Christ’s Last Enemy and the Rapture 

Chapter 15 of Reclaiming The Rapture : Christ’s Last Enemy and the Rapture (Chris Steinle)

Why the Lord Tarries 

Most Christians have used the phrase, “if the Lord tarries.” The Bible tells us one of the reasons for Jesus’ delay is that God is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should 

perish but that all should come to repentance. But there is another reason why Jesus is waiting. The writer of Hebrews explains; But this Man [Jesus], after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. Heb. 10:12, 13. 

The fact that Christ’s position at the right hand of the Father has a finite duration, and a condition upon which His retention in heaven depends, establishes an eschatological milestone – a technical marker establishing its own witness to the onset and order of end time events. We have already shown the relationship between the resurrection/rapture and the physical realization of God’s authority on earth. The chart from a previous chapter is presented again below to 

show the subjection involved in the transformation process. 

Recall from our study of first century expectations that the Messianic epoch should begin with the last tribulation and perplexity. As any mature Christian can attest, affliction is effective to bring about humility and a heartfelt submission to God’s will. Even so, the earth will be humbled in that Day. 

They shall go into the holes of the rocks, And into the caves of the earth, 

From the terror of the Lord And the glory of His majesty, 

When He arises to shake the earth mightily. Isaiah 2:19 

The Correlation of God’s Power, the Resurrection, & the Realization of God’s Authority 
Passage Power / Working / Ability Resurrection / Transformation Subjection / Authority 
Rom. 1:4 declared to be the Son of God with power …by the resurrection from the dead  
1 Cor. 6:14 …by His power God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up  
1 Cor. 15:4-58  resurrection… He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power… till He has put all enemies under His feet… Now when all things are made subject to Him… 
Eph. 1:19-22 what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us… according to the working of His mighty power which He worked …in Christ when He raised Him from the dead… …far above all principality and power and might and dominion… He put all things under His feet 
Phil. 3:10-21 that I may know Him and the power… … according to the working by which He is able of His resurrection… I may attain to the resurrection from the dead… who will transform our lowly body… conformed to His glorious body …even to subdue all things to Himself 
Passage Power / Working / Ability Resurrection / Transformation Subjection / Authority 
Col. 2:12 through faith in the working of God …in which you also were raised with Him … who raised Him from the dead  
Rev. 11:17 You have taken Your great power  and have begun to reign 
Rev. 12:10 Now the salvation, and the power  the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come 

Based on the correlations in the table above we could logically assert: 

  • If Christ must remain in heaven until all enemies are subdued, and, 
  • If the forces of heaven must be unleashed to bring mankind into subjection, 
  • Then Jesus cannot return until after the time of great tribulation, because He must sit at the Father’s right hand till His enemies are subdued. 

First Corinthians 15:24-26 provides another witness to the timing of the rapture. Paul stated in First Corinthians Four; 

Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. 

The last enemy that will be abolished (katargeitai) is death. 

1 Cor. 15:26 Subduing death must be distinguished from the destruction (ἀπόλλυται, apollytai) of death. The Greek texts do not say the last enemy that will be “destroyed” is death. 

Katargeitai and apollutai do not have the same meaning. There is a difference between subduing and destroying. 

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon: 

“STRONG’S NT 622: ἀπόλλυμι destroy, i.e. to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to, ruin…”74 

A form of katargeo occurs in the following verse and has also been translated as “destroyed.” But according Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, death is overcome, not destroyed. 

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might bring to naught (καταργήσῃ, katargēsē) him who had the power of death, that is, the devil. Heb. 2:14 

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon: 

“STRONG’S NT 2673: καταργέω 

to render idle, unemployed, inactive, inoperative: τήν γῆν, to deprive of its strength, make barren (A. V. cumber), Luke 13:7; to cause a person or a thing to have no further efficiency; to deprive of force, influence, power (A. V. bring to naught, make of none effect)”75 

In ancient times, victory over an enemy was sometimes dramatized by placing the defeated authority’s head or neck under the foot of the conquering king. The conquered king’s personal plight was in the hands of the victor. The defeated king may, or may not, be executed (destroyed) subsequent to his subjection. 

