To understand and gain insight into Paul’s instruction to the Thessalonians concerning the Rapture and the Day Of The Lord, one must first understand the background surrounding Paul’s epistles to the Thessalonians. Paul’s stay in Thessalonica was very brief due to persecution instigated by some Jewish elements in the city who were disgruntled with Paul’s teachings on the kingship of our Lord Jesus the Christ. They were able to gain the support of the Greeks and the city officials by capitalizing on this aspect of Paul’s message. They accused Jason, Paul’s host, and certain other brethren they laid hands on to the city officials, of receiving Paul and Silas, men that have turned the world upside down, and taught that there was another king other than Ceasar, one Jesus. The city officials took security of Jason, and those other brethren. Whatever happened to them afterwards, the Scriptures are silent about. Paul and Silas were spirited out of the city by the brethren.
The Background Of Paul’s Letters To The Thessalonians.
The ancient city of Thessalonica was ideally situated on the Ignatian Way, on the western side of Chalcidic Peninsula. It was the chief seaport of ancient Macedonia, and an important commercial centre and a military base. Today, the city is called Thessaloniki which is in Greece. Paul’s witness there was very brief. Following persecution in Philippi, Paul and Silas travelled the Ignatian Way to Thessalonica(Acts 16:39-17:1). There Paul taught in the synagogue for three sabbaths. Some Jews who were antagonistic to the gospel stirred up the Thessalonians against the brethren, accusing them of treason, probably because Paul proclaimed Jesus as King. The house of Jason, Paul’s host was assaulted in order to bring Paul and Silas to the city officials. When they did not find them, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the city officials who took security of them. The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away to Berea(Acts 17:5-10).
The believers in Thessalonica came under great persecution as a result of this uproar. Paul desired to return to Thessalonica to ground them in the Faith, but was hindered by Satan(1 Thess.2:17,18). Subsequently, Paul despatched Timotheus to complete the work which he started(1 Thess.3:1,2).
Paul wrote his first letter to the Thessalonians between 50 and 51 AD., after Timothy returned to him in Corinth(Acts 18:5). The message Timotheus brought to Paul from Thessalonica was mixed: there were good news as well as bad news. The good news was that the Thessalonians were zealous and steadfast in propagating the gospel(1 Thess.3:6). The bad news was that there were ethical problems as well as some eschatological misconceptions(1 Thess.3:4-7; 4:13 ). They were worried that believers who were dead would miss Christ at His second coming. Paul assured them that those who died in Christ would be the first to rise from the dead to meet the Lord in the air together with those who are alive and remain(1 Thess.4:13-18).
Paul’s second epistle to the Thessalonians was written about 51-52 AD, and was sent from Corinth after the first letter. It contains together with his first letter, the fullest treatment of the second coming and the Rapture of the Church not found anywhere else in the Scriptures. The Rapture was an issue of great importance to the Thessalonians. Some members of the congregation had no clear understanding concerning the Day Of The Lord, and the timing of the Rapture(1 Thess.5:1-11; 4:13-1 ). With increased persecution, they felt that the Day Of The Lord had already come, and they had missed Christ’s return.
“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto Him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand(1 Thess.2:1,2).
Within the Thessalonian church were false teachers who were communicating erroneous doctrines. These false teachings were communicated in three ways: by spirit, that is some prophetic utterance, by word, that is through instructions by these false teachers; and by letter as from us, that is forged documents attributed to Apostle Paul and or some of his associates in the ministry. The core of this erroneous teaching was contained in the statement that the day of the Lord is at hand.
Paul’s Teachings To The Thessalonians.
In order to correct that error, Paul wrote them saying,
“let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come except there be a falling away first, and that man of Sin be revealed, the son of perdition”(2 Thess.2:3).
Clearly, unmistakably and in nondebatable terms, Paul identified two events that must proceed the Day of the Lord. These two events are presented in sequential order by Paul. They are the Apostasy And The revelation of the Man of Sin, the Son Of Perdition. The Pretribulation Rapture Position teaches that the translation of the church and the coming of the Lord must precede the fulfilment of Daniel’s prophecy of a final seven year period before the second coming of the Lord. Some even allow as much as seven years between the translation of the saints and the start of the 70th seven of Daniel. If the translation of the saints occurs before the start of the 70th seven of Daniel, the Apostasy and the revelation of the Man Of Sin must also occur before the start of the 70th seven of Daniel of Daniel, inasmuch as these events precede the Rapture.
