By Jack Kinsella
The sermon known as the Olivet Discourse was given by Jesus from the Mount of Olives during the final week of His life on this earth. He had just finished condemning the religious leaders of His day from the floor of the Temple for corrupting the Law of Moses.
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchers (tombs) which indeed appear beautiful outside, but are within full of dead men’s bones and of all uncleanness.” (Matthew 23:27)
Matthew writes that when Jesus left the Temple, His disciples followed after “to show Him the buildings of the Temple.”
After having stood in the Temple itself to condemn its leaders for corruption, the disciples were no doubt imploring Him to reconsider, reminding Him how important the Temple was.
“And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (Matthew 24:2)
Keep the context in mind here. Jesus has just now predicted the destruction of the Temple.
“And as He sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?”
This verse is usually where students of Bible prophecy commence their study of the Olivet Discourse…”What shall be the sign of Thy coming?…and then we’re off to the races.
Let’s stop there and take a look at the time frames involved. Jesus has yet to be sacrificed. The Temple economy is in full operation. There is no Church, no Gospel message…not even His Disciples really believed in Him. (Peter later denied Him three times.)
Later that week, Jesus is crucified, dies and is Resurrected. Jesus remained with them for forty days after His Resurrection. (Acts 1:3) Even after His Resurrection, they remained clueless.
“When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)
After His ascension, the Comforter came at Pentecost. For the next forty years, the Church and the Temple stood together before its prophesied destruction in AD 70.
It is during those forty years that the Gospel accounts were published and the early Church grew in spite of persecution by both the Romans and the Jewish authorities.
But while the Church was persecuted and hunted, Temple worship continued unabated. The Book of Acts is filled with accounts of the persecution of the Apostles at the hands of the religious authorities. Jerusalem remained the seat of Jewish religious authority.
And for the next forty years at Passover, the Temple was crammed with pilgrims, until Titus destroyed it, brick by brick.
It is a more or less commonly-accepted belief that because the Church Age comes to a close with the Rapture that the Tribulation Period immediately follows.
But that is really an assumption that has no Scriptural support. The Doctrine of Immanency says the Rapture is a secret, signless event.
The signs of the approaching Tribulation merely confirm the lateness of the hour. The Rapture could have happened long ago and the Tribulation still be future.
The Church Age began at Pentecost but Temple worship continued another forty years. That’s not to say that there is necessarily a forty-year interval between the Rapture and the Tribulation, but it does lend support to there being some interval period between the Rapture and the Tribulation Period.
If there is anything in Scripture that directly links the Rapture to the Tribulation, I am unable to find it. Paul writes that before “that Wicked” can be revealed, there must first come a great falling away, or a great apostasy.
Secondarily, Paul writes, the Holy Spirit must be ‘taken out of the way.’ But nowhere does it say that the Antichrist appears the next day. It says only that “He Who now letteth will let until He be taken out of the way.”
(The ASV translates the KJV’s “let” as”restrain” — the Greek word is katcheco — which literally means, “to hold fast” or “to possess.” The Old English rendering ‘to let’ is in the same sense as having a room ‘to let’ or ‘to occupy’.)
Paul writes that the antichrist takes his seat in the Temple of God. The Temple of God was destroyed by Titus and the Romans 40 years after the arrival of the Restrainer.
The Prophet Daniel predicted that a prince of the people that would come to destroy the city and the sanctuary (Daniel 9:27) would confirm a covenant with ‘the many’ for one week.
(The people were the Romans under Titus. The coming ‘prince’ will therefore arise from some revived form of the Roman Empire.)
Daniel’s prophesided “week” is a week of years (shabua) and represents the seventieth of Daniel’s 70 Weeks (Daniel 9:24).
Paul describes the Temple desecrated by the antichrist as “the Temple of God.” That requires the existence of a consecrated Temple on Temple Mount in Jerusalem as part of the overall covenant the antichrist breaks 3 1/2 years later by abolishing Temple worship.
Scripturally speaking, there is no more time-sensitivity between the Rapture of the Church and the Tribulation then there is between the ascension (or Rapture) of Jesus and the Destruction of the Temple forty years later.
Scripturally speaking, there could be several years or — even decades — between the Rapture of the Church and the ultimate rise of the antichrist.
In fact, it almost seems that some interval will be necessary for the world to reorganize and regroup after the sudden and unexplained disappearance of millions.
We often think of the Rapture this way. Suddenly, millions of people disappear. An hour later, the antichrist confirms a peace treaty with Israel and the clock starts ticking down the final seven years.
Another view has millions of people suddenly disappearing after the antichrist has confirmed the covenant, after a quarter of the earth’s population have perished as a result of the other three horsemen of Revelation, (Famine, War, and Death) at the onset of the 3 Â½ year Great Tribulation.
This destroys the doctrine of immanency and links the Rapture to the ‘blood moon’ of Revelation 6:12.
Neither view makes allowances for any interval between the removal of the Church (and Restrainer) and the onset of the Tribulation Period.
But the Thessalonians feared they had missed the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto Him and that the Day of Christ was at hand. (2nd Thessalonians 2:1-2)
(Note that Paul speaks of “our gathering together unto Him” and the “Day of Christ” as two separate events.)
The Rapture could take place tomorrow and the Tribulation could start the next day. But there is no Scripture to support that supposition.
It is equally possible that the Rapture could take place tomorrow and it could take another twenty years before the world is sufficiently deluded to accept the antichrist.
What seems less possible is that the Rapture could take place tomorrow and that the antichrist could accomplish all that is prophesied within the next three and a half years, or even the next seven years.
But the Bible says that those living when all the signs of His return begin to come to pass, we are to look up, and lift up our heads, for our redemption draws near. (Luke 21:28)
But the Bible also says that the Lord will wait until the last possible moment to Rapture His Church for the sake of that last repentant sinner.
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2nd Peter 3:9)
We watch the signs of the times because they are evidence that the Bible is true, that Bible prophecy is being fulfilled in this generation and therefore, there is no time to waste.
If we can see the signs of the coming Tribulation, and there is an interval in between, then it means that the Rapture is even closer.
And once we’re gone, there’s no second chance for those who are left behind.