LOT OF PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT THE " RAPTURE" IS IT CLOSE, WHAT IS IT?
THE RAPTURE QUESTION
It has become increasingly popular in the last hundred years for Christians to speak of the "Pre-Tribulational Rapture of the Church." To add to that popularity, we saw around the turn of the century the publication of a set of Christian fiction called "The Left Behind" Series. While one's taste in fictional literature is a matter of personal taste, it is my feeling that the Biblical accuracy that is espoused by this position leaves much to be desired. The position follows this general outline:
- In a sudden and unannounced instant, all those who have died will rise from the dead and will be gathered along with all living believers to meet the Lord in the air. At this time, their bodies shall be changed as they receive new glorified bodies (I Thessalonians 4; I Corinthians 15:51-52).
- All of these believers will then be taken to heaven (John 14:3).
- In heaven there will be a judgment of all the believers who are there (I Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10-11).
- With all Christians suddenly disappeared from the earth, the world will be plunged into a terribly destructive seven years of tribulation (Daniel 9:27; Revelation 6-18). During this time, Russia will invade Palestine (Ezekiel 38-39) and a world-wide dictator will arise - the Anti-christ who will mandate that all must receive his mark on the forehead or on the hand (Revelation 13).
- Toward the end of this period, all of the nations of the world will be gathered together to the northern plains of Israel known as Armageddon.
- Jesus will return with His saints and will divide between the just and the unjust in a judgment of "sheep and goats" (Matthew 24-25). The "sheep" will be ushered into His kingdom while the "goats" will be cast into hell. The basis of this judgment will be the treatment that people accorded the Jews since only Christians will befriend the Jews during the tribulation (Matthew 25).
- Jesus will begin a 1000 year reign from His throne in Jerusalem (Revelation 20:4-6).
- At the end of that time, the will be another rebellion against God's rule as Satan is loosed upon the earth. Fire will come from heaven and devour them and a final judgment shall take place in which all heaven and earth is destroyed (Revelation 20:11-15).
- A new heaven and a new earth will be instituted which shall exist forever (Revelation 21-22).
The Pretribulationalist normally charts out these events like this:
There are several presuppositions which are proposed by Pre-Tribulationalists:
(a) There are two future comings of Christ.The first is to return FOR His saints.
The second is to return WITH His saints.
(b) God has two distinct plans and programs in history.One is for the church.
The second is for the nation of Israel.
(c) There will be a distinct 7 year period in the future called the "tribulation" or "Jacob's trouble."
(d) The church will not go through this tribulation.
Let me say for the record that I do not believe that the Bible teaches ANY of these presuppositions. For the remainder of this paper, I propose to go through each presupposition and discuss it at length.
TWO FUTURE COMINGS OF CHRIST?
One of the initial problems that the Pretribulationalist runs into is that of terminology. How shall he differentiate between these two future comings of Christ? The verses which he uses to teach of these events simply refer to "His coming" (this itself is a clue that the writers of the Bible believed that there was only ONE future coming of Christ and simply referred to it as "His coming").
Therefore, the term "rapture" of the church has been coined to describe the initial coming - the "secret" one. Note - it does not bother me that a theological term is coined; we coin terms all the time. It DOES bother me that there is no Scriptural term or statement for what is claimed by this teaching.
But enough of what bothers me - let's look at the Scriptures and see how THEY describe the second coming of Christ.
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven... (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
They will see the Son of man coming... (Matthew 24:30).
With the trumpet of God...(1 Thessalonians 4:16).
He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet (Matthew 24:31).
We who are alive shall be caught up together... (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
And they will gather together His elect from the four winds... (Matthew 24:31).
We... shall be caught up together with them in CLOUDS (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
They will see the Son of Man coming on the CLOUDS of the sky... (Matthew 24:30).
...if you will not wake up, I will come like a thief (Revelations 3:3).
The Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will (Matthew 24:44; see also 1 Thessalonians 5:2-6 and 2 Peter 3:10).
...the coming of our Lord Jesus WITH all His saints" (1 Thessalonians 3:13).
...the Lord came WITH many thousands of His holy ones (Jude 14).
As you look at the way Christ's coming is described in each of these verses, they appear to be speaking of the same thing. That is because they ARE the same event.
Don't miss the implications of this: There is not a single passage of Scripture that makes a clear distinction between two future separate comings of Christ!!!