The appearance of the Man Of Sin marks the starting point of the 70th seven of Daniel, and his revelation in the rebuilt Jewish Temple on Mount Moriah occurs three and one-half years later, precisely at the midpoint of the 70th seven of Daniel. And both of these events precede that day, that is, The Day of The Lord. The Rapture and the Day Of The Lord, occur on the same day. On the same day the church is raptured, the Day of The Lord begins. The Lord Jesus taught that on the very same day Noah entered the ark, God’s judgment fell on the predeluvian earth-dwellers. The very same day Noah and his family were delivered, judgment fell on the wicked and unregenerate world of his day. But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son Of Man be(Luk.17:26,27). This implies that the deliverance of the righteous shall be immediately followed by the judgment of the wicked in God’s Day Of The Lord wrath.
The clear teaching of the Scriptures is that no extended period of time separates the Rapture and God’s day of the Lord judgment of the living wicked earth-dwellers. Both the teachings of Apostle Paul and the Lord Jesus the Christ, invalidate the doctrine of imminency which teaches that no prophesied events must occur before the Rapture of the church, and the proposition that the Day of the Lord starts at the beginning of the 70th seven of Daniel. From the teaching of Paul in 2 Thessalonian 2, we draw the following conclusions:
1) The Apostasy And The revelation of the Man Of Sin, occur within the 70th seven of Daniel, not outside and before it;
2) The Day Of The Lord occurs after the Apostasy and the revelation of the Man of Sin;
3) The Rapture of the Church immediately precedes the Day Of The Lord; and therefore,
4) The Rapture CANNOT occur before the 70th week of Daniel, and so CANNOT be pretribulational.
The phrase falling away in 2 Thess.2:3, is a transliteration of the Greek word “apostasia,” which means defection, revolt, and rebellion. It is from this Greek word that the English word apostasy and it’s cognate apostate are derived. It signals the falling away or total abandonment of a course or someone. It occurs twice in the whole of the scriptures. Therefore how it is used is of utmost importance.
Christianity began as a sect within Judaism. The early believers worshipped in the temple on a daily basis. They believed in Jesus but continued to adhere to the old covenant and to keep the law of Moses(Acts 21:20). They believed in Jesus but within OT Judaism. They did not understand that Jesus had instituted a new covenant. Dr Luke used the word to describe what the Jewish elders of the early church in Jerusalem said to Paul: And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs(Acts 21:21). Forsake in the above verse of Scripture is a translation of the Greek word “apostasia.” It means to fall away or to utterly abandon. In this case, Paul was accused by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, not the Jewish leaders of the early church in Jerusalem, of teaching Jews among the Gentiles not to circumcise their male infants and to abandon the Mosaic law. Circumcision was the seal of covenantal relationship between God and the Jewish people. Paul was being repudiated for supposedly teaching the Jews in foreign lands to abandon Circumcision and the Jewish customs.
The other use of the word “apostasia” is by Paul in 2 Thess.2:3 which we quoted earlier. He used the word exactly the same way as Dr. Luke. He was speaking of Jews, who during the 70th week of Daniel, will totally abandon the God of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the Jewish messianic hope, in favour of a false religion instituted by the False Prophet, and the antiMessiah, a False Messiah, the antiChrist(2 Thess.2:2-12 ). This view is in marked contrast to the view held by pretribulation rapturists, who believe that Paul was talking about believers who in this day and age will apostasize, deny and abandon their faith in Jesus the Christ before the Rapture of the church and the beginning of the 70th seven of Daniel. There is scarcity of scriptural evidence to substantiate this position. They appeal to 1 Tim.4:1,2, to substantiate their position.
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of demons;”
The word apostasia with the definite article “the” is not used here as in 1 Tim.4. The Greek word translated depart from is “aphistemi” which means to put away(divorce), remove, seduce, make disloyal, to withdraw, to remove oneself, retire or cease from something. The word apostasy as used in 2 Thess.2, has the definite article, “the.” It is speaking of a definite, identifiable and specific event, not some nebulous apostasy at the end of this age. The men and women Paul was speaking about in 1 Tim.4:1,2, were lured away from the faith through false doctrines, not apostasy enacted by governmental decree and enforced by agents of government whereby one either complies or be killed if discovered, nor dies of starvation due to economic boycott and inability to procure food and other supplies in hiding. These men and women were false teachers who though believe the gospel, espoused erroneous doctrines. They could more appropriately be identified as heretics rather than apostates. These two terms are not synonymous. If a true believer apostasizes in the age, that is totally abandons or falls away from faith in Christ, the doctrine of eternal security becomes suspect.
