Preliminary Events in Prophecy

The rapture of the saints, the revival of Rome, and the regathering of Israel.

The Rapture

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” 1 Thess. 4:16-17
The very next foretold event that the Bible says will occur is the Rapture. This stupendous event is described in 1 Thess. 1:10; 4:16-17, 2 Thess. 2:1; and John 14:3. There are no "prophetic events" that we are waiting for before the rapture can occur. This is important because God would have us to live in the "any-moment" expectation of Christ's return.

The true hope of the Church is the coming of Christ, not an event. The Church is so closely identified with Christ, and so closely linked to Him by the Spirit of God, that the Father has given Christ Himself to be the Church's hope. "I will come again and receive you unto myself" (John 14:3). "The Lord Himself shall descend" (1 Thess. 4:16). This hope was lost for around 1700 years of the Church's history. The Church lost the hope of the Lord's coming, and began to look for death at the end of the pathway. The Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25 traces this out typically, and shows the effect of losing this hope on the state of the Church. It wasn’t until the late 1820’s that the Spirit of God began working through various individuals and aroused the hearts of God’s people to hold afresh the hope of Christ’s return.

O blessed, coming Saviour!
Speak, then, the joyous word,
To which our hearts responding,
"For ever with the Lord."
For ever with Thee, Saviour —
For evermore shall be —
In deepest, fullest blessing,
For ever one with Thee.
L.F.# 140
Will the Church go through the Tribulation? No. The Church will be taken out through the Rapture before the Tribulation begins. Here are three simple reasons why I believe the Church will not endure the Tribulation:
  1. The express statements of scripture. We read of the assembly in Philadelphia, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee out of the hour of trial, which is about to come upon the whole habitable world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” Rev. 3:10. Surely, the "hour of trial" refers to the judgments of the Tribulation period. The Church will be kept out of it. Then in 2 Thess. 2:1-12 we find that the Day of the Lord (Appearing) cannot come until the great apostasy takes place, and the Antichrist is revealed, and that the Antichrist cannot be revealed until the Holy Spirit is removed from the earth! The Holy Spirit will not leave the earth until the Bride is raptured (Rev. 22:17). Therefore, the Church will not be on earth for the Tribulation! Finally, the we read in 1 Thess. 1:10 that Jesus has "delivered us from the wrath to come", referring to the Tribulation judgments, and in 1 Thess. 5:9 that "God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ".
  2. The absence of the Church in Tribulation Passages. The scriptures that deal with the Tribulation either state that the Church will be kept out of it (Rev. 3:10), or they connect the Tribulation with Israel (Jer. 30:4-7; Dan. 12:1), the Gentiles (Rev. 7:9), or the faithful Remnant of the Jews (Matt. 24:3-29). The book of Revelation is primarily a book of judgment which foretells the judgments that God will pour out upon the earth in the tribulation period. It is written to "the seven Churches of Asia", in order that they should know what was coming on this world, and that the light of prophecy would have a moral effect on their conduct. The book is divided into three parts; "the things which thou hast seen" (Rev. 1), "the things that are" (Rev. 2-3), and "the things which shall be hereafter" (Rev. 4-22). Rev. 1-3 directly apply to the "churches". Within the third section, the chapters that deal with judgment falling on the earth are ch.6-19... not once do we read of the Church on earth in those chapters! We see the same thing with Daniel's seventy weeks; the Church was not on earth during the first 69 weeks, and neither will she be during the 70th week. She is only on earth in a parenthesis between the 69th and 70th weeks!
  3. The heavenly calling and hope of the Church as distinct from Israel. Believing that the Church will endure the tribulation comes from a fundamental misunderstanding about the Church, and how the Church is distinct from Israel. Israel was an earthly people, with an earthly calling, earthly hopes, and earthly blessings. The Church has a heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1), heavenly hopes (1 Thess. 1:10), and heavenly blessings (Eph. 1:3). By mixing up the Church and Israel (a fundamental error of Covenant Theology), and by confusing verses that apply to Israel with the Church, many well-meaning believers have come to the erroneous conclusion that the Church will endure the Tribulation judgments. We must see from books like Ephesians and Colossians that the Church is the unique companion of Christ, His body and His bride, whom He will have by His side for all eternity. The Tribulation judgments are the wrath of God. A man might punish his disobedient child, but it would not be fitting for him to discipline his bride! It is a totally different relationship. Apostate Israel is like a disobedient child. Apostate Christendom is like a immoral woman making false claims of relationship with Christ. They will be judged in the Tribulation... not the true Church of God.
The Rapture and Appearing distinguished. There are two parts to the second coming of Christ: the Rapture and the Appearing. The scripture often distinguishes them as:
  • His coming for His saints (the Rapture)
    • John 14:3 "receive you unto myself";
    • 1 Thess. 4:17 "caught up together to meet the Lord";
    • 2 Thess. 2:1 "our gathering together unto him";
