Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Before the Pangs Begin: A Defense of the Imminence of the Snatching Away (Part Two)

The beginning of the day of the Lord

In Acts 17:30-31, Paul declared to the idol-worshiping Athenians that God – although formerly “condoning the times of ignorance” – was “now charging mankind that all everywhere are to repent.” In the context, the repentance Paul had in mind here clearly involved repenting of idol-worship and turning to the true God (cf. 1 Thess. 1:9, where Paul commended the Thessalonian believers for having turned back to God “from idols, to be slaving for the living and true God”). Paul then provided his audience with the reason for this divine charge to repent: a “day” had been assigned by God, in which God is “about to be judging the inhabited earth in righteousness by the Man Whom he specifies...”

The fact that God’s judgment of the inhabited earth at the time Paul had in view will, in some way, be accomplished through the agency of Jesus Christ, is consistent with Christ’s own words in John 5:22-27, when he declared the following: “For neither is the Father judging anyone, but has given all judging to the Son, that all may be honoring the Son, according as they are honoring the Father. He who is not honoring the Son is not honoring the Father Who sends Him…And He gives Him authority to do judging, seeing that He is a son of mankind.”

Moreover, the implication of what Paul declared to the Athenians is that the day of judgment he had in view will involve those who will be alive on the earth at a certain time (hence Paul’s words, “the inhabited earth,” in v. 31).[1] For, had Paul believed that this day of judgment would involve those who had lived and died before God began “charging mankind that all everywhere are to repent” (i.e., when God was “condoning the times of ignorance”), then there would be no good reason why this message of repentance to the nations should “now” be proclaimed (rather than being proclaimed to the nations from the beginning of human history). It is, therefore, reasonable to conclude that the day of judgment that Paul had in view in Acts 17:30-31 is a reference to that judgment-filled period of time that Paul elsewhere referred to as “the day of the Lord” (1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Thess. 2:2).

Although the “day of the Lord” referred to by Paul is clearly a future period of time, it should be noted that the expression “the day of the Lord” (or “the day of Yahweh”) can refer to different periods of time, both past and future. Examples of past periods of time referred to as the “day of the Lord” involve God’s bringing judgment upon unrighteous nations through the instrumentality of other nations (see, for example, Amos 5:18, 20; Lam. 1:12; 2:1, 21-22; Ezek. 7:19; 13:5; 30:3; Zeph. 2:2-3; Jer. 46:10). Although involving localized national judgments, these past “days of the Lord” can be understood as foreshadowing and anticipating a yet-future era when God will decisively intervene in the affairs of this world to bring a final end to the misrule of mankind (as well as that of the unseen, wicked celestial beings by which mankind is unwittingly influenced), and establish his kingdom on the earth.

How long will the future day of the Lord be? In Zechariah 13-14, we find a certain “day” referred to as “a day coming for the Lord” that will include not only the time of Israel’s “great affliction” (Zech. 13:8-9; 14:1-2), but also the day of Christ’s return to earth (14:3-7) and his subsequent reign over the earth (14:8-21). Similarly, in 2 Peter 3:10, it’s implied that the day of the Lord will include not only the end of this eon, but the end of the next eon as well: “Now the day of the Lord will be arriving as a thief, in which the heavens shall be passing by with a booming noise, yet the elements shall be dissolved by combustion, and the earth and the works in it shall be found.” Commenting on this verse, A.E. Knoch wrote the following: “The day of the Lord, though it lasts for more than a thousand years, is treated as though its arrival is to be immediately followed by its end, in harmony with the preceding paragraph. It will come as a thief (1 Thess. 5:2). It will close with the great cataclysm (Un. 20:11; 21:1) which ushers in the day of God, the new creation.”

