MGN Conference 2008

This paper was prepared for the MGN conference on “ISRAEL IN THE LAST DAYS – a critical look at popular views of the end times.”

The topic was advertised as follows: The desolation of Jerusalem and the prophecies of Matthew 24 and Daniel 9. Will two-thirds of the Jews perish in a future tribulation and will the Church escape the terror of the antichrist in the rapture?

This paper endeavours to answer these questions.

Most of us have been influenced to some extent by these popular views of the end times which have been very successfully propagated through the copious notes published in the Scofield Bible, and through best selling popular authors such as Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, John Hagee, Derek Prince, and Dave Hunt.

The fact that Christians do hold different views concerning the end times suggests that we should be cautious about being overly dogmatic about our point of view. However, many of us have become concerned that much of the popular teaching about the end-times involves not only eschatology (about which we may agree to differ) but that it undermines the gospel of Jesus Christ by suggesting that God has a different plan of salvation for Israel in the last days to his present plan of salvation which has been revealed in the gospel of Christ for Jew and Gentile and which is by faith alone.

It is necessary to briefly state what the popular views are in connection with the tribulation in order to take a critical look at them. This is not a conclusive list, nor do the exponents of this teaching necessarily hold to all these points, but readers will be familiar with most of them:

According to a futuristic interpretation of Daniel chapter 9, Matthew 24, 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 and the book of Revelation, the following has been postulated:

  1. The present re-gathering of Jews to the modern State of Israel is in fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies in which God promised to gather the exiles from all the nations where they had been scattered.
  2. The temple must be rebuilt and the priesthood and sacrifices of the old covenant must be re-instated because the antichrist will set up the abomination which causes desolation in the temple in Jerusalem and put an end to sacrifice and offering.
  3. The antichrist will make a covenant (of peace) with Israel for seven years which he will break after three-and-a-half years.
  4. Israel will be surrounded and attacked by all nations in a future period of great tribulation in which two-thirds of the people in the land will be killed before Jesus returns to rescue Israel from this onslaught. The remaining one-third will be saved at the “second coming” of Jesus Christ when they look upon him whom they pierced even if they had not believed prior to his coming. Some modify this to suggest that Jesus will return when the Jews cry out to God to save them from their misery saying “Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord”.
  5. The popular views also suggest that the Church, which they insist is separate and distinct from Israel, will be taken out of the world in a secret “rapture” before this great tribulation.
  6. Jesus will, at his “second coming” be enthroned in the earthly city of Jerusalem from where he will reign on the earth for a literal period of one-thousand years (the millennium).

In this paper I will endeavour to show from the Scriptures that the idea of a future plan for the salvation of Israel – ostensibly after a period of great tribulation and the “rapture” of the Church – is misleading and undermines the present urgency to proclaim the gospel while it is still the day of salvation.

Let us now look at the prophecy of Daniel chapter 9:

“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy (one). Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One (the Messiah), the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many [in the middle of the] one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on the desolate” (Daniel 9:24-27)

In giving this prophecy concerning the specific period decreed for Israel from the time of the Babylonian captivity to the time of the coming of the Messiah, the angel Gabriel said,“Know and understand this…”.

We will also look at Matthew 24, where Jesus referred to Daniel chapter 9, but at this point it is worth noting that Jesus too stressed the importance of understanding this prophecy: “…when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel – let the reader understand…” (Matthew 24:15).

It is through a misunderstanding of Daniel chapter 9 and Matthew 24 that so many of the erroneous views concerning Israel in the last days have come about. Space does not permit a detailed exposition of Daniel chapter 9 here and so I would refer you to our book, “Jerusalem, Peace or Desolation” which can be ordered from Messianic Good News.

The period of seventy “sevens”, i.e. 490 years, was decreed for Israel to accomplish six things – (1) to finish transgression, (2) to put an end to sin, (3) to atone for wickedness, (4) to bring in everlasting righteousness, (5) to seal up vision and prophecy and (6) to anoint the most holy (one) [see our article “The Seventieth week of Daniel” for a brief précis of these things]. These encompass the essence of the gospel. I cannot stress enough, that these were all accomplished by Jesus Christ through his atoning sacrifice and the making of the new covenant.

