"Son of man, speak to the sons of your people, and say to them, 'If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman; and he sees the sword coming upon the land, and he blows on the trumpet and warns the people, then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his [own] head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood will be on himself. But had he taken warning, he would have delivered his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman's hand.'" Ezek 33:2-6

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

There is a sword coming. I have a moral obligation to warn you about it, but what you do with this warning is up to you. I merely have the responsibility to pass along the information.

The sword I am referring to is called the GREAT TRIBULATION. Many Christians have been taught that they will be raptured out before the great tribulation begins, but does the Bible really teach that?

There is definitely a rapture (1 Cor 15:51-52 and 1 Thes 4:16-17) and we, born-again Christians, will definitely be raptured out before God's wrath commences (1 Thes 5:9), but what is the sequence of events during the endtimes? Perhaps the verses between 1 Thes 4:16 and 5:9 will help us.

Remembering, it is man, and not God, who put in the chapter and verse divisions, what does God teach us through Paul? "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of [the] archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up (raptured) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Now as to the times and the epochs [of what?], brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, "Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief;"

It seems that Paul associates the rapture with the beginning of the "day of the Lord"... rapture then wrath! (Any "day of the Lord" passages in the Old Testament will describe it as a day of "wrath".) It says here that it is the "day of the Lord" which comes "like a thief in the night," but if the rapture occurs immediately before it, that still raptures us out before God's wrath begins, and both would come as a thief in the night, right?

What else does Paul say? After telling how God will "give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven... when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day" (2 Th 1:7,10) He continues in chapter 2:1 "Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for [it will not come] unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God."

Here again he is identifying "our gathering together to Him" [what else could this be but the rapture] with "the day of the Lord," and maintains that this cannot occur until "the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God"[also known as the abomination of desolation.] but here he also includes "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." Hmmm.

Enough of Paul! What does Jesus say? Matthew 24, Mark13, and Luke 21 seem to have a consistent order to them. "When you see the abomination of desolation"... "then there will be great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall" [worse than the holocaust?]... "but for the sake of the elect those days shall be cut short"... "But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken"... "and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other." (Matt 24)... " from the farthest end of the earth, to the farthest end of heaven." (Mark 13.)

Sounds like the rapture to me, with the trumpet, and with people gathered from both the earth and heaven. When you were a kid, before you learned "theology," isn't that what you thought? Of course you could do as others have done and have two or more raptures (one book I've read even speaks of seven raptures) but that has always bothered me.

...and while I'm belly-aching, let me tell you something else which has always bothered me... some people, most people I've talked to, have the sign in the sun, moon, and stars happening three times in order to make their chronology work. Is that kosher? Well, what do you think?

Just draw the occurrence in each of the three passages below onto the timeline.

A) Matt 24:29 "But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken, 30 and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky... (see also Mark 13:24 and Luke 21:25.)

B) Acts 2:20 'The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come. (see also Joel 2:31)

C) Rev 6:12 And I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth [made] of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind.

How many did you get? If you got more than one, does that seem right to you, or does it bother you too?

If Jesus is right (isn't He always?) then this sign happens AFTER the "great tribulation", and how long does He say that the "great tribulation" lasts? Well, He doesn't come right out and say, but He does tell us that it is "cut short," and then He comes back, right? (see Matt 24 and Mark 13.)

By the way, did the Bible ever say that the great tribulation is God's wrath?

According to the writers of Acts and Joel, this sign in the sun, moon and stars occurs BEFORE the "day of the Lord" comes. Well, that seems to fit with what Paul was saying, rapture then wrath!

Then we have this account in the Revelation. The sign occurs after the 6th seal is opened. Could this be the same sign? Well, do the fifth seal martyrs say that God's wrath has already begun on the earth (6:10) or do they ask Him when it will begin? (Besides, how many people really think that, in His wrath, God martyrs His own people?) Well then, when is wrath first mentioned in the Revelation? Answer: Rev 6:16, after the sixth seal is opened and the signs in the sun, moon, and stars has begun.

