Antichrist, or from the hour of testing, it does not mean that the saint will not be exposed to evil. Christ did not pray we would be removed from the world but that we would be protected from the evil one (John 17:15).
To "escape" is to be delivered from harm, as in the case of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and also of Daniel. They "escaped" from the fire and from the lions.
God always makes a way for His elect to escape from every temptation.
Under the new covenant our "escape" is from sin and death, escape from spiritual harm, although sometimes in addition we are delivered from physical danger and harm.
And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brothers, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish. (Luke 21:16-18)
Apparently Christ does not consider physical death to be a perishing of a hair on our head.
When Christ speaks of escaping the darkness of the last days He means escaping being harmed spiritually—escaping being overcome by the spirit of Antichrist.
In our day, numerous professing Christians already have been conquered by the Antichrist love of money. Indeed, they have been harmed mortally by the darkness. They have become lukewarm in their love for Christ and are in danger of being vomited from His mouth.
To heap confusion on confusion, the lukewarm believers are being taught they will disappear soon so Antichrist cannot harm them. The truth is, they already have been deceived and conquered by Antichrist. They are living in pleasure and already are dead spiritually!
The true, conquering saints will be kept in God’s power so they will not be deceived. During the days to come, many will give their lives for the Gospel. The overcomers will not serve Antichrist no matter what the cost may be to them personally.
Thus the overcomers have not been harmed by Antichrist, only made more perfect through suffering.
Many of the victorious saints will remain alive on the earth until the Lord returns. All during the dark night of tribulation and Antichrist’s reign it will remain possible for any individual to seek the Lord and find deliverance for his soul. This is why the Lord advises the believers of Laodicea to buy gold tried in the fire, that is, to purchase saving faith at the cost of suffering and persecution.
The moment Christ appears the doors will be closed against those who have rejected Him. It will not be possible for the rebels to repent. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, especially on the part of the church members who suddenly realize they are hypocrites.
How terrible it will be for an individual to come to the moment when the doors of the Kingdom of God are closed for eternity against him or her. Truly, there is no fate possible to a human being more dreadful, more terrifying, more filled with horror, than to know it is too late to enter the Kingdom of God.
"There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth"! How awful to have played with the things of Christ in this world and then to be turned away from the light of God’s Presence; to be confined to the dark caverns of the lost, burned by the flames that give no light—there to await the great judgment at the end of the thousand years.
Some human beings will face such unspeakable terror. Pray it will not be you or any of your loved ones.
The moment the Church is lifted from the surface of the earth the judgment of God will fall on mankind. The vials of Divine wrath will be poured out under the supervision of Christ and His saints.
Then the nations of the earth will be facing the onslaught of Christ and His army, as described in the second chapter of Joel, the third chapter of Habakkuk, and the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Revelation.
The feet of Christ will touch the Mount of Olives, which then will split in the middle forming a great valley. The Lord’s army will move northward under the leadership of generals who may have studied under Christ in Heaven over the past hundreds and thousands of years.
The conquering saints will fall upon Antichrist and his army at Har-Magedon. Antichrist will be cast alive into the Lake of Fire and the bodies of his soldiers will be food for the birds.
Christ will ascend the Throne of David in Jerusalem amid the shouts of His mighty men, His victorious saints. What a day is the Day of Christ!
But ye, brothers, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. (I Thessalonians 5:4)
The Day of Christ will come upon the world and upon the hypocritical Christians suddenly and without warning. But God’s elect who love Him and who seek His face continually will not be caught unprepared:
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Thessalonians 5:23)
Concerning the previous verse, of what coming is Paul speaking? Obviously, it is the next coming, as far as the Thessalonians were concerned, since they are to be preserved blameless unto it.
If verse 23 of the fifth chapter is speaking of a secret disappearing of the saints, then Paul has set forth one coming in Chapter Four, a separate coming in the early verses of Chapter Five, and then has swung back to the secret disappearing in verse 23 of Chapter Five.
But the concept of watching and being sober, mentioned in 5:6, refers backward to verses 1-5 of Chapter Five and forward to verse 23 of Chapter Five, binding Chapter Five to one coming.
If this is the case, then Chapters Four and Five are speaking of but one coming, because verse 23 of Chapter Five speaks of the next coming—that to which they are to be preserved blameless.
The interpretation that one coming is being discussed is strengthened further by the fact that the Greek term parousia (coming; presence) is employed uniformly by Paul in First and Second Thessalonians.
It is clear that Paul, in both First and Second Thessalonians, is speaking of only one coming of the Lord and is teaching the church of the Thessalonians concerning the one coming.
It is likely that an unbiased Greek scholar would come to this conclusion.
From our point of view, to interject a secret disappearing of the Church into such an otherwise straightforward treatment of the Day of the Lord violates every rule of Bible interpretation. It runs dangerously close to a willful distortion of the text in order to support a tradition.
The doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture of the believers is an indefensible teaching. It has produced spiritual immaturity and death and will continue to destroy the Gospel of the Kingdom of God until it is cast away by the saints as the confusion that it is.
"Be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." If we have the hope of being like Christ in a resurrected body, of seeing Him as He is, then we must purify ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
The power of God in Christ can keep us perfect in spirit, in soul, and in body as we wait for the coming of the Lord from Heaven.
Paul wrote a second letter to the church of the Thessalonians in which he continued his teaching concerning the coming of the Lord, the Day of Christ.
It appears that the saints in Thessalonica were suffering persecution.
Notice carefully the kind of deliverance that Paul holds out to these afflicted saints. It is not a hope they will disappear. It is not a hope they will be removed from the earth so Antichrist can do as he will with the less fortunate.
Rather, the Apostle Paul presents to them the true scriptural hope of deliverance—the hope presented in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. It is the hope that Christ will appear and put an immediate end to Antichrist and his ungodly world system.
This is the hope of the Christian saints and also the hope of the Jews who in that Day will be surrounded by the armies of Antichrist (Zechariah 14:1-5).
Some have suggested that we have to "read between the lines" because Paul had taught the Thessalonians previously of the secret disappearing and was assuming they knew this and would interpret his words accordingly.
Those who advance the "read between the lines" hypothesis are confirming that a secret disappearing does not appear in the text and that it must be assumed that the saints knew of it apart from Paul’s two epistles.
Any competent student of the Scriptures can perceive instantly what a dangerous approach the "read between the lines" hypothesis is to biblical interpretation. What a dangerous precedent is set when we maintain that the readers knew of some fact not mentioned and would interpret the available text in the light of information not found in the text.
If we can apply such an unsound procedure to the doctrine of the second coming of Christ, why not to the other major doctrines of the Scriptures? Why should we not then assume that the first-century readers knew of truths of which we do not and proceed to interject any favorite beliefs of our own into Christian theology?
Surely the Holy Spirit of God would not treat one of the fundamental truths of the new covenant, the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead, in such a careless manner. This is not the way of the Spirit of God. Scholars would not permit this approach to the interpretation of any other passage of Scripture.
Those of us who have not been "let in on this secret" are at a disadvantage when it comes to ascertaining from the Scriptures the truth concerning the coming of Christ.
Notice carefully the Word of God concerning God’s plan for relieving the sufferings of Gentile converts to Christianity, as well as the sufferings of the Jews:
Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, (II Thessalonians 1:6,7)
It seems Paul is teaching that the return of Christ with His powerful angels will bring relief to the suffering of the saints in Thessalonica.
We see no evidence whatever that these saints will disappear from sight, and then seven years later, or three and one-half years later, the Lord will exercise vengeance on Antichrist.
If the saints are to disappear, as so many teach, why doesn’t Paul state they are going to disappear? Why does he hold them over to the coming of the Lord?