Concerning the redemption and victory accomplished by his death on the cross Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The new covenant had been made and ratified by Jesus Christ through the shedding of his own blood by which he also made the old covenant, with its priesthood and sacrifices, obsolete. And as the writer to the Hebrews confirmed, that which was obsolete was soon to disappear completely – as it indeed did with the destruction of the temple forty years later (see Hebrews 8:13). The apostle Paul taught, the times reached their fulfilment with the coming and revelation of Jesus (Ephesians 1:10).

The prophecy stated that there would be sixty-nine “weeks” from the issuing of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem until the coming of the Anointed One (the Messiah). When Jesus was anointed at the start of his ministry the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove. At that time Jesus went into the synagogue at Nazareth and read from the book of Isaiah, where it is written, “…the Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me…” and Jesus then said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”. In other words, Jesus himself testified that he had come as the promised Messiah at the appointed time and he officially began his ministry that was to last for about three-and-a-half years until he was to be cut off – by the crucifixion.

The period of sixty-two “sevens” and seven “sevens”, a total of sixty-nine “sevens” left one remaining “seven” to be accounted for. It was in the middle of that last “seven” that Jesus Christ was cut off – and it was by his death on the cross that he accomplished the six things mentioned in Daniel’s prophecy.

However, dispensational teaching suggests that the prophetic “clock stopped ticking” for Israel and that the seventieth week of Daniel did not follow directly after the sixty-ninth week and, without any Scriptural warrant, they have inserted an indefinite gap which is already in excess of 285 “sevens”, thus making nonsense of the specific time-frame.

The prophecy of Daniel said, He will confirm a covenant with many… Jesus said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”(Matthew 26:28).

Jesus confirmed the new covenant with many within the decreed period of 490 years thus bringing an end to the animal sacrifices required by the old covenant by the atoning sacrifice of himself (see also Hebrews 10:11-13).

Forty years later, Titus led the Roman armies in the siege on Jerusalem and the prophecy which said, “The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary” – was then also perfectly fulfilled. As Jesus had prophesied – not one stone of the temple was left upon another. The sacrifices ended and have not been re-instated for almost two thousand years.

However, the popular teachings have seemingly overlooked these obvious facts, confidently asserting that the temple must be rebuilt and the sacrifices re-instated – just so that after more than 360 “sevens”, (which is five times longer than the period decreed), the antichrist can make a covenant with Israel, then break it so that he may put an end to sacrifices and so that the temple can be destroyed yet again. None of this is either taught in the passage, or warranted in the light of its already perfect fulfilment within the appointed time through the coming of Jesus Christ!

The popular views go on to suggest that when the antichrist breaks the covenant “all hell will break loose” and that this will herald a period of great tribulation for Israel.

This brings us to a brief look at Matthew 24, in which Jesus referred to the prophecies of Daniel.

Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?””(1)Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you…”

The disciples wanted to know when the temple would be destroyed. Jesus answered their question in verse 34: “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” Those who propagate the popular views of a future fulfilment of Matthew 24 downplay – or even overlook – a vitally important fact. They completely underestimate the magnitude of the destruction of the temple in 70 AD so that not one stone was left upon another and the utter desolation of the city of Jerusalem which was intended as a warning and testimony to all nations.

The Jews regarded the desecration of the temple as the greatest tragedy that could ever befall Israel. In Rabbinic literature its destruction is compared to the end of the world! The fact that the temple was destroyed within that very generation and has not been rebuilt to this day is a powerful testimony that Jesus spoke as a true prophet.

Jesus said: “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you…” (Matthew 24:9 NKJV). And verses 15-24: “…he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel–let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now–and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect–if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time.”

Jesus warned his disciples to flee from Jerusalem as soon as they saw the Roman armies begin to surround the city (c.f. Luke 21:20). Those who did not flee at the start of the siege in the middle of AD 66 found themselves suddenly trapped in the city for a period of great tribulation lasting about three-and-a-half years during which time over one million Jews perished and the city was made utterly desolate. Those who tried to escape were crucified by the Roman soldiers. In the parallel account of Matthew 24, recorded in Luke chapter 21, Jesus also said: “…let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfilment of all that has been written…”.

Jerusalem fell under God’s judgment in that period of great tribulation between 66 and 70 AD for the express reason that they had failed to recognize the time of God’s coming to them in the person of Jesus Christ. They stubbornly refused to believe the truth of the gospel, despite the testimony of the empty tomb and of over five-hundred eye-witnesses to the resurrection.