The death which Paul was referring to as the last enemy is the “state of being dead,” which is holding the dead in their graves. It is the power of death that is being overcome; and God will bring to naught the power of death in the resurrection of the dead. Jesus will have mastered death when, at His command, the dead hear His voice and rise to life. At that time, the enemy of death will become the footstool of Christ. After the millennial reign, when every soul is emptied from Hades, Hades will have no more purpose. At that time, death will be destroyed. But Christ’s technical victory over death will have already been realized at the resurrection of the dead. 

Then Comes the End 

Then comes the endThe end of what? Paul tells us this end comes at the time when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. That would be the time when all of Christ’s enemies have been subdued, because, He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. Therefore, “Then comes the end” refers to the end of Jesus’ station at the Father’s right hand. Then comes the end of waiting for the subjection of Christ’s enemies. 

“Then” Jesus will be released to descend from heaven and return to earth. Hebrews 2:8 says, But now we do not yet see all things put under him. “Then comes the end,” announces the time when we DO SEE all things put under Him. And most particularly according to Paul, we see His last enemy, death, put under Him. Paul makes a direct connection between the completion of Jesus’ time at the Father’s right hand and the subduing of death. 

The subjection of the last enemy, death, will be realized on earth as the resurrection of the dead, in much the same way as Christ’s government on earth will be realized during Christ’s Millennial Reign. Jesus will return immediately upon the resurrection of the dead to transform the living and those raised in the resurrection. 

It is reasonable to assume that Paul shared this same resurrection discourse in-person while he was with the Thessalonians that he had written to the church at Corinth. Because of the association between the resurrection and the subduing of Christ’s last enemy, Paul’s comfort to the bereaved Thessalonians took the form of the following syllogism: 

  • The subjection of death will be realized on earth by the resurrection of the dead. 
  • Christ will reside in heaven until His last enemy (death) is overcome. 
  • Therefore, Christ’s coming/descending from the Father’s right hand cannot precede the resurrection of those who have fallen asleep. 
  • And, those left alive will not be changed until they see Him as He is, when Christ descends from heaven. 

So now with all of the information available we can articulate the resurrection/rapture/gathering in detail. Jesus will call forth the dead from their graves while seated at the Father’s right hand or during His descent from heaven, but at least simultaneously with the subduing of death. According to Paul, the dead must rise first, so the living will remain unchanged until after the resurrection. Then, the resurrected dead, together with the living, will be transformed in the redemption of the body. Then the glorified saints will meet Jesus in the air and participate in the Gathering. 

We have already reviewed Paul’s quotation from Isaiah 25 and Hosea 13 that death will be swallowed up in victory. But where is the witness in Scripture to the fact that death will be Christ’s last enemy? Does the Bible disclose any of Christ’s other enemies? The twelfth chapter of Daniel could have provided the basis for the order of end time events mentioned by Paul in his Corinthian and Thessalonian letters. 

Daniel and the Thessalonians Connection 

The table below compares events found in Daniel Chapter 12 with similar events used by Paul to teach the order of end time events. The Last Enemy, labeled “Z,” was established in First Corinthians 15. Suggested enemies “X” and “Y” must obviously be encountered before the last enemy – death. We also have corroborating passages from Revelation 19 and 20 that Satan is only overcome and bound (subdued) at the Second Coming. Satan will survive as the last enemy, after the Beast and False Prophet have been thrown into the lake of fire. 