The Identification Of The Apostasy And The Time Of Its Occurrence.
The future ascendancy of the antiMessiah is prefigured by the emergence of the Greco-Syrian leader Antiochus Epiphanes. The career of this infamous leader is revealed in three passages of the Word of God(Dan.8:9-25; 11:21-35; Zach.9:13-17). He is clearly and indisputably set in the Scripture as the foreshadow of the antiMessiah. The First Century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus is a major source on the life of Antiochus Epiphanies, so also the apocryphal book of 1 Maccabees, which conservative scholars have long recognised as possessing significant historical worth, and is primarily given over to a consideration of the insidious career of this infamous man. The plan of Antiochus was to defeat surrounding nations through military conquest, and then assimilate them into his kingdom through the adoption of the Hellenistic culture. He wanted conquered nations to speak Greek language, wear Greek clothing, adopt Greek philosophy of life and worship Greek gods. In that way he could quickly and effectively assimilate them into the Greek empire.
This plan accomplished, conquered people would pay tribute to him, serve in his army, and become effective buffers between his empire and his enemy nations. His troops could be withdrawn from successfully assimilated nations to serve somewhere else. Antiochus had earlier invaded Egypt, then ruled by the Ptolemies. In 168 BC, he returned to consolidate his victory. On this occasion he was met by a legate of the Roman Senate, who drew a circle around him, and demanded that he either decides to withdraw or accepts war with Rome before he exits the circle. Antiochus was not ready for war with the emerging Roman Empire. Humiliated, he chose to withdraw. On his way back to Syria, he marched his troops through the land of Israel. Antiochus sought to Hellinize the Jewish people, to turn them from the Law of Moses, from the practice of circumcision as a sign of covenantal relationship with Yahweh, the God of Israel, and from the observance of their religious customs. This was exactly the same thing that Apostle Paul was accused of doing by the Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem(Acts 21:21). This is what is historically described as Apostasy. He wanted Israel to be a buffer zone between him territory and Egypt.
Antiochus succeeded to a large extent in Hellenizing the Jewish people. A large segment of the non-religious and nonobservant Jews capitulated to his authority and demands, and entered into a covenant with him. The goings-on in those days were graphically recorded in the book of 1 Meccabees. In those days lawless men came forth from Israel, and misled many, saying,
“let us go and make a covenant with the Gentiles round about us, for since we separated from them many evils have come upon us.”
This proposal pleased them, and some of the people eagerly went to the king. So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, according to Gentile custom, and removed the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the Holy covenant. They joined themselves with the Gentiles and sold themselves to do evil(1 Macc.1:11-14). This falling away or total abandonment of the God of Israel by many from within Israel is specifically called the Apostasy. So it was that the king’s officials who were enforcing the Apostasy came to Modein to make them offer sacrifice(1 Macc. 2:15). This sacrifice was the offering of a pig to the Greek Olympian Zeus, a heathen deity, an Abomination of great magnitude for observant Jews. Under the Mosaic Law, the pig was an unclean animal, and therefore strictly forbidden both for human consumption, and the offering of sacrifice to the God of Israel(Lev. 11:2,7; Deut. 13:3,8). Some Jews rebelled against this abominable and evil demand, while others capitulated. The ancient chronicler continues the saga of Antiochus and the Jewish people: Then the king wrote to his whole Kingdom that all should be one people, and that each should give up his customs. All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath.
And the king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the cities of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land, to forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings in the sanctuary and the priests, to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and unclean animals, and to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane, so that they should forget the law and change all ordinances (1 Macc.1:41-49). This is an accurate and perfect description of Apostasy, the total abandonment of Jehovah for a heathen deity. This covenant which many of the Jewish people made with Antiochus prefigures the covenant that many from within Israel will make with the antiChrist at the beginning of the 70th seven of Daniel. The prophet Daniel wrote: “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week; and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of the abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate”( Dan. 9:27).
The defilement of the Jewish Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, his treatment of the Jews, and their abandonment of the God of Israel for a heathen deity is one of the most conspicuous events in Jewish history. It is the same Apostasy by the Jewish people, at the same place, in the rebuilt Jewish Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, to embrace a heathen deity, and a false Messiah, the antiChrist that will signal the last seven years of the history of the present Age.
Parallels Between Antiochus And The Antichrist.
