August 2, 2009

Nine months ago the American people elected a new president, 34 U.S. Senators and 435 Congressmen and Congresswomen. Many voted for state representatives and dozens of referenda, resolutions and propositions.  As with all elections and referenda, what the majority think is not always right,. In fact, in many cases what the majority thinks is often wrong! People thought the Titanic was unsinkable, yet she sank like lead.  Many believed the infamous Y2K computer glitch would spark a global economic meltdown as the world's clocks ticked over to the year 2000.  Yet, January arrived with hardly a hiccup.  Star struck lovers race to the marriage alter fully expecting a lifetime of bliss, yet after a few short weeks reality often hits like a boxer's glove to the nose.  It's obvious!  What we humans think will happen often fails to occur.

When it comes to the arena of Bible prophecy, how many mistakes are being made?  As we have already seen, at this very moment, millions of Christians fully expect to vanish in the rapture before the antichrist arrives.  Again, the idea is: first the rapture, then the antichrist.  This sequence is being taught around the world in books, magazines, seminars, on radio, television, in pulpits, and on the Internet.

As we saw earlier, the most quoted verse about the rapture is I Thessalonians 4:17.  There Paul wrote that true believers will someday be "caught up."  In Paul's second letter written to the same church, he referred to the same event as, "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him" (II Thessalonians 2:1).  In his second letter, immediately after describing "our gathering" to the Lord, Paul wrote about something or someone that is clearly antichrist in verse 3.  The question is: What did Paul teach about the sequence of events?  Did he say the Church would be gathered to Christ before the antichrist comes, or will antichrist come first, before we are gathered to the Savior?  Amazingly, Paul gives us a straight answer, and his answer is not what the majority of prophecy-minded Christians think!

Look closely at what Paul wrote:

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him: we ask you, brothers, not to be easily upset in mind or troubled, either by a spirit or by a message or by a letter as if from us, alleging that the Day of the Lord has come.  Don't let anyone deceive you in anyway.  For that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.

Did you see what Paul said here?  What do we read here as to which comes first - our "gathering" or "the man of lawlessness"? Christ's second coming will not come before the appearance of the antichrist.  Let's look at these three verses in a little more detail:

  • Verse 1:    Paul wrote about the "coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him."  This is obviously the same event as the descent of Jesus Christ from Heaven and our being "caught up together" to meet Him in the air found in I Thessalonians 4:17.  It's important to realize that the Greek word for coming in verse 1 is none other than our old friend PAROUSIA, which we have already seen clearly applies to the visible second coming of Christ (Matthew 24:27).  The exact same word is used in verse 8 describing "the brightness of His coming (Parousia)"

  • Verse 2:    Here Paul addressed a distortion about the timing of the coming of the Lord that was confusing the early Church.  He urged the Thessalonians not to be "easily upset" or "troubled" by false influences which were teaching either by "spirit" or by a "message" or by a "letter" that the "day of the Lord has [already] come," or as the King James Version put it, was "at hand" in the first century.  Because of this false teaching that "the day of Christ" was just around the corner in their own day, some of the Thessalonian Christians quit their jobs, stopped providing for their families and were just hanging around in idle expectancy waiting for Christ's imminent appearance (see II Thessalonians 3:10-12).

  • Verse 3:    Paul clarified the truth with this warning, "Don't let anyone deceive you in anyway; for that day (when Jesus comes to "gather us") will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction."

Did you catch that?  Verse 3 is pointed and clear.  Paul wrote that before Christ comes to "gather" His people to Himself, "the apostasy" (sometimes called the "Falling Away") and the rise of the "Son of Destruction" (the antichrist) must come first.  So, to those early Thessalonian believers, Paul's message was that "the day of Christ" was not just around the corner.  Something big must happen first.  And to us who live in the 21st century, Paul's message is equally clear: Before Jesus comes to "gather" us, "the apostasy" or "falling away" comes first!  Then, the antichrist will be revealed.  Paul directly, specifically and earnestly warned the Church not to be deceived about this very thing!  Evidently he knew Satan would work hard to dupe the saints in the exact area.

When we put these pieces together, it becomes super clear that before "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him" (verse 1), "the apostasy comes first" and the antichrist must be revealed.  Therefore, contrary to current popular opinion, it's antichrist first, and then the Church is caught up!  It's not the other way around!

Paul's voice echoes down through the corridors of many centuries: Don't let anyone deceive you in anyway.  I know many do not or will not agree with this.  But remember, people also thought the Titanic was unsinkable.

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