Christ’s Enemies Based on the Chronology of Daniel Chapter 12 
Daniel 12 Passage Messianic Age Event 2nd Thessalonians Reference Enemies of Christ 
Vs 1. Michael and the Time of Distress Last Tribulation   
Vs 7. when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered Perplexity Vs 3b. the falling away comes first Enemy (X) Forces of Wickedness? The Fourth Beast? 
Vs 11. daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation Hostile Powers? Vs 3c, 4. man of sin is revealed, opposes & exalts, sits as God in the temple of God Enemy (Y) Son of Perdition Lawless One False Prophet 
Vs 13. go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days Resurrection of the Just Gathering of the Dispersed Vs 1. coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him Vs 2. as though the day of the Lord (Christ) had come Last Enemy (Z) Death Satan (the Power of Death) The Dragon 

If, in fact, the False Prophet is also the Lawless One, Paul states that he will be destroyed by the brightness of His coming – which could be a reference to God as a consuming fire. But in this case also, Satan would be allowed to survive the Lawless One. We’ll discuss the identity of the Beast in relation to the time of Perplexity near the end of this chapter. 

Because death is the last enemy to be subdued, all other enemies would have to be subdued first. These other enemies might be thought of as the next-to-the-last enemies. The associations shown in the table may have been precisely what Paul had taught the Thessalonians when he was with them. He may have simply been teaching the Thessalonians from the Book of Daniel – a book dear to the heart of the Pharisees because of its witness to the resurrection. 

Paul stated in First Thessalonians Four that the resurrection would be the last prophetic event before, or at the time of, Christ’s return. We have already demonstrated logically that, if the resurrection is last, then Christ’s victory over death would likewise be last. But the resurrection is also the last event, in the last verse, of the last chapter of Daniel. Could Paul’s chronology of end time events have been based on this placement of the resurrection in the prophetic Book of Daniel? We find strong evidence for such a conclusion in the second chapter of Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians. In order to establish this connection to Daniel, it will be necessary to review the opening verses of Second Thessalonians Chapter Two. 

1 Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 3 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, 4 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. 

5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 7 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. .

8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 2 Thess. 2:1-12 

We are not told in the verses above what kind of report had been circulated. Jesus warned His disciples that deceivers would come, saying; “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it.” What we do know is Paul described the Second Coming in several ways to make it perfectly clear which day he was talking about: The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; our gathering together to Him; the day of Christ. 

An important observation to note for the purpose of linking this passage to Daniel Chapter 12 is that Paul started from endpoint, Christ’s coming – the final event in the table above. Then Paul submitted two end times signs that must occur before the Second Coming. Both of these signs can be found in Daniel Chapter 12. 

The first sign, the falling away, refers to the condition of God’s people, but will likely be the result of sinister forces. The second sign, the revealing of the man of sin, refers specifically to the Son of Perdition. Both of these signs take place in Daniel during a season – “At that time” – which is a time of great distress. 

Some explanation of the layout of the Book of Daniel is necessary in order to understand why the Thessalonians would have recognized these two signs by their brief descriptions in Paul’s letter. Daniel Chapter 12 comes at the end of a vision that began in Daniel Chapter 10. Chapter 12 could be compared to Revelation Chapter Six in that they both contain an overview of each book. But rather than being symbolized by the seals at the opening of Revelation, the Book of Daniel places the overview of Daniel’s dreams and visions at the end of the book. 

Daniel Chapter 12 contains two condensed summaries of the time of the end. Verses 1-3 present a poetic version of the summary; then verses 7-13 give a final explanation of the time of the end. 

We will look at the time of tribulation in the opening summary of Daniel 12 first, because it provides several links between Daniel and Second Thessalonians Chapter Two. These associations require a little digging to discover; but once the background for these associations is developed, the connections become so obvious that they can’t be ignored. 

  1. At that time Michael shall stand up, 

The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, 

Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. 

And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book. 

  1. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, 

Some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise shall shine 

Like the brightness of the firmament, 

And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever. 

The first verse attributes the time of trouble to the archangel Michael. Revelation Chapter 12 explains the how this struggle in the spiritual realm results in woe to the inhabitants of the earth. 

And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time. Rev. 12:7-12 

Michael’s victory over Satan would certainly be counted as a measure of Christ’s enemies being subdued. But this victory is not the end of Satan. Angels are often depicted by artists as wrestlers. So in modern terms we might think of this wrestling bout as Satan getting thrown into the stands. Gabriel and Michael could be described as two members of a heavenly wrestling a team. Daniel’s vision in chapters 10-12 contains the following references supporting the imagery of angelic wrestlers. 