Another little detail which seems to indicate one sign rather than two or three... When do the men first become fearful in the Revelation account? (see Rev 6:15-17.) When do men first become fearful in Jesus' account? (Luke 21:25-26) When did those in Noah's day (who were "marrying") and those in Lot's day (who were "buying" and "planting") realize what was going on? (Mt 24:37-39; Luke 17:26-33) They didn't realize anything until the very day that God's wrath came! And of course it comes as no surprise that men are fearful of the day of the Lord! (Isa 13:6-8)

Something else that has always bothered me is how many people take Rev 7:1-8 out of sequence and put it earlier so that there will be someone to witness to the 5th seal martyrs. If we leave the 144,000 and the great multitude (the rapture?) in their place sequentially (the scripture itself says "After this" denoting some kind of sequence), it would mean that the wrath (trumpets and bowls) could not begin (Rev 7:3) until the sealing of the 144,000 and the arrival of the great multitude in heaven... rapture then wrath!

"Well," you say, "if the Lord's sermon on the Mt. of Olives describes the same events as the Revelation, then shouldn't there be more than a couple of items in common?" Look for yourself and see!

Rev 6:1-2  Mt 24:5 Mark 13:5-6 Luke 21:8
Rev 6:3-4  Mt 24:6-7 Mark 13:7-8 Luke 21:9-10 
Rev 6:5-6  Mt 24:7 Mark 13:8 Luke 21:11 
Rev 6:7-8  Mt 24:7-8  Mark 13:8 Luke 21:11 
Rev 6:9-11 Mt 24:9-14 Mark 13:9-13  Luke 21:12-19 
Mt 24:15-20  Mark 13:14-18 Luke 21:20-21,23
Mt 24:21-22  Mark 13:19-23 Luke 21:22-24
Rev 6:12-17 Mt 24:29-30  Mark 13:24-26  Luke 21:25-27 
Rev 7:9-17 Mt 24:31-35  Mark 13:27-31  Luke 21:28-33

I think you have the picture... Did I take things out of order? (or perhaps this just be a coincidence?)

Then you say, "But His coming wouldn't be imminent if all of this is true." Well, considering Dan. 9:24 specifically states that the 70 weeks (including the 70th week or seven years) includes 6 events specifically for the Jews and Jerusalem ("your people and your holy city") could His coming at the rapture have been imminent before the Jews were back in their land?

Besides, does the Word of God really teach that this day will be a complete surprise? "But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief" (1 Thes 5:4) "even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, [right] at the door" (Mt 24:33 see also Mk 13:29) "But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." (Lk 21:28)

"But," you say, "that day could be calculated from the covenant or the abomination of desolation." (Dan 9:27) The end of the seven years will indeed be calculable, but will the day of this sign, the return of Jesus, and the rapture be at the end of the seven years? Jesus says that it will occur "immediately after the tribulation of those days" and remember He also teaches us that the great tribulation is "cut short." If it is cut short from the 42 months allotted to the Beast (Rev 12:12; 13:5) then it will last less than 3 1/2 years for us.

This would really solve a sticky problem which most people ignore. Matt 24:36-37 reads, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be..." The very words "that day and hour" would make us ask "what day and hour" and cause us to look for the antecedent in this passage to which "that day" is referring. It seems to say that no one will know the exact day and hour of the coming of the Son of Man. In fact it goes to great lengths to say that. (Keep reading in Matthew, in Mark 13, and in Luke 17.) Of course many think it refers to the rapture, but if the rapture is the antecedent, where is it in these passages? Could it be Mt 24:31, Mark 13:27, and Luke 21:28? (And don't forget, if the antecedent was His coming with great power and glory at the end of the seven years, then how is it you can not calculate that day from the covenant or the abomination of desolation?)

I know this is probably quite a departure from your present understanding of the sequence of end times events. When I realized that this was the only way to line everything up without moving scriptures around and having multiple occurrences of certain events, I was excited in the discovery, but I was also a bit upset. First of all, I used to be "pre-trib" and I would much rather be raptured out before the great tribulation begins. (I invite anyone to help me return to my pre-trib beliefs:-) Secondly, as far as I knew, I was the only one on the face of God's green earth who believed the way I did, and I wasn't pre, mid or post! I didn't even know what I was! Finally, a book came out titled, The Prewrath Rapture of the Church by Marvin Rosenthal. I not only had found another Bible student who had come to the same conclusions I had, but I now had a label, "Prewrath."

