We will discuss Matthew 24:15, 21, 22, and 29-31 here at the beginning of Part 4.
I'll turn back to MATTHEW 24:15, "Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand)." These last words "(let the reader understand)" caution the readers to pay close attention because of the awesome significance of this teaching. Let's jump down to MATTHEW 24:21, 22, "For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. (22) Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short."
WHAT IS THE GREAT TRIBULATION? WHEN WILL IT START? HOW LONG WILL IT LAST? These are very important questions, and we'll spend quite a bit of time answering these questions. Briefly, I believe the short great tribulation will begin shortly after the abomination of desolation and that it will be over before the Lord Jesus returns with the clouds of heaven and the rapture takes place (Matt. 24:30, 31), right in the middle of the seven years. The short great tribulation will involve very intense warfare that won't last more than a few weeks. It will involve very intense warfare of armies of the world against one another. This very intense warfare, warfare that will undoubtedly involve nuclear weapons and perhaps other weapons of mass destruction, is pictured, for one place, in the second half of Revelation chapter 9, which spells out the events that will accompany the sounding of the sixth trumpet of the book of Revelation.
That trumpet will sound about a month before the middle of Daniel's 70th week, about the time of the abomination of desolation. (As we have discussed, the Lord Jesus Christ will return and the rapture will take place right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week, at the sounding of the seventh and last trumpet of the book of Revelation.) The great tribulation isn't something coming against true Christians. In fact, as we will see, we can even say that the great tribulation and God's end-time judgment of the world is coming (in part) in answer to the prayers of God's people, including the prayer "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven." We will, however, still be living on the earth at the time of the short great tribulation in that the great tribulation will take place just before the Lord Jesus Christ returns and the rapture takes place.
I'll read MATTHEW 24:21, 22 again, "For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. (22) Unless those days had been cut short no life would have been saved [The warfare is going to be very intense, and the loss of life will be gigantic]; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short." Yes, short indeed, not lasting more than a few weeks. I am just giving a brief overview of some of the key points of Matthew chapter 24 here; we will discuss these important things in more detail as we continue with these studies. Later in this article we will begin a more detailed study of the short great tribulation. It is of crucial importance for us to understand the short great tribulation.
Now we'll skip down to MATTHEW 24:29, "But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken." What is going to cause the darkening of the sun and moon? I believe that most of the light coming from the sun and moon will be blocked out by the large amounts of smoke and dust generated during the very intense warfare of the short great tribulation. Notice that verse 29 says, "But immediately after the tribulation of those days" [referring to the days of the short great tribulation spoken of in verses 21, 22; in the Greek the same noun for "tribulation" is used in verses 21 and 29]. I will have a lot more to say about the darkening of the sun and moon as we continue with these studies that will confirm this interpretation.
"AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken." Satan's kingdom will be greatly shaken at that time, right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. For one major thing, Revelation chapter 12 shows that Satan and his angels will be cast down to the earth right in the middle of the seven-year period, and significantly, Satan's angels are called STARS in Revelation chapter 12. This helps us understand the meaning of these words here in Matthew 24:29 about the STARS falling from the sky. Satan's angels will be cast down to the earth with him when he is cast down right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week.
MATTHEW 24:30, 31, "And then the sign of the Son of Man [the Lord Jesus Himself] will appear in the sky [This is the primary sign we need to be looking for (see Matt. 24:3), the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, when He returns with the clouds of heaven, at the sounding of the great trumpet, to take us to Himself in the rapture and to begin His end-time judgment of the world (and to do some other things).], and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn [They will mourn because they will know that the day of judgment has arrived.], and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. (31) And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other."
The Lord Jesus Christ will return (He only returns once), and it won't be a secret coming (as many believe it will be). His coming will be visible across the world. His angels gathering together the elect worldwide is the rapture, the same rapture the apostle Paul spoke about in 1 Thess. 4:16, 17, verses that we have discussed already. And the great trumpet here in Matt. 24:31 is the trumpet of 1 Thess. 4:16. Also, as we have discussed, this is the same trumpet as the last trumpet of 1 Cor. 15:52 and the seventh and last trumpet of Rev. 11:15.
Most Christians who believe that the Lord Jesus will return and the rapture will take place (just) before Daniel's 70th week begins insist that Matt. 24: 30, 31 do not speak of the same coming of the Lord with the clouds of heaven and the trumpet that the apostle Paul spoke of in 1 Thess. 4:16, 17. They are pretty much forced into this unnatural interpretation by their view of the end times. They believe that Christ will return and the rapture will take place before the seven-year period begins, but His coming pictured in Matt. 24:30, 31 is AFTER the abomination of desolation, and essentially everyone agrees that the abomination of desolation will take place in the (approximate) middle of Daniel's 70th week. Therefore, they are pretty much forced to deny that the coming of the Lord in Matt. 24:30, 31 is the same coming that the apostle Paul spoke of. However, it has always seemed clear to me (and to very many others) that Matt. 24:30, 31 are talking about the same event that Paul taught about.