“But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty- one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.” – Daniel 10:13 

“No one upholds me against these, except Michael your prince.” 

Dan. 10:21b 

“Hold” is a wrestling term still used today. Wrestling holds are used to restrain one’s opponent. The reader may be familiar with this line of reasoning and be completely convinced that the restrainer of Second Thessalonians is the Holy Spirit or the Church. But there is nothing in the Greek text to support this conclusion. And there is far more support for connecting the restrainer to Michael. The authors are both well aware of, and have been fully trained in, the arguments from the Dispensational and Pre-Tribulational points of view. 

But let’s take a look at the facts that we do know. Some Bible publishers have capitalized (deified) the personal pronoun, “he,” in Second Thessalonians 2:7 in order to support the Dispensational doctrine. No such capitalization exists in the original manuscripts and there is no mention of the Holy Spirit in this passage. Paul expected the Thessalonians to understand what was restraining based on a prior conversation. 

Because the ancient manuscripts do not identify the pronouns in verses five and six, the Protestant Reformers believed the one restraining to be the Roman Empire, and the one being restrained to be the Roman Papacy. Consider a few short quotes that will demonstrate the ambiguity of the pronouns in question. 

  • “And now what withholdeth. . . Let my readers now consider which of the two is the probable – either that Paul declared that the light of the gospel must be diffused through all parts of the earth before God would thus give loose reins to Satan, or that the power of the Roman Empire stood in the way of the rise of Antichrist…”76 Commentary of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians by John Calvin. 
  • “And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. What hinders and stops…He foretells that when the empire of Rome is taken away, the seat that falls away from God will succeed and hold its place, as the old writers, Tertullian, Chrysostom, and Jerome explain and interpret it. He who is now in authority and rules all, that is, the Roman Empire.”77 The Geneva Bible 
  • “Something hindered or withheld the man of sin. It is supposed to be the power of the Roman Empire, which the apostle did not mention more plainly at that time.”78 The Matthew Henry Commentary 
  • “And now ye know – By what I told you when I was with you. That which restraineth – The power of the Roman emperors. When this is taken away, the wicked one will be revealed.”79 John Wesley 

Hopefully the Christian reader would place as much confidence in the scholarship of these sources as in the opinion of a modern commercial Bible publisher. These quotes are presented solely for the purpose of showing that the pronoun, “he” is non- specific based on the text; not for the purpose of endorsing antagonism toward the politics or religion of Rome. So now, hopefully, the reader can investigate the identity of the restrainer somewhat objectively. 

6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 7 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. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, 

  • “And now what withholdeth. . . Let my readers now consider which of the two is the probable – either that Paul declared that the light of the gospel must be diffused through all parts of the earth before God would thus give loose reins to Satan, or that the power of the Roman Empire stood in the way of the rise of Antichrist…”76 Commentary of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians by John Calvin. 
  • “And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. What hinders and stops…He foretells that when the empire of Rome is taken away, the seat that falls away from God will succeed and hold its place, as the old writers, Tertullian, Chrysostom, and Jerome explain and interpret it. He who is now in authority and rules all, that is, the Roman Empire.”77 The Geneva Bible 
  • “Something hindered or withheld the man of sin. It is supposed to be the power of the Roman Empire, which the apostle did not mention more plainly at that time.”78 The Matthew Henry Commentary 
  • “And now ye know – By what I told you when I was with you. That which restraineth – The power of the Roman emperors. When this is taken away, the wicked one will be revealed.”79 John Wesley 

Hopefully the Christian reader would place as much confidence in the scholarship of these sources as in the opinion of a modern commercial Bible publisher. These quotes are presented solely for the purpose of showing that the pronoun, “he” is non- specific based on the text; not for the purpose of endorsing antagonism toward the politics or religion of Rome. So now, hopefully, the reader can investigate the identity of the restrainer somewhat objectively. 