In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: (II Thessalonians 1:8)
It sounds as though the Lord plans to save the saints by destroying Antichrist with the power of His coming. It states nothing about what will take place seven years later.
Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the Presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; (II Thessalonians 1:9)
The Lord will come and save the saints by destroying Antichrist—at that very point in time!
When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. (II Thessalonians 1:10)
How can Christ be glorified in His saints and admired in them if they are going to disappear?
If verses seven through ten are not speaking of the "rapture" but of a third coming of the Lord (according to the current tradition), why, then, is Paul presenting these verses as though they are the solution to the sufferings of the saints in Thessalonica? If they are to be delivered by a rapture and not by the coming of the Lord to destroy Antichrist, why does it not state this in the inspired text?
To maintain that verses seven through ten are not Paul’s solution to the sufferings of the saints in Thessalonica but that they are to be delivered by a secret ascension seven years in advance, is blind adherence to tradition. From our point of view it does not represent competent scholarship, an intellectually sound difference of opinion.
As one minister put it, "We cannot change because it is not possible we could have been wrong all these years." The person who has no vested interest in the controversy would fail to see validity in the argument that "it is not possible that we could have been wrong all these years." All of us know only too well how possible it is to be wrong over a period of time. The question is, are we sincerely seeking the truth or are we afraid to face the results of having been incorrect in our understanding? The truly honest individual, the seeker after truth, is willing to change his position because he values truth more than his immediate comfort.
There is no doubt that the teaching of the pre-tribulation ascension of Christian people has contributed to the present miserable weakness and immaturity of the Christian people, their unwillingness to accept and prepare for the fact that one day they may have to suffer for Jesus. Perhaps it is time now for God’s ministers to look again at the teaching of the pre-tribulation disappearing of the saints and evaluate the evidence in spite of the possibility of having been incorrect for many years. The Lord’s flock must be prepared for the Gentile holocaust that lies ahead.
Now we beseech you, brothers, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, (II Thessalonians 2:1)
Remembering that the original letter was not divided into chapters, Paul continues his discussion of the revelation of the Lord Jesus from Heaven with His angels.
Paul is saying, "with reference to the return of Christ of which I am speaking, who shall save us from persecution by the power of His appearing, and in the light of our gathering together to be with Him."
Notice the expression, "our gathering together unto him." This expression ties Second Thessalonians with Matthew, Chapter 24. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven [of the heavens] to the other. (Matthew 24:31)
Since we know that Matthew 24:31 will take place "Immediately after the tribulation of those days" (Matthew 24:29), it is clear that when Paul says "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (II Thessalonians 2:1) he is speaking of the coming that will take place "immediately after the tribulation of those days."
Would a serious Bible student claim there will be two different gatherings together of the saints to be with the Lord?
If one did not have a preconceived interpretation that he was attempting to apply, it appears certain he would think that Paul was continuing along the line of thought with which he began the epistle and that he had introduced in his first letter to the saints in Thessalonica.
What is the subject of the second chapter of Second Thessalonians?
The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto Him.
What is the subject of First Thessalonians 4:13-5:23?
The coming of our Lord Jesus our Christ (4:15 and 5:23) and our gathering together unto Him (4:17).
How, then, can someone teach that Paul is speaking of a disappearing of the saints in First Thessalonians and a separate coming of the Lord in Second Thessalonians?
Please keep in mind that in neither First Thessalonians nor Second Thessalonians does Paul speak of a disappearing of the saints or of their being carried from the earth to Heaven. The disappearing and being carried up to Heaven are pure conjecture. Why do we flagrantly violate sound principles of Scripture interpretation in connection with the coming of the Lord? Is it the deception of which Christ warned?
That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. (II Thessalonians 2:2)
"The day of Christ is at hand." The Day of Christ ? Unless Paul is jumping from one subject to another he is identifying the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him with the one Day of Christ.
When the Lord descends from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God, and the dead are raised, is this not the Day of Christ? Is it not the Day of the Lord? Is there another Day of the Lord? Do the Scriptures reveal plainly that there are two Days of the Lord? Does the Apostle Paul or any of the other Apostles speak of two Days of the Lord?
When the Lord comes from Heaven and we are gathered together to Him, is this not the Day of Christ?
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; (II Thessalonians 2:3)
What "day" will not come? Is it not the Day of the Lord, the Day of Christ, the Day that Paul has discussed consistently, that will not come until first there occurs the great apostasy and the revealing of Antichrist?
To show the lengths to which the rapturists are willing to go to cling to their belief, some are suggesting that the Greek term properly translated apostasy, or falling away, or revolt against authority, means rather "a falling away from the earth." To our knowledge there is no contemporary translation that presents such a distortion. But this obviously contrived translation is indicative of how far otherwise competent and devout scholars are willing to go in order to perpetuate this error.
The doctrine of the pre-tribulation disappearing of the saints has contributed greatly to the destruction of righteousness among the believers, and by its related teachings has cut off the Jews from the Body of Christ, leaving them to suffer at the hands of Antichrist without the Holy Spirit. There certainly is an anti-Semitic spirit in the pre-tribulation-rapture teaching.
"Let no man deceive you." The Lord Jesus warned us there would be much deception surrounding His return to earth.
Antichrist overcomes the saints by means of deception. The churches are afraid of the several forces on the earth, such as Communism and the Muslim religion, that obviously oppose Christianity. But none of these forces is the Antichrist of the second chapter of Second Thessalonians, although Satan is behind all the anti-God powers.
Antichrist is at work today inside the churches. He is emphasizing and overemphasizing the grace of God, the love of God, God’s desire that people be happy, that they be prosperous, well-clothed, well-fed. Antichrist is insinuating that it is Satan, not Christ, who should be feared. The thought is expressed that Christ is so much in love with people that we have no reason to fear Him. Yet it is the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom.
Antichrist speaks much of the "rights of people." The emphasis on the rights of people has been growing over the past few hundred years. People, under the guidance of Satan in Antichrist, soon will discard all restraints on human conduct. Whatever they desire to do they will do in the name of "the rights of people." But they are referring to the rights of the individual, not the rights of society.
In the name of the rights of people we go to extraordinary lengths to protect the "rights" of the criminal, often endangering society as a whole.
When all human restraints on human conduct have been removed, people will begin to understand their pain is coming from God. As soon as that realization comes to mankind, humans will begin to curse God violently because of their suffering. Antichrist and the armies of the wicked nations will attempt to resist the return to earth of Christ and His saints.
Antichrist will be embodied in one human being—either a man or a woman.
The spirit of Antichrist is not primarily that of the satanically inspired lusts of the flesh. The sins of the flesh are wickedness, but not the ultimate wickedness. The ultimate wickedness is the self-will, self-seeking, self-love of human beings as they attempt to make the pursuit of individual happiness the highest good in the universe. This is Antichrist. This is the rejection of Christ.
We believe that the churches of Christ are in deception. They are agreeing with the world emphasis on the rights of people as though this is the Kingdom of God. The fact is, the "rights" and desires of people and the Kingdom of God often are directly opposed to each other.
It may be the "right," so to speak, of human beings to live in peace, contentment, and happiness and to pursue their own goals as they see fit. Every agency attempting to obtain and improve human rights would agree to this.
But Christ commands us to forsake our own life, to take up our cross of suffering and reproach, and to follow Him into death to our own rights and desires. Human welfare agencies and numerous Christian churches do not agree with Jesus that this is a proper thing for human beings to do. It often is true that the things that are highly esteemed of God are an abomination to people, while the things highly esteemed of people are an abomination to God. This is why we always must strive to please God rather than people.