TWO DISTINCT PLANS & PROGRAMS?
The theory that there are two distinct plans and programs which God has for people (one for the nation of Israel, the other for the church) is called DISPENSATIONALISM.
Although the word "dispensation" is found in the Bible, it is not used in the same way that the dispensationalist uses it (Paul speaks of a "stewardship" or a "dispensation" that was entrusted to him - he is speaking of the gospel in I Corinthians 9:17; Ephesians 3:2; Colossians 1:25).
As to the theory that God has two plans and programs which are separate and distinct, Paul says that Jesus made both groups into ONE, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall (Ephesians 2:14). He goes on to say that Jesus did this to make the two into ONE new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both into ONE body to God through the cross (Ephesians 2:15-16).
In the Old Testament, the Lord revealed Himself to Abraham and promised him a great nation. In the New Testament, we read that if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise (Galatians 3:29).
Can you claim the promises of ALL the Bible? Yes, you can because you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise (Galatians 4:28).
WILL THERE BE A FUTURE 7-YEAR TRIBULATION?
One of the things that we must do when looking at prophecy is ask ourselves if the prophecy in question has already been fulfilled. In this case, I want to suggest that it HAS been fulfilled quite literally.
And furthermore, it has been fulfilled TWICE. The first time took place in the year 168 B.C. During that time, an invading king named Antiochus Epiphanes came down from the north and committed great atrocities against the Jews, forbidding them to read the Scriptures or to circumcise their children or to observe the Sabbath day. He eve went so far as to have a statue of himself erected inside the Temple with orders that it be worshiped by all on pain of death. This was the "abomination of desolation" which Daniel prophesied of in Daniel 11:31.
However, Jesus told His disciples that it would happen again (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:19). Sure enough, in 66 A.D. the Jews in Jerusalem rebelled against the Roman empire. The following war lasted 7 years. In 70 A.D. Jerusalem was taken and the Temple was again trodden underfoot by Gentile soldiers. This time, the Temple was destroyed and a great carnage ensued. However, the last resistance did not fall until 73 A.D. when the Romans took Masada, only to find that the last remnant of 930 Jews had committed suicide rather than be taken captive.
Is there still a future time of tribulation? I do not know. But I DO know that Jesus said to His disciples that "in the world you HAVE tribulation" (John 16:33 - notice the present tense). Indeed, the history of the church has been a history of tribulation.
THE CHURCH IN TRIBULATION?
Do the Scriptures teach that the church will avoid tribulation? No, I think that it is evident that they do not. The world will always hate the church and seek to destroy it (John 15:18-20).
The good news is that we have a promise of relief when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire (1 Thessalonians 1:17).
Will there be a future antichrist who will persecute the church? Once again, I must answer that it is already happening. Children, it is the last hour, and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now MANY ANTICHRISTS have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour (1 John 2:18).
I believe that Christ is coming. I make no claim as to knowing the day or the hour (there are already too many who have made this mistake). It could be today. Or it could be a thousand years from now. But I join with all Christians in "looking for the blessed hope and appearing of our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13).
I furthermore believe that these different views of future prophecy should not divide the church. They are not given to divide. They are not given so that we might draw charts and outlines. They are given so that we might live in a way that shows we are looking for His return.
The Rapture Movie
We teach the personal, bodily return of our Lord Jesus Christ before the seven-year tribulation (1 Thess. 4:16) to translate His church from this earth (John 14:1-3; 1 Cor. 15:51-53; 1 Thess. 4:15 - 5:11) and, between this event and His glorious return with His saints, to reward believers according to their works (1 Cor. 3:11-15; 2 Cor. 5:10).
Signs of the Times of the Last Days
The Second Coming of Christ
IST OF THE PRIMARY EVENTS PRECEDING CHRIST'S SECOND COMING
* Spirit to be poured out on all flesh (Joel 2:28)
* Universal apostasy (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4)
* The watering down of the gospel, teaching the doctrines of man rather than those of God. Even priests will be led astray. (2 Tim 3:5, Matt 15:9)
* False prophets and false Christs (Matthew 24:24)
* Good will be called evil and evil good. (Isaiah 5:20)
* Restoration of all things (Acts 3:19-21)
* Gospel to be preached to all the world (Matthew 24:14, Revelation 14:6-7)
* Worldly knowledge to increase (Daniel 12:4)
* Israel to be restored as a political state (Deuteronomy 28:64, 30:3 Jeremiah 29:14, 30:3 Isaiah 43:5-6, Ezekiel 36:24, Amos 9:14-15
* Earthquakes, floods, famines, plagues and diseases such as the world has never seen.