If this scenario is really the true meaning of what the Bible says, then that means that Christians will indeed go through the great tribulation (and then be raptured out before the day of the Lord's wrath begins.) And how does Jesus describe the great tribulation? "...there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall." I guess that would mean that it is worse than the holocaust. And what is the nature of the great tribulation? Read Rev 12:12-13:18 (Thank God it is cut short for us!)

The reason I am writing you is this. When someone knows about a coming storm, a coming disaster, he has an obligation to warn others. I'm sure that the holocaust victims would have preferred to have had advance warning so that they could have sought the Lord as to what type of preparations to make or actions to take. The weather service regularly warns people who are in the path of a hurricane. Some take shelter elsewhere, some stock up and board up, and some do nothing. The weather service is not responsible for preparing the residents, but they are responsible for getting the report out.

Well, that is my job. Sometimes I have been very frustrated when people I love look at me and tell me that they don't want to hear about it because they don't really care, and others just smile and say that the Lord will take care of them. Well the Lord will take care of us, but the blessing in the Revelation is for those who read and HEED. In my frustration, I have asked the Lord "Do I really have to warn others?  Shouldn't that be somebody else's job... some man who has been to seminary... someone who is well respected and well known, and NOT some female whose only credentials are an ability to read and a stubborn belief in the inerrant Word of God." Then He seemed to answer me from the very scripture in which I had first received the calling, Ezek 33:3-6. He reminded me that just as He had called me to blow my French Horn (modern day descendant of the shofar) in my congregation in worship and praise to Him, and just as He had called me to blow the shofar calls in The Atlanta Passion Play, He had indeed called me to again blow the shofar (Hebrew word translated as "trumpet" in this passage) this time in warning to my brothers in Messiah.

This letter to you is my warning. If I am wrong, then you can say "I told you so" on our way up to meet the Lord in the air:-) But if I am correct, then you will see some man rise to power and confirm a seven year covenant with Israel (remembering that every agreement with Israel is not front page news.) You will see a temple built and sacrifices begun, and then Elijah as well as another prophet/witness will appear, there will troop movements toward Jerusalem, then the "antichrist" will seat himself in the temple, and... well, you know the rest.

I would encourage you to ask the Lord about this, and then get out your Bible and search diligently to see if these things are so (especially you men who have been entrusted with the safety of your families and congregations.)  I shudder to think what will happen to the average Christian who has been led to expect a PreTrib rapture, when the antichrist is revealed.  Will they flee from those pastors who were mistaken, straight into the eager arms of the false teachers and false prophets so often warned about?  I don't know.  My only obligation is to warn you. Now I will consider the warning sounded. What you do with it now is up to you!

I have developed a TIMELINE which attempts to visually illustrate my understanding of the sequence of endtime events. I invite you to E-MAIL me with your questions and rebuttals. If I can't find solutions to them in the Word, then maybe I need to reconsider some or all of my scenario.

Please stay in touch with your ideas, discoveries, inside information, etc. I plan to develop a unit to be taught on how to prepare for and persevere during the great tribulation (hereafter known as "SUCCESS" for "Secrets of the Underground Christian Community's Endtime Survival System:-) It will include things like the story of Daniel in the Lion's Den and the story of Shadrach , Meshach and Abednego as well as the viewing of The Hiding Place, etc. Who knows, I may throw in a kudzu recipe or two. The Lord will lead each family in any preparations which may be needed, but I'll post whatever ideas we (that includes you) can come up with. We'll see what develops.

John 16:13 "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come." Thank you, Lord, for your Word and for your Holy Spirit who will guide us into all truth and disclose to us what is to come.

In Him,

Sheila Busby Sternberg

Copyright © 1997-2001  Sheila BusbySternberg

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