The Lord Jesus had a "right" not to go to Jerusalem and be crucified at the hands of wicked men. Peter reminded Jesus of this and was called "Satan" by the Lord. Peter was referred to as "Satan" because it is Satan who persuades people to place their own comfort ahead of God’s will. It was Satan who suggested to Eve that God was denying her something of value when God prohibited the eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan’s suggestion was that she was not receiving all that it was her right to receive.
Fear is placed ahead of adultery in keeping people out of the new Jerusalem, because fear is a form of self-love (Revelation 21:8). Fear forgets God’s trustworthiness and concentrates on self.
Who is advising Christians today that it is too much to ask of them that they should suffer in any manner? Is this the voice of Christ or the voice of Antichrist?
Who is speaking through the Christian ministry, informing people that if they will accept and follow Christ they will be prosperous in this world? Is this Christ speaking or Antichrist speaking?
Your eternal destiny may depend on your success in being able to distinguish between the voice of Christ and the voice of Antichrist. If you are uncertain, ask God to show you the sources of the various voices that are speaking today. Plead with God to give you truth in your inner nature. The entrance of God’s Word brings light to us.
Who is it that is advising us that God will not permit the believers to be on the earth during the days of tribulation?—that it is not God’s will that Christians suffer? Who is it that is appealing to our fear of suffering while saying nothing of the passages of Scripture that command us to present our body a living sacrifice to God?
Who is it that is making the fear of suffering more important than the fear of not obeying God in every detail?
Since when has the Christian believer been shielded from suffering?
Who is it that is telling us God is not willing that Gentile believers suffer but that it is God’s will for the Jews, God’s chosen people, to suffer every form of torture?
What voice is it that has been speaking to the churches for the past one hundred years, teaching us that the money-loving, pleasure-seeking, lukewarm church-attenders who are Gentile by race will at any moment disappear and be caught up to Heaven?
The faithful believers in the Lord Jesus need to pray that the spirits pervading Christian traditions, particularly the spirit that teaches the Christians they will not be permitted to suffer and that the lukewarm church-attenders of today are accepted because of "grace," will be brought to the fire of God’s Person and their true source revealed. Let each of us pray to this end.
If the churches of today are the Bride of the Lamb, the Lamb would be happier remaining a bachelor. The Christian churches of today are not the Bride of the Lamb. They are of Laodicea. Some of them are synagogues of Satan.
We need to discern what spirit is speaking to the Christian churches because many believers in the so-called Christian countries of the world are not prepared to stand in the hour of violent persecution that is at hand. If God does not carry them up to Heaven they will fall. They, because of their teachers, are not of the same stern character as the long line of Christians who have gone before them and have experienced every form of suffering.
In the future when great persecution and tribulation come upon the churches and the Christian people are terrified and lose their faith in God, falling into the power of Antichrist because they are not prepared to stand in the evil day, what will happen to the shepherds of the flock who informed them they would not be required to stand in the midst of persecution and tribulation? Will they say they are sorry for deceiving their followers? How will Christ deal with the false shepherds of today who are telling the believers they have no need to prepare for trouble?
We think that every teacher of the Scriptures will stand before the Lord with his students and will be rewarded according to his faithfulness in presenting the Word of God—both the written Word and also the current word being given by the Holy Spirit.
"Let no man deceive you"! It is our responsibility to insure we are not deceived!
"For that day." What day? the coming of the Lord. The Day of the Lord. The Presence of the Lord. The appearing of the Lord. The Day of Christ.
One of the main topics of both First and Second Thessalonians is the Day of the Lord, the return of Christ to the earth, the blessed hope of the Christian Church.
"Shall not come, except there come a falling away first." The "falling away" is the great apostasy which we know will take place in the earth before Christ returns.
As we understand it, the concept of the apostasy is that of the rejection of God’s authority—and perhaps all other forms of authority that attempt to restrain the desires of human beings.
A study of history will reveal there has been a steady movement toward increased freedom of behavior on the part of human beings.
In our own day the continual lifting of moral and governmental restraints can be observed in the "free world." Some sins that at one time were considered to be crimes are no longer judged as crimes. The aborting of fetuses for no sound medical reason is an example of a sin that formerly was a crime. There are countries, however, that still remain under strict governmental control.
We Christians ought always to pray that the governments under which we live will allow us to serve the Lord and to preach the Gospel of Christ. Perhaps it is even more important that we pray God will direct the officials of government to behave righteously and to pass laws requiring righteousness on the part of the citizens. Government-imposed righteousness is to be preferred to a "freedom" that results in every form of wickedness. Better to live under a government that enforces righteous moral behavior than a government that, in the name of freedom and liberty, allows its citizens to live in moral filth and violence.
A powerful force is working among people today, sometimes dressed in Christian clothes. It is the spirit of Antichrist. It is seeking to place the rulership of the nations in the hands of the people.
The result of placing power in the hands of the people will be chaos as every individual presses his own advantage. Antichrist, always the liar and deceiver, will cunningly use this chaos to create a society under his own control, a society that appears to be free from war and to be protected against economic problems. The new order will think it has no need of God or of His Christ. Man will be his own god in that day.
It is this world of "peaceful," "safe" people that suddenly will be invaded by the Lord Jesus with His saints and holy angels.
Woe to the Christians who have joined with the world in producing this "peaceful," "safe" environment! Christ will destroy the world system and all its adherents with the brightness of His coming.
We now are entering the greatest witness of the coming of God’s Kingdom that has ever been given to any generation. The power and teaching of the Kingdom will reach every city and village on the earth. This is the promised "latter rain" (Hosea 6:3; Joel 2:23).
After the latter-rain witness has been given, a dangerous reaction will set in. Because of the multitudes of newly saved people the Christian churches will be caught off guard.
An able and cunning "Christian" administrator will perceive the readiness of the nations, now repulsed by the thought of war and having been influenced by the end-time preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom, to accept the establishing of a one-world government based on a morality that has some "Christian" characteristics.
Numerous believers, thankful that at least part of their faith seemingly is being received by the world leadership, will be willing to compromise the intense worship and service of Christ that the Scripture commands.
But it is the intense worshiping and serving of Christ in the Spirit that separates the church from the world!
The world may appreciate the wisdom of some of the Christian principles of peace and good will. But the world never will accept the intense worship and serving of Christ, or the rulership of the Spirit of God, or the making of Christ central in every individual, institution, and event.
Various forms of enticement, pressure, and persecution, including the subsidizing of cooperating Christian institutions by the world government, and economic pressures and other harassments directed toward those who want no part of the government in their worship of Christ, will cause the majority of Christians to compromise the fervency and purity of true Christian discipleship.
Added to this will be the ready availability of every form of sin and immorality coupled with the insistence of the Christian ministry that we are saved by grace and therefore cannot be punished or lost to God’s purposes no matter how we behave. God’s love will be stressed but the wrathful part of His nature, His severity, will not be permitted to be mentioned. The churches will teach that no human being should be allowed to suffer—except, of course, those whom Antichrist is persecuting as being enemies of the human race.
"The love of the majority shall grow cold" (Matthew 24:12). Here is the new world order that Christ will destroy by the brightness of His coming. Here is the revelation of Antichrist.
The believers have been taught they will disappear from the earth before Antichrist is revealed. Therefore they are not guarding themselves against deception. They are not preparing themselves to stand in the evil day. They are not arming themselves with a mind to suffer (I Peter 4:1).
The change from the rule of God to the rule of man has begun already. It will be completed in the earth before the coming of the Lord. The wheat (the righteous) and the tares (the wicked) will grow side by side and come to maturity together until the end of the present age.
