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A SCRIPTURAL OVERVIEW OF END-TIME EVENTS
PART III: THE RETURN OF CHRIST AND RAPTURE OF THE SAINTS

Notes by Stephen Xu

 

THE CLEAR SEQUENCE OF EVENTS PRESENTED IN MATTHEW 24:21-31

1. THE GREAT TRIBULATION CUT SHORT BY THE LORD

“21For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. 22Unless those days (that is, the days of the great tribulation, 3 and half years, which were originally decreed to Antichrist to persecute the saints, cf. Daniel 7:25, 9:27, Revelation 13:5) had been cut short (the Greek word used here is koloboo, which suggests a literal amputation of the days of tribulation. Mark 13:20 makes it clear that the Lord is the one who shortens the days of tribulation), no life would have been saved (which literally means no flesh would be physically delivered); but for the sake of the elect (or the chosen of God in Mark 13:20, is a collective noun only appeared in the New Testament that refers to church-age believers which include both Jews and Gentiles, cf. Luke 18:7, Romans 8:33, Ephesians 1:4-5, 2 Timothy 2:10, Titus 1:1, 1 Peter 1:1, 2:9, 2 John 1:1, 13, Revelation 17:14) those days will be cut short (it is by the mercy of God that these terrible days will be shortened so that the faithful can endure to the end and be delivered by the return of Christ, see below 1 Corinthians 10:13)”. (Matthew 24:21-22, emphasis and notes added)

SUPPORTING SCRIPTURE:

“God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted (or literally, to be tested, i.e. by the great tribulation) beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape (in the case of the great tribulation, the way of escape will be Christ’s personal return to the earth to receive His own to Himself, which is, the Rapture or Gathering of the saints, see Matthew 24:31 below) also, so that you will be able to endure it”. (1 Corinthians 10:13, emphasis and notes added)

2. THE SIGN OF THE SUN, MOON AND STARS

“29But immediately after the tribulation (that is, after the days of tribulation are cut short) of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky (the Sign of Sun, Moon and Stars as prophesied throughout the Scriptures signals the beginning of God’s wrath against the wicked during the Day of the Lord Judgment, see supporting scriptures below), and the powers of the heavens will be shaken”. (Matthew 24:29, emphasis and notes added, see also Luke 21:25-26)

SUPPORTING SCRIPTURES:

“9Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, cruel, with fury and burning anger, to make the land a desolation. And He will exterminate its sinners from it. 10For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; the sun will be dark when it rises; and the moon will not shed its light. 11Thus I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud and abase the haughtiness of the ruthless”. (Isaiah 13:9-11, emphasis added)

“1Blow a trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming; surely it is near. … 10Before them the earth quakes, the heavens tremble, the sun and the moon grow dark and the stars lose their brightness. … 31The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes (notice that this verse was also quoted by Peter in Acts 2:20). 32And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD will be delivered (that is, physically delivered or rescued); For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape (that is, escape from the coming wrath of God. This is a profound Old Testament prophecy regarding the protection of Jews and rapture of the saints at the beginning of the day of the Lord), as the LORD has said, even among the survivors whom the LORD calls.” (Joel 2:1, 10, 31-32, emphasis and notes added)

3. THE GLORIOUS RETURN OF CHRIST

“27For just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be (the second coming of Christ will be visible to all who live on the earth on that day. While all the natural lights are out, Christ will be the only Light on that day) … 30And then (that is, after the appearance of the sign of the sun, moon and stars in the sky) the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky (the Lord Jesus will appear physically and personally in His second coming, first to receive His own to Himself, then to judge the world, details to follow), and 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 (the second advent of Christ is powerful and glorious because Christ is coming with God the Father, the All Powerful and Mighty One of the universe, see supporting scriptures below).” (Matthew 24:27, 30, emphasis and notes added)

SUPPORTING SCRIPTURES:

“Jesus said to him, ‘You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER (‘power’ refers to the All Powerful One, which is, God the Father), and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN’”. (Matthew 26:64, emphasis and note added, see also Mark 14:62)

“27Then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN A CLOUD with power and great glory. 28But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads (for Christ is coming from above!), because your redemption is drawing near (in the context, this ‘redemption’ is no other than the physical rescue or deliverance of the remaining saints that have survived the great persecution by Antichrist. This is also called ‘the rapture of the saints’. See below for details)." (Luke 21:27, emphasis and notes added)

4. THE RAPTURE OF THE ELECT/SAINTS

“31And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect (that is, Christ with His angels will gather or rapture His chosen people, first the dead in Christ, then the living believers on earth. Also notice that by removing the living saints from earth, the Lord Himself literally cuts short the great tribulation by Antichrist, and ‘renders him useless’, cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:8) from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other”. (Matthew 24:31, emphasis and notes added)

SUPPORTING SCRIPTURES:

(Jesus said) “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself (the promise of Christ to return and receive, or gather together, His own to Himself), that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3, emphasis and notes added)

