What clues does the Scripture give on the timing of the rapture? Do the Seals, Trumpets and Bowls start at the beginning of the Great Tribulation or in the middle? Does the Third Temple need to be constructed at the beginning of the Tribulation or at the midpoint?
Let us start with the timing [season] of the rapture.
In 2 Thessalonians 1-2, the church in Thessalonica was being told that the rapture had occurred already and they were left behind to endure the wrath of God that was going to be poured out upon the whole earth. Paul gave two criteria of which had to take place first before Jesus would come to rapture the church.
2 Thessalonians 2:3
“Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. For that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.”
- The Apostasy-There must be a great falling away from not only in believing in Jesus Christ and in sound doctrine. There are many people in churches today who claim to follow Jesus BUT in reality, are believing in a different gospel.
2 Corinthians 11:3-4
3 But I fear that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your minds may be seduced from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if a person comes and preaches another Jesus, whom we did not preach, or you receive a different spirit, which you had not received, or a different gospel, which you had not accepted, you put up with it splendidly!
For a person to apostatize he/she has to believe in a different gospel that will give you a different Jesus that came to them by a demonic spirit [1 Timothy 4:1-2].
In my personal opinion, it might be a combination of a few things for the great falling away to occur in the future. Some of them we are seeing today the beginning of its infiltration in the churches.
- Homosexuality is accepted in the churches as not sinful
- An abandonment of the inerrancy of Scripture, giving them the freedom to pick and choose what they like to follow in Scripture and disregarding the rest
- The mark of the beast being introduced early but not mandatory and many churches receiving it, departing from Christ in masses. As a warning, John Macarthur teaches that it is okay to receive the mark of the beast and still one can get saved. My brothers and sisters in Christ, Scripture teaches that if anyone receives the 666, they shall be thrown into the Lake of Fire and salvation will be off the table for those who do receive it [Revelation 14:9-12]
- The man of lawlessness is revealed-The Antichrist has to come into the world stage. This is done by the peace treaty that he makes with the Jewish people in Israel. We see this in Daniel 9.
27 He will make a firm covenant with many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and offering. And the abomination of desolation will be on a wing of the temple until the decreed destruction is poured out on the desolator.”
So the Antichrist will be revealed in the signing of the peace document between Israel and the other nations that are hostile towards them which occurs at the very beginning of the first half of the 7 year Tribulation.
When the great apostasy takes place then the Antichrist shows up, the rapture will come as a thief in the night. It does not mean that the rapture will come the next day but it will happen somewhere at the beginning of the first half. Saying that, another possibility is he could be revealed before the signing of the covenant, making the rapture happen before the 7 year Tribulation.
Let’s tackle the next question.
Do the Seals, Trumpets and Bowls start at the beginning of the Great Tribulation or in the middle?
First of all, Jesus said that He will shorten the Tribulation for the sake of the elect.
22 Unless those days were cut short, no one would be saved. But those days will be cut short because of the elect.
In Matthew 24, Jesus tells us that God’s wrath starts [the 2nd half] when the Antichrist sets up his image on the third temple.
15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place” (let the reader understand), 16 “then those in Judea must flee to the mountains.
It is obvious that the verses above refer to God’s wrath because if you keep reading in verse 21 it says, For at that time there will be great distress, the kind that hasn’t taken place from the beginning of the world until now and never will again.
Verses 15-16 are for the people who are living in Israel at the time. He is saying when you see that event happen, run into the wilderness for safety which they will be protected for 3.5 years according to Revelation 12:6 which says, “The woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared by God, to be nourished there for 1,260 days.” Because the Antichrist will demand the Jewish people to worship him as their god or else face death. Scripture also says, it will be demanded of the whole world as well but it will start with Israel.
2 Thessalonians 2:4
4 He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he sits in God’s temple, proclaiming that he himself is God.
15 It was permitted to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast could both speak and cause whoever would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.
Jesus quoted Daniel 9:27 which the second half of the verse says, “…but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and offering. And the abomination of desolation will be on a wing of the temple until the decreed destruction is poured out on the desolator.”
The Antichrist in the middle of the 7 year Tribulation, takes control of the city of Israel in the last 3 1/2 years.
Revelation 11:1-2 [Emphasis Added]
Then I was given a measuring reed like a rod, with these words: “Go and measure the temple of God [the third temple] and the altar, and count those who worship there. 2 But exclude the courtyard outside the temple. Don’t measure it, because it is given to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months [the second half of the Great Tribulation].
When you see the events mentioned about the Antichrist above taking place, the first seal has been opened because he is the first seal.
How is the Antichrist the first seal?
6 Then I saw the Lamb open one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2 I looked, and there was a white horse. Its rider held a bow; a crown was given to him, and he went out as a conqueror in order to conquer.
The rider on the white horse is shown as conquering nations which points to Revelation 13:5-7 which says,
5 The beast was given a mouth to utter boasts and blasphemies. It was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. 6 It began to speak blasphemies against God: to blaspheme his name and his dwelling—those who dwell in heaven. 7 And it was permitted to wage war against the saints and to conquer them. It was also given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation.
To put it together: The wrath of God starts with the Antichrist demanding to be worshiped as God in the third temple which is the first seal. This happens in the 2nd half of the 7 year Tribulation [Jesus cutting it short]. The rapture has already occurred way before any of these events. So, from Revelation 6-19, the seals, Trumpets, and Bowls are poured out during the last 3 1/2 years.
The last question.
Does the Third Temple need to be constructed at the beginning of the Tribulation or at the midpoint?
In Daniel 9:27, Matthew 24:15 and Revelation 11:1-2, the third temple is mentioned as being constructed already. Either the Antichrist allows the Jews to build the temple through the signing of the peace document [the covenant] or it is already built right before the man of lawlessness is revealed. One thing for sure that according to Scripture the third temple will be standing and in use way before the midpoint of the Tribulation because the Antichrist will put a stop to the sacrifices being done there.