Following the signs given by the Lord in Matthew 24:4-8, Luke 21:8-11 and Revelation 6:1-8, the next major event mentioned is a great persecution of Jesus followers. Matthew 24:9 tells us that believers will be “delivered up to be afflicted”, “killed” and “hated by all nations for My Name’s sake”. This same message is repeated in Luke 21:12. Revelation 6:9-11 depicts many souls under an altar in heaven. These are those slain for the Word of God and their testimony which they held. This confirms the basic teaching of the Lord in scripture as seen in 2 Timothy 3:12 when Paul says that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution”.
This difficult period for believers does not come without a promise of God’s grace. We know that Jesus promised He would be with us, “even unto the end of the world (age)”. (Matthew 28:20) This great promise echoes in Jesus instructions to His followers during this time period. These include Matthew 24:13, Mark 13:13 and Luke 21:13-19. We are told that this time of great thlipsis, meaning crushing pressure, tribulation or affliction will “turn to (us) for a testimony”. (Luke 21:13) Also we are encouraged that “those that endure unto the end shall be saved”. (Matthew 24:13) Also that “not a hair of (our) head shall perish”, and that “in your patience (endurance) possess ye your souls”. (Luke 21:18-19) Jesus encourages us again in Revelation 12:11 that believers “overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of their testimony” and that “they loved not their lives unto death”.
The scriptures do speak clearly of a rapture, or “snatching away” of believers before the wrath of God is unleashed on earth. (Matthew 24:31, 1 Thessalonians 4:17, 2 Thessalonians 2:1) This snatching away occurs after the first 5 seals of Revelation 6 are opened, and after the warning signs of Matthew 24:3-28 and Luke 21:6-11. The snatching away protects us from the unleashing of God’s wrath on a sinful and cursed world as described by the trumpet and bowl judgments of Revelation chapters 8-9, 15 and 16. This is clearly illustrated as the Day of the Lord in Matthew 24:29-30, Revelation 6:12 and Joel 2:30-31. We further understand that this occurs in the final 3 ½ years of the age as mentioned in Daniel 9:27 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4. In these verses we see the anti-Christ will be revealed 3 ½ years into the final “week” of Daniel 9. We also see that there will be a great apostasy or “falling away” of those called believers in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 before the “Day of the Lord” and the rapture, or the “snatching away” of God’s faithful witnesses. Jesus even illustrated this in the parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-43.