The Lord Jesus will destroy the new world government, and deliver the elect from persecution, by the brightness of His coming.
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; (II Thessalonians 2:3)
"And that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition [destruction]." Notice that the emphasis is not on the coming of the man of sin, the Antichrist, but on his being revealed.
The man of sin is the man of lawlessness. The "apostasy" is the revolt against all authority, all law. The man of lawlessness teaches us that the rights of people always are more important than laws that cause discomfort and inconvenience as individuals are engaged in the "pursuit of happiness."
The spirit and workings of Antichrist have been with us from the days of the Apostles. Therefore it is illogical to teach that the saints will be removed from the earth before Antichrist appears.
Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. (I John 2:18)
The above statement made by John demonstrates conclusively that the Apostles of the Lamb did not teach that the saints would disappear from the earth before the manifestation of Antichrist. The Apostle John believed he was living in the "last time" and that many antichrists already had come. If there is to be a pre-Antichrist disappearing of the saints it was not known to the Apostle John. The reader may notice the simplicity and directness of this argument.
The spirit of Antichrist is the spirit of the rejection of God’s rule in Christ. Antichrist always attempts to encourage people to seek security, pleasure, and accomplishment apart from the cross of Christ.
The true Christian saint has one goal in life. His goal is to come into such perfect union with Christ that it no longer is he who is living but Christ who is living in him.
The sign of the deceived believer, the one who has been led astray by Antichrist, is that he thinks and acts as though whatever he fervently desires he must have because it is not God’s will for him to be denied his deepest longings.
The true saint, on the other hand, always is desiring fellowship with the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He will remain in any "prison" as long as the Lord desires. His continuing prayer is "not my will but Yours be done."
The deluded believer is seeking the power and help of Christ as he pursues his own course.
It is the carrying of one’s personal cross that distinguishes between the follower of Christ and the disciple of Antichrist.
The true, Spirit-filled saint loves the cross. He embraces the cross as being the only path toward the union with Christ he is seeking.
The deceived believer honors and serves the cross with his mouth only (and sometimes not even with his mouth!). The truth is, he fears and hates the cross. He will seek out teachers who are willing to persuade him there is some route other than by carrying his cross by which he can gain the desires of his heart.
The cross of Christ is in his words and perhaps hung around his neck.
But the cross is not in his heart.
The working of Antichrist always has been a mystery. Antichrist has worked as leaven in society for two thousand years, just as the true Gospel of the Kingdom has worked as leaven throughout the same period of time.
The leaven of the rights of people may appear to be Christian in nature and intention. But it is anything but Christian in source. The emphasis on the rights of people comes from Hell, not from Heaven.
This "mystery of lawlessness" is working powerfully today in the so-called "free world"—perhaps more powerfully than in those countries that are under harsh regimes.
We do not for one moment condone the acts of torture and slaughter of innocent people that are performed so readily by those governments that are determined to rule the world at any cost. These also are from Hell. They are filled with the murderous nature of Satan.
But it may be true that the greatest danger to the saints is found in the "free world." It is in the free world that the citizens are giving themselves over to unrestrained orgies of the flesh—exhibitions of lewdness not permitted by the dictators of the earth.
The Christian churches are confused by these contradictions because lawlessness, the working of Antichrist, is a mystery (II Thessalonians 2:7).
The mystery of Antichrist will be revealed before the Lord returns.
The uncovering of the man of sin is soon to come. He may emerge from the inner circle of the disciples of Jesus just as Judas Iscariot, the former son of perdition and forerunner of Antichrist, came from among the twelve.
Judas sold his Christ for money. Antichrist always sells Christ for money. How many Christian teachers of today are convincing the believers that the sign of God’s blessing is the acquiring of material wealth?
Throughout the Scriptures the love of money has destroyed those who have been possessed by it. Balaam, Gehazi, Judas Iscariot, and Ananias and Sapphira come to mind.
The love of money, the worship of money, is the way of Antichrist.
People can gain what they want by obtaining enough money; or they can gain what they want by cleaving to the cross of Christ and waiting patiently for God to answer their prayers.
Which way do you choose—the way of patience or the way of "now"? The way of the cross or the way of money? The way of soulish faith or the way of spiritual faith? The way of Antichrist or the way of Christ? The way of Satan or the way of God?
Antichrist will base his new world order on money, not on trust in God through Christ. The mark of Antichrist is trust in material gain.
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. (II Thessalonians 2:4)
"Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped." Three is the number of God. Six is the number of man—man having been created on the sixth day. Three sixes (666), the number of Antichrist, symbolizes man making himself God.
There are two focuses of God’s plan for His creation: (1) that the Lord Jesus Christ become the Center of all things in the universe; and (2) that righteousness and praise spring forth in the earth in the sight of all nations. The second dimension comes into being only as the first is accomplished.
That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: (Ephesians 1:10)
For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:11)
All creatures, circumstances, events, and things are working together toward the perfect accomplishment of these two aspects of the Divine goal.
That the Lord Jesus Christ become the Center of all things in the universe.
That righteousness and praise spring forth in the earth in the sight of all nations.
Christ is an abomination to Satan. The concept that Jesus is to be the Center of everything and that Satan himself, along with all other creatures, must bow the knee to Jesus and confess that Jesus is Lord and Christ, is an abomination to Satan.
Satan does not want the nations to learn righteousness. He himself is unrighteous and lustful and much prefers that people wallow in the lusts of their flesh, and that they serve themselves rather than God.
In addition, Satan desires to be worshiped and his person and works to be praised.
Thus we see that the two aspects of the Father’s goal, the centering of everything in Christ and the establishing of righteousness and the worship of God in the earth, are in direct opposition to Satan’s most fervent desires.
Satan gains the attention and servitude of human beings by successfully tempting them to sin against God. All sin proceeds originally from the devil.
Bringing the inhabitants of the earth into slavery to sin is not enough for Satan. He wants them to worship him directly as their God. However, most people will not worship Satan if they can see and understand that it is Satan himself who is asking for their worship and obedience.
People want to think they are worshiping God. Satan is not even a human being. He is a fallen cherub. Why should man, who is in the image of God Almighty Himself, worship a cherub?
But people are willing to worship a human being, including themselves.
If Satan is to prevent the Father from making Christ the Center of everything, to perpetuate lawlessness in the earth, and to turn worship toward himself, he must do it through a human being.
Thus we have the deceived human being named Antichrist.
Antichrist will oppose, through Satan’s help, every one of the Divine purposes of God in Christ.
Antichrist, because of his being possessed by Satan, will demand the absolute worship of every creature of God.
Antichrist and Satan are two separate persons. When Jesus comes, Antichrist will be cast alive (not having died physically) into the Lake of Fire. Satan will be bound with a chain and hurled into the bottomless pit.
Every human being is a potential antichrist. Satan continually is inspiring our self-will and self-love to resist the Person and will of Christ, to indulge in unrighteous behavior, and to worship our relationships with people, our circumstances, and our things.
The several dimensions of Antichrist were revealed when Satan tested Jesus in the wilderness.
The temptation of the bread has to do with Satan’s desire that people turn away from dependence on God and devote their God-given energies to gaining material survival and security. Today, money is the means of avoiding dependence on God for our material survival and security.
The Christian ministry is paving the way for Antichrist when it encourages the believers to use their faith in order to obtain money. "Speak the word of faith and turn the stone into bread." Every true saint turns away from the temptation to use his faith, the faith that God has entrusted to him that he may serve God, for the purpose of gaining material benefit. This was the error of Balaam.