  • His coming with His saints (the Appearing)
    • 1 Thess. 3:13 "his coming with all his saints";
    • 1 Thess. 4:14 "will God bring with him";
    • Jude 14 "the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints".
The Rapture could take place at any moment; but the Appearing of Christ will not occur until at least 7 years after the Rapture. As Christians we are looking for both: “Looking for that blessed hope [the Lord's coming for His saints], and the glorious appearing [the Lord's coming with His saints] of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
Changes after the Rapture. When the Lord's coming occurs, all who do not know Him as their Savior will be left behind on earth to enter the Tribulation period (Matt. 25:10-12). The "gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24) which promises justification from all things and membership in Christ's body (the Church) for all who believe will no longer be preached (Titus 2:13). Instead, the gospel of the kingdom will be preached (Matt. 24:14) like in the days of John the Baptist.
Will there be a second chance to receive the gospel after the rapture? For those who have not received the gospel of the grace of God, they will be left behind after the rapture. But will they have another opportunity to believe?
  1. For those left behind after the rapture who never heard a clear gospel, they will have an opportunity to receive the Gospel of the Kingdom, which we are told in Mark 16:15 will be preached “to every creature” in “all the world.” We know that multitudes will be saved in that time, both of Jews and Gentiles - a mass conversion such as the world has never seen (Rev. 7)!
  2. For those left behind after the rapture who heard the gospel and professed to be Christians, we can say on the authority of scripture that there will be no second chance. We take this from the parable of the virgins: the foolish virgins represent those with a profession (lamp) but no indwelling Spirit (oil). There is no opportunity to buy oil for them once the bridegroom comes.
  3. For those left behind after the rapture who heard the gospel but have not made a false profession, they will be in grave danger. At the middle of the prophetic week, when Antichrist comes forward, he will bring a strong delusion, and God will allow this to sweep away all who have at that point rejected the truth (read 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12). This will take place in the days of the Antichrist, also known as “that Wicked One.” Antichrist will be revealed at the mid-point of the tribulation. Will God use the events of the tribulation (first 3 1/2 years) to speak to souls, that some former-rejecters might believe? It could be. God is gracious. But scripture affords no positive hope of this, nor do we read of any earth-dwellers accepting the gospel. In either case, those who reject the gospel now will be in a very dangerous position, because whenever the truth is rejected Satan moves in to blind the minds of those who do not believe (2 Cor. 4:4). At the mid-point of the tribulation, the fate of “rejecters” will be sealed. These are ones who “received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”  Not only do they refuse it but they “believe it not”. What will be the end of these ones? “God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned.” They will be deceived by the lies of the Antichrist. There will be great confusion at that time, pictured by clouds of smoke that blot out the sun (Rev. 9:2). The "strong delusion" itself comes from God (2 Thess. 2:11). God will judicially blind them to the obvious truth, and harden their hearts as He hardened Pharaoh’s heart so many years ago. The book of Revelation refers to a certain class of people living in the seven-year tribulation as “them that dwell upon the earth.” If you look at the references, it is not just random people living on the earth, it is those that are opposed to God and His purpose. They are those who have rejected heaven, and chosen earth. Read more about this deception in Revelation 13:14. Therefore, we can see that earth dwellers will be swept up into the delusion of Antichrist, and afterwards will have no further opportunity. Also, it says ALL (Rev. 13:8). There are no exceptions at that point.
The door of mercy is open now, but one day it will be closed. The privilege of hearing the Gospel preached does not gain you anything if found outside the door of mercy when it closes. See also Luke 13:25-27 and Hebrews 2:3. 

The Two Restrainers Removed

“And now ye know that which restrains, that he should be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness already works; only there is he who restrains now until he be gone…” 2 Thess. 2:6-7
Before the prophetic week can begin, there are two forces in this earth that are keeping evil at bay which must first be removed. These two “restrainers” are described in 2 Thess. 2:
  • “That which restrains” – God-ordained government
  • “He who restrains” – the Person of the Holy Spirit
Both will be removed when the Rapture occurs. We must remember that government was first instituted in this world for the restraint of evil; so things wouldn’t get like they were in Noah’s day when violence and corruption filled the earth. But the scripture tells us “as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matt. 24:37). Once these two restrainers are removed, immediately the course of evil will progress at a rate not seen since before the flood. We see evil advancing so rapidly today because; (1) government has apostatized, and now operates on cronyism, warmongering, bribery, and propaganda, and (2) the Spirit (indwelling the Church) is grieved by the Church’s failure as a candlestick.

