Will the Church Witness the Antichrist?

on Sunday, January 29, 2012 by
The question below was recently posed to Prophecy Depot Ministries.

Question:  Greetings, in 2 Thessalonians it says the rapture won’t happen until the falling away and the man of sin is revealed. From my understanding the man of sin will be revealed 91 days after the start of Israeli-Arab war of Psalm 83. So if the tribulation period begins with the signing of 7 year peace treaty that God promised to keep us from going through, then we have to be raptured after the appearance of the Antichrist and before signing of peace treaty. Does this sound logically correct? Regards, E. Anonymous

Answer –Many of us would agree with you that the 7-year tribulation period probably commences with the confirmation of the 7-year covenant identified in Daniel 9:27. Below is a quote I received from end times’ expert Tim LaHaye for my new book Revelation Road, Hope Beyond the Horizon concerning this.

Revelation Road, Hope Beyond The HorizonPre-Trib. scholars are not agreed on whether the rapture starts the Tribulation (Nothing in scripture says it does). Daniel 9:27 says the Antichrist will confirm a contract with Israel for one week (or seven years), which leads me to believe that starts the Tribulation. There is a high possibility that the Rapture could take place prior, but only God knows how long. (Tim LaHaye, Revelation Road page 138.)

Additionally, I concur that the Church is not appointed to the wrath that takes place during the tribulation period, and I devote a significant section of commentary in Revelation Road to the scriptures that point this out.

However, in your attempt to deductively reason that the Church will be on earth when the Antichrist is revealed, you raise several issues that need to be reexamined.

First, I don’t believe 2 Thessalonians 2 teaches that the rapture won’t happen until the falling away and man of sin is revealed. The apostle Paul didn’t limit his introductory passages in 2 Thessalonians 2 to the rapture. Paul appears to be addressing two events in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2.

Now we beseech you, brethren, touching the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him; to the end that ye be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us, as that the day of the Lord is just at hand; (ASV).

These prefatory passages appear to address Christ’s two remaining comings. First Christ comes in the clouds to gather together His Church in the Rapture as per 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18, 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, and subsequently at the end of the 7-year tribulation period He returns to do battle with Antichrist and his armies at the tail end of the day of the Lord.

Some believe the day of the Lord includes the entire 7-years of tribulation, while others believe it only spans the last three and one-half years of the tribulation, commonly referred to as the “great tribulation.” There are other interpretations of the timespan of this period, but these two are the most prevalent.

Something obviously caused the Thessalonians to worry that the dreadful day of the Lord was just at hand alarming them that they had missed the gathering together part of the rapture. They were very familiar with the gathering together part from Paul’s first letter to them. Since their subsequent concern was centered upon the second coming of Christ in judgment, rather than the rapture, Paul addressed the two primary precursors to the coming of the day of the Lord.

Let no man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be, except the falling away (apostasia) come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition. (2 Thessalonians 2:3, ASV).

Paul informs of a 2-step process; first there will be a falling away, and second the Antichrist gets revealed. These are two powerful end times’ events. The Greek word commonly translated falling away is “apostasia.” Some experts believe this speaks of a literal apostasy inside the Church, while others teach it could represent the rapture because the word can be translated as a departure, like in a physical departure from the earth. If it denotes the rapture then, contrary to your conclusion, the Church is removed from the earth prior to the revealing of the Antichrist.

Regarding the alternative interpretation of apostasia some, like Warren Wiersbe, believe it involves a literal apostasy within the Church. Wiersbe, like John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck who wrote The Bible Knowledge Commentary suggest it is a falling away or departure from the truth of the word of God.[i]

Walvoord and Zuck say it can possibly be interpreted as: “This (apostasia) is a revolt, a departure, an abandoning of a position once held. This rebellion, which will take place within the professing church, will be a departure from the truth that God has revealed in His Word.”[ii]

End times’ expert Hal Lindsey interprets the Greek word as, “To deliberately forsake and rebel against known truths from and about God.” He believes it is a definite event rather than a progressive rebellion because of the definite article before the event, i.e. the apostasy, or falling away. Therefore Lindsey suggests, “The apostasy is a reference to climactic event when the professing church will completely revolt against the bible and all its historical truths. [iii]

My personal view is that Paul is not using the Greek word apostasia to remind the Thessalonians that the rapture happens before the revealing of the Antichrist. The Thessalonians should have already understood that the rapture occurs prior from Paul’s first letter to them. And, they should have also deduced that after the rapture the Antichrist would arrive on the scene to confirm the false covenant of Daniel 9:27, provoking the wrath of God during the day of the Lord.

One of my favorite teachings on the presumed understanding of the Thessalonians in 2 Thess. 2 was written by eschatologist Jack Kelley of http://www.gracethrufaith.com. Kelley exposits the following on 2 Thess. 2:1-2:

Here we get an extraordinary insight into the sequence of End Times events that Paul had taught them. Receiving word that the Day of the Lord had come would have upset them only if they’d been led to believe that the Rapture of the Church would precede the Great Tribulation. Think about it. From any other view, this kind of news would have been greeted with a certain amount of joyous anticipation. Sure the next few years would really be rough, but whether by martyrdom or survival they would soon be in the presence of the Lord forever. But from the pre-trib perspective, hearing that the Day of the Lord had come would be horrifying, because it would mean that they had missed the rapture. And that would mean that they weren’t saved. No wonder they wrote Paul for clarification!”[iv]

The Revelation 5 Argument

Regardless of how one interprets the apostasia supporting prophecy found in Revelation chapter five seems to suggest that the Church has been gathered together in heaven prior to the revealing of the Antichrist. In front of an innumerable heavenly audience, Jesus opens the scroll containing the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments in this chapter. Many teach along with me that the raptured Church comprises a large part of this crowd. The opening up of the first seal reveals the Antichrist as the first white horseman of the apocalypse. In essence, until the first seal is opened the Antichrist will not be revealed.

If the depictions in the above paragraph are true, then the major premise to consider is that the Antichrist cannot be revealed until Christ opens up the heavenly scroll, and the minor premise, since the Church is among those in heaven witnessing the opening of this scroll, is that the rapture takes place sometime prior. The sequence of events would be the rapture occurs, the scroll gets opened, and the Antichrist then gets revealed.

Since Daniel 9:27 informs that the Antichrist confirms the false covenant, he must be presiding upon the earth prior to the implementation of the false covenant. Therefore, the Church is in heaven prior to its confirmation. Since the false covenant seems to trigger the 7-years of tribulation, then the Church escapes this period.

Secondly, I have no idea how you calculated that 91 days separate Psalm 83 from the revealing of the Antichrist. I have never made any such claims.
I hope this was helpful commentary

[i] Warren Wiersbe Expository Outlines on the New Testament under the commentary of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3.
[ii]Quote taken from The Bible Knowledge Commentary in the New Testament Edition under the commentary of 2 Thessalonians 2:3.
[iii] Quote from Hal Lindsey, the Rapture (1983) Pages 148-149.
[iv] Quote taken from the Internet on 1/29/12 at this link: http://gracethrufaith.com/ikvot-hamashiach/the-end-times-according-to-paul-part-3-2nd-thessalonians/

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