The second test, the temptation concerning the kingdoms of the world has to do with Satan’s desire that people drown themselves in the orgies of the flesh. All sin is a worship of Satan’s nature and works. Sin is the opposite of the holy worship of God. The kingdoms of the world give themselves over to satisfying the lusts of the flesh.
The third test, the temptation of the pinnacle of the Temple is by far the most dangerous of all temptations. It is the temptation of presumption, of testing God. This is the area of self-will, of man-centeredness, of which we have been speaking.
The temptation of self-assertion takes place "in Jerusalem, on top of the Temple."
The Lord’s Spirit-filled people are at this crossroads. What will we do with our knowledge of spiritual gifts, our understanding of the Body of Christ, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, our insight into the Scriptures, and all the other spiritual abilities that have been entrusted to our generation of believers? It may be true that no other generation of Christians in all Church history has possessed the spiritual wisdom and power being assigned to today’s believers.
If we give back to Christ all of our wisdom and power, voluntarily becoming His servants, patiently carrying our cross behind Him, seeking union with Him above all else, then we will be the generation that receives the double portion of power to bear witness of the soon coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth.
But if we yield to the temptation to attempt to build the Kingdom of God according to our own plans and ambitions, or to exert our "faith" in order to bring about that which we think is a good thing, or otherwise fly around in an uncontrolled manner through the universe as a wandering star, we then are in danger of becoming a part of the False Prophet, the supporter of Antichrist.
We Spirit-filled believers are in the place of greatest opportunity and also the place of greatest spiritual danger. Antichrist is not the opposite of Christ, he is an imitation of Christ. Antichrist is like Christ. The difference between Antichrist and Christ is that Antichrist is not willing to become a servant of God. Numerous "Spirit-filled" believers also are not willing to become the servants of God. Rather they picture Christ as their servant who is to run about in response to their "word of faith" and their prayers.
It appears there are few believers of today who can distinguish between Christ and Antichrist.
It is the willingness to bear patiently the cross of afflictions and denial that distinguishes between Christ and Antichrist, between the true saint and the deceived believer of today.
The true saint is crucified with Christ. He seeks to gain his desires only through union with God through Christ. He is a person of patience, of suffering, of meekness, of obedience. He bears the reproach of the world and the disdain of those religionists who would be socially acceptable, prominent, wealthy, and powerful.
The disciple of Jesus covets and seeks the approval of God and cares little for the approval of people.
The deceived believer resembles the true saint in many ways. He uses the same terms in his speech, attends the same gathering of Christians, sings the same hymns, and subscribes to the same theological statements.
But the basic motive of the deceived believer, a motive that will lead him finally into punishment and perhaps destruction, is his own lusts and self-will. He may speak much about "going out and saving souls" and of "ministering to a lost and dying world" (neither of which expressions is found in the Scriptures). But he is self-driven. He is not waiting on the Lord Jesus until He knows what it is Jesus desires of Him.
Perhaps every one of us begins the Christian life with selfish motives. But before many years have passed the Lord has performed (if we have permitted it) a masterful work within us in converting our self-love to pure love for God and His will.
However, many believers remain unconverted!
It is not unheard of in our time for a believer to divorce his wife (or the wife divorce her husband), marry someone else who is divorced, and the two of them go forth in "Gospel work." They are "successful." They make records of their singing that are purchased and enjoyed by thousands of Christians.
Can you imagine how God Almighty views their "ministry"? They suppose God has forgotten their wicked deeds because they appear to be blessed in their efforts. How little they understand the God of Heaven! What agony awaits them!
Ambitious "ministers" gather crowds of people in the name of Christ. They "put over" a successful (in terms of numbers) program, sometimes breaking the laws of God and man in the process. The pastors compete with one another in order to gain the largest "flock of sheep."
Professional musicians visit the churches on "concert tours," being "booked" as on a vaudeville circuit.
Can you imagine Paul and Silas returning from a concert tour of Rome or being booked in Philippi?
The "saints" in the wealthy nations are occupied with their overweight, their fun, their material prosperity.
All this chaff soon is to be swept away by the broom of destruction.
Antichrist keeps whispering to the Christian people that the highest will of God for them is that they be prosperous in the material realm, happy, content, free from pain, and successful in their various pursuits.
Some of the believers, having been filled with the man-centeredness that has entered Christian thinking, become angry with God if they do not receive immediately that which they desire (which also is Satan's attitude.)
Christ teaches the saint that the highest will of God for him is that he lose his life in Christ so the purpose of God may be accomplished in his own life and in the lives of others.
These two approaches to the Christian discipleship are in direct opposition to each other. Which of the two approaches do you believe to be of God—that man should serve God or that God should serve man? You cannot hold to both.
Satan does not spend much of his time with the drunk rolling in the gutter, the prostitute following her sorrowful, wearying profession. Satan much prefers to gather together with the sons of God. Satan is a cherub and he covets the glory and delights that come from God alone.
It is in the midst of the believers in the most spiritual church available that Satan seeks entrance. He desires the fruitfulness and dominion God has promised to man. Satan desires to reproduce his image throughout the creation and to govern the works of God’s hands.
The spiritually knowledgeable and ambitious Christian is the one who has the most to fear from deception. He is the individual whom Satan will attempt to turn into Antichrist or the False Prophet.
Antichrist represents lawless behavior and is related to the democratic form of government (that which is governed by the will of people). The False Prophet represents the attempt to manage the things of God and Christ by means of the soul of man rather than the Spirit of God.
How do we escape the danger of becoming part of Antichrist or of the False Prophet? By fleeing from the message and ways of the popular churches of today that are not careful to continue in humble, cross-carrying obedience, not following after the Lord Jesus Christ.
We find Christ when we seek after Him with all our heart. But if we are attempting to satisfy our desires in this world and at the same time trying to serve Christ we are going to be deceived.
The world is crucified to us and we to it. The Spirit of God often denies us the most fervent desires of our flesh and soul. We suffer many afflictions, many hardships, many pains of flesh and mind.
If we endure to the end we will be saved.
But if we choose to believe we can have what we want and still be the servant of Christ we run the risk of being led astray.
If God’s highest will for mankind were that people be happy and content on the earth, God would not have placed the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden. Also, God would not have allowed Satan to tempt Adam and Eve.
God has a far grander plan for us than our immediate material contentment. The Lord God of Heaven is pressing us into union with Himself through Christ. God is making us His sons and an integral part of Himself, and is bringing us into stupendous glory. The Spirit is teaching us the knowledge of God and His ways and to be sternly obedient to the Father.
We are pressed into Christ, made God’s sons, and brought to glory by means of numerous afflictions, testings, sufferings, perplexities, and problems. These all are gifts of love from the Father in Heaven.
Let us cast out of our personality the Antichrist love of pleasure and our rebellion against God’s Christ and His cross.
"So that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God." One could spiritualize this passage and state that Antichrist is the self-rule of man and sits on the throne of the human personality. Certainly it is true today that students of all ages are being taught in their schools that man is God. There is no God other than man. The idea of an intelligent Person creating and governing the universe is presented as outdated superstition.
Man can rule himself and the world by means of his own intelligence and industry, the universities claim. This is an expression of Antichrist.
It is true that the self-rule of man is of Antichrist. But we believe that in addition the Temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem and an Ark of the Covenant will be constructed. A human being will sit between the wings of the Cherubim of Glory in the rebuilt Temple. He will proclaim he is God, the Creator, the Lord, and that there never has been and never will be a God other than himself.
This is the ultimate blasphemy—the abomination that produces desolation. Whenever man usurps the place of God, desolation follows. Because of this blasphemy of blasphemies the accompanying desolation and tribulation will reach a level that will endanger the survival of mankind.
