I can’t tell you how excited I am in this PODCAST to break the seal on this, Jesus’ walk through the remainder of human history as we know it.
It’s typically referred to as the Olivet Discourse because Jesus gave this prophetic panorama while sitting on the Mount of Olives, immediately to the East of Jerusalem, right across the Kidron Valley from the glorious Temple. One of the most breathtaking vistas in all the world.
This is Tuesday of Jesus’ final week.
On Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday, on what they would have called Passover Lamb selection day.
On Monday, Jesus cleansed the Temple and cursed a fig tree.
This Tuesday, a scant 72 hrs before the crucifixion, was significant and confrontational in the extreme.
- Jesus took on the religious leaders of the day, in a blistering take-down, essentially sealing His fate. (Eight times in Matthew 23, Jesus will in effect consign them all to Hell with the fateful words, “Woe to you…”)
- Jesus explained why He cursed the fig tree (as we discussed last week).
- And it is also on this day that Judas will set in motion his plot to betray Jesus to the Romans, selling out his rabbi for 30 pieces of silver.
By anyone’s measure, a consequential day indeed.
Here, right smack dab in middle of this eventful day, Jesus will talk to His disciples about the end of days.
The Olivet Discourse, one that spans two chapters, Matthew 24 and 25, and 2000 years and counting of the remainder of Human History.
Jesus’ disciples actually acted as the opening catalyst for His Olivet Discourse with this all-encompassing question…
Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3)
Now, in the ensuing verses, we read Jesus’ answer. What I find very interesting is how Jesus kept His answer isolated to the question that He was asked. His answer is absolutely compelling but it is also incomplete. You see, the disciples’ question merely asked: “When will these things be and what should we keep an eye out for as a sign of your coming?”
Therefore, there are some notable omissions in Jesus’ Olivet Discourse. Maybe because He was short on time. Maybe because He intentionally stuck to the question He was asked.
Whatever His reason, Jesus does not mention anything about the Rapture, though He will discuss it in the upper room on the Thursday before His betrayal.
You, the reason that there is so much confusion about what is and is not included and what is and is not meant in Matthew 24-25 is because too many people today understandably fail to distinguish between the Rapture and Jesus’ second coming. Instead, they conflate these two separate events into one. And when we do that, it creates an enormous amount of confusion!
For the disciples, it was a distinction that was made 48 hours apart. Jesus told them about His second coming on Tuesday, and on Thursday He revealed information about the Rapture.
For us, today, whenever we read prophesies about these moments, we need to ask which event is being discussed: Christ returning, or Christians being raptured? If you don’t make that distinction, you are bound to be confused. (Pre-Tribulation? Post-Trib? Mid-Trib? Post-Trib, but Pre-Wrath? Mid-Wrath?… confusing question will abound!)
I think the easiest way to sort out the confusion – even after differentiating between these two separate events – is to examine the seven different pieces of this prophetic puzzle and in a way, lay them out on the table in order to fit them all logically together.
The seven “pieces” are these:
- The Rapture
- The Anti-Christ
- The Tribulation
- The Great Tribulation
- The Second Coming
- The Millennium
- The Eternal State
These “pieces” will act as our roadmap over the next couple months.
First, we will start with the so-called “Rapture” of Jesus Christ’s Church. I say “so-called” because the term is not actually Biblical. It comes from a Latin word meaning “to seize, snatch or catch up”, which do appear in 1 Thessalonians 4. So, while the actual word “rapture” may not be found in Scripture, the truth of the Rapture is clearly written about throughout the New Testament (1 Thessalonians 4, 1 Corinthians 15, and in John 14 from Jesus, Himself).
When Paul wrote his first letter to the Thessalonians, some false teachers had risen up, trying to convince the young Christians there that the rapture had already happened and that they had been left behind, as we read in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3
Now, dear brothers and sisters, let us clarify some things about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we will be gathered to meet him. 2 Don’t be so easily shaken or alarmed by those who say that the day of the Lord has already begun. Don’t believe them, even if they claim to have had a spiritual vision, a revelation, or a letter supposedly from us. 3 Don’t be fooled by what they say.
Note Paul’s specific wording: “how we will be gathered to meet him.”
This corresponds with what Paul wrote in his first letter:
“…we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17)
Did you see the vitally important distinction that Paul makes, differentiating this moment from Jesus’ return? During the Rapture, we will be taken off the earth and meet Jesus in the air. However, during Jesus’ second coming, He will physically come back to the earth, and set foot on the ground.