Like a literal day, this future period of time will be twofold in nature, consisting of both a time of “darkness” (“night”) and a time of “light” (“day”). Both the time of “darkness” and the time of “light” constitute the complete future “day of the Lord,” in its broadest sense. And just as a literal Hebrew day begins at sunset/nightfall (following the model of the days of creation; see Gen. 1:4-6), the beginning of the day of the Lord is described as a time of “darkness” (Joel 2:1-2; Amos 5:18-20; Zeph. 1:14-15), and will be characterized by distress, affliction and increasingly more devastating judgments (which will make known to the inhabitants of the earth God’s power and sovereignty, as well as his disapproval of, and opposition to, sin and unbelief). However, the “dark” part of the day of the Lord is to be followed by a much longer period of “light,” and will be characterized by peace, prosperity and the dispelling of ignorance and deception with God’s truth (in Isaiah 11:9 we’re told that, during this time, the earth will be “filled with the knowledge of Yahweh as the waters cover the sea”).

The turning point in the day of the Lord – when the calamity-filled period of “darkness” transitions to the blessing-filled period of “light” – is referred to in Zechariah 14:6-7 as follows: ”On that day there shall be no light, cold or frost. And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the LORD, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light” (verse 7 in the CVOT reads as follows: ”It shall be one day which is known to the Lord—neither day nor night. But at evening time it shall happen that it will be light.”). The “unique day” (or “one day”) being referred to here should not be understood as an extended period of time comprised of days, months and years. Rather, this unique day in which “there will be no light” until evening time (and which is paradoxically described as being “neither day nor night”) seems to be a literal, 24-hour day that will be taking place within the broader period of time that is referred to as “the day of the Lord.” And based on the preceding verses, it would seem that the day in view here is the actual day of Christ’s return, when “his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives” and cause it to be “split in two from east to west” (v. 4).

In Joel 2:31 and Malachi 4:5, this unique day within the broad day of the Lord is referred to as “the day of the Lord, the great and advent day” (cf. Matthew 24:29-30). This day is referred to again in Joel 3:9-16 as simply the “day of the Lord,” but it’s clearly the same day that we find referred to in Joel 2:31 as “the great and advent day,” and should be understood as referring to a particularly momentous day within the broader day of the Lord time period – i.e., the day of Christ’s return to earth (when the “dark” phase of the day of the Lord turns into “light”). Significantly, what we’re told in Joel 3:14-15 concerning the sun, moon and stars being darkened agrees with what we read in Zech. 14:6-7 concerning the absence of light during this day (at least, until evening, when “it shall happen that it will be light”).

Concerning the “day of the Lord” referred to in Joel 2:31 and Mal. 4:5, E.W. Bullinger noted that, “It is called ‘the great and terrible day of the Lord,’ as though it were the climax of the whole period known as ‘the day of the Lord’” (The Apocalypse or “The Day of the Lord,” p. 248). In Revelation 16:12-16, this “great and advent day” is referred to as “the great day of God Almighty,” and – as in Joel 3:9-16 – will be “near” only after an international coalition of armies have “gathered to do battle with [Christ] and with His army” (Rev. 19:19). Upon his return to earth, Christ and his army of messengers will utterly destroy these hostile military forces, thereby saving faithful Israel from her enemies. In Joel, the location for this military campaign is referred to as “the valley of decision” (where we’re told that “multitudes, multitudes,” will be gathered).

But if the “the great and advent” day of the Lord referred to in the above verses refers to the literal day of Christ’s return to earth, when will the longer period of time to which this day belongs (and which is also referred to as the “day of the Lord”) begin? That is, when will the period of time that will, initially, be characterized by divine indignation begin? These questions bring us to the subject of the seven-sealed scroll referred to in Revelation, for it is through the opening of this scroll that all of the various calamities that are prophesied as coming upon the inhabitants of the earth during the time preceding Christ’s return will be occurring. In Rev. 5:1-12, we read the following:

And I perceived on the right hand of Him Who is sitting on the throne a scroll, written in front and on the back, and sealed up with seven seals. And I perceived a strong messenger heralding with a loud voice: “Who is worthy to open the scroll, and to loose its seals?” And no one in heaven, nor yet on earth, nor yet underneath the earth, was able to open the scroll, neither to look at it. And I lamented much that no one was found worthy to open the scroll, neither to look at it. And one of the elders is saying to me, “Do not lament! Lo! He conquers! The Lion out of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, is to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals!”