Surely no one would argue that, at that time, it would have been seriously misleading for anyone to have encouraged Jews either to enter the city or to remain in the city – or to expect any kind of salvation if they had rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was, after all, the time of God’s punishment upon the city for their unbelief. Any attempt to reassure anyone that God would intervene to save the city of Jerusalem from the Roman armies at that time would have amounted to a false gospel for which, according to the apostle Paul, they would be deserving of eternal condemnation! (see Galatians 1:6-10).

The severity of God’s judgement upon Jerusalem in 70AD should serve as a warning to all people of the consequence of rejecting Jesus Christ as Saviour and King. Surely in proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom of God, Christians should remind people of the reason for God’s severe judgment of Jerusalem in 70 AD and to warn that to return in unbelief is still – to this day – an act of defiance that disregards the consequence of rejecting him as King and Saviour. Instead, a growing number of professing Christians are unwittingly supporting the rebellion by encouraging unbelieving Jews to return and take possession of the land from which they had been exiled for nearly two-thousand years – and this largely on account of the popular views being taught concerning Israel in the last days.

Many Jewish people are frankly quite puzzled by – and somewhat uneasy with – the support of Christian Zionism for the modern State of Israel and their enthusiasm for the return of Jews to the land because they are also aware that those same Christians believe that two-thirds of them will be killed in a future holocaust.

What kind of strange and confusing good news is it to tell the scattered Jewish people that the time has come for God to fulfil his promise for them to return to the land – but that unfortunately two out of three are destined to perish in a future great tribulation? Apparently the good news for Israel according to this view is that in spite of two-thirds being killed and in spite of all the Jews who have died and continue to die in unbelief – a small remnant will be saved in the end at the “second coming” of Christ. But, as I will show, even that hope is fallacious.

Well, part of the good news of Jesus Christ is that the unique period of great tribulation for Jerusalem, also often referred to as “the time of Jacob’s trouble”, is an historic event which happened during the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD when the temple was destroyed.

A confusing message is being proclaimed which suggests that the Jews must return in unbelief, rebuild the temple, reinstate the priesthood and sacrifices, just so that, having failed already to recognize the time of God’s coming to them nearly two-thousand years ago, it can all be re-enacted with another abomination that will cause the desolation of the temple, the ending of the sacrifices and the destruction of the temple yet again – at which time they will again have to flee to the mountains to escape another great tribulation for Jerusalem!

But Jesus not only said that all those things would happen before that generation passed away, he also said that the Roman siege of Jerusalem would be a unique period of great tribulation – unequaled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again – which rules out the possibility of dual or repeat fulfilment (Matthew 24:21).

Many people might contend that the Holocaust was a greater period of tribulation than the fall of Jerusalem. But the tribulation of Jerusalem was unique and never to be repeated because it was specifically linked to the destruction of the temple and the disappearance of the old covenant which had become obsolete (see Hebrews 8:13).

If anyone doubts the severity of the distress of those days they should read the eye-witness account of the Jewish historian, Josephus who observed: “Accordingly, the multitude of those that therein perished exceeded all the destructions that either men or God ever brought upon the world.” The famine was so severe that it is recorded that a desperately hungry woman cooked and ate her own baby. Jews fought against and killed fellow-Jews until they had virtually self-destructed. Even hardened Roman soldiers were appalled. The Jews trapped in the city had destroyed their own food supplies in factional fighting between the warring Jewish parties – otherwise they might have withstood the siege for a much longer period of time. But the siege lasted only three-and-half years and ended quite suddenly and miraculously. If it had continued much longer then indeed no one would have survived. But Rome eventually granted the people clemency if they surrendered. Titus commented: “We have certainly had God for our assistant in this war and it was none other than God who ejected the Jews out of those fortifications, for what could the hands of men, or any machines, do toward overthrowing these towers” (Jewish War, Book 6, Ch.9).

A careful study of the word of God will show that just as the trap closed suddenly on Jerusalem in that generation resulting in a period of great tribulation for the Jew first in the day of God’s vengeance on the unbelieving city – a trap will close suddenly upon the entire unbelieving world when all who have refused to believe the truth will be handed over to a powerful delusion of the antichrist – which will lead to their destruction and condemnation – having squandered the opportunity of salvation.