There are some Parallels between historically fulfilled events under Antiochus and prophetic events awaiting fulfillment under The Antichrist. Marvin J. Rosenthal has outlined nine of these Parallels. We shall examine these amazingly similar Parallels.
Both Antiochus and the Antimessiah make a Covenant to protect Israel. In those days lawless men came forth from Israel, and misled many, saying,
“Let us go and make a Covenant with the Gentiles round about us, for since we separated from them many evils have come upon us. He authorized them to observe the ordinances of the Gentiles”(1 Macc.1:11,12).
Concerning the Antichrist, it is written, “And he shall confirm the Covenant with many for one week”(Dan.9:27a).
(2) Many Within Israel
In both instances, the Covenant is cut with the many within the nation of Israel. Not all Jews acceded to these Covenants. There is no unanimous support in both cases. Concerning Antiochus, it is written:
“In those days lawless men came forth from Israel, and misled many.” And also, “Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion.” And again, “Many of the people, every one who forsook the law, joined them, and they did evil in the land”(1 Macc.1:11,43, 52). Of the antiChrist, it’s written, “he shall confirm the Covenant with many”(Dan. 9:27a). This is the only occasion in the Bible where a Covenant is said to be made with the many. This clearly shows that the Covenant was not unanimously supported.
In both instances, Jews who enter into Covenant are said to apostasize. As touching Antiochus it is written,
“Then the king’s officers who were enforcing the apostasy came to the city of Modein to make them offer sacrifice”(1 Macc.2:15).
Concerning the antiChrist Paul wrote, “Let no man deceive by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come the falling away first, and that Man Of Sin be revealed, the Son Of Perdition”(2 Thess.2:3).
The word translated falling away is apostasy, and the Man of Sin is the antiChrist.
(4) Broken Covenants In The Temple.
Both Antiochus and the antiChrist break the covenants they made with the many from within Israel. “After subduing Egypt, Antiochus returned,…. He went up against Israel and came to Jerusalem with a strong force. He arrogantly entered the sanctuary and took the golden altar, the lampstand for the light, and all its utensils”(1 Macc.1:20,21).
The Bible describes the same event concerning Antiochus, “And forces shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate”(Dan. 11:31).
As touching the antiChrist, it is written,
“in the midst of the week, he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease”(Dan.9:27b).
That means he will break the covenant in the middle of the 70th seven of Daniel(cp. Matt. 24:15). Both men, Antiochus and The antiChrist break the covenant at the same place, in the temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem.
(5) Introduction Of Heathen Deity In The Temple.
Both Antiochus and the antiMessiah break the covenant by introducing heathen deity in the Holy Of Holies of the Jewish Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. Of Antiochus, it is written,
“He went up against Israel and came to Jerusalem with a strong force. He arrogantly entered the sanctuary”(1 Macc.1:20,21).
It is on record in the annals of history, that he set up an image or statue of his patron deity, Zeus Olympus in the Holy Of Holies of the Second Jewish Temple on Mount Moriah. The image of his Chief deity was in the likeness of a man(humanism), the burst of Antiochus himself. Apostle Paul wrote of the antiChrist,
“who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God”(2 Thess..2:4, cf. Matt. 24:15, Rev.13:15).
Precisely in the middle of the 70th seven of Daniel, the antiChrist shall set up a statue or image of himself in the rebuilt Third Jewish Temple on Mount Moriah, demanding worship of all mortals, especially the Jews in the immediate vicinity of Jerusalem.
(6) Jewish Opposition.
In both instances, some Jews oppose the introduction of a false religion, as a consequence of which many of these Jews perish. Of this courageous and small band of brave men, it is recorded,
“But many in Israel stood firm and were resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food. They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the Holy covenant; and they did die”(1 Macc.1:62,62). Speaking of that future day when the antiMessiah shall demand that Jews bow to his image, and many will refuse, the Lord Jesus said,
“Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you; and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake”(Matt. 24:9).
( 7) Flight To The Mountains.
In both instances observant Jews who oppose the Apostasy flew to the mountains to escape persecution.
“Then Mattathias cried out in the city with a loud voice, saying: Let every one who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come out with me! And he and his sons fled to the hill and left all that they had in the city. Then many who were seeking righteousness and justice went down to the wilderness to dwell there”(1 Macc.2:27-29).
In the Gospel of Matthew, in the context of the Great tribulation, it is written of the righteous remnant in Israel,
“Let him who is on the house top not come down to take anything out of his house; Neither let him who is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto those who are with child, and those who nurse children in those days! But pray that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day”(Matt. 24:16-20).
