What is all this RAPTURE Talk?
By Eva Kalteck
Because few people seem to have a clear Biblical understanding of the concept of the Rapture, let's take a good look at what this teaching entails. This is being written for busy people with little time for long reads; we'll keep it as short as possible while still making sense.
What the Rapture is NOT: "The idea of “The Rapture”—the return of Christ to rescue and deliver Christians off the earth—is an extremely popular interpretation of the Bible's Book of Revelation and a jumping-off point for the best-selling “Left Behind” series of books. This interpretation, based on a psychology of fear and destruction, guides the daily acts of thousands if not millions of people worldwide.
In The Rapture Exposed, Barbara Rossing argues that this script for the world's future is nothing more than a disingenuous distortion of the Bible. The truth, Rossing argues, is that Revelation offers a vision of God's healing love for the world. The Rapture Exposed reclaims Christianity from fundamentalists' destructive reading of the biblical story and back into God's beloved community." end quote
So states a book review on the Resource Center of Mennonite Church Canada. http://www.mennonitechurch.ca/resourcecentre/ResourceView/16/13378 (I do NOT recommend it.)
Psychology of fear, destruction? (There are numerous problems with the Left Behind series, but this series is more fiction than fact, only loosely based on Scripture, and quite misleading, NOT the source from which to learn about the Rapture.) Rapture bashing has become common amongst those who name the name of Christ. Amongst Mennonite circles (an area of particular interest to me) the Rapture is now widely considered fear mongering. Many Bible teachers who evidently understand the concept, nevertheless reject it. People like Harold Camping who set dates for the return of the Lord, add to the mistrust of the Rapture teaching when their predictions fall flat. The world is given more reason to mock. This week, scoffers and atheists are holding 'mock the Rapture' parties. News media report on these events with smirks on their faces. And yet, many seem a little uneasy...
"Tony Campolo, in his book Speaking My Mind, says that “'rigid' Christians who believe in the possibility of Jesus' soon return” are “the real problem for the whole world.” " quoted in http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=216&zoom_highlight=rapture .
Brian McLaren, emergent church leader, calls the theology behind Rapture teaching "terrible, deadly, distorted, yet popular theologies associated with Christian Zionism and deterministic dispensationalism." http://blog.sojo.net/2009/04/16/four-points-toward-peace-in-the-middle-east/ (I do NOT recommend this site.) Despite text after Biblical text to prove otherwise, McLaren refuses Israel its rightful place in God's plan and purpose. "These doctrinal formulations often use a bogus end-of-the-world scenario to create a kind of death-wish for World War III, which–unless it is confronted more robustly by the rest of us–could too easily create a self-fulfilling prophecy." (Please if you are a fan of Brian McLaren, be aware that he is part of a network whose intent it is to bring in a new world unity quite apart from the God of the Bible. http://www.moriel.org/Other/Documents/A_Watchman_Connects_The_Dots.pdf He may sound like a Christian to some, but his agenda looks to be quite the opposite. How exactly does he intend to robustly confront us?)
Popular but foul mouthed preacher Mark Driscoll in his book Vintage Jesus states: "Driscoll – Page 44: One of the most astonishing things about Jesus is that as God he actually chose to come into our fallen, sick, twisted, unjust, evil, cruel, painful world and be with us to suffer like us and for us. Meanwhile, we spend most of our time trying to figure out how to avoid the pain and evil of this world while reading dumb books about the rapture just hoping to get out." quoted in http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=1728
Even the far less controversial (author of the Kingdom of the Cults) "late Walter Martin argu(ed) against a pretribulation Rapture. He raised the standard objection that the pretrib position had not been held by the church until the early 1800s. He neglected to explain that belief in the Rapture was lost under Roman Catholicism and the Reformers failed to recover it, yet there were always Christians who held this hope (the Anabaptists in the 1500s, for example)." http://www.thebereancall.org/node/5898
We get the picture. The Rapture teaching, although it is the only teaching that actually agrees with what Scripture teaches regarding the Lord's return, and the Apostle Paul taught it, is less and less the teaching in 'evangelical' churches today. More and more, people who adhere to the Rapture teaching, are being looked upon as hateful, divisive, and downright dangerous, a threat to peace, especially as this teaching so closely ties in with the Bible's teaching on the future of Israel as outlined in Scripture.