The trap will close before the second coming of Christ which means people will not be saved by looking upon him then – if they have not looked with eyes of faith to Jesus now. When God himself sends a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie it is because they have refused to love the truth and so be saved and it is already an act of judgement.

The writer to the Hebrews said that by faith we now look on Jesus whom we pierced because of our sins and it is by such faith that we are justified and saved – Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,… [Hebrews 12:2]. But whoever does not believe the gospel now and so wait patiently for Jesus’ coming, will not be saved at his “second” coming, but will in fact be condemned for not having believed the truth – …Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him (Hebrews 9:28). The popular views have undermined this to suggest that in the last days a remnant of unbelieving Jews will literally look on Jesus at the “second coming” and so be saved.

There is only one way by which all people, Jew and gentile may be saved – by faith in Jesus Christ. Those who are not faithfully waiting for Jesus to appear from heaven, will be handed over to a great delusion through which they will receive the spirit of falsehood of the antichrist – (or the man of lawlessness) – thereby forfeiting the present opportunity of salvation by faith.

Paul taught that ALL who refused to love the truth will be condemned. In other words no one who refused to love the truth beforehand will be saved at the “second coming” of Jesus Christ.

Paul wrote: I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile (Romans 1:16).

The gospel was first proclaimed in Jerusalem and then Judea, in other words to the Jew first, before it went to the ends of the world – and the Jews were called to account first, before the other nations, for not heeding the word of Christ (see Deuteronomy 18:19 and Acts 3:23).

This is why Paul wrote: But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. …for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress (i.e. tribulation) for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew (i.e. uniquely for Jerusalem as in 70 AD), then for the Gentile but glory, honour and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favouritism (Romans 2:5-11).

Between 66 and 70 AD, during a period of great tribulation for Jerusalem, the power of the holy nation was finally broken (see Daniel 12:7), the temple was destroyed, two-thirds of the people perished and all the Jews who had rejected Jesus were called to give account for their unbelief and were completely cut off from the redeemed remnant of Israel which had been re-constituted according to the new covenant. Those who survived and subsequent generations could only be grafted back into the Israel of God through repentance, by faith in Jesus Christ the Redeemer and King.

The trap closed suddenly on Jerusalem after the gospel had been proclaimed in Judea for forty years and instead they put their hopes in a false redemption with faulty, carnal-minded expectations of the coming kingdom of God.

Unfortunately, those who propagate the popular view of God’s dealing with Israel in a future dispensation, are giving rise all over again to such false hopes of a future salvation for Israel that resulted in the fall of Jerusalem in the first place! This is not just a matter of eschatology. The apostle Paul warned that those who proclaim a false gospel giving rise to a false hope will be eternally condemned!

But, some may ask, “What about Jesus’ coming upon the clouds and what about the stars falling from the sky?” – surely those things did not happen in 70 AD – and for this reason we should expect a future and more complete fulfilment of Matthew 24.

Jesus said, in verse 29 “Immediately after the distress [tribulation] of those days….(i.e. the days of great tribulation for Jerusalem – within that very generation – the days in which the city was surrounded by the Roman armies – and the days in which the temple was destroyed etc) ‘the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”

Jesus used typical apocalyptic language that is used elsewhere in Scripture to describe the fall of great powers – to describe the desolation and fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Very similar language was used to describe the fall of Tyre and Sidon (Joel 3:4-15) and the fall of Egypt (Ezekiel 32:7) and of Babylon (Isaiah 13:1-10) – at which times the stars did not literally fall from the sky, nor did the sun literally stop shining etc.

Jesus also said, in verse 30, “At that time [again referring to the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple] the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.”

Many people have presumed that Jesus was referring to his second visible “coming” – which they point out, did not happen at that time before that generation passed away – another reason why they expect a future fulfilment. But the same word translated as “sky” may also be translated as “heaven” as in the KJV, the NKJV and ESV – so that that verse reads as follows:

“At that time [there will be] the sign [or evidence] of the son of man [being] in heaven [or that the Son of man has appeared in heaven (before the Ancient of Days) – which is a very plain reference to Daniel 7:13-14], and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven (a reference to his coming in judgment within the heavenly realm with his enemies as a footstool at his feet).