Here’s more of what will happen when the Rapture occurs:
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we shall be forever with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
THAT is our blessed hope!
Paul’s words go hand-in-hand with Jesus’ own words in John 14:2-3,
There are many rooms in my Father’s house. I wouldn’t tell you this, unless it was true. I am going there to prepare a place for each of you. 3 After I have done this, I will come back and take you with me. Then we will be together.
All of these prophetic words about us Believers being united with Christ are written to bring us comfort, hope and encouragement. And it can happen at any time! Even today!
That being said, there are no tell-tale signs that we should look out for that will signal that the rapture is coming soon, since there are no pre-emanating moments that will lead up to the Rapture. There are for the other prophesied moments on the above list, but not the Rapture. Jesus can bring us home at any moment.
So, why is He so slow in fulfilling His promise to return?
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
You see, Peter’s words mean nothing if an event has to happen before Jesus returns. Otherwise, in response to the question of “why hasn’t Jesus fulfilled His promise yet?”, Peter would simply say, “Because event X,Y, or Z hasn’t happened yet.”
So, what’s up with and who is the Anti-Christ?
In the immediate aftermath of the Rapture, when multiple millions of Christians around the world suddenly and spectacularly disappear, life for those people who will be left behind will quickly become really, really dicey!
Now, dear brothers and sisters, let us clarify some things about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we will be gathered to meet him…
For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed—the one who brings destruction. 4 He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God.
You see, this incredible moment of human history, following the rapture, won’t happen until there is a great rebellion against God and a “man of lawlessness” is revealed. This is saying a lot, since this world has always been in rebellion against God. So, who can say whether or not we are living in mankind’s “final rebellion”? But, whenever this rebellion takes place, somewhere on the earth, this nefarious individual will be alive, hiding in the shadows, waiting for his moment to come forward into the world’s spotlight. When he ultimately does take his spot in the limelight, he will arise to such a position that he will “sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God.”Does that sound familiar? It is nearly identical to what is written about when Satan rebelled against God and said:
I will climb to the highest heavens
and be like the Most High.’ (Isaiah 14:14)
The aftermath of the Rapture will be the open door through which this “man of lawlessness” will usher himself through, in order to try to make himself like the Most High God and demand that the whole world worship him.
“…you know what is holding him back, for he can be revealed only when his time comes.7 For this lawlessness is already at work secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it back steps out of the way. 8 Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, but the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendor of his coming.
9 This man will come to do the work of Satan with counterfeit power and signs and miracles. 10 He will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them. 11 So God will cause them to be greatly deceived, and they will believe these lies. 12 Then they will be condemned for enjoying evil rather than believing the truth.”(2 Thessalonians 2:6-12)
So, if the Rapture is indeed about to happen, any day now, then the Anti-Christ is actually alive somewhere on earth today, preparing for this moment. But, we can’t know who he is, because something is holding him back. There is (or will be) something restraining him. But, when his day comes, this will be a global leader who is NOT demon possessed, but actually possessed by Satan, himself.
Now, there is truly a “spirit of lawlessness” operating in our world today. We are, indeed, living in a time of rebellion.
Paul referred to the Anti-Christ as the “god of this age” in 2 Corinthians 4:4. So, Satan has been, and very much is today, at work in the world. BUT, a day is coming (it may have even already come) when there will be a human being – a very charismatic man, powerful with natural leadership abilities that naturally draw people to him – will be on the scene, getting ready for the aftermath of the Rapture.
Now, at what point in his life this man becomes possessed by Satan, we don’t know. If you remember, when Jesus and His disciples were in the upper room celebrating their final Passover Dinner, Satan entered into Judas at that moment, and he ran out to betray Jesus. So, there is Biblical precedent for Satan himself – when the stakes are that high – to enter into someone and take possession of them.
But, what is holding him back?
We, the world’s Christians are.
Do not underestimate the global influence that we Christ-followers have! Imagine how the world will be when we are all gone and every restraint on the powers of selfishness and evil are removed from the world!
So, in context of 2 Thessalonians 2, where Paul is very specific about Jesus returning, taking the Christians of the world out to be with Him, then Paul writes:
and it [the Anti-Christ’s identity] will remain secret until the one who is holding it back steps out of the way.
You see, when we go, the Holy Spirit that indwells within us also goes. Without Him, there is no restraint for evil in the world. That is when the lawless one will be revealed… after the Rapture.