What the Rapture IS: Since the Rapture teaching falls into what is called 'dispensational' teaching (McLaren finds it threatening), let us first define, DISPENSATIONS: Dispensationalism refers to time periods in which God manages or works out His plan and purpose in particular ways. Not all teachers of dispensationalism understand the time frames in precisely the same way, but a common division is seven time periods, or dispensations, namely, starting with the age of innocence (Genesis 1-2), moving to Conscience, Human government, Promise, Law (Exodus 19 - Malachi), the current Church age (from the Resurrection of Christ until the Rapture) moving on to the Tribulation period of seven years, then onto the Kingdom age, or Millennial period (the thousand year reign of Christ on earth, during which Christ fulfills the promises remaining to Israel.) God has existed from eternity past. Then from the seven literal 24 hour days of Creation, we have the dispensations, after which we move to eternity future, that according to the Scriptures, being heaven or hell after our choice, John 3:16, (unlike Calvinism teaches, that man has no say in the matter of where we spend eternity, which does NOT match the clear teaching of Scripture). (based loosely on David Cloud, Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible & Christianity, 2008)
God promised to the father of the Hebrew nation, Abraham: "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." Genesis 12:1-3 KJV 1611
Because Israel was not obedient in the task assigned, to be God's witnesses to the nations, Israel was eventually scattered (the Diaspora) throughout the world, but with the promise that she would one day be re-gathered (physically that happened miraculously in 1948, against all odds) and will yet fulfill her rightful purpose in the literal land assigned to her, Israel.
The church age was not something that the Old Testament prophets addressed. The time frame can however be found in Daniel 9:24-27, the 70 weeks (from context we know it is weeks of years, sevens.)
The 70 weeks, or 490 years God has planned for the program for Israel, can be divided thus: (based on David Cloud's Israel, Past, Present, & Future)
1) first 7 weeks (49 years)--rebuilt Jerusalem (described in Nehemiah)
2) next 62 weeks (434 years) from rebuilding of Jerusalem to coming of Messiah, and Messiah 'cut off', crucified. The timing of this was precise.
3) between the 69th week and the 70th week, Jerusalem was destroyed by Roman armies, 70 AD, and has been dominated by Gentiles. To this day, Israel is bullied by the nations. During this time frame, the Church, not a building but a body comprised of believing Jews and Gentiles, (all born again believers, true Christians, indwellt by the Holy Spirit), is being built, Luke 19:11-27, Acts 15: 14-18. This Church age, the time frame that the Old Testament prophets did not see, is a parenthesis, if you will, which once it ends with the Rapture, will be followed by God once again resuming His plan and purpose for Israel, in
4) the 70th week (the final seven years), which is called the Tribulation (and the final 3 1/2 years thereof are called the Great Tribulation, or the time of Jacob's trouble.)
The Church age has been called a valley between mountain tops, a valley that the prophets did not see. The Lord set aside, so to speak, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (whom God called, Israel), but we can see by reading the geneology of Jesus, that indeed through Abraham, the world would be blest when Christ came the first time as a babe in Bethlehem. "The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." John 1:29
So we are now in the "dispensation of grace", or, Church age, which lasts basically from the Resurrection to the Rapture. Once this Church age is over, the Lord will call His Church home to be with Him. After this, the Lord will deal with Israel in that seven year time frame that Scripture describes as being so difficult that if time were not shortened, no one would live through it. By the end of it, Israel will be won to Christ... The purpose of the Tribulation is to refine Israel preparing them for the Lord's Second Coming, and to deal with unbelievers. Unbelievers who have never heard the gospel will have opportunity to be saved during this time, and multitudes will be saved. Many however have understood the gospel of Christ, how that to pay for our sins, he died on the cross, was buried and rose again the third day; despite having understood, many have refused the salvation Christ has offered. To such, God says , "because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie..." (see 2 Thess.2:10-12) So you see, how this teaching is considered hateful, unloving, destructive, fearful, by those who do not want to believe and obey, and are not ready by faith to meet the Lord. Nevertheless, Scripture clearly teaches this. The good news, is, that God has a wonderful plan for Israel after the Tribulation, and for Christians, He has a plan to remove to Himself, out of harms way, His people, before this period begins.
It is needful to put the Rapture teaching in context with the teaching regarding Israel, as the two teachings cannot be separated.