The Lord Jesus Christ declared that the Father dwells in Him and that he who has seen Himself has seen the Father.
Antichrist will make a similar claim because he is an imitator of Christ. He will claim to be the God of Heaven now come down to dwell among His people.
There is a difference in claims here in that the Lord Jesus always points toward His Father in Heaven as being the true and only God, and Jesus serves and worships His Father. Antichrist, however, will not serve or worship anyone other than himself and will continue to point toward himself as being the only God just as mankind is doing today.
Today it is difficult for us to conceive of such outrageous blasphemy. But we of the churches, as well as the peoples of the world, are paving the way for this man of sin when we reject the personal lordship of Christ over our lives.
The Prophet Daniel spoke of Antichrist:
And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land. And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them. (Daniel 8:9,10)
And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every God, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. (Daniel 11:36)
And in the Book of Revelation:
And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. (Revelation 13:5,6)
We are not as far from this ultimate blasphemy as we might think. It is but a few short steps from Christ-rejecting civilization of today to the acceptance of such an extraordinary statesman and administrator—the warm, personable human being who will inspire our longing to be our own God.
Antichrist will be more appealing than Christ because he will "bring God" to us without making the severe demands on us that the Lord Jesus does. He will inspire success, creativity, self-fulfillment, whereas Jesus has much to say that is painful and distressing.
Antichrist will teach that God is good and loving, that He no longer is a consuming fire. Since Antichrist is an enlightened gentleman of modern times he will not talk about Hell, the Lake of Fire, or gnashing of teeth. Rather he will have "positive" and "good" things to say, showing us how to be helpers in our community and in the world at large.
His kindliness and helpfulness will win the hearts of young and old alike. How different from the cutting words and actions of Jesus who referred to people as a generation of vipers!
Antichrist understands what people—Christians and non-Christians alike—are longing to possess. He will provide it for them.
The root of the Antichrist doctrine is the denial of the physical coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Center and Substance of all that God is and does.
Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. (I John 2:22)
For many deceivers are entered the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. (II John 1:7)
The Apostle John claimed that Antichrist was active in his own day and that he came out from the Christian fellowship.
Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. (I John 2:18,19)
Judas Iscariot, the son of perdition (destruction), was a forerunner of Antichrist. By studying Judas we can understand Antichrist.
Judas was one of the twelve disciples of Christ. Judas saw in Jesus the opportunity to gain what he wanted. Judas rejected the concept of the cross. Furthermore he did not truly believe that Jesus is God. Judas’ remorse came from believing he had betrayed an innocent man.
So it is today. Many Christian people are following Christ because of the benefits they hope will come to them. They want to believe that Christ will make them healthy, prosperous, and successful in all areas of their homes and vocations.
But when persecution or tribulation arises for the Gospel’s sake and being a Christian threatens to cost them their way of life, or their life itself, they will fall away. They never have been convinced that Jesus truly is God’s Son.
Antichrist always can depend on a large following of Christians. This may be more true today than ever before.
When Christian people love money and the world they are partaking of the spirit of Antichrist. Antichrist enjoys churches and the things of the churches. But he despises the cross and the reproach of the true Gospel. He is too "practical" to approve of activities that alienate the community. He is not a true prophet of God. He is the blend of the church and the world.
Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. (II Thessalonians 2:5,6)
There is a restraining power hindering the revealing of Antichrist.
"That he might be revealed in his time." It is the revelation, not the coming, of Antichrist that is being hindered. Antichrist has come already. But God has sent a power that is preventing his being fully revealed until the time comes for the displaying of the man of sin.
For the mystery of iniquity [lawlessness] doth already work: only he who now letteth [restrains] will let, until he be taken out of the way. (II Thessalonians 2:7)
"The mystery of lawlessness doth already work." In the days of Paul the spirit that rejects the government of God was at work in the hearts of people. In the day in which we are living society is preparing itself to cast off all restraints in the name of human rights. All forms of discipline of human conduct are being removed. Truly men are becoming lovers of their own selves and haters of God.
"Only he who now restrains will restrain." What power is present in the earth that restrains the full revelation of man making himself God?
It is the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not permitting a full manifestation of the desire of men to announce they are God.
And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a God, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. (Acts 12:21-23)
We can understand from the above passage that God will not permit a human being to appear as God until the Lord’s time arrives for this abomination to come into being.
The Holy Spirit is convicting the world of sin:
And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. (John 16:8-11)
The Holy Spirit dwells in the saints, giving them power to bear witness of the atoning death and triumphant resurrection of Christ. The Spirit is giving gifts and ministries to the members of the Body of Christ. The Spirit is comforting the believers. He also is transforming them into the moral image of the Lord Jesus.
In addition to His work in the Church the Holy Spirit is bringing conviction on the world, making the world conscious of its sin in rejecting Christ, conscious of the righteousness of God and His Kingdom, and conscious of the Divine condemnation abiding on Satan and all his works.
The Holy Spirit always is reproving the world, reminding the world of the righteousness of God—that it is God’s will to exalt the righteous Lord Jesus and that God requires righteous behavior on the part of people.
The world attempts to drown out the voice of the Spirit of God with loud music, with drunkenness, with incessant activity, by constantly assuring itself through means of the proclamations of its educated men and women that what it is doing is proper and is bringing joy and success to people.
The world races ahead madly in its vain attempt to escape the reproof of the Holy Spirit of God.
"Until he be taken out of the way." The reason it states in verse three "except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed" is that it is the falling away that is the taking out of the way that which hinders the revelation of Antichrist. It is the great revolt against authority that makes possible the full revelation of Antichrist.
For a brief season, at the end of the present age, in conjunction with the revolt against authority, God will remove the voice of the Spirit of God, the Presence of the Holy Spirit, from the cities of the world. Can you imagine anything more terrible than that?
Nothing worse can happen to a human being than to have God remove from him the convicting Presence of the Holy Spirit. This most horrible of fates will come upon the centers of civilization in the near future. This does not mean that the Holy Spirit will return to Heaven but that He will not be present in the cities of Antichrist.
Some have speculated that Christ will lift His Church out of the world and that by this means the Holy Spirit will be removed from the path of the man of lawlessness—the man who will attempt to exalt himself above the Lord God of Heaven. The idea is that the Holy Spirit will return to Heaven with the Church.
But the concept of the removal from the earth to Heaven of the Holy Spirit with the Church creates more problems of Scripture interpretation than it solves.
For one thing, the Old Testament Prophets do not speak of the elect being removed from the earth in order to facilitate the revelation of Antichrist; and the events of the last days are depicted in the Prophets of Israel.
Another of the problems of interpretation caused by the "removal of the Church" hypothesis is the consequences that this hypothesis has in terms of the statements made in the second chapter of Second Thessalonians.
In verse three of the second chapter, Paul states that the Day of Christ will not come, "except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition."
But if it is the removal of the Church that makes possible the falling away and the revelation of the man of sin, and (as Paul states) the Day of Christ comes after the falling away and the revelation of the man of sin, then the removal of the Church would have to come before the Day of Christ. If this is so, if the removal of the Church comes before the Day of Christ, then the removal of the Church cannot be the Day of Christ. According to the Apostle Paul, the Day of Christ will not come until after the worldwide apostasy and the revealing of the man of sin.
If the coming of the Lord and our gathering together to Him are not the Day of Christ, the Day of the Lord, then a defensible, coherent exposition of Paul’s discussion in First and Second Thessalonians of the parousia, the coming of the Lord, is totally impossible.
In our day the doctrine of the Day of the Lord and the resurrection of the dead, that most important and basic doctrine of the Kingdom of God, has become a plaything for any teacher who chooses to make whatever he will of the teachings of the Apostle Paul.
