MP3: The Tribulation Road Thru 2 Thessalonians 2
Hosts: Nathan Jones & Vic Batista
Welcome to The Truth Will Set You Free podcast teaching series titled “The Tribulation Road!” Nathan Jones and Vic Batista have been your guides since the very first installment, going verse by verse through the Bible’s prophetic book of 2 Thessalonians. We will continue to tackle chapter two because it’s so important to our understanding of the prophetic timeline.
Nathan Jones: Is 2 Thessalonians 2 making the argument that the Church will have to endure the Tribulation? I do not believe so. Let’s read 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 again:
“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”
Paul taught that “the day of Christ,” meaning the day when Jesus Christ comes to catch up His Church up to live with Him forever, will not come until a great “falling away” occurs and the Antichrist reveals himself.
Some people misinterpret 2 Thessalonians 2 as teaching that the Antichrist will, at last, be revealed when he desecrates the Jewish Temple at the mid-point of the seven-year Tribulation. Therefore, they conclude, the Church must endure the first 3.5 years of the Tribulation. The fear the church in Thessalonica had due to an erroneous report was that they had already begun to live in the Tribulation. But, no, Paul assured them that the Antichrist had yet to be revealed, so they were indeed not living in the Tribulation.
The interpretation of just when the Antichrist will be revealed depends on the requirement that we look at all of Scripture for an answer, and not just take a section here or there. We have to look back to Daniel 9, which teaches that the Antichrist will, at last, be revealed when he makes a peace treaty with Israel. That treaty marks the beginning of the seven years. Therefore, the Antichrist will not be revealed during the middle of the Tribulation, but had already at the beginning. He’s not revealed when he breaks the covenant 3.5 years later, but at the onset of the Tribulation.
Paul knew this, for after all, he was an expert in the Bible. Paul would have known that Daniel prophesied that the Antichrist will be revealed when he makes a peace covenant with Israel, and not when he set himself up in the Temple 3.5 years later. Paul could not have been teaching a Mid-Tribulation Rapture for the “day of Christ.” Paul would have taken all of the Scriptures in context, therefore exposing the revealing as before the Tribulation, not during.
Vic Batista: Exactly! Excellent point. There are some erroneous teachings out there concerning the timing of Christ’s return. Some people actually believe that the Tribulation starts with the Rapture of the Church, but that’s not the case. The Rapture can happen at any moment, even way before the signing of the peace treaty that marks the beginning of the seven years. What’s clear from Daniel is that the Antichrist reveals himself at the onset of the Tribulation, and will desecrate the Temple a few years later.
Nathan Jones: I also grew up believing that as soon as the Rapture happens then the Tribulation would begin, but that’s not the case. The Tribulation begins when the Antichrist is revealed when making a covenant with Israel.
I don’t believe there will be too long of a gap between the Rapture and the Tribulation, though. Take the Church off this world and the Holy Spirit’s restraining work through the Church, as verse 6 prophesies, and mankind will live out whatever evils they desire. Lawlessness and chaos will abound. Mankind would quickly kill themselves off, which is what they will indeed do during the Tribulation. So, no, I do believe that the Rapture isn’t going to be far separated from the beginning of the Tribulation.
The Bible makes it clear that the Tribulation is God’s wrath poured out upon the unbelieving world, and not for those who are saved and members of the Church. True believers in Christ during the Church Age, represented by the Church of Philadelphia, are promised in Revelation 3:10, “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.” Paul states in 1 Thessalonians 1:10, “and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” He also states in 1 Thessalonians 5:9, “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:9 states, “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” Ephesians 5:6 states, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.” Colossians 3:4 states, “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Again and again, Scripture states the Church is not meant to endure God’s time of wrath.
Some people will argue that the Tribulation is only the last half of the seven years, or even the last quarter. We can know for a fact that the Tribulation will be a full seven years because all 21 judgments described in Revelation are released by Jesus Christ. He’s the one who opens the very first Seal Judgment, as well as all of the other Seal Judgments. The Trumpet Judgments come from the throne room of God. The Bowl Judgments originate from the altar of God. All of these judgments derive from Jesus Christ, and they all comprise the entire seven years of the Tribulation.
A Hardening of the Heart
Vic Batista: I often see in the Scriptures a call for repentance, for God is so gracious. But, a person can harden their hearts for so long that they end up reaching the limit to God’s patience. We read about such a limit in 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12.
“And for this reason God will send them strong delusion that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
Some people toy around with the idea that once they see people disappearing in the Rapture, or the world begin to experience God’s judgments, then they will finally get saved. Or, they rashly believe they have all the time in the world to become saved before all of these judgments happen. If people are not coming to accept the Lord now with as many Bibles and ministers and Christian programming that is out there, then when this strong delusion comes, do they really think that they are still going to have the opportunity to accept Christ?
Nathan Jones: This brings up a rather big debate in Bible prophecy based on verses 11-12 which foretell a “strong delusion.” Some people wonder if a person who refused Christ and His salvation before the Rapture, that when the Antichrist does at last come, will that mean that they will have no chance of getting saved? In other words, would everyone who has heard of Jesus but rejected Him and so are left behind after the Rapture, will they fall for that strong delusion and so be eternally condemned? That’s an ongoing debate within Bible prophecy circles.
I believe the answer is both yes and no.
Yes, for those people who have already set their hearts against God, and I’m talking about the militant atheists of today and the most radical Islamic jihadists and so forth, for those people who refuse to believe in the truth and wish to accept a lie, God will harden their hearts even more going into the Tribulation. Just as God did with Pharaoh in the Exodus, those who have set their hearts against God will run towards the “strong delusion” that will explain away Christ’s work in the Rapture. Such hard-hearted, rebellious people will lose all chance of accepting Jesus as Savior going into the Tribulation.
But also no, because we read in Revelation about how the multitudes from every tribe, tongue, nation, and people will give their lives to Jesus Christ during those dark days. The Bible foretells of those who will be martyred by the Antichrist for their faith in Jesus and so end up standing before the throne of God. After they have been killed by the Antichrist, they will be found worshiping the Lord up in Heaven. These Tribulation Saints were saved after the Rapture, so surely did not have their hearts hardened. From these people, God will reap a tremendous soul harvest during the Tribulation.
Vic Batista: Yes, I am in agreement with you. Regardless, nobody should want to find themselves left behind and living in the Tribulation. Don’t toy around with the idea of waiting to become saved. Once you see the signs of the Tribulation, come to Christ now! He is giving you the opportunity while there’s still time, so don’t delay. God has prepared an eternal home for you in Heaven because He loves you and He has a wonderful plan for your life. You need to recognize that if you harden your heart like Pharaoh, the opportunity to accept Christ after the Rapture will likely be gone. You will believe the lie and so be condemned, as verses 11-12 foretell.
In the eighth part of our travels along the Tribulation Road and our verse-by-verse study of 2 Thessalonians, we’ll finish up chapter two with Paul’s message of thanksgiving and hope.