(Matthew 24 and Luke 21)
* Peace taken from the earth. Wars increase throughout the earth until war is on every land (Matthew 24 and Luke 21)
* Increase in the wickedness, murder and crime among men. Increase in belief in the occult. (Matthew 24, Luke 21, 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 4:3-4)
* People will not believe the signs (2 Peter 3:3-4, Matthew 16:1-4)
* Increase in persecution of the Christians (Matthew 24:9, Mark 13:9)
* Christ will come suddenly to His temple. (Malachi 3:1)
* Signs and Wonders in heaven (Mark 13:25)
* Mountains made low, valleys made high (Isaiah 40, Ezekiel 38)
* Christ to receive his dominion from the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:9-14)
* Two prophets preach in Jerusalem for 1260 days. They have the power to bring famines and plagues. They are killed and lie dead in the streets for three and a half days while the wicked of the earth rejoice in the streets and exchange gifts in celebration of their deaths. On the third day they arise striking fear in the hearts of the wicked. (Revelation 11)
* Armageddon. The nations of the earth gather to fight Israel at Jerusalem, at Armageddon in the valley of Jehoshaphat. (Revelation 16:16)
* Sun darkened, moon becomes as blood (Joel 2:31, Acts 2:20, Revelation 6:12)
* Jerusalem is taken captive, the houses riled, the women ravished. (Zechariah 14:2)
* The Lord appears at Mount Olivet leading his people to victory (Ezekiel 38, 39, Daniel 11, 12, Joel 2,3)
* Christ appears to all the earth. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ. (Phillipians 2:11)
* The righteous caught up to Christ, the wicked burned as stubble. (Malachi chapters 3-4)
* The judgment and first resurrection (Matthew 25:31-46, Revelation 20:5-6)
* The thousand years of peace ushered in, Christ to reign personally on the earth (Revelation chapters 20-21)
*************** HOW TO PREPARE **************
Don't Miss the Rapture !
When Christ told of the signs of the times he also gave three parables. Two of them are referred to in this section.
Parable of the ten virgins. Matthew 25:1-13.
The believers of Christ are likened to ten virgins. Five were wise and kept their lamps filled. Five were foolish. Like the wise and the foolish builders, this refers to faith. Five were strong in the faith, having a personal relationship with God and letting their lights shine forth. Five were foolish or hypocritical. They slumbered and let their lamps of faith go out. To endure to the end we must practice our faith daily. This includes daily prayer and scripture study.
Specific things to pray for:
During these troublous times many of us will need to flee either due to war or natural disaster. Christ tells us specifically to pray that our flight will not be in winter. Mark 13:18
We are told that the time will be shortened or else even the very elect might be deceived. Luke tells us to watch and pray that we enter not into temptation (Luke 22:40,46)
Pray to endure to the end (Luke 21:34-36)
We know that before the end times and tribulations are finished that the Gospel must be preached to all the earth. Therefore we should pray that those countries that refuse to have Christian ministers preach in their borders will do so. Russia has opened her borders to Christian ministries and so will all of nations eventually.
Prepare for the day of judgment.
Christ says he will judge all of his followers during the first resurrection. These are they who called him Lord. He tells us in Matthew 25:31-36 how he will judge us. Verse 40 summarizes the criteria: "For as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
Always remember Christ's promises to us during these times: “Peace I give unto you. My peace I leave with you.”Just as the early Christians were miraculously saved from the destruction of Jerusalem by paying attention to the signs, so can we be protected as we learn the signs and keep our spiritual houses in order. The Jewish people knew that the "abomination of desolation" prophesied by Daniel had already occurred in 170 BC. Christ told them to watch for the same signs we are to watch for and to flee to the mountains when they saw those signs. The early Christians fled to Pella, a nearby city, upon seeing the city was encompassed by soldiers under Gallus. Four years later came the fall of Jerusalem. Over a million citizens of Jersusalem were killed and 100,000 led away captive. The temple, as prophesied by Christ, was laid waste with not one stone left upon another. The Christians who fled were safe.
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