Matthew chapter 24 was one of the two primary passages that began to convince me that the pre-week rapture viewpoint is wrong. The other primary passage was 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, which we will discuss later in this article. As I mentioned, I'm not here to argue with anyone, but it is very important for us to rightly divide God's word. The closer we get to the time of the return of the Lord Jesus, the more important it is for us to rightly understand the end-time prophecies.
I'll read MATTHEW 24:30, 31 again and make another comment. "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. (31) And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other." That worldwide gathering of the elect includes the mid-week rapture. I believe it also includes the gathering ON THE EARTH of the repentant end-time remnant of Israel that is spoken of in Isa. 27:12, 13. It is significant that Isa. 27:13 mentions the sounding of a GREAT TRUMPET.
Now I'll turn to 2 THESSALONIANS 2:1-5. These verses are very important too. As I mentioned, I never could reconcile Matthew chapter 24 or 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 with the pre-week rapture viewpoint. "Now we request you, brethren [the apostle Paul says], with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ [[This is the same "coming" (Greek "parousia") of the Lord Jesus Christ (with the clouds of heaven and with the trumpet) that the New Testament frequently speaks about that will come to pass (I believe) right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. The Greek noun "parousia" is also used, for example, in Matt. 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 4:15; and 2 Thess. 2:8.]] and our GATHERING TOGETHER [my emphasis] to Him [[I'll read Matthew 24:31 again, "And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to other." The Greek verb translated "THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER" in Matt. 24:31 is "episunago." The Greek noun translated "gathering together" here in 2 Thess. 2:1 is "episunagoges"; this noun was derived from the verb "episunago." This helps confirm that Matthew chapter 24 and 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 are speaking of the same event. This is the same coming of the Lord that the apostle Paul spoke about in 1 Thess. 4:16, 17.]], (2) that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. [[(This double bracket goes on for two paragraphs.) The apostle Paul had learned that some of the Thessalonian Christians had been deceived and become quite agitated through accepting an erroneous report, whether by a spirit (which could include a spiritual gift that supposedly came from God) or a message or a letter that supposedly came from Paul. Regardless of how they got the report, the apostle wanted to make it very clear that it was an erroneous report. He rebuked the Christians who had accepted this erroneous report, reminding them that the information they were accepting as true contradicted what he had already taught them. What the apostle had already taught them came from God.
Let's discuss the words, "to the effect that the day of the Lord has come." It wasn't that they thought that they had missed the rapture (as some say), but that they were thinking, based on the erroneous report they had accepted, that the coming of the Lord was super imminent and they were quite agitated. And agitated people often do irresponsible things.]] (3) Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy [or, rebellion] comes first [[That is, the day of the Lord that Paul just mentioned at the end of verse 2 will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and it was understood that the day of the Lord will begin when the Lord Jesus returns and the rapture takes place.]], and the man of lawlessness is revealed [or, manifested], the son of destruction [[I would translate "rebellion" instead of "apostasy" with the NIV. This is the rebellion led by Antichrist, who is the man of lawlessness that the apostle Paul mentions here. Antichrist will be revealed, or manifested, at the abomination of desolation, when as Paul says in the following verse, "he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God." At the end of verse 3, Paul calls Antichrist "the son of destruction." These words mean that Antichrist will be destroyed. The NIV translates "the man doomed to destruction." As I mentioned, it is interesting that Antichrist's destruction is typically mentioned whenever he is mentioned in the Bible.]], (4) who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. [[And, significantly, Paul's main point here is, I told you before and now I am telling you again, that the Lord Jesus Christ will not come back, and we will not be gathered together to him in the rapture, until after Antichrist is revealed/manifested by taking his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. And since Antichrist had not yet been revealed/manifested, there was no reasonable basis for them to have accepted this erroneous report, or the resulting agitation.]] (5) Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? I'll stop with 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 for now, but this chapter is discussed in some detail in my paperback book, "The Mid-Week Rapture."
Now let's turn back to MATTHEW 24:21, 22 and get into more detail regarding the short great tribulation. As I mentioned, it is extremely important for us to rightly understand the short great tribulation. "For then [The word then in this context refers to the times of great shaking that will follow Antichrist's abomination of desolation that Jesus spoke of back in verse 15.] there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. (22) Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short." The elect are the true Christians, very much including those who will become Christians after the mid-week rapture.
The most important cross-reference to understand the short great tribulation is Revelation 9:13-21. These verses tell of the events that will come to pass with the sounding of the sixth trumpet of the seven trumpets of the book of Revelation. The sixth trumpet will sound about the time of the abomination of desolation, about a month before the mid-week return of Christ and the rapture. The sixth trumpet is all about the intense warfare of the short great tribulation. Then, at the sounding of the seventh and last trumpet of the book of Revelation, in the middle of Daniel's 70th week, the Lord Jesus will return and the rapture will take place.
