“You better get ready! Christ could come back tonight!” shouts thousands of preachers every Sunday. “Be ready for the rapture, that wonderful day when we all float serenely up through the clouds to heaven,” they say. But they are parrots in pulpits who mimic words that they have heard someone else say, never having proved it out according to the word of God. Christ is not coming back tonight, no matter how much they preach about it.
That’s right. The Savior, known to the English speaking world as Jesus Christ, cannot come back tonight. Why not? Because He will not go back on His word. He said that several things must take place before He returns, and He will not break His own word.
The key is found in II Thessalonians. Paul is commending the Thessalonians for their “patience and faith” in the face of the “persecutions and tribulations” that they are enduring at present. This patient endurance in the face of persecution makes them worthy of the kingdom of God, which is a “righteous judgement of God,” just like it is a righteous judgement of God “to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you” (1: 4-6).
The government of God is coming when Christ returns, and it is the stone kingdom that will smash and pulverize all of man’s governments, like the very Roman government at that time in A.D. 54 that is persecuting the Thessalonians (1). This kingdom, coming down out of heaven, will bring with it “tribulation to them that trouble” these Thessalonians. “Tribulation” here is the same Greek word used in Revelation concerning the tribulation period to engulf the world system.
Paul goes on to say in verse 7 that God will grant His followers whose earthly bodies expire a rest. This rest will continue until the Master “shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ/Yahshua the Messiah” (1: 7-8).
A permanent destruction will come upon them, and this destruction will come from the very presence of the Savior and the glory that surrounds Him–right here on earth at His return (1: 9).
So we are talking about Christ’s return to this earth–a physical return, a smashing return, a vengeful return, a return to “recompense tribulation to them that trouble” us. Then Paul gives us the key to when Christ will come to do all of this.
Don’t be “soon shaken in mind, or be troubled…as that the day of Christ is at hand” (2: 2). They had heard from some men teaching that Christ was coming soon. But Paul tells them, “Let no man deceive you by any means” (2: 3). You mean, Paul, that there will be men preaching that Christ could come right now? And that they will deceive you?
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day [Christ’s return to earth] shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sits in the temple of God showing himself that he is God” (2: 3-4).
There is the key. Before Christ comes back for His elect children and returns to deal vengeance to the unbelievers, the anti-christ, the man of sin, will be revealed.
Christ can’t come back tonight because we don’t know who this man is.
So just who is this man of sin? That is the question we should be asking ourselves as followers of Christ and people who long for His return. How will we know him? What signs will give him away as to his identity? Since he will have to be revealed before Christ can return, we should be asking these questions and not listening to the siren song of rapture theorists.
First, he will oppose “all that is called God.” He will “exalt himself” above God. He will not just do this in word, but he will literally “sit in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2: 4).
Wait a minute. Temple? The anti-christ will sit in the temple of God before Christ comes back? Yes. There will be a man who will sit in the rebuilt temple of God palming himself off as God himself!
Christ speaks of this very scene in Matt. 24: 15. “When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, “great tribulation shall break out (v. 21)–far worse than any trouble has ever happened on this earth.
What is this “abomination of desolation”? When a man stands in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem and claims to be God.
So we first need the temple to be rebuilt in Jerusalem before the man of sin can stand in it. The temple rebuilt and the man of sin revealed.
These are the signs of Christ’s coming back to earth. But Satan will have his way with the “multitudes in the valley of decision.” The masses will “wonder after the beast.” The “coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders…” And the people will perish “because they refused to love the truth” (II Thes 2: 9-11). “And for this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie.”
And there you have it. Let us all beware of false teachings that will lead us astray from the truth. The end of the age is upon us, but most will be deceived and miss the most important sea change in the history of this world! Let us “prove all things,” both things we believe to be the truth and things we’ve been led to believe is a lie. Let us study. Let us dig deep and build our house on the Rock and on the stedfastness of His word. Kenneth Wayne Hancock
1. Daniel 2: 34-45