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The disciples came to [Jesus] privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"
~ Matthew 24:3
When they asked this question, the disciples surely believed they'd see fulfillment within their lifetime. The date of Jesus' coming is revealed to neither them nor us. I wonder if that's why Christians instead contend about whether the rapture occurs before or during the Great Tribulation.
Since most prophecy is not presented in chronological order, I can wish for "before." But I more strongly suspect "during." In Matthew 24, Jesus uses the word "then" (Greek tóte) nine times, and "immediately after" is used once. (Though "then" is used often in Revelation, it there refers to the order in which John saw events, not the strict timeline in which they unfold.)
One might infer that Jesus presents events in the order they actually occur.
Without further interpretation, here is a summary of Jesus' prophecy:
"Beginning of birth pains" (verses 5-8)
• false christs deceive people
• wars and rumors of wars, between nations and alliances
• famines, plagues and diseases, earthquakes in various places
"Then" general tribulation (verses 9-14)
• persecution and hatred "by all nations" of those named Christian
• among believers: offense, betrayal, hatred, false prophets
• Gospel preached and witnessed to all nations
"Then" the end (verses 18-28)
• "abomination of desolation" at Jerusalem, accompanying flight of Jews
• Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21-22)
• great signs and wonders by false christs and false prophets
"Then" the coming of the Son of Man (verses 29-42)
• sun and moon darkened, stars fall from heaven (v. 29)
• all peoples see Jesus "coming on the clouds of heaven" (v. 30)
• great sound of a trumpet, "angels ... gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matthew 24:31; 37-41)
"Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!"
~ Matthew 24:32-33
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Copyright 2011, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.