By Hal Lindsey
On the list of end-time events, nothing has to happen before Jesus snatches His people from the face of the earth. That means the rapture could happen many years from now, or any second now. The Bible calls it our “blessed hope.” Titus 2:13 says, “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” [NKJV]
Notice that we are not looking for the appearing of Antichrist, but of Jesus Christ. A lot of Christians now believe that Antichrist must appear before the rapture. They base this on 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3.
“Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him, that you may 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. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.” [NASB]
People often confuse “the day of the Lord” and “the rapture.” A study of the day of the Lord in both the New and Old Testaments shows that it is not a single day, but an epoch. It begins at the beginning of the seven years of tribulation (also known as “Daniel’s Seventieth Week”). It ends at the end of the millennium. But the rapture happens before the day of the Lord.
Paul taught the Thessalonian Christians about a pretribulation rapture and about the day of the Lord. Sometime after he left, a group began teaching that the day of the Lord had begun. To the Thessalonians, this meant they had missed the rapture — a notion that shook them to the core.
Paul tells them to remember what he taught them about the day of the Lord. Daniel 9:27 says that the tribulation (“Daniel’s Seventieth Week”) begins when “the prince who is to come” (Antichrist) makes a treaty with Israel. Before Antichrist can make such a significant treaty, he will obviously have to arrive on the world scene. So, before the tribulation can begin, Antichrist must have risen to a high level of power and prominence, probably as leader of the European Union or its successor.
He cannot rise to such a position now because Satan’s work on earth is being restrained. Paul went on to write, “Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he may be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. And then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming.” [2 Thessalonians 2:5-8, NASB]
The restrainer is the Holy Spirit working through the Church. At the rapture, that restraint on Satan will be taken out of the way. The teaching here is clear. The day of the Lord cannot begin until the rise of Antichrist, and Antichrist cannot rise until the Church has been taken out of the way. Therefore, the rapture must take place before the tribulation.
People who believe that the Antichrist must appear before the rapture face a conundrum. Instead of looking for the appearing of Christ, they must look for the appearing of Antichrist. But as we just read in Titus 2:13, we are to be “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
In other words, we are looking for life, not death; love, not hate; and so, we look forward with joy rather than despair.