The Revival of the Roman Empire

The Ten-nation Western Confederacy. Before the Tribulation period begins, there will be a confederacy among the states of Europe. We know this because Daniel 9:27 says that a leader of the Revived Roman Empire will make a covenant with Israel. In order for that to be possible, the Revived Roman Empire must come into existence before the 70th week of Daniel begins! By the time the tribulation begins, there will be ten distinct “kingdoms” within this confederacy (Rev. 17:12). The revived Roman Empire will have the same form of government as the empire when John was writing (Rev. 17:10), namely, an imperial form. The seat of the empire will be a city of “seven mountains” (Rev. 17:9), beyond doubt identifying it with the city of Rome. At the middle of Daniel’s seventieth week the European confederacy will undergo a serious transformation, and at that point the confederacy is referred to as “the Beast”. 
Which Ten Nations? We do not know exactly which modern-day nations will compose the western confederacy, but there are a number that are quite likely to be member-states. In the chart below I have shown ten nations that were part of the old Roman Empire, that could be part of the revived Roman Empire. Note that Ireland and Scotland are not included, because the Romans were never able to hold ground much beyond Hadrian’s wall. Also, Germany is excluded, because it was never fully conquered by Rome, and we find that “Gomer” will be numbered actually in the northern confederacy with Gog and Magog (Ezek. 38:6).
Is the European Union the Revived Roman Empire? No… the EU does not have ten member-states, and many nations are members that will not be members of the revived Roman Empire. However, the concentration of European political power into a single confederacy is a remarkable shift in the direction we see in Rev. 17. Perhaps some form of the EU will become the revived Roman Empire. Ironically, the sculpture in front of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium is Europa and the Bull, which is not unlike the description of the harlot and the beast in Rev. 17!

Growth of the Influence of the Roman Catholic Church

The Harlot rides the Beast. Revelation 17 shows us that, at the beginning of the Tribulation, the False Church will control the European confederacy. A woman is described, called the “Great Whore”. Whoredom in scripture always speaks of idolatry. She is seen “sitting on many waters”, which means that she dominates the masses. Religiously, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her. This proves who the woman is. Which other religious organization is more guilty of leaving the true God for idolatry (spiritual fornication)? Geographically, we read that the woman sits on seven hills. This proves who this woman is, because Rome is the city of seven hills. What other great religious organization has its headquarters in Rome? It must be the apocalyptic version of the Roman Catholic Church. 
“And I saw a woman sitting upon a scarlet beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.” Revelation 17:3
The chief characteristic of the Harlot is her control “sitting upon” the European power “the beast”. This has always been the desire of the False Church down through the centuries; to control the civil powers. She will control the ten-nation confederacy for the first 3 1/2 years, although the ten kings “hate the harlot”. They hate her, but they somehow need her power for a time. Perhaps she will have some kind of trump card that the politicians need to bring and keep the empire together; it may be commercial ties, or control of the masses. The 1st seal (Rev. 6:1-2) hints that there will be an agent (the rider of the white horse) that will be involved in the formation of global treaties and diplomatic arrangements. It is likely that the rider of the white horse is prominent bishop or pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Today, the Roman Catholic Church still has a massive global presence (1.2 billion members in 2018), but it has been for over a century less of a political influence. It would follow that, before the seventieth week of Daniel begins, there will be a marked growth in the influence of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Return of the Jews to Israel – Isaiah 18