The fact that Christ is the only one found worthy to take the scroll from God and open its seals suggests that it is by virtue of his God-given authority (which, in Matt. 28:18, we’re told is “all authority in heaven and on the earth”) that Christ is able to open the seals of the scroll. It also suggests that, as the only one worthy to open the seals, Christ is actually instrumental in bringing about the events associated with the opening of the seals (as opposed to merely revealing what will be occurring in the future). Opening the seals of the scroll should, therefore, be understood as a way in which Christ exercises his authority over creation. And in light of what results from the opening of the seals (which we’ll be considering shortly), the authority being exercised by Christ at this time can be understood as judicial in nature (in accord with Christ’s words in John 5:22-23, 27).

We also find that the opening of the seals of the scroll by Christ is associated with a certain company of saints being made “a kingdom and a priesthood for our God,” and to their “reigning on the earth” (Rev. 5:10). The saints who will be “reigning on the earth” are the believing Israelites who constitute the “Israel of God,” and their being made  “a kingdom and a priesthood” for God is a clear reference to the kingdom being restored to Israel (cf. Daniel 7:13-14 and v. 27). These considerations suggest that, by exercising his authority to open the seals of the scroll, Jesus Christ will be putting into motion those eon-terminating events that have, as their ultimate goal, the restoration of the kingdom to Israel.

Immediately after this chapter, we read that Christ begins opening the seven seals of the scroll given to him by God. The opening of the first four seals unleashes four distinct “horsemen” (five if you count the one following “Death” after the opening of the fourth seal). Each “horseman” can be understood as representing a future event or state of affairs which, through God’s providential control, will be occurring on the earth as a result of the opening of the first four seals. The general view among scholars is that the “four horsemen” represent, at the very least, the following states of affairs: (1) Conquest, (2) War, (3) Famine and (4) Death. Moreover, these states of affairs also seem to be sequentially linked, with each event being the occasion for (and thus explaining, to an extent, the occurrence of) the events that follow.

Keeping in mind the prophetic imminence of the events foretold in the Book of Revelation, the opening of the first seal which unleashes the first of the “four horsemen” is described in Rev. 6:1-2 as follows:

And I perceived when the Lambkin opens one of the seven seals; and I hear one of the four animals saying, as with a voice of thunder, "Come!" And I perceived, and lo! a white horse, and he who is sitting on it has a bow, and to him was given a wreath. And he came forth conquering and that he should be conquering.

This rider is said to have a bow and victor’s crown or “wreath” (stephanos). Significantly, this wreath is specifically said to have been “given” to him (evidently, given by God), and is distinct from the “many diadems” that Christ is later described as wearing in Rev. 19:12 (and who, in Rev. 19:11, is also depicted as coming on a white horse). And with this bow and wreath, we’re told that he comes forth “conquering and that he should be conquering.” That this horseman is associated with conquest (or “conquering”) of some sort is obvious. But which individual (or individuals) are we to understand as being directly involved in the conquest that will result from the opening of the first seal? Many students of scripture have understood (rightly, I believe) the state of affairs associated with the opening of the first seal to be inseparably related to the coming world ruler whom Paul identified as the “man of lawlessness.”[2]

It’s significant that John twice referred to this future world ruler as engaged in “conquering.” In Rev. 11:7 we read that the “wild beast” will be “doing battle with [the two witnesses] and will be conquering them and killing them.” And in Rev. 13:4-7 we read that the wild beast will be “given authority to do what it wills forty-two months,” and that it will be “given to do battle with the saints and to conquer them.” And based on what we read in Daniel 8 and 11, the future political career of this world ruler will begin with successful conquests, which will enable him to engage in further “conquering.”