6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 7 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. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, 

  • “And now what withholdeth. . . Let my readers now consider which of the two is the probable – either that Paul declared that the light of the gospel must be diffused through all parts of the earth before God would thus give loose reins to Satan, or that the power of the Roman Empire stood in the way of the rise of Antichrist…”76 Commentary of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians by John Calvin. 
  • “And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. What hinders and stops…He foretells that when the empire of Rome is taken away, the seat that falls away from God will succeed and hold its place, as the old writers, Tertullian, Chrysostom, and Jerome explain and interpret it. He who is now in authority and rules all, that is, the Roman Empire.”77 The Geneva Bible 
  • “Something hindered or withheld the man of sin. It is supposed to be the power of the Roman Empire, which the apostle did not mention more plainly at that time.”78 The Matthew Henry Commentary 
  • “And now ye know – By what I told you when I was with you. That which restraineth – The power of the Roman emperors. When this is taken away, the wicked one will be revealed.”79 John Wesley 

Hopefully the Christian reader would place as much confidence in the scholarship of these sources as in the opinion of a modern commercial Bible publisher. These quotes are presented solely for the purpose of showing that the pronoun, “he” is non- specific based on the text; not for the purpose of endorsing antagonism toward the politics or religion of Rome. So now, hopefully, the reader can investigate the identity of the restrainer somewhat objectively. 

6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 7 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. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, 

  • “And now what withholdeth. . . Let my readers now consider which of the two is the probable – either that Paul declared that the light of the gospel must be diffused through all parts of the earth before God would thus give loose reins to Satan, or that the power of the Roman Empire stood in the way of the rise of Antichrist…”76 Commentary of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians by John Calvin. 
  • “And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. What hinders and stops…He foretells that when the empire of Rome is taken away, the seat that falls away from God will succeed and hold its place, as the old writers, Tertullian, Chrysostom, and Jerome explain and interpret it. He who is now in authority and rules all, that is, the Roman Empire.”77 The Geneva Bible 
  • “Something hindered or withheld the man of sin. It is supposed to be the power of the Roman Empire, which the apostle did not mention more plainly at that time.”78 The Matthew Henry Commentary 
  • “And now ye know – By what I told you when I was with you. That which restraineth – The power of the Roman emperors. When this is taken away, the wicked one will be revealed.”79 John Wesley 

Hopefully the Christian reader would place as much confidence in the scholarship of these sources as in the opinion of a modern commercial Bible publisher. These quotes are presented solely for the purpose of showing that the pronoun, “he” is non- specific based on the text; not for the purpose of endorsing antagonism toward the politics or religion of Rome. So now, hopefully, the reader can investigate the identity of the restrainer somewhat objectively. 

6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 7 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. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, 

What restrains? What situation or predicament? In the original Greek text, the word for “restrainsis κατέχον (katechon)80, from the Greek word, echo, “to hold.” This is also the word used in the Greek Septuagint to express restraint in Daniel’s vision. “No one holds with me against these, except Michael your prince.” But would the assumption that Michael is the one holding make sense within the context of Paul’s letter? The answer is; “Absolutely!” 

The mystery of lawlessness was already working in the world at the time of Paul’s letter. But the full manifestation of Satan’s power will not be realized in the physical realm until Satan has been fully restricted from the spiritual realm. Satan’s presence in heaven is restraining the fullness of his power on earth. The wrestling has been ongoing at least since the time of Daniel. Please consider the following interpretation of the pronouns. He (Michael) will continue holding (restraining) until he (Satan) is taken down (out of the way from heaven’s perspective). Then the full force of Satan, according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders will cause the time of woe to the inhabitants of the earth known as the Great Tribulation. 

As expected from the time of the Second Temple, the last tribulation will be a time of perplexity. Because Satan is a deceiver and the father of lies, a spirit of deception will encompass the world. The books of Daniel and Revelation attribute the consternation of humanity to the boastful and blasphemous words being disseminated by the one given eyes and a mouth to speak pompous words. Those who do not love the truth of God will be given over to strong delusion to believe the lie. 