We do not participate with those who rend the Scriptures in this fashion. Rather we look for an explanation that can be found in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament, and that does not create the necessity for cutting and patching the other passages of the Gospels and of the Epistles that set forth the events of the closing days of the present age.
One of the truly damaging outcomes of the teaching that God will remove the Gentile branch (there is no such thing) of the Body of Christ from the earth before Antichrist is revealed is the forcing of a division between elect Jews and elect Gentiles, as far as the Kingdom of God is concerned, and the related removal of the Church of Christ from the writings of the Hebrew Prophets.
The division between the elect Jews and elect Gentiles, and the isolating of the Christian Church from the writings of the Prophets, are in violation of the express statements of the Scriptures (Galatians 3:27-29; I Peter 1:10-13).
The doctrine of the removal of the so-called "Gentile Church" by an ascension to Heaven before the Day of Christ is part of a decision concerning the interpretation of the Scriptures of considerable importance. The consequences of the decision to interpret the Scriptures according to the "Dispensational" model have been far-reaching and are not to be taken lightly.
It is our point of view that the consequences have included the destruction of righteous behavior in the Christian churches (because of the doctrine of the dispensation of grace or state of grace), the doing away with the concept of the converging of spiritual Israel with natural Israel—a most important and significant doctrine, the removal of the coming of the Kingdom of God (the central doctrine of the Scriptures) from Christian thinking, and the introduction of utter confusion into the understanding of the writings of the Hebrew Prophets.
The longer we live the more convinced we become that Dispensationalism with its pre-tribulation-rapture teachings is far more than an innocent, alternative interpretation of the Scriptures, the realm of scholars and theologians, and just as useful to the growing Christian as any other theological position. Rather, the doctrines proceeding from Dispensationalism are deadly errors calculated to leave the saints unprepared for the unprecedented Glory of God and the unprecedented deluge of demons and fallen angels that are to come upon the earth before the Lord returns.
We have no desire or time to quarrel over minor points of interpretation of the Scriptures, the understanding of passages that make no difference in the growth of the disciple, just for the sake of being "correct." However, the rapture teaching is not a minor point of the interpretation of prophecy. Its impact on the moral growth of the believers is direct and profound.
It may be pointed out that those who follow the rapture teaching have a spirit that is not teachable, a spirit that becomes extremely upset and angry when its beliefs are questioned, a spirit that expresses itself in reasonings and conjectures rather than in the clear exposition of Scriptures, and a spirit that definitely does not lead to the growth of Christ in the individual, to righteous, holy behavior.
Because of the evil fruit of the spirit of the rapture teaching we have come to view it as more than an innocent alternative understanding of the events of the last days. We view it is a spirit of blindness that has been put on the Christian churches to prevent their growth, to prevent their understanding of the Scriptures, to prevent their participation in the return of the Gospel to the physical land and people of Israel, to prevent the believers from preparing themselves to stand in the coming days of judgment, to keep the Christians looking to eternal life in the spirit Paradise rather than eternal life in a transformed personality, and to prevent the Spirit of wisdom and revelation from unfolding to the believer the Person, will, and eternal purpose of God set forth in the Old Testament.
Is there an explanation of the removal of the hindrance from the path of Antichrist that is found in the Old Testament, that does not destroy righteous behavior, or do away with the concept of the converging of spiritual Israel with natural Israel, or remove the coming of the Kingdom of God from Christian thinking, or introduce confusion into the understanding of the Hebrew Prophets?
Yes, there is; and the explanation is set forth in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The removal of that which is preventing the full revelation of the man of lawlessness is produced by the overcoming of the saints by Antichrist. This is the manner in which the restraining power, the testimony of the Holy Spirit, will be removed from the path of Antichrist.
While there are saints who are filled with God’s Spirit praying and proclaiming God’s Word in power in the cities of the world it is not possible for the man of sin to be revealed. But when God lifts the power of the end-time witness, and gives authority to Antichrist, the Spirit-filled testimony will be driven from the cities. The saints will be weakened: some by the temptations of the devil, some by vicious persecution, some by economic pressures. The overcoming of the Spirit-filled saints, the driving of them from all places of influence in the world, will make possible the revelation of the man of sin.
We can see this pattern operating in the wealthy nations of today. The Christian churches have in time past exerted strong moral pressure on the governments of the nations. But as the believers have been overcome by the love of money the convicting power of the Holy Spirit has been withdrawn. A strong Spirit-filled word of righteousness is not proceeding from the Christian assemblies. The result is the vanishing of the fear of God from society and the rise of the Antichrist spirit in the various world governments.
Christian churches that are strong in moral conviction and behavior act as leaven in society. They have a powerful influence on the behavior of non-Christians. But because of the current lawless-grace-rapture emphasis of today’s churches, the moral conviction and behavior of Christian people have been very greatly weakened. The lampstand, the moral light by which all nations are to guide their conduct, has been withdrawn. The leaven is being removed from society and the result is more evident each day.
From our point of view, the clearest (but by no means the only) portrayal in the Scriptures of the overcoming of the saints, and the resulting revelation of Antichrist, is found in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Revelation.
As we understand it, the "two witnesses" of Revelation, Chapter 11 are a symbolic portrayal of the latter rain—the double portion of God’s Spirit that the Hebrew Prophets declared would be given to the Lord’s servants in the last days.
Because of the type of miracles that will be performed by the two witnesses, such as fire coming out of their mouths and the shutting of the heavens so it does not rain during their prophecy, it has been conjectured that the two witnesses are two prophets of the Old Testament who will appear on the earth before the close of the age.
But the teaching is just this—conjecture. It is important to realize that in no passage of the Old Testament or the New Testament is it suggested that two prophets of the Old Testament will bear witness on the earth in the last days. The similarity of the miracles to those performed by Elijah and Moses is not a strong enough reason to overcome the lack of scriptural support for the return of these two men.
Elisha would be a much more likely candidate. The incidents in the life of Elisha of the two bears slaying forty-two youths (two witnesses during forty-two months); Elisha’s death through sickness (the overcoming of the witnesses); and the raising from the dead of the man who touched Elisha’s bones (the reviving of the witnesses); provide a stronger symbolic basis than the similarity to the works performed through Moses.
What would Elijah and Moses preach? The Law of Moses? The Gospel of Christ?
It is the Gospel of the Kingdom of God that is to be preached as a witness in the last days (Matthew 24:14), and it is the members of Christ’s Body on whom the power of the Spirit will abide so they may be witnesses of the Lord Jesus (Acts 1:8).
The "rapture" teaching is that the Church is in Heaven with the Holy Spirit at the time of the prophesying of the two witnesses. How, then, can the two witnesses prophesy without the Holy Spirit? This is just one of the numerous inconsistencies and conflicts contained in the pre-Antichrist-rapture teaching.
The concept of the reincarnation of two prophets, or their descent from Heaven, is without precedent in the Scriptures. It is not God’s way to summon people from the past to perform the work of the Kingdom. Each new generation of saints has its own opportunities and challenges. Many who are last in time will be first in the Kingdom of God.
There is implicit in the teaching of the appearing of two heroes of the Old Testament the concept that the saints of the new covenant are not of sufficient spiritual stature to work the world-shaking miracles of the two witnesses, or that the Christians are permitted to perform only miracles of "love."
But what about the death of Ananias and Sapphira?
We must keep in mind that the Lord Jesus presents the least member of His Kingdom as being greater than the greatest of the Old Testament prophets (Matthew 11:11).