We must note that the Rapture is really the first phase of the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The second part of the Second coming, refers to His coming WITH the church at the end of the Tribulation. Note immediately how we return with the Lord at His Second Coming. "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him [was] called Faithful and True...And the armies [which were] in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean." Revelation 19:12-14 The description of who comes from heaven with the Lord, matches the description of the Bride of Christ, or, the Church, Christians. (See Jude 14-15.) How can we come FROM heaven if we have not gone there? It is not possible to come from some place we have not been. The Second Coming is so visible that 'every eye shall see Him,' unlike the Rapture which none on earth will see.
Let's define RAPTURE, and the timing thereof:
The Rapture has been described like a separating of iron bits from other objects, that may look to us like iron but may be only imitation, or wood chips or other material; visually we cannot always tell the difference. The magnet however knows the difference and will only pick up the genuine iron. So, at the Rapture, only the genuine born again gospel believers indwelt by the Holy Spirit (the only kind there are) will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Note 1 Thess 4 states we will all be changed (and it is addressing believers), meaning there is no partial rapture of only those who are spiritual enough. Either we are saved, or we are not. The catching away will happen so quickly, in the 'twinkling of an eye,' that it is not visible to the world.
The word Rapture while not in the English Bible, comes from the Greek 'harpazo,' meaning to seize with force, and in modern Greek means 'to leave a place and go to meet'; in the Rapture passages, it refers to believers meeting the Lord in the air.
"For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [will let], until he be taken out of the way," 2 Thess.6:7,8 ('letteth' is the old English way of saying, hold fast, or restrain. This refers to the restraining power of the Holy Spirit (he) as indwelling Christians. When the Christians are removed, the Antichrist will be at liberty to proceed with his plan.) After the removal of Christians in the Rapture,"... 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..." (This begins the Tribulation.) We will get back to the timing a little later.
The following passages are understood to refer to the Rapture:
"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive [and] remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." 1 Thess 4: 13-18
"Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal [must] put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory." 1 Corinthians 15: 51-54
Here is the first mention of this event: "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if [it were] not [so], I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, (there) ye may be also." John 14:1-2
When this was written, old Jewish wedding customs would have made it easy for people at the time to understand this. Briefly, the custom was for the groom to come from his father's house, pay the purchase price for the bride, thereby setting her apart for himself; he would return to his father's house to prepare a place, while the prospective bride made herself ready. After a betrothal time, the groom came suddenly. The bride while expecting him, did not know the precise time of his return. Ephesians 5:22-33 teaches that the church is considered to be the bride of Christ. We see the similarity between the Jewish wedding tradition, and the Biblical teaching regarding the Lord having left His Father's house, paying on the cross the price for His bride ( "ye are not your own... For ye are bought with a price"...1 Cor 6:19-20) and then returning to the Father's house, to come back for her in the Rapture. The bride is to expect the Groom's return, she is to prepare herself, but she does not know the precise time of His return. (We are told no man, not even the Lord Jesus, but only God the Father, knows the time of His return. So date setting is folly.)
There are many compelling reasons to expect a pretribulation Rapture.
"Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up..." Acts 15:13-16. You notice that the Lord said he would take out a people for His name. That is the church. AFTER THIS, after the Church age is over, and the last Christian of this age has been saved, THEN the Lord will 'build again the tabernacle of David": He will resume His plan for Israel, and that starts with the Tribulation period. So the Church age is before, and ends, before the Tribulation begins.
The Tribulation period is described as a dreadful time on earth, so awful as to be unimaginable. For someone who does not take God at His Word, it is no wonder that the book of the Revelation gets explained away. Whenever the return of the Lord is mentioned, as in the Second Coming, judgment is involved. However, that is not the case with the Rapture. "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ," 1 Thess.5:9. This assurance is also offered in a number of other passages:
Romans 5:9 "Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him."
Luke 21:36 "Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man."
1 Thess 1:10 "And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, [even] Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come."
1 Thess 3:13 "To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints."
1 Thess 2:19 "For what [is] our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? [Are] not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?"
2 Thess 2:1-2..."Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and [by] our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled..."
Titus 2:13 "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ..."
Jude 14-15 "And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints..."