It will be really very difficult for observant Jews if this event occurs on the sabbath day in the winter. In every war, children, pregnant and nursing mothers and the elderly suffer the most.
(8) Increased Death Toll On The Sabbath.
In both instances, many observant Jews die because they would not violate the Sabbath. What transpired in the days of Antiochus graphically portrays what will take place in the days of the antiMessiah. It will be very traumatic.
“Then many who were seeking righteousness and justice went down to the wilderness to dwell there, they, their sons, their wives, and their cattle, because evil pressed heavily upon them. And it was reported to the king’s officers, and the troops in Jerusalem, the city of David, that men who had rejected the king’s command had gone down to the hiding places in the wilderness. Many pursued them and overtook them; they encamped opposite them and prepared for battle against them on the Sabbath day. And they said to them, Enough of this! Come out and do the king’s commands, and ye shall live. But they said, we will not come out, nor will we do what the king’s commands and profane the Sabbath day. Then the enemy hastened to attack them. But they did not answer them or hurl a stone at them or block up their hiding places, for they said, let us die in our innocence; heaven and earth testify that you are killing us unjustly“(1 Macc.2:29-37).
With regards to that future day, the Lord commanded us,
“Pray that your flight be not in the winter neither on the Sabbath day”( Matt. 24:20 ).
Commitment to the Sabbath day by observant Jews is excessively fanatical. If one pushes an elevator bottom, drives a car, enters a restaurant, or checks into an hotel, one has broken the Sabbath. The Israeli airline El AL can neither take off nor land on the Sabbath day. A Sabbath day journey is two thousand cubits, a little more than half a mile. With the Sabbath laws fully instituted in Israel, observant Jews can neither fight nor flee on the Sabbath. In this regard, the admonition by the Lord, “Pray that your flight be not in winter neither on the Sabbath day” takes on added significance, inasmuch as the Lord’s warning relates to getting away from Jerusalem as far as possible, and as quickly as possible.
(9) Increased Death Toll For Womens And Children.
On both occasions, many women and children perish. Antiochus attempted to stamp out Judaism and the worship of Jehovah. He proscribed circumcision, the sign of covenantal relationship between God and the Jews. Those who did not comply died. Of that event, the chronicler wrote,
“According to the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised, and their families and those who circumcised them; and they hung the infants from their mothers’ necks”(1 Macc.1:60,6 ).
Little wonder therefore that our Lord Jesus spoke of those days in this fashion:
“And woe unto them that are with child, and to those who nurse in those days!”(Matt. 24:19).
Those observant Jewish mothers who would circumcise their sons would be slain alongside with them. This is reminiscent of Pharaoh’s infanticide decree(Exod.1:15,16); Herod’s command to kill all male children in the region of Bethlehem, up to and under two years of age(Matt.2:16); and Adolf Hitler’s systematic murder of two million Jewish children during the Holocaust.
The Career Of The antiMessiah And The Plight Of The Jews.
The career of the antiMessiah and the plight of the Jews in the 70th seven of Daniel are clearly and with divine design kaleidoscoped and previewed in the account of Antiochus Epiphanes and his barbaric treatment of the sons of Jacob. At the start of the 70th seven of Daniel, the apostasizing Jews will sign a seven-year peace treaty with the antiChrist and the sorrounding nations.
Interestingly, the seven secondary nation of the ten-nation confederation completely encircle Israel. The Israelis love life and peace. They very much want to live, but their neighbors, the Hamas, the Hizbollah, the IS, the Iranians etc., are war mongers. They hate life, and love death; they very much want to die. Today, the Israeli soldiers are Jewish fighters of superior quality, but not war mongers. Israel will very much welcome any peace agreement that will offer it a vista of respite from war with its neighbors. This is exactly what the antiChrist will do. The government of Israel at that time would believe that the peace agreement with the antiMessiah will offer Israel protection from surrounding nations. This will indeed be so for the first three and one-half years of the 70th seven of Daniel. The antiChrist being the political guru that he is would accomplish this supposedly insurmountable political obstacle to peace in the Middle East. This was exactly also the same thing that the Jews thought when they made a covenant with Antiochus Epiphanes. They had good intentions. Good intentions do not always justify actions taken. The actions themselves must be viewed in the light of their own merits.