The Parable of the Fig Tree. We are told in Matt. 24 that the national regathering of Israel is a precursor to the events of the prophetic week:
“Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh.” Matt. 24:32
This has already begun… Israel was established as a nation on May 14, 1948. It is possible that they could cease to be a nation, and then be re-established again. All we know is that there will be a Nation of Israel before the 70th week begins. Note: Luke 21 expands it to the other surrounding nations; “Behold the fig tree, and all the trees.” For example, the Philistines. We know there must be a creation of a Palestinian state in the Gaza strip, which took place on November 15, 1988.
The Land Shadowing with Wings. Isaiah 18 is one of the most important chapters in prophecy. It draws a link between the returning nation of Israel and the great Western Confederacy.
“Ha! land shadowing with wings, which art beyond the rivers of Cush, that sendest ambassadors over the sea, and in vessels of papyrus upon the waters, saying, Go, swift messengers, to a nation scattered and ravaged, to a people terrible from their existence and thenceforth; to a nation of continued waiting and of treading down, whose land the rivers have spoiled!” Isa. 18:1-2
This speaks of a “land beyond the rivers of Cush” (the Nile and Euphrates) – a reference likely to the Revived Roman Empire. They will “shadow with wings” (extend protection to) the Jewish people, “a nation scattered and ravaged”, and help them return to their homeland. They will return bringing all their wealth with them (Isa. 2:7-8)… the richest country on earth. The Jewish people will return to Israel in large numbers (12 to 14 million). We may be seeing the beginnings of this movement in the world today!
The word “ha” is a noise of a shout, as if to a party a great distance away. “Shadowing with wings” is an expression often used in the Bible for protection. The wings are reaching outside their ordinary limits, undertaking to protect Israel. The protecting nation is “beyond the rivers of Cush”. To know who this land is, we need to remember the position of the land of Israel. The rivers of Cush are the Nile (African) and the Euphrates (Asiatic), which represent the nations on the frontiers of Israel that had oppressed them, Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon. The “land” is beyond those rivers, a country unknown at the time when Isaiah lived, and was consequently in no connection as yet with Israel; but it will be so in the last days. Who else could it be but Europe, and the revived Roman Empire? They are marked as having a swift and powerful navy (v.2); recall the “ships of Chittim” (Num. 24:24). They are called to “go to a nation”… the Jewish nation, who are: “scattered, ravaged, etc.”; i.e. decimated by Assyria, Egypt, and Babylon. In the next verse, the rest of the world is called to look on and behold this amazing sight… a far away European power with protective wings will lend its military aid to the Jewish nation, once battered and weary. read more…
Returning to their land with great wealth and Europe’s protection, they will quickly grow into a powerful nation. The vast majority of these Jews will be unbelieving… and apostate. A very small portion will be true believers:
“And a gleaning shall be left in it, as at the shaking of an olive-tree: two, three berries above, in the tree-top; four, five in its fruitful boughs, saith Jehovah, the God of Israel.” Isa. 17:6
These Jews will be trying to resume their role as a leading nation – without acknowledging their sin – which was the very reason for their expulsion in the first place. For this reason, God will discipline them severely.

The Revived Roman Empire makes a Covenant with Israel

The covenant. The leader of the revived Roman Empire, called "the prince that shall come", will be instrumental getting a treaty or “covenant” online between his people (Rome) and “the many”, which refers to the Jews.
“And he shall confirm a covenant with the many for one week;” Daniel 9:27
The terms of the covenant. This covenant will undoubtedly be a covenant of protection, referred to in Isaiah 28:15 as “a covenant with death, and with hell”. The expression “shadowing with wings” (Isa. 18:1) also indicates protection. The apostate nation of Israel will happily enter this covenant to protect them from “the overflowing scourge” (the King of the North) which they know will pass through.
“Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at 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 we hid ourselves.” Isa. 28:15
The Personal Beast who takes control of the empire at the middle of the week is referred to as "the god of forces (fortresses)", possibly because he will have massive military power at his command. What will the Jews give Rome in exchange for military protection? We read in Isa. 5 that the returning Jews will bring much affluence and monetary wealth to the land. All available real estate will be bought up with their money; "them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place" (Isa. 5:8). But we have more than inference to go on. We read in Daniel that the apostate king of the Jews (Antichrist) will send money to the Beast! This is clear evidence of the other end of the covenant; “…a god [the Beast] whom his fathers knew not will he [Antichrist, false king of the Jews] honor with gold and silver, and with precious stones and pleasant things" (Dan. 11:38).
It would appear that the Jews will exchange money for military protection. In addition to military protection, one of the terms of the covenant will be an agreement to allow the Jewish sacrifices to be resumed in the Temple. This means that a temple will need to be built before the prophetic week begins, or shortly thereafter! Today, the temple mount is occupied by the Dome of the Rock. We know that the sacrifices will be resumed because Dan. 9:27 makes it clear that the Beast will "cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease" at the middle of the week, which may be an act that breaches the terms of the covenant; "he hath broken his covenant" (Psa. 55:20), although we don't know exactly what those terms are.
God's view of the covenant. This covenant will be in direct opposition to the Word of God. The Lord says, “Say ye not, A confederacy” (Isa 8:12). The Lord will ask the Jews to trust in Him, and not lean on the strength of the flesh, and human confederacies. In opposition to this human covenant, "thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste" (Isa. 28:16). It is on account of this covenant ("for the overspreading of abominations" Dan. 9:27) that the Lord will send “a desolator” (the King of the North) to accomplish His judgments upon the apostate nation of Israel. Will the covenant protect them? 
“And your covenant with death shall be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, ye shall be trodden down by it.” Isa. 28:18
The first event of the Prophetic Week. The signing of this covenant is the event that restarts the "prophetic clock" of Daniel's seventy weeks, not the Rapture, as many believe. The prophetic clock has been on "pause" for two-thousand years while the Father has been calling out the bride and co-heirs of His Son.