REVELATION 9:13-21. "Then the sixth angel sounded [This is a mighty, good angel of God; he sounds the sixth trumpet.], and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God [[These words are quite significant to give us the right perspective. The events of this trumpet (and the other trumpets) are not coming against true Christians (those who believe the truth and are living for God and are ready for Christ's coming). In Rev. 8:3, we see that our prayers are offered before God on this golden altar. Apparently these words about a voice coming from the four horns of the golden altar, which is before God, that give instructions to the angel with the sixth trumpet, are designed to show us that these events are coming (in part) in answer to our prayers. These events are not coming against us (cf. Rev. 9:20, 21), but in answer to our prayers, prayers like "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."]], (14) one saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, 'Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates [[This mighty angel who sounds the sixth trumpet does a whole lot more than just sound the trumpet. He releases the four evil angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates at the right time (God's predetermined time), and he will be on the scene to make sure that everything works out according to God's plans. We don't have to be concerned, for example, that the evil angels may rebel and not do the things they have been prepared to do. God has ways of making sure that the devil, the evil angels, the demons, and evil men like Antichrist will do what God's prophetic Word says they will do. God often uses those who are evil and in rebellion against Him.]].' (15) And the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released, so that they would kill a third of mankind [[(This double bracket goes on for two paragraphs.) Talk about a major event, a third of mankind will be killed in a very short period of time, something like a couple of weeks. If this is a third of mankind worldwide, the number of people killed will be more than 2 billion. The worldwide population now (November 2007) is almost up to 6 billion 800 million. (In February, 2014 it is up to 7.1 billion. One third of that would be more than 2.3 billion people.) I lean toward the idea that the number of people killed will be far less than two billion. The Bible frequently speaks of the world when only a rather small part of the globe is involved. Even if the number killed was only a tenth of two billion that would still be 200,000,000 people, which is a staggering number. In World War 2, which lasted more than five years, the total number of deaths was about 50,000,000.
Let's discuss the words, "and the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year." It's clear that these four evil angels have been prepared in accordance with the end-time plans of God, and it seems clear that God has already determined exactly when these evil angels will be released to do their destructive work. God leaves much room for the free will and sin of angels and demons and men, but HE IS GOD, and He is in control!]]. (16) The number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them [[These gigantic armies will undoubtedly be gathered by the four evil angels. Two hundred million soldiers are going to come into that part of the world that includes Israel. Even back in the 50s China boasted that they could put 200,000,000 soldiers in the field. Also, India has a population greater than a billion and there are many more than a billion Muslims in the world today. These soldiers will not be riding on horses (at least most of them won't); they will have modern weapon systems for which there were no concepts, or words, in the ancient world. As we continue it will become obvious that these soldiers will be using modern weapon systems.]]. (17) And this is how I saw in the vision the horses and those who sat on them: the riders had breastplates the color of fire [the "fire" goes with warfare] and of hyacinth [that's bluish, like smoke] and of brimstone [that goes with the warfare; the margin the NASB says, "that is, burning sulphur"]; and the heads of the horses are like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths proceed fire and smoke and brimstone [It is obvious that these are not literal horses. We can think of cannons on tanks, for example, and we can think of missiles, etc.]. (18) A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire, and the smoke and the brimstone which proceeded out of their mouths [[It is significant that the word "smoke" is used in verses 17 and 18. As I have mentioned, I believe this smoke (and the dust generated during this intense warfare) will block out most of the light coming from the sun and the moon. We see the sun and moon darkened in Matt. 24:29 in the days right after the great tribulation and at the time the Lord returns and the rapture takes place, as pictured in Matt. 24:30, 31, right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. And we will look at several other passages as we continue that speak of this same warfare and of the sun and moon being darkened when the Lord returns and the day of the Lord begins.]]. (19) For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads, and with them they do harm. [You can think, for example, of cannons coming out of the rear of tanks, or you can think of missiles, etc. It is very clear that these are not literal horses, and we can probably see some nuclear weapons here.] (20) The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; (21) and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts." "The rest of mankind" spoken of here clearly excludes God's people. As I mentioned, the judgments of the sixth trumpet are not coming against God's people; for one thing, His people are not living in sin. These verses speak of the unrepentant condition of mankind after the events of the sixth trumpet have come to pass. It is amazing that the sin problem is so deep seated in the heart of man. The devil, the evil angels, the demons, and a large part of mankind never do repent.
Now that the events of the sixth trumpet have come to pass, it is time (right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week) for the seventh and last trumpet to sound and for the Lord Jesus to return to rapture out His people and to officially begin the day of judgment, though it is true that the events of the sixth trumpet involve quite a bit of intense judgment for some. That concludes our discussion of Rev. 9:13-21, which is the most important cross-reference to understand the short great tribulation spoken of in Matt. 24:21, 22 and other verses.
Some Christians believe the "great tribulation" covers all seven years of Daniel's 70th week. Many others say that it will take place throughout the second half of Daniel's 70th week. I agree that some major tribulation will take place throughout the second half of Daniel's 70th week, but (as we have discussed), the short great tribulation of Matt. 24:21, 22, which involves very intense warfare, will start after the abomination of desolation and be over before the Lord returns in the middle of Daniel's 70th week.
This completes Article #3 and this four part "Introduction to My E-Book, 'Introduction to The Mid-Week Rapture.' " May God's will be fully accomplished through this four part article and through the e-book! And may God's will be fully accomplished in us and through us! In Jesus' name!