In reality, the peace covenant with the antiChrist, will be a covenant with death in disguise. It will be Israel’s greatest apostasy. Not only will it not bring peace and safety, but it will bring the nation of Israel and the Jewish people to the brink and threshold of extinction and annihilation. Except those days be shortened, no flesh shall be saved(Matt. 24:22). This statement of the Scripture is not speaking of universal annihilation. In the context of Matt.24:15-26, the topic is the Abomination That Make Desolate; the location is Israel, it’s capital City Jerusalem, and her Temple Mount; the occasion is the time of Jacob’s trouble, time of distress spoken of by Daniel the prophet, the Tribulation the Great(Jer.30:7; Dan.12:1; Matt.24:21); the participants are primarily Jews and believers in the land of Israel. That does not however mean that the Great Tribulation shall be localized or circumscribed to Israel: for whatever happens in Israel sends ripples to the whole World. Essentially, it is the Jews and the christians, and any other person who repudiates the authority of the antiMessiah in the land of Israel, the seat of the antiChrist’s Administration, that will perish if the Great Tribulation is not amputated.
The Covenant With Death.
The prophet Isaiah sarcastically wrote of that covenant that Israel will make with the antiChrist:
“Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with Hell(Sheol) are we in agreement, when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us; for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have hid ourselves”(Is. 28:15).
Do these Jews see the antiChrist as lie and falsehood? No. But that is exactly who and what he is, lie and falsehood. Therefore a covenant with the antiChrist is a covenant with lie and falsehood. The prophet continued to speak of the covenant of apostasy with sarcasm:
“And your covenant with death shall be annulled, and your agreement with Hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trampled down by it”(Is.28:18).
The phrase the overflowing scourge, is a reference to the Great Tribulation, the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, which they shall not escape. Remember their aim is to seek protection by antiMessiah from the surrounding hostile Gentile nations. But they shall be hoodwinked into entering into the Belly Of The Tiger. Because the Covenant Of Apostasy is a Covenant Of Deception, the prophet Isaiah sarcastically spoke of the Jews entering into an agreement with Death and Hell. The antiMessiah is the agent of Death and Hell(Sheol).
This covenant Of Apostasy is also spoken of in the imagery of spiritual infidelity and sexual unfaithfulness. Israel is the wife of Jehovah God. But the church is the bride of the Christ, espoused to Him, but not yet married. In this Covenant Of Apostasy, Israel’s ultimate day of unfaithfulness, Israel will reject the True Messiah, and embrace the false Messiah.
“Behind the doors also and the doorposts hast thou set up thy remembrances; for thou hast uncovered thyself to another than me, and art gone up; thou hast enlarged thy bed, and made thee a covenant with them; thou lovest their bed where thou sawest it. And thou wentest to the king with ointment, and didst increase thy perfumes, and didst send thy messengers far off, and didst debase thyself even to Hell”(Is. 57:8,9).
All the passages referred to above speak of the covenant Israel make with the antiMessiah as Covenant With Death or Debasement To Hell or “Sheol” which is the Hebrew word for the common grave, Hell, and the underworld of the dead.
The Covenant With Death And The Revelation Of The Man Of Sin.
The apostasy Apostle Paul referred to in 2 Thess.2:2-4, will involve Israel, not the Church. It is Israel that will make peace agreement with the antiMessiah. The Church will sign no peace agreement with the antiMessiah. The Apostasy will commence when many from within the nation of Israel sign a covenant of peace with the antiChrist at the beginning of the 70th week of Daniel. Unbeknownst to them, this covenant will be an agreement with Hell or “Sheol,” a covenant with death. The Apostasy will constitute a total abandonment or falling away of the nation of Israel and the Jewish people, from renewed covenantal relationship with the God of their forefathers and the promised Messiah. Through this covenant, the Jews will embrace a counterfeit religion– humanism– and a counterfeit messiah– the antiMessiah – who offers a counterfeit solution to the Middle East peace dilemma. The antiChrist has no intentions of keeping this peace agreement. For three and one-half years, while the rest of the world is engulfed in wars, commotion and rumours of wars, famines, earthquakes and pestilences, Israel enjoys a relative peace even with her Arab and Islamic neighbors, courtesy of the antiChrist. But precisely in the midst of the week, and without warning, the antiMessiah breaks that peace agreement with the many from within Israel.
Having previously entered the Middle East on the pretext of protecting Israel, he defeats Egypt, Syria and other nations. But Moab Ammon and Edom will escape out of his hands probably because they are allied to him or perhaps neutral as some have suggested. In the midst of the week also he relocates his headquarters to Jerusalem.
“He shall plant the tabernacle of palace between the seas in the glorious Holy Mountain”(Dan. 11:42-45).