During this period of perplexity two discrete entities will appear. One is a re-emergence of Daniel’s Fourth Beast who “shall devour the whole earth.” And the second entity is the Little Horn, who would seem from his profile to be the False Prophet of Revelation; and, according to Second Thessalonians, also the man of sin, the Lawless One, or the Son of Perdition. 

Because the falling away is a condition apparently brought about during the time of delusion, and because the Beast is a kingdom, it is the Son of Perdition who will be the human incarnation of Satan once he is cast out of heaven. Thus, we have come full circle in showing the relationship between Daniel 12:1 and Second Thessalonians Chapter Two. 

Paul doesn’t mention the Beast, but clearly alludes to the time of deceit and the manifestation of Satan (the dragon) in human form. 

Verses 7, 11, and 13 listed in the table above are from the last section of Daniel 12. We have now demonstrated how each of these verses could have been the source for Paul’s chronology for both of his letters to the Thessalonians. The remote probability of finding such a tight correlation within the span of a few verses supports the conclusions drawn in this chapter. But there are still two more points of interest in these last chapters of Daniel. 

Gabriel told Daniel that the information he was sent to share was “noted in the Scripture of Truth” Daniel 10:21. Could this have been the truth that those perishing had no love for? In addition, the prophecy imparted at the end of the Book of Daniel in verses 7-13 was given by a “man clothed in linen.” In Daniel Chapter 10, at the beginning of the vision, Daniel described this man clothed in linen by the attributes of the Son of God in His glory. This would imply that this final summary of the events of the end were spoken “By the word of the Lord.” Could this also be why the angel told John near the end of the Apocalypse, For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Rev. 19:10 

The fact that Paul used the falling away and the man of sin as precursors to the Lord’s coming indicates that he did not anticipate the onset of the time of distress to be a recognizable sign in itself. If Paul thought there would be an obvious beginning to the Tribulation, he could have merely stated the absence of tribulation as proof that the Lord had not already come. The implications of this observation call for a revision in the church’s expectation regarding the onset of the Great Tribulation. What if, as Jesus stated, the time of tribulation begins gradually – like the birth pangs of labor? 

Daniel Chapter Twelve begins with the words, “At that time.” To understand the things that will happen when we enter that time we must look back to the previous chapters of Daniel. Indeed, verses 7, 11, and 13 of Daniel Twelve also look back to the details of the prior chapters. It is beyond the scope of this study to comment on the entire Book of Daniel, so we will only make a few general observations. 

  1. Wicked rulers are raised up by vicarious powers. 
  1. Pomp, blasphemy, cunning, and deceit characterize their reigns. 
  1. Various rulers and nations war against one another. 
  1. The saints are persecuted and slain. 
  1. The Fourth Beast will devour the whole earth. 
  1. The King of the North will take away sacrifices and set up the abomination in the sanctuary. 

The first four of these circumstances have been fulfilled during multiple waves throughout history. But the last two are yet to be fulfilled; although, some might argue that one or more Beasts (heathen nations) have already devoured the earth. 

So based on Paul’s writings, what will be the signs indicating the time of the Great Tribulation has begun? First of all, deceit and delusion will swell to the point that even the elect will be tempted to doubt what is true. This time of strong delusion will be a sign that the end has begun. Paul had apparently already told the Thessalonian Church to expect this sign because he was reminding them of the details of their former conversation. 

In the midst of this time of perplexity, the King of the North (or a type of the King of the North) will rise up after the fashion of Antiochus Epiphanies. Jesus and Paul both told believers to watch for a final occurrence of this event. 

In conclusion, the sign of the falling away will be recognized by a level of perplexity and deception unequaled in human history. The disinformation broadcast by evil leaders will very likely be responsible for the state of lawlessness and the abounding of sin. Such a state of delusion, accompanied by the setting up of an actual abomination in the sanctuary, would fulfill the prerequisites of Paul based on the Book of Daniel. These signs will precede the rapture. The rapture is not the sign.