It’s reasonable to understand the opening of the first seal as bringing about a state of affairs involving a great political victory of some sort by a certain world leader. And given the mention of a “bow” but no arrows, it’s also reasonable to believe that the initial “conquest” of this world leader will be diplomatic in nature, rather than involving the use of military force (although it’s likely that the additional “conquering” referred to will involve the use of military force). But can the rise to power of the man of lawlessness through non-violent, diplomatic means be understood as an expression of God’s indignation? Yes.

Regardless of the exact nature of the “conquering” that’s in view here, it will undoubtedly involve the political ruler becoming more powerful and influential than he was previously. And we know that the rise to power of the man of lawlessness will eventually lead to his being directly involved in bringing about the great affliction that Israel will go through during the final 3 ½ years of this eon. Since this affliction will be God’s punishment upon the nation, the rise to power of the political ruler who will be directly responsible for it can easily be understood as an expression of God’s indignation. God will, essentially, be giving apostate Israel – as well as the rest of the unbelieving world – the wicked ruler that they deserve. And – like the pagan king of Assyria (Isaiah 10:5-12) – this powerful world leader whom God will raise up will be used as the “rod” of his indignation.

In accord with this idea of God’s judging the wicked through the instrumentality of powerful human rulers, we read in Zechariah 11:15-17 that God will raise up a “foolish” and “useless shepherd” over Israel for the very purpose of severely afflicting the nation. Given the prophetic context in which this “shepherd” is referred to, there can be little doubt that he represents the man of lawlessness – i.e., the political leader or “prince” who, in Daniel 9:26-27, is said to be “coming,” and with whom “the many” (likely a reference to Israel) will make a seven-year covenant. In fact, reading Rev. 6:1-2 in light of Daniel 9:26-27 would explain why the white-horse rider is represented as victoriously “conquering, that he may be conquering.” As the one who “confirms” (or “becomes master of”) a “covenant with many” (and which, in the words of 1 Thess. 5:3, will appear to secure “peace and security”), the first act of “conquering” by this political leader will involve a peaceful, diplomatic victory which, by giving him greater political power and prominence, will enable him to engage in further “conquering” down the road.

That the initial “conquering” or political victory associated with the opening of the first seal will, in fact, be diplomatic (and thus peaceful) in nature is confirmed from the fact that the opening of the very next seal is said to result in peace being “taken from out of the earth” (Rev. 6:3-4):

And when It opens the second seal, I hear the second animal saying, "Come!" And forth came another horse, fiery-red, and to him who is sitting on it was given to take peace out of the earth, and that they should be slaying one another. And a huge sword was given to him.

Thus we find that the “peace” that will appear to have been secured by the conquest-driven political leader represented by the white-horse rider will not last long. But can the state of affairs resulting from the opening of this seal also be understood as an expression of God’s indignation? Absolutely. There can be no question that God’s indignation has, at certain times in Israel’s history, been expressed through the instrumentality of human warfare, and that God has used warfare as a means of punishing nations (see 2 Chron. 36:16-17; Ezra 5:12; Isaiah 9:11-12; 10:5-6; 13:1-5, 9, 17-19; Jer. 32:28-32; 50:9, 13, 25). Consider, especially, what we read in 2 Chronicles 15:5-6: In those times there was no peace to him who went out or to him who came in, for great disturbances afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands. They were broken in pieces. Nation was crushed by nation and city by city, for God troubled them with every sort of distress.

Concerning the imagery of the “huge sword” that we’re told is “given” to the rider on the fiery-red horse, Renald E. Showers notes as follows: “Numerous other passages (including Isa. 51:17-20; 65:12; and Jer. 16:4-10; 24:10) indicate that God uses the sword as an instrument of His anger and judgment. Indeed, in line with the rider of the second seal being given “a great sword,” Isaiah 26:20-27:1 signifies that, in the day of the Lord’s indignation, when He will “punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity,” He will use “his sore and great and strong sword” as an instrument of punishment.” Showers goes on to add that the “huge sword” being “given” to the rider on the red horse “means that the rider was not the source of these things; their source was a higher authority…Thus, the warfare of the second seal has a divine source.”[3]

The opening of the third seal (and its devastating results) is described in Rev. 6:5-6 as follows:

And when It opens the third seal, I hear the third animal saying, "Come!" And I perceived and lo! a black horse, and he who is sitting on it has a pair of balances in his hand. And I hear as it were a voice in the midst of the four animals saying, "A choenix of wheat a denarius, and three choenix of barley a denarius, and the oil and the wine you should not be injuring!"

