It might surprise readers of this blog that the question that forms this post title (does the Antichrist come before the rapture?) is an exact search term on Google. People are interested in these two topics and they are searching for answers. Fortunately, the answer is easily found in the pages of Scripture.
According to a recent Pew Research article nearly 39% of Americans believe we are living in the end times. Evidently, there are a significant number of Americans who believe in the reality of the "rapture" and the "Antichrist" as well.
It is a question that believers were asking in the first century and it is a question that the Apostle Paul answered in the second chapter of the book of Second Thessalonians. The following is from the first eight verses in the King James Bible...
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 2 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. 3 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; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
The first thing that I would point out is that Paul described the second coming of Christ as having two distinct phases. He mentions our gathering together unto Him and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is my firm opinion, and I'm not alone, that the gathering together unto Him is a reference to the rapture. The rapture is the event called "harpazo" in the Greek which means a sudden and violent snatching away. This is a wonderful description of the moment when Christians will hear the voice of the archangel and the trump of God and will be snatched from this earth into the clouds to be with the Lord Himself!
The coming of the Lord is a reference to the event which will occur seven years after the rapture which is the second coming of Christ. Believers will accompany Christ at his second coming. At the rapture we go up to meet Christ and at the second coming we come back down with Christ to vanquish the Evil One at Armageddon.
The seven years in between the rapture and the second coming is referred to as the tribulation or time of Jacob's trouble. The Thessalonians had been taught by false teachers that they had missed the rapture and were in the middle this terrible time. Paul was trying to make them aware that they had not missed the rapture and they were not in the tribulation.
In verse three Paul urged them to not be deceived. They were not in the tribulation because that Wicked (Antichrist) had not been revealed yet. The tribulation will be the center stage for the Antichrist. One can't happen without the other!
The Antichrist's behavior is described in verse four. He will oppose God, he will exalt himself above God and he will claim to be God. This is the goal of Satan himself.
In verse five Paul reminds them that he had instructed them in a previous letter concerning the Antichrist. In verses six and seven Paul answers our question, "which comes first, the rapture or the Antichrist?". Paul said that there is something 'with-holding" the Antichrist from being revealed. In verse seven he says there is someone "he" who "letteth" or restrains the coming of Antichrist. The Antichrist cannot appear until this restrainer is "taken out of the way".
Scholars in the premillennial camp, to which I belong, believe this restrainer is the Holy Spirit who is restraining or holding back the evil one until His restraining influence is removed when the church is gathered unto the Lord at the rapture.
The answer to the question does the Antichrist come before the rapture is NO. The rapture comes before the Antichrist.
The rapture will come before all hell breaks loose on planet Earth. This should bring great comfort to those who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life. But this great eschatological truth should strike fear into all those who have never believed on Jesus.
In the sixth chapter of John, verse 47, we read the promise of Jesus, "He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life." It is my sincere hope that you will believe on Him as Savior today.