“15For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain (a better translation is: we who are alive and survive) until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive and remain (or, alive and survive) will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18Therefore comfort one another with these words”. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18, emphasis and notes added)

“1Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ AND our gathering together to Him (notice here Paul used the same word ‘gather together’ as Christ in Matthew 24:31 to refer to the rapture of the saints. The connective ‘and’ in this verse suggests that the coming of Lord Jesus and the rapture of the saints are back to back events and can not be separated from each other), 2that 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 (notice that Paul was using three terms: ‘the coming of Lord Jesus Christ’, ‘our gathering together to Him’ and ‘the day of the Lord’ interchangeably in this passage. Why? It is simply because these three events are back to back and will happen on the same day, see the next chapter ‘The Day of the Lord Judgment’ for explanations) has come. 3Let 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, 4who 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 (Paul makes it very clear that the return of Christ and rapture of the saints will NOT happen until AFTER Antichrist is revealed when he takes seat in the temple and demands the world’s worship. In other words, the coming of Christ and rapture of the saints will NOT happen until AFTER the beginning of the Great Tribulation)”. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, emphasis and notes added)


THE PARALLEL SEQUENCE OF EVENTS RECORDED IN REVELATION CHAPTER 6 AND 7

1. THE PLEAD OF THE SOULS OF THE MARTYRS FOR GOD TO JUDGE THE EARTH DWELLERS AND AVENGING THEIR BLOOD

“9And when He (that is, Christ Jesus) broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained (notice that these are the souls of the martyrs who were slain because of their commitment to Christ during the great tribulation by Antichrist. They don’t have resurrected bodies yet until the first day of Millennial, cf. Revelation 20:4); 10and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, wilt Thou refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ (here the martyrs’ souls are asking the Lord God to judge the people of Antichrist and avenge their blood) 11And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a while longer (the Lord didn’t give them a direct answer but told them to ‘rest for a while longer’. The subsequent 6th seal initiates the sign of the Day of the Lord, which is followed by the Seven-Trumpet Judgment. During the seven trumpets, the fifth trumpet lasts five months [Revelation 9:5] and the seventh trumpet announces the end of the 70th Week of Daniel and the reign of Christ on earth [Revelation 10:7, 11:15]. Therefore, we can safely conclude that the great tribulation is at least cut short by five months) until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, should be completed also.” (Revelation 6:9-11, emphasis and notes added)

2. THE SIGN OF THE SUN, MOON AND STARS

“12I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake (see also Joel 2:10a); and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; 13and the stars of the sky fell to the earth (without a doubt, this is exactly the sign prophesied by old testament prophets and Lord Jesus as the sign of the Day of the Lord), as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. 14The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.” (Revelation 6:12-14, emphasis and notes added)

3. THE GLORIOUS RETURN OF CHRIST

“15Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne (that is, God the Father, who is present at the coming of Lord Jesus Christ), and from the wrath of the Lamb (that is, Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, sitting on the right hand of God and coming on the clouds of heavens, see Matthew 26:64 and Mark 14:62); 17for the great day of their wrath has come (the phrase ‘has come’ in its original Greek meaning denotes the beginning of an event. Thus verse 17 means the great day of God’s wrath has just begun to come. Realizing this, therefore, the earth dwellers begin to hide themselves and seek death), and who is able to stand? (a rhetorical question with certitude, which simply states: no one is able to stand when the wrath of God comes)’” (Revelation 6:15-17, emphasis and notes added)

4. THE RAPTURE OF THE SAINTS

“9After these things (that is, after the 144,000 Jews were sealed in Revelation 7:1-8) I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count (that is, the raptured saints who include both the dead in Christ of all the ages and the living believers on earth at the time of Christ’s return, see below for explanations), from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues (this great multitude is composed of people from all around the world, which confirms the notion that they are the raptured saints or church), standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands (notice they are different than the souls in the 5th seal: they have properly clothed physical bodies: standing on their feet and waving palm branches by their hands! They are no other than the raptured saints!); 10and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation (or literally ‘victory’) to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’ … 13Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?’ 14I said to him, ‘My lord, you know.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation (in other words, they have come out from the period of the great tribulation. With this key verse, we are left with no other options regarding the identity of the great multitude – they are indeed the saints of present and past ages raptured by the Lord Jesus Christ when He cuts short the great tribulation by Antichrist), and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’" (Revelation 7:9-10, 13-14, emphasis and notes added)

 

Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible

Questions and comments of this Bible Study may be sent to Stephen at here.

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A Complete Scriptural Overview of End-Time Events (All 4 Parts, 230KB)


RELATED BIBLE STUDIES:

-> End-Time Events Overview I: The 70th Week of Daniel
-> End-Time Events Overview II: The Great Tribulation by Antichrist
-> End-Time Events Overview IV: The Day of the Lord Judgment


RECOMMENDED RESOURCES:

-> "The Sign" by Robert Van Kampen
-> Sola Scriptura Articles, FAQs and Newsletters about End Times
-> A Dynamic Commentary on the Book of Revelation


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