Several key passages of Scripture harmonize to logically piece together a clear order of events.
The Rapture. The rapture is a signless, imminent (could happen at any moment) future event when all believers will be transformed and taken instantly to meet Jesus in the air and then into heaven (John 14:2-3;1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18).
This sudden, supernatural, global event will set all other key events in motion.
Gap Period. We learn in 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8 that the restrainer (the Holy Spirit indwelling church-age believers) must first be taken out of the way (via the rapture) before the man of sin (the Antichrist) can be revealed. Daniel 9 informs us that the tribulation period (i.e. Daniel’s “70th Week”) begins when an agreement “with the many” is finalized by the Antichrist (Daniel 9:27)
Since the context of Daniel 9:27 is about Israel, it makes sense that this agreement that will be brokered by the Antichrist will be between Israel and “the many”. Logic demands a presumably short gap period before the tribulation.
Ezekiel 38 War. This prophecy foretells a specific end-time attack on Israel from the north. We believe this will be a post-rapture power grab led by Russia in partnership with Iran and Turkey and others (see Ezekiel 38–39). Experts vary on how this war fits into the order of events and whether or not a Psalm 83 war must occur first.
The Beginning of the Tribulation Period. In the chaotic aftermath of the rapture, a world leader will rise to power and broker a deal between Israel and “many” (Daniel 9:27), officially beginning the seven-year tribulation period.
The Midpoint of the Tribulation Period. The Antichrist will break his covenant with Israel at the exact midpoint of the seven-year period (Daniel 9:27), defile the temple, and turn against the Jewish people. A remnant of the Jewish people will be protected and will turn to Christ as Savior at the end of the tribulation period (Daniel 12:1-2;Matthew 23:39; Romans 11:25-27; Revelation 12:13-17; Revelation 14:1-5).
The Return of Christ. At the end of the tribulation period Jesus will physically return to earth’s surface with the armies of heaven (angels and church-age believers) following behind Him (Revelation 19:11-21).
The Millennial Kingdom. The Old Testament contains many prophecies of a yet-future golden era when a descendant of David will rule the entire world from Jerusalem. This thousand-year period (Revelation 20:1-6)will follow the tribulation (with a short time period to transition to the kingdom age). Satan will be released at the end for one final battle. He will be quickly defeated and thrown permanently into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:7-10).
The Great White Throne Judgment. All non-believers throughout history will stand before God to be judged and, sadly, cast into the lake of fire. Believers will not stand before God at this judgment because their sins have been covered by the atonement of Jesus (Revelation 20:11-15).
The New Heaven and New Earth. All creation will be completely renovated or recreated. The center of activity and God’s presence will be in the new Jerusalem, but we will presumably be able to spend eternity traveling the vast areas of heaven.
This post is an excerpt from The Prophecy Pros Illustrated Guide to Tough Questions About the End Times by Jeff Kinley and Todd Hampson.