The two seas are the Mediterranean and the Dead Seas, and the glorious Holy Mountain is no doubt, Jerusalem. Jerusalem is geographically the centre of the Earth. It is also the gateway to the three major continents. It is therefore geographically suitable as the headquarters of the government of the antiChrist in order to embark on his ambition to conquer the whole world and establish a one-thousand-year reign. Little wonder then, he transfers his headquarters to Jerusalem.
It will be only then, in the middle of the week, with Jerusalem surrounded by his troops, having amassed the most sophisticated military and most powerful army in the annals of military history, he will now set up his image in the rebuilt Jewish Temple, The Third Temple, on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, declares himself God, and demands worship of all and sundry. It will be also be at this point that he removes the veil, revealing himself as a dead man come back to life. It will be at this point that his real character and identity will be made known to the Jews. Then they will realize, they had previously, three and one-half years earlier, made a covenant with Death, and an agreement with “Sheol.” Some biblical commentators, especially of the pretribulation persuasion, focusing on Paul’s statement to the Thessalonians “and that Man Of Sin be revealed, the Son Of Perdition”(2 Thess.2:3), have placed that event at the signing of the peace treaty(Dan.9:27) and, therefore at the beginning of the 70th seven of Daniel. In doing so, they have missed the whole point of Paul’s argument.
There are two facts of utmost importance in Paul’s argument. First, the Apostasy must occur. The Apostasy must be understood as the total abandonment by many of the Jewish people, from within Israel, of the covenantal relationship between them and the God of their forefathers. This begins at the beginning of the 70th seven, when the peace agreement is signed with the antiMessiah, although the consequences are not acutely felt until the middle of the 70th week when the antiMessia makes his debut at the rebuilt Jewish Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem.
Second, at the midpoint of the 70th week, the Man Of Sin is revealed. Paul makes that clear in a most conspicuous way. Having stated that the Man Of Sin is revealed, he did not connect it to the signing of the 7-year peace agreement, but to the occasion of the setting up of the image of the antiMessiah in the rebuilt Jewish Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. Apostle Paul described the revelation of the Man Of Sin as follows:
“who opposeth and exalted himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God”(2 Thess.2:4).
The event paul was speaking about here cannot be devorced from the time of the unveiling of the antiMessiah. Paul was not speaking about the time the antiMessiah made a covenant with the many from within Israel, when he appeared on the scene; that was clearly three and one-half years earlier. That was not the issue. He was speaking about the time when the antiChrist will be recognized by the leaders of Israel- who made that covenant with him three and one-half years earlier- for who he truly is. The recognition of the antiMessiah for who he truly is will occur at the mid-point of the 70th week of Daniel, when his image is erected in the rebuilt Jewish Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem(Dan.9:27; Matt.24:15). It will be then, and only then, that the Jewish leadership will realize they had made a covenant with Death, and with Sheol are they in agreement. When they realize this, the shock will be indescribable, it will be the worst of nightmares, only it will be real. It will be the worst of horror stories, only it will have substance. No wonder it is called the Great Tribulation(Matt. 24:21), the time of Jacob’s trouble(Jer.30:7), and the time of trouble or distress(Dan.12:1).
The Identity Of The antiMessiah.
There are reasons why the leadership of Israel and the Jewish people will not recognize the antiMessiah until his debut in the rebuilt Jewish Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. The antiChrist is a man who lived before, and ruled one of the seven beast empires of Satan which impacted Israel directly and negatively by persecuting Jews.
“Here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sitteth. And there seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come, and when he cometh he must continue a short space: And the beast that was and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into petdition(Rev.17:9, 10).
The seven mountains are the seven Beast Empires. The seven kings are the responsible heads of these empires that persecuted the Jewish people. The beast empires are: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medopersia, Greece Rome and Nazi Germany. The antiMessiah was killed with a military weapon in battle. He will come back to life to rule over the Eighth and Final Beast Empire of Satan. The antiChtist will be a man whose soul ascends from the shaft of the abyss.
“And I saw one of his heads as though it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed, and all the world wondered after the beast”(Rev. 13:3).
One of the heads of the beast was “wounded to death.” A literal translation would read, “as having been slain to death.” This is exactly the same word that was used of the Lamb in Rev.5:6, where it was translated “as it had been slain.” If Christ actually died, it also means this head of the Beast also died in actuality. But his deadly wound was healed which meant restoration to life. In Rev.11:7, the beast ascends out of the abyss, which coincides with his restoration to life.
“The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.”(Rev.17:8 KJV).
