The Little Book of the Revelation - Thirteenth in a series
As we climb toward the top—or the end, as it were, of the Little Book, let us pause on a curve of the staircase to look back on our brief discussion of the Rapture. That was in Post 7.
Many cherished pastors preach that the faithful saints will be rescued from the time of the great tribulation. Their reasoning is that such punishing blows will be meted to the evil sinners not to the redeemed ones. ‘The gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church,’ they preach, but believers will go forth to loose and bind the powers of darkness, not being held captive in a world under the rule of the Antichrist.
This viewpoint in supported by passages such as in Luke 21:
- But watch ye at every season, making supplication, that ye may prevail to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. (Luk 21:36)
That verse caps off the discussion of the Lord with his disciples about the Temple being completely destroyed which he stated early in the discourse (Luk 21:6), and later referenced in a warning to flee Jerusalem to escape its total destruction. (Luk 21:20) He foretold that Jerusalem would be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. (Luk 21:24)
He warned that antichrists would come in his name to lead men astray (Luk 21:8), that wars and tumults would spread on the earth but ‘the end is not immediately.’ (Luk 21:9) He said nation would rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom, and there would be great earthquakes, pestilences, fearful sights and signs from heaven. (Luk 21:10-11)
- But before all these things, they shall lay their hands on you, and shall persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for my name’s sake. (Luk 21:12)
The Lord explained that they would be betrayed by parents, relatives and friends, who would cause some of them to be put to death. (Luk 21:16) Indeed, they would be hated by all men because they were God’s appointed messengers, yet ‘not a hair of your head shall perish.’ (Luk 21:18)
It would be their glory to be patient, and when they would see Jerusalem compassed with armies, they would know her desolation was imminent. (Luk 21:20) Then they should flee to the mountains and any in Israel should not enter Jerusalem. (Luk 21:20-24)
In commentaries we learn that the early Christians and noble Jews who had heard that warning took heed and fled across the Jordan River when Jerusalem came under siege, mostly to Pella and “we do not read of one who perished in Jerusalem.” (ref)
After the warning about the destruction of Jerusalem, the Lord continued to prophesy, but the time frame seems to have moved to a farther distance, when the second coming would occur. This passage that starts at verse 25 also seems to circle back to the previous predictions in verses 8-12. The disregard for chronological order may be frustrating to us, but is completely natural to the ancient Hebrew mind— as we had noted in Post 4. (ref)
Do not worry
In reading the full chapter of Luke 21 at your leisure, you may ponder whether the warning to watch and make supplication in order to escape the coming events (Luk 21:26) was in respect to 70 AD or to a much later date, which we today could embrace as a promise of being Raptured.
But as we ponder, let us especially recall the Lord’s words that though one may die, not a hair of his or her head will perish. (Luk 21:16-18) Did the Lord not have hair after he was resurrected? And we will too. Some would say that all our bald spots will be repaired in that day!
Some popular books today envision a Rapture of believers whose loved ones and many others are left behind on the earth in a time of great terror. Those left behind then struggle to discover what has occurred and how to adjust their lives.
Paul taught the Thessalonians that they should not worry that the Day of the Lord had come and gone and left them behind:
- Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 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. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. (2 Thess 2:1-4)
To summarize, Paul taught that the “gathering together” of the saints in the Lord would not occur before 1) an apostasy in the church, 2) the revealing of the Antichrist, and 3) his proclaiming himself to be God in a future temple.
- And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. (2 Thess 2:6-10)
The Lord himself holds back the rise of the antichrist. “He who now letteth will let” refers to God, our Lord, the only one who has power to control when end-time events come to pass. Consider, too, that the “he” who is “taken out of the way” could refer to the Antichrist, not to the Holy Spirit— a point of belief in the Rapture scenario.
Not only will the Antichrist be taken out of the way once he has played his part, but he will also be consumed and destroyed at the second coming of the Lord. Thus will God make clear to those who took his mark that he is an imposter and they have been deceived.
Which man is the son of perdition (2 Thess 2:3)?
Who is the “even him” (2 Thess 2:9 ASV) who demonstrates the power of Satan “with all power and signs and lying wonders”? Is “the son of perdition” the first beast or the second beast– the false prophet? A careful reading of Revelation 13 points to the second beast:
- And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. (Rev 13:11-14)
The false prophet (Rev 16:13; 19:20), not the first beast, is the one who “causes” (not necessarily forces) all people to worship the image of the beast or be slain, and to receive a mark in order to buy or sell. (Rev 13:15-17)
Perhaps “the mystery of iniquity” (2 Th 2:6-7) is that evil is permitted to harm and destroy the saints despite God being in full control. As one theologian has said, God has ordained evil; evil is not good but evil works toward good. (ref)
We see that, initially, the beast arises as a configuration of nations which seems impossible to oppose. From that “system” one leader emerges, the first beast. Power is given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and power over the world is given to him. (Rev 13:1-7)
Are we seeing that beast emerge today?
Do we today see a great falling away from the church and apostasy from saving faith of those in the church?