If God intended to use two old-covenant saints to perform that which He cannot trust His saints and witnesses of the new covenant to do, then there should be an indication of this somewhere in the writings of the Prophets.
The Prophet Malachi spoke of the coming of Elijah, but the Lord Jesus declared that the spirit of Elijah came in John the Baptist (Matthew 11:14). It was not Elijah but a contemporary man—John, the son of Zacharias and Elisabeth—who prepared the way of the Lord Jesus.
No passage of the Old Testament of which we are aware speaks of a disappearing of the elect in the last days, of a flight of the elect to Heaven, of mansions in Heaven, of the elect making their eternal home in Heaven, or of the appearing on the earth in the last days of two saints who served the Lord under the old covenant. These all are Christian myths.
But the two wave loaves of the feast of Pentecost, plus the several mentions of the former and latter rain, lead us to believe that there will fall (and we believe it already has begun to fall) on the Christian churches of the last days a double (Elisha) portion of God’s Spirit for the purpose of bringing the witness to every nation of the soon coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth (Matthew 24:14).
But observe what happens to this testimony of unprecedented power:
And when they shall have finished their testimony, the Beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. (Revelation 11:7)
As we understand it, the overcoming of the Spirit-filled Christian witnesses of the last days will result in the removal of the Divine Power that restrains the full revelation of Antichrist.
Notice the expression, "when they shall have finished their testimony."
What is the source of the power of their testimony? The Source is the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit gives the two witnesses power to proclaim the atoning death and triumphant resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and the soon coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth.
God’s witnesses cry: "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!"
No man can stand before them. The whole earth reels under the plagues which they call forth.
Antichrist cannot come to full revelation in the face of the power of the two witnesses. Antichrist cannot arise in full view of people; he is forced to work in secret, in deception.
But then what happens?
God decides that their testimony to the world has been accomplished.
And what does God permit at this point? God removes (although not from the earth) the Power of the testimonythe Spirit who until now has prevented the revealing of the man of sin.
Therefore Antichrist is able to overcome the witnesses and kill them.
The way now is cleared for his exaltation as God.
The night has come in which no man can perform Christian works. Woe to the lukewarm believers in Christ in that day for they will be oppressed and deceived!
Some state that Antichrist cannot overcome a saint. Antichrist already has conquered numerous believers in the world of today. Antichrist does not conquer primarily by force, although on occasion he has used and will continue to use terror and pain to overcome double-minded believers.
The ways of Antichrist are far more deadly than merely the use of force and terror. Antichrist is conquering the Christian people of today by befriending them, by making sure they are prosperous and at ease.
How many Christians do you know who are not forsaking their own life; who are not taking up their cross and following Christ with single-minded intensity of dedication and purpose? These are the believers whom Antichrist already has conquered.
Do both the Old and New Testament Scriptures teach us that the saints will be overcome in the last days, that the restraining power will be removed from the path of Antichrist?
I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; (Daniel 7:21)
Notice that this precisely is what the Apostle Paul taught in Second Thessalonians—that the restraining power would be taken out of the way.
Paul taught also that Christ would destroy Antichrist by the power of His coming.
Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom. (Daniel 7:22)
No doubt Paul gained much of his knowledge concerning Antichrist from the Book of Daniel.
And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. (Daniel 7:25)
And his power shall be mighty but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people [God’s witnesses]. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace [ease; security] shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes [Christ, at His coming]; but he shall be broken without hand. (Daniel 8:24,25)
Antichrist overcomes by means of "craft." He destroys the saints by putting the believers at ease and giving them a sense of security, in addition to the use of violence, bloodshed, and economic penalties.
And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished. (Daniel 12:7)
It is the Holy Spirit in God’s saints (holy people) who prevents the open revelation of Antichrist. The scattering of the "power of the holy people" is the removal of the restraining power that hinders the revelation of Antichrist.
Notice, in the following verse, how God gives Antichrist the ability to make war with the saints and to conquer them, and also authority over every tribe and nation:
And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (Revelation 13:7,8)
Satan in the man of lawlessness craves the worship of human beings. But he cannot have such worship until he conquers the saints, until he shatters the power of Christ’s holy people.
In order to support their hypothesis that the Christian Church will be removed from the earth before the Day of Christ, various teachers have attempted to divide the Kingdom of God into a Jewish elect and a Gentile elect.
Such teachers maintain that when the term "saint" is used in the Old Testament, and sometimes in the New, it is referring to those who are Jewish by natural birth. But Paul declared that the believers in Christ are "called to be saints" (Romans 1:7). In fact, Paul, in his epistles, never once termed the believers "Christians" but he often referred to them as saints.
There is no scriptural basis for restricting the term saint to those who are Jewish by birth. The division of God’s elect into Jew and Gentile is the work of those who are attempting to support the pre-tribulation rapture of the believers to Heaven. But such a division is totally contrary to Paul’s teaching. Paul asserted that when a Gentile becomes a Christian he becomes part of God’s Israel, he becomes Abraham’s Seed, he becomes a branch of the good olive tree, of Christ, of the "one new man."
The oneness of the elect of God is a cardinal doctrine of Christianity (Ephesians 4:4-6). To alter this premise is to rip apart the seamless robe of Christ. There is one fold, one Shepherd, one King—Christ. There is no other Body of Christ.
The second chapter of Second Thessalonians indicates that it is the overcoming of the testimony that permits the revelation of Antichrist.
. . . except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed,.... (II Thessalonians 2:3)
Do you see that it is the falling away from the faith, the overcoming of the Christian testimony, that leads to the revealing of the man of sin?
The falling away comes first; and it is this falling away, the growing cold of the love of people for God and His Christ and their willingness to cast aside all authority and law, that permits the revealing of the man of sin.
The power to bear witness in the world will be lifted from God’s saints for a brief season (portrayed as three and one-half years). There still will be a testimony in the earth (Joel 2:32), as we understand the Scriptures. But there will be no Gospel preaching in the cities of the world. The inhabitants of the wealthy nations, being without the Christian testimony, will give themselves over totally to the lusts of demons.
We notice in the world of today that as the strength of the righteous testimony of the churches is overcome, immorality and lawlessness are increasing throughout the nations. There is an abundance of ministry in many places but little testimony of the righteousness of God and His Christ. Wherever there is unrighteous conduct there is no witness of God. The righteous witness of the churches has been destroyed by the preaching of the Christian fables we have mentioned previously.
The Laodicean churches will abound in the godless cities of the last days, and we see the Laodicean spirit already in many assemblies in the "Christian" nations. The believers will vex themselves with the things they see taking place around them, just as they do today. But, like Lot, they will not be able to bring themselves to move. Those who do not conform to the Antichrist system will suffer.
The true Spirit-filled remnant will be hidden away in the less populated areas of the earth. The remnant will be perfected by fiery trials until their Lord comes and they are joined to Him for eternity.
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: (II Thessalonians 2:8)
Notice that Paul still is referring to the parousia of the Lord—that which he mentioned in I Thessalonians 4:15 and II Thessalonians 2:1. There are not two comings of the Lord, or two kingdoms of God—one Jewish and one Gentile. There is only one coming of the Lord and one Kingdom of God. There is but one elect of God.
The Lord Jesus will save the saints from persecution by the power of His coming. The Lord’s coming is the Day of Redemption, the time of the resurrection of the dead. Antichrist and the nations of the earth will attempt to resist Christ when He returns to establish His Kingdom on the earth. The Battle of Armageddon will be fought and the Lord Jesus will ascend the Throne of David in Jerusalem.
We, the members of His Body, will be with Him then as He reigns from Jerusalem, and with Him forever after that no matter what He does or where He goes.
We comfort one another with these words.