The judgment of Jerusalem within that very generation was the sign that Jesus is in heaven and the vindication that He is Lord and that all authority belonged to him. If it was referring to his second coming, then it would not be called a sign because no sign will be needed for his second coming.

At his trial before the Sanhedrin Jesus said, “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven,” in response to which the High Priest tore his robe and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! (Matt 26:64). He clearly understood that by saying this Jesus was making himself equal with YHWH – claiming authority to judge them. And the judgement would come upon the very leaders who were judging him.

The prophet Isaiah spoke of the LORD who rides on a swift cloud and was coming to Egypt to bring judgment (Isaiah 19:1-2) and of course in that case the reference to his coming on the clouds certainly did not mean the visible “second coming” of Christ.

It means that Jesus, like a son of man, entered the presence of his Father to be seated at His right hand according to the vision of Daniel 7:9-14 and according to Psalm 110 and according to the revelation given to the apostle John. He had come as one like a son of man into his exalted place as eternal King of kings and Lord of lords.

The reference in Daniel 7:13 to his coming with the clouds of heaven – does not suggest a coming to earth, but rather a coming into the presence of the Father:

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence (i.e. not a coming to the earthly realm.). He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).

The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies (Psalm 110:1-2).

This is the good news we proclaim: “Our God reigns!”

The apostle Paul confirmed this when he wrote: He being made in human likeness (i.e. one like a son of man) humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place…(Philippians 2:8).

The apostle John confirmed the sign of Jesus being in heaven for he was given the Revelation of Jesus Christ enthroned in glory and was instructed to send the written account to all the churches who were enduring intense suffering for their faith to encourage them with the revelation of their King enthroned in heaven.

But the dispensationalists say, “Jesus will reign when he comes to the earthly city”.

The Pharisees too expected the kingdom of God to come in a visible way with the destruction of Israel’s enemies. They did not expect it to come with Jesus being exalted to the highest place in his heavenly throne with the earth as his footstool – and they certainly did not expect the kingdom of God to come with the complete downfall of the earthly city of Jerusalem and with the destruction of the temple.

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).

Dispensationalists and Christian Zionists have, so it seems, been misled by the very same yeast of the Pharisees, and they are distracted from our true faith, the same faith as Abraham who looked forward to the city with foundations…, and are now looking intently with carnal eyes fixed upon the earthly city of Jerusalem for the coming of the kingdom of God. I have become convinced that this is setting the stage for the final antichrist when the trap will suddenly close for all who have refused to love the truth and so be saved.

This brings us to the final question to be dealt with in this paper.

Will two-thirds of the Jews perish in a future period of great tribulation and will the Church escape the final period of the reign of the antichrist in the rapture?

“In the whole land,” declares the LORD, “two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it. This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold” (Zechariah 13:8-9).

This prophecy in Zechariah is very clearly connected with the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus Christ – “…strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered…” at which time judgement was destined to come upon those who rejected the Messiah and at which time about two-thirds of the people in the land perished.

In the light of the teaching given thus far, the first part of this question, “Will two-thirds of the Jews perish in a future tribulation?”, is superfluous because, although it was a vitally important historical event, it has already happened.

However, when Jesus appears from heaven, far more than two-thirds of the Jews in Jerusalem will perish – because every person, Jew and gentile, throughout the world who has not believed the gospel of the kingdom of God will be condemned.

The history of Israel provides us with a very important lesson: The siege of Jerusalem and the cataclysmic events which took place between 66 and 70 AD was a period of history that is largely forgotten or ignored by those who only project future scenarios of the fulfilment of prophecy.

The Jews who did not flee from Jerusalem and who instead took refuge in the city and even in the temple, suffered immensely in the time of that great tribulation – even the believers who fled from the city were saved through great trials in which their faith was severely tested. Many suffered great persecution and martyrdom. They were not saved from fiery trials but were saved by their faithfulness to Christ and by their perseverance through great suffering even to the point of death.

The apostle John, whom it is believed was the only apostle to have died of natural causes, was banished to the Isle of Patmos where he wrote the Revelation of Jesus Christ enthroned in his heavenly glory. He addressed his book to the church of Jesus Christ and referred to himself as your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus,… (Revelation 1:9). The apostle John quite clearly answered the question as to whether believers will go through the tribulation.