Just as we’re told that the victor’s wreath is “given” to the rider on the white horse and the “huge sword” is “given” to the rider on the fiery-red horse, so the severity of the famine and inflation associated with the unleashing of the rider on the black horse is represented as being determined by a higher authority (note that the “voice” which determines the severity of the famine/inflation comes from “the midst of the four animals,” and can be understood as belonging to either God or Christ). Moreover, just as the events associated with the opening of the first two seals can be understood as expressions of God’s indignation, so Scripture is equally clear that God’s indignation has found expression through the occurrence of famine (Jer. 21:5-7, 9; 44:8, 11-13; Ezek. 5:11-17; 7:3, 8, 14-15).

If there has been any doubt in the reader’s mind that the events associated with the opening of the first four seals should be understood as expressions of God’s indignation, the description of the events resulting from the opening of the fourth seal should remove all such doubt. In Rev. 6:7-8 we read as follows: 

“And when It opens the fourth seal, I hear the voice of the fourth animal saying, ‘Come!’ And I perceived, and lo! a greenish horse, and the name of him who is sitting upon it is Death, and the Unseen followed him. And jurisdiction was given them over the fourth of the earth, to kill with the blade and with famine and with death and by the wild beasts of the earth.

When we read that “jurisdiction” was given Death and the Unseen (or “Hades”), the following question naturally arises:  “From whom does this jurisdiction come?” The answer to this question is clear: ultimately, it comes from God himself. But what needs to be emphasized here is that the instrumental means through which “a fourth of the earth” is to be killed as a result of Christ’s opening the fourth seal are the exact same means that God used in the past when bringing judgment against unfaithful Israel and “pouring out his fury” on them. In Ezekiel 5:12-13, 15-17 we read the following words (spoken by God to the people of Jerusalem):

“A third part of you shall die of pestilence and be consumed with famine in your midst; a third part shall fall by the sword all around you; and a third part I will scatter to all the winds and will unsheathe the sword after them. Thus shall my anger spend itself, and I will vent my fury upon them and satisfy myself. And they shall know that I am Yahweh—that I have spoken in my jealousy—when I spend my fury upon them

“…You shall be a reproach and a taunt, a warning and a horror, to the nations all around you, when I execute judgments on you in anger and fury, and with furious rebukes—I am Yahweh; I have spoken—when I send against you the deadly arrows of famine, arrows for destruction, which I will send to destroy you, and when I bring more and more famine upon you and break your supply of bread. I will send famine and wild beasts against you, and they will rob you of your children. Pestilence and blood shall pass through you, and I will bring the sword upon you. I am Yahweh; I have spoken.”

Similarly, in Ezekiel 14:21 we read: “For thus says the Lord God: How much more when I send upon Jerusalem my four disastrous judgments, sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast!”[4] These same four figures are prophesied as expressions of God’s wrath in several other passages as well (cf. Lev. 26:21-28; Numb 11:33; 16:46; 25:8-11; Deut. 11:17; 28:20-26; 32:22-25; Jer. 15:1-9; 16:4-11; 19:7-9; Ezek. 6:11-12; 7:3-15). The fact that it is by means of these exact “disastrous judgments” from God that a fourth of the earth will be killed after the fourth seal is broken by Christ indicates that the result of the breaking of the fourth seal will be an expression of God’s indignation.  

Based on the above considerations, I believe it’s reasonable to understand the events associated with the opening of the first four seals to involve, in some way or another, the indignation of God that will be expressed during the day of the Lord. But is there any other evidence that the events associated with the opening of the first four seals will be taking place during the future day of the Lord? I think so.