What this means is the beast actually died and descended into the abyss, ascended out of the abyss, and is restored to life. He is a dead man come back to life, therefore the world understandably wonders after him. But human spirits do not descend into the abyss at death. The abyss is the abode of evil angels who did not keep their first estate, but left their own habitations, to cohabit with the daughters of men(Jude 6).
After the destruction of their physical bodies in the deluge, their spirits were imprisoned in the abyss under darkness, waiting for the judgment of the great day. The antiMessiah must have ascended out of the abyss to rule over one of the seven beast empires of Satan. When his physical body was wounded to death, in other words when he died, his spirit descended back into the abyss. Therefore, he shall arise out of the abyss to rule over the Eighth And Final Beast Empire Of Satan. The implication of the above analysis is enormous. Apart from being an evil and fallen angelic spirit, he will also be empowered directly by Satan(Rev.13:2). No wonder he has superhuman abilities, and very charming. He will be a very extraordinary person, resolving supposedly impossible political dilemmas, uniting supposedly mutually incompatible peoples.
The antiMessiah with his fascinating personality, and unusual abilities to dissolve dilemmas, will literally mesmerize the leaders of Israel and the Jewish people to enter into a covenant with him. With his extraordinary and other worldly diplomatic skills he will secure the rights of the Jewish people to rebuild their temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. As a military genius, he would amass the most sophisticated and strongest army in the annals of military history. Initially he will be easy to get along with, appears sincere, charming and mesmerizing everyone he comes in contact with.
The only ones who would know the true nature of the antiChrist from the beginning of his political career are his closest aides, his co-conspirators, and some of the children of God, believers and some observant Jews who have learned about him from what is revealed of him in the Scriptures. The rest of the world he will lead as lambs to the slaughter.
The Worship Of The antiMessiah: The worship Of Satan.
As we have seen, the antiChrist will be the worst of men, arising out of the abyss, empowered by Satan who gives him his seat, power and great authority(Rev.13:2). Therefore by bowing to the antiChrist, men and women will invariably be worshipping Satan, the Supreme personality of evil, the archenemy of God and His children.
“And they worshipped the Dragon which gave power to the beast, and they worshipped the beast, saying, who is like unto the beast, and saying: who is able to make war with him?”(Rev. 13:4).
The antiMessiah will make a covenant of peace with Israel for seven years. His former identity under which he ruled one of the seven previous beast empires will be hidden. It will become clear to the Jews and the rest of the world at the midpoint of the 70th week of Daniel when he makes his debut at the rebuilt Jewish Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. At this point, the veil over his identity will be unmasked, and his true nature and identity as a dead man come back to life from the abyss who had ruled over one of the seven previous beast empires will be made known.
At this point, he will hide himself no more. It will not pay him to hide himself any more; in fact, it profits him to wholly reveal who he is. The Apostasy will begin at the beginning of the 70th seven of Daniel. Indeed it marks the terminus-a-quo of the 70th seven of Daniel. In the middle of the week, the antiMessiah will be revealed to the Jewish people, and the rest of humanity. This will trigger a period of persecution so great and severe that unless those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved. What is amputated is not the three and one-half years allotted to the antiChrist but The Great Tribulation by the antiChrist. No flesh here, in context, would mean Jews and Christians in the land of Israel, the centre of activity of the antiMessiah. But it also includes anyone else anywhere in the world who repudiates the authority of the antiChrist.
The point at issue which Apostle Paul makes undeniably clear in his second epistle to the Thessalonians is that the Apostasy And The revelation of the Man Of Sin to Israel occur inside the 70th week of Daniel, not before it begins as our brethren of the pretribulation persuasion would have us believe. That a remnant of godly believers, and observant Jews would recognize the antiChrist is certainly true, and consistent with the teachings of the Lord(Matt. 24:4-28, 33), and the Apostle Paul(1 Thess.5:4-6). But what Paul was trying to make clear, is that the leaders of Israel and the Jewish people, and the majority of Israelis, and the Jewish people, the “am ha aretz,” the people of the land, will not recognize the antiMessiah until the Abomination Of Desolation occurs in the middle of the 70th week of Daniel.
According to Apostle Paul, the Rapture of the Church and the Day Of The Lord occur after these events ( 2Thess.2:3,4 ). It therefore follows that the Day Of The Lord CANNOT commence at the start of the 70th seven of Daniel, and the Rapture which occurs on the very same day before the Day Of The Lord begins, CANNOT be pretribulational. Amen.