Whether we survive periods of tribulation to the coming of Christ, or whether we die for our faith, we need not fear the one who can only kill the body for our hope is in the resurrection. Our present trials cannot be compared to the coming glory that will be revealed when Jesus appears from heaven in his majesty and power (Romans 8:18). Our salvation is not political and nor does it require that we be rescued from evil men by being taken out of this world. We are not being gathered to the earthly city which is now compared to Sodom and Egypt and to Hagar who is in slavery with her children (Gal. 4:25), …we have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God (Hebrews 12:22) …we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

The present earth is passing away and those who try to take hold of their inheritance now in this world, but who reject Christ, stand to lose everything for eternity. The question, therefore, is not whether two-thirds of the Jews will perish in some future period of tribulation. The real question ought to be: Will the Church heed the warning of God’s stern judgment on unbelieving Israel in 70 AD or will naïve Christians be deceived into supporting a rebellion as they try to take hold of the inheritance by their own means without confessing their guilt in having rejected Jesus Christ the only true Son and heir in whom alone, we become joint-heirs?

Jesus told a parable to describe Israel’s rebellion in which the servants said, “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance” (Matthew 21:33-41). Paul wrote: These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfilment of the ages has come (1 Corinthians 10:11).

Jesus wept over Jerusalem because of the pending judgment, but now, instead of weeping, Christians are being called to support the claim of unbelieving Jews to the earthly city of Jerusalem …the very city that was already once desolated because of their rebellion and unbelief. Paul spoke of a coming rebellion – or apostasy (2 Th. 2:3). What is the rebellion, if not that of betraying one’s loyalty to Jesus the King by forming an unholy alliance with those who reject his authority and rebel against him?

Fear the LORD and the King, my son, and do not join with the rebellious, for those two will send sudden destruction upon them, and who knows what calamities they can bring?(Proverbs 24:21-22).

It was prophesied that Jesus would cause the falling and rising of Israel – the falling is those who reject him.

Jesus said: “I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him” (John 5:43).

All who harden their hearts and refuse to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ will be deceived into following the man of lawlessness. This world-wide rebellion will be consumed with the breath of Christ’s mouth and destroyed with the splendour of Jesus’ coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8).

Only those who have already received the deposit of the Holy Spirit before the man of lawlessness is revealed – and who remain faithful to the end – will be saved at the time of Christ’s glorious appearing from heaven. For those who refuse to believe the gospel there will be no future hope, for it says:

The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that ALL will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).

Just as there was a period of great tribulation for Jerusalem (i.e. for the Jew first), the apostle Paul taught that there will be a time of tribulation for the nations too (Romans 2:9). Could this be when the man of lawlessness is revealed (2 Thessalonians 2:3) – whom Jesus will eventually overthrow with the breath of his coming and destroy by the splendour of his coming? (2 Thess. 2:8).

Will the Church be “raptured” before the man of lawlessness is revealed?

It is astonishing why anyone even speculates whether the “rapture” will precede the coming of the man of lawlessness, for the apostle Paul answered this very question plainly and emphatically!

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. DON’T LET ANYONE DECEIVE YOU IN ANY WAY, for that day… (THE SAME DAY and simultaneous event AS THE DAY OF THE COMING OF THE LORD AND OUR BEING GATHERED TO HIM – i.e. the “second coming” and the “rapture”) …will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).

Man was created to worship the LORD. But Satan enticed Eve to want to become like God rather than reflect God’s glory by worshipping him.

Paul wrote: Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

Through the gospel of Jesus Christ, God purposed for people to be redeemed to become a temple in which he lives by his Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth. But, Paul taught that when the man of lawlessness is revealed, God himself will send a powerful delusion to everyone who has refused to love the truth – so that they will believe the lie and be condemned. Instead of becoming a temple in which the Spirit of Truth lives, they will become a desecrated temple filled with the spirit of falsehood – which will ultimately lead their destruction and eternal condemnation.

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thessalonians 2:15).


(1)  Many commentators suggest that the question must be understood in three distinct parts referring a) to the destruction of the temple (within that generation) b) to the second coming and c) to the end of the world. Since the disciples had not yet grasped the fact that Jesus had to die it is very awkward to infer that they were asking him about his “second coming.” It is far more natural to assume that they were asking him when he would come into his authority and power.