The Bible speaks of an approaching day of “great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matt. 24:21); a time when the man of sin shall be revealed “whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thess. 2:3,9); a time when “no man might buy or sell, save he that [have] the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (666) (Rev. 13:17,18). Many ask when Christ will come to gather His Church—before or after this time of great tribulation? The question is not whether Christ will return, but when? Will the Church go through the Great Tribulation?
As young Christians we were taught, as perhaps you were, that Christ would come to gather His Church in a “secret rapture” before the Tribulation and the revelation of the man of sin. That is, that the Second Coming will be in two phases: the first phase when only believers will see Jesus as He comes in the air to gather them secretly before the Tribulation; the second phase, seven years later, when every eye will see Jesus as He returns to earth with His saints, after the Tribulation.
Scripture, however, troubled us because it didn’t support this scenario. “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (2 Thess. 2:1‑3).
This one passage made us reconsider what we had been taught. Perhaps the body of Christ might not be caught away in a secret rapture before the man of sin is revealed and the Tribulation runs its destructive course.
We began to study the Scripture diligently for ourselves and discovered, to our amazement, that not a single verse in the entire Bible actually supports the secret rapture teaching. Moreover, the scriptures commonly used to support this idea actually teach a very different timetable when taken in context. Much confusion in end‑time teaching results from interpreting verses out of their setting. Scripture must be interpreted in context, and the interpretation should be reasonable—not weird. Since the Word of God is unified and does not contradict itself, every interpretation of Scripture should harmonize with “all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).
When we discovered that Jesus will come to gather His Church after the Great Tribulation, the Scripture began to take on new significance. We realized what a blessed hope we really do have. We became aware of how glorious and awesome the Lord’s coming will be—glorious for the Church, but awesome and dreadful for the world.
Many assume that if a doctrine is taught by popular preachers and large denominations, it must be right. This assumption is not necessarily true, however, because Jesus warns that in the last days “many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many” (Matt. 24:11). In addition, God hides His truths from “the wise and prudent” and reveals them to “babes [the humble]” (Matt. 11:25); to those who love him (1 Cor. 2:9); and to those who seek His wisdom as men seek for silver and search for hidden treasures (Pro. 2:3,4).
Inasmuch as the Second Coming is the consummation of our salvation, we should know what we believe about it. A blurred understanding of a truth as vital as the Second Coming can be spiritually fatal. To neglect the Word of God is to neglect the salvation of our souls: “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. . . . How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” (Heb. 2:1,3).
We do not pretend this book to be exhaustive concerning end‑time issues. We offer it in humility and in the sincere hope that it will serve as a springboard for your personal study. May the truths offered here bless and enrich your life as they have blessed and enriched ours. Most of all, may this book help us to prepare for what is just on the horizon.
Ken and Agnes Macdonald
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