In 1 Thess. 5:1-3 we read the following:

“Now concerning the times and the eras, brethren, you have no need to be written to, for you yourselves are accurately aware that the day of the Lord is as a thief in the night -- thus is it coming! Now whenever they may be saying ‘Peace and security,’ then extermination is standing by them unawares, even as a pang over the pregnant, and they may by no means escape.

In contrast with the time in which people will be living when the day of the Lord begins will be the time period just prior to Christ’s return: according to Revelation 15-19, Christ’s return to earth will be shortly after the bowls of the “last seven calamities” of the “fury of God” have begun to be poured out (Rev. 15:1, 16:1-21). By the time these “seven bowls” begin to be poured out, “peace and security” will be the last thing on anyone’s mind. This will be the most fearful and tumultuous time in history that the world has ever known. Just before Christ finally comes with all his holy messengers to destroy the enemies of Israel, the inhabitants of the earth will still be reeling from the dreadful calamities that will have taken place during the preceding days and years. Thus we can conclude that the time at which people on the earth will be saying “peace and security” will be prior to these terrible judgments.

As noted earlier, the rider on the fiery-red horse (who will be unleashed through the opening of the second seal) is going to be given a “huge sword” and the authority to “take peace out of the earth” so that “they should be slaying one another.” This implies that the “conquering” activity associated with the rider on the white horse will – at least initially – be peaceful in nature. But it is this very state of (relative) “peace and security” that Paul said would be present when the day of the Lord arrives as a thief. For, after the opening of the second seal, peace is going to be removed from the earth, and life on earth is going to become increasingly more disrupted and chaotic until everything finally comes to a climax with the return of Christ to the earth. This being the case, it follows that the time of “peace and security” that will be present when the day of the Lord arrives must be before the breaking of the second seal (and all subsequent seals) referred to in Revelation 6.

In addition to believing that the day of the Lord will be arriving at a time when people will be saying “peace and security,” Paul also seemed to believe that, when this day comes to be present, “extermination” will be “standing by them unawares” (with the “them” being among the first of those dwelling on the earth whose “peace and security” will be unexpectantly disrupted after the day of the Lord has arrived, and who will be among the first to be “exterminated”). In other words, it is at the start of the day of the Lord that peace and security will appear to be characterizing the world. Although the “peace and security” that they will see as characterizing the world at this time will soon be removed, the fact that it will be present at the start of the day of the Lord accounts for why the arrival of this time of judgment will be so unexpected. “Extermination” will not instantly be coming upon people when the day of the Lord arrives, for those living on the earth at the time when it begins will not, at that time, be aware of the “extermination” that will be “standing by them.” And since the first “extermination-causing event” during the day of the Lord will occur after the opening of the second seal, the day of the Lord must already be present before this seal is opened (which, again, suggests that the opening of the first seal is what initiates the day of the Lord). And this, again, would mean that the snatching away of the body of Christ must take place before the occurrence of the event associated with the opening of the first seal.

Before the beginning of pangs

Significantly, Paul likened the “extermination” that will be standing by people “unawares” at the start of the day of the Lord to “a pang over the pregnant” (1 Thess. 5:2-3). Similar “birth pang” imagery is found in Isa. 13:6-9 and Jer. 30:6-7 (which refer to conditions during the day of the Lord), and was, of course, also used by Christ in his Olivet Discourse when describing some of the earliest events that will be taking place during the final years of this eon (Matt. 24:6-8). Although most translations have “labor pains” (plural) in 1 Thess. 5:3, Paul actually used the singular “pang.” Paul was not referring to labor pains in general (or collectively), but rather to the first labor pang experienced by a pregnant woman. It is this labor pang which – by virtue of being the first – comes most unexpectantly. It also, of course, foretells even more pangs to come (which will become increasingly more intense until the baby is finally born). It is, therefore, reasonable to infer that Paul had in mind the same general period of time as Christ did when he referred to the “beginning of pangs.” In Matthew 24:4-8, we read:

Now at His sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what is the sign of Thy presence and of the conclusion of the eon?"And, answering, Jesus said to them, "Beware that no one should be deceiving you. For many shall be coming in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ!' and shall be deceiving many. Yet you shall be about to be hearing battles, and tidings of battles. See that you are not alarmed, for it must be occurring; but not as yet is the consummation. For roused shall be a nation against a nation, and a kingdom against a kingdom, and there shall be famines and quakes in places. Yet all these are the beginning of pangs (significantly, Luke’s account adds “pestilences” to the events referred to by Christ that will constitute the “beginning of pangs”).