So, if you think that the Rapture will happen either mid-tribulation or after the tribulation, then it begs the question: What will hold Satan and the Anti-Christ back, if it isn’t the Holy Spirit living within us? And, when we read the passage without introducing our own theological ideas – taking Paul’s words at their own merit – it’s pretty clear that the thing that is holding back this new season of evil is us.
Here’s the sequence:
- The world we are living in now is growing increasingly rebellious against God. Evil is getting worse. World events, especially in regards to senseless, brutal, barbaric destruction of human life, are what would have been previously viewed as unthinkable.
- The stage is quietly, even secretly, being set for the anti-Christ to appear.
- At some point, the Christians of this world will be Raptured.
- And, when we are gone, the villainous power of the Anti-Christ will explode onto the world scene, in the midst of the world-wide chaos that will follow the Rapture. John describes this chaos as a churning sea in Revelation 13. And out of this confusion, the Beast (or man of lawlessness, or anti-Christ) will arise.
- This “charismatic leader” will then calm everybody down and take control of all the nations of the world.
It may be hard to conceive that the people of the world would concede themselves to such a person who is so evil at his core. It was even more inconceivable 20-30 years ago. But, in light of today’s global sociological climate, it’s becoming more and more believable. Plus, keep in mind that, as Paul writes, this man of lawlessness will not appear “beast-like” at first. In fact, he will come onto the world stage as “an angel of light”.
Now, think about this: Jesus Christ is God, who became a man. The anti-Christ is a man who will be possessed by the devil. God exists as a Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Satan will counterfeit this with an “unholy trinity”: Satan, the anti-Christ, and the false prophet, whom we read about in Revelation. The false prophet will work to unite the world religiously in the worship of the anti-Christ as god. Jesus Christ performed Godly miracles, further proving Himself as the Son of God. The anti-Christ will perform counterfeit miracles in order to appear to be God. The ultimate miracle Jesus performed was being resurrected from the dead. And, yes, the anti-Christ will even counterfeit this one!
Then I saw a beast rising up out of the sea. It had seven heads and ten horns, with ten crowns on its horns. And written on each head were names that blasphemed God… And the dragon gave the beast his own power and throne and great authority.
3 I saw that one of the heads of the beast seemed wounded beyond recovery—but the fatal wound was healed! The whole world marveled at this miracle and gave allegiance to the beast. (Revelation 13:1-3)
In other words, this is what John saw in his prophetic vision: the “beast” (anti-Christ) rose out of the global chaos (the sea). Satan (the dragon) gave his power to the anti-Christ. And the anti-Christ had a fatal head-wound that had appeared to be healed. FATAL. So, he at one point appeared to be dead, but then seemed to be raised from the dead.
And the people of the world will marvel and worship him.
Then, the anti-Christ will force everyone on the planet to use a single currency, as we read in Revelation 13:16,
He required everyone—small and great, rich and poor, free and slave—to be given a mark on the right hand or on the forehead. 17 And no one could buy or sell anything without that mark, which was either the name of the beast or the number representing his name. 18 Wisdom is needed here. Let the one with understanding solve the meaning of the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666.
By today’s technology, this could be a barcode tattoo, or an embedded computer chip, or some other manner that will replace cash, checks, debit cards or Apple Pay.
But, what does John mean when he wrote verse 18? What wisdom is needed and who can understand the meaning of the mark, 666?
Many, many volumes have been written in regards to these questions, but suffice to say that throughout the Bible, numbers have significance. It has also been concluded by many experts that 666 boils down to a number that represents a man desiring to be worshipped as God.
So, what will this man do to earn such acclaim?
- He will politically unite the world. Already, a new movement is afoot called globalism, which basically holds that in order to achieve peace throughout the world, we simply must unite together as one people. One world with one central government, one common currency, one economy, and one peaceful existence that will lead to prosperity.
- He, along with the false prophet, will religiously unite the world. Sectarian religious wars will be a thing of the past. Instead of a world made of various religions, and with the Christians raptured from the planet, the vast majority of the world’s population will bow before the anti-Christ and worship him.
- He will economically unite the world under a single currency, using some sort of technology that will be MANDATORY for buying or selling anything. And, by taking this mark in order to buy or sell anything, the people will be pledging their allegiance to the anti-Christ.
- Finally, he will unite the world under one military. Why is this important, if everyone is living in peace under one government? It’s important because the anti-Christ will know that the real war will be between the nations of the world united against God.
All of this will climax at the end of a seven-year period of time, known as the Tribulation, that we will discuss next week. But, as a sneak peek… Jesus will return at the end of the Tribulation and conquer all and put an end to mankind’s rebellion forever!