This is further confirmation that the day of the Lord will include the events associated with the opening of the first four seals, since the first of the “pangs” referred to by Christ will be warfare between nations and kingdoms (which corresponds, of course, to the events associated with the opening of the second seal). This would place the beginning of the day of the Lord – when the “pangs” of which Christ spoke will begin – no later than the earliest part of the time period described by Christ in his Olivet Discourse. Consider the following argument:

1. The warfare between nations and kingdoms referred to by Christ in Matthew 24:8 (which will be part of the “beginning of pangs”) corresponds to the peace-removing judgment associated with the opening of the second seal.
2. The day of the Lord will begin at a time when peace has not yet been taken out of the earth (and when “extermination” is still “standing by” people “unawares”).
3. The day of the Lord will begin before the warfare between nations and kingdoms referred to by Christ in Matthew 24:8 (which will be part of the “beginning of pangs”) begins.

From this argument we can conclude that the snatching away of the body of Christ must take place before the “beginning of pangs” referred to by Christ in Matt. 24:8 begin to occur.

Click the following link for part one of my next study: The Timing of the Snatching Away in Relation to the 70th Week

[1] This means that the day of judgment that Paul had in view is a time period that, from a relative standpoint, could have begun during the lifetimes of those to whom he was speaking. That is, as far as Paul knew, the generation living at the time he spoke could have been the generation that saw the commencement of this time of judgment. Of course, since it’s been nearly 2,000 years since Paul spoke these words to the Athenians, we now know that this day of judgment wasn’t going to begin during the lifetimes of those to whom he spoke. But since Paul didn’t know this (only God knew), he spoke as if it could have.

[2] Even if we understand the white horse rider as representative of the “many” false Christs of whom Christ himself warned (Matt. 24:4-5), it’s reasonable to see the rise of these false Messiahs as being the result of (and even a direct response to) the rise to power of the man of lawlessness himself. For this future political leader will no doubt have a polarizing effect on the people of Israel, with some supporting him as a “political savior” and others zealously opposing him as a false Messiah. Among those Jews who oppose him, some may see themselves as the “true” Messiah, and will manage to gain followers (which is the very thing of which Christ was warning his disciples). In any case, seeing the white horse rider as representative of false Christs in general does not undermine the fact that the man of lawlessness will be among these false Christs, and will prove to be the most powerful, influential and deceptive of them.

[3] The Pre-wrath Rapture View: An Examination and Critique (2001). See page 66.

[4] With regard to the use of “death” instead of “pestilence” in Rev. 6:8, it’s likely that this is simply an example of the figure of speech “metonymy.” A.E. Knoch also notes in his commentary that, whenever “famine” and “pestilence” are joined together in the Hebrew Scriptures (see 1 Kings 8:37, 2 Chr. 20:9, Jer. 21:7, 9; 24:10; 44:13; Ez. 6:11; 7:15) the LXX translation replaces “pestilence” with “death.” It’s thus not surprising that John would do the same in Rev. 6:8.


  1. Ive been waiting for this study to be posted since Martin first mentioned it on MZTV. Excellent as usual.

    1. Thanks for the positive feedback! There's more to come on this subject, so "stay tuned." My next article is entitled "The Timing of the Snatching Away in Relation to the 70th Week." I'm hoping to have it posted before the end of this month.

  2. I also was waiting impatiently since I heard you were writing this article. Thank you Aaron. You never disappoint.

  3. Christ is the head, we are His body. It makes sense then that Christ would open the seals after His body has been completed. Yes, we must be there because we complete Him.