Now, speaking of Enoch, he is an Old Testament 'type,' or picture, of the Rapture of believers. "And Enoch walked with God: and he [was] not; for God took him." Genesis 5:24 We know that Enoch was removed prior to the Genesis flood, like the Church will be removed before the Tribulation. Apparently, people looked for Enoch, but could not find him, for Hebrews 11:5 states: "By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God." *
Noah on the other hand, was KEPT THROUGH the flood, like Israel will be preserved THROUGH the Tribulation.
Aside from Enoch, other individuals in Scripture undergo a 'catching away,' namely, Elijah, Paul, John (Rev 4), Christ in Acts 1, and the 2 witnesses that ascend up to heaven in a cloud, Rev 11:12.
The book of the Revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ is written chronologically; that is, events are recorded in order that they have happened, are happening, and will happen, Rev 1:19. Seven churches, representing the various phases of the Church Age, are addressed. The church of Laodicea represents the the apostate unbelieving church that goes into the Tribulation. They may have 'a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof.' Rev 3:14-19, "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth..."
The church of Philadelphia however is told, Rev 3:7-13 "thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name...Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth."
The Philadelphian church represents true believers at the end of the church age. This group is kept FROM the tribulation, not appointed to wrath. As someone has said, it would be out of character for a bridegroom to beat up his bride before the wedding. How much more would it not be like Christ to put his bride through the Tribulation before taking her home to Himself. Note that in chapter 3 of Revelation, the Church is still seen on earth. At the time of my making these notes, we are still in the 'present' Church dispensation. Then in chapter 4, Rev 4:1 "After this I looked, and behold a door was opened in heaven"...John is shown "things which must be hereafter," the church is then seen in heaven (a description of the twenty four elders representing the church, worshipping the Lord on His throne, is given in chapter 4) and not on earth during the Tribulation; she is not seen again until she returns WITH Christ at His Second Coming Rev 19:14. Sometimes unusual words help us to remember. The Greek word, meta tauta, means, 'hereafter.' From chapter 4 on of Revelation, these things are meta tauta, hereafter (after the Church is in heaven). Remembering this should alleviate the fear of Rapture if we have placed out faith in Christ. Aside from that, the only other Greek word I may remember, is ek. (easy for you, you say!) That word is used in Rev 3:1, to mean, 'to be kept out of,' and addresses the Philadelphian church. The true body of faithful believers will be kept out of the Tribulation. (See Dr. Emil Gaverluk, Why the Church Will NOT Go Through the Tribulation)
To distinguish between the Rapture, and Christ's Second Coming:
The Rapture happens before the Tribulation; the Second Coming is at the end of the Tribulation to rescue Israel, and He comes WITH the Saints (born again believers, the Church). In the Rapture believers are caught up to meet the Lord in the air; in the Second Coming, the Lord comes to earth.
The Rapture is too fast to be visible to those not raptured; at the Second Coming, "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him," Rev 1:7
The Rapture is associated with blessing; the Second Coming involves judgment.
The Rapture has no signs associated with it. Nothing must come to pass before it can happen. It was not taught in the Old Testament. It is called a 'mystery', that is, not yet revealed at that time; the Second Coming is much taught in the Old Testament, and many prophecies in Scripture deal with it.
Some common, but unscriptural, teachings re the Rapture include the wrong timing. Some teach mid trib, having Christians go through a refining period ( sounds a little like Catholic purgatory) but that turns salvation into degrees of works, when Biblical salvation is FAITH in the finished work of Christ, not our own merit.
A major contributing factor to this wrong teaching, is confusing the Church with Israel, failing to differentiate where the text addresses Israel, and where the Church. Without this view, passages such as Matthew 24 can be very confusing. Take Matt 24:40-41, "Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two [women shall be] grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left." At first glance this might be seen as a Rapture passage (some good Bible teachers like Dave Hunt teach it that way). In context however, this looks very much like a Tribulation passage (John Walvoord, Roy Zuck, in their NT commentary, David Cloud, and many others). Remember we said that Noah is a picture of Israel being preserved through it. Notice verses 37-39, “But as the days of Noe [were], so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." When understood as the tribulation passage, and not referring to the Church, the passage becomes clear. It refers to those removed in judgment, who will not enter the Millennium. Matthew 24 reveals a little of the plan for the Church but mostly shows how God will deal with Israel in the Tribulation (see David Cloud). In the end, all will know there is a God in Israel, something the world denies with a vengeance. Isaiah 25:8-9, "He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken [it]. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this [is] our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this [is] the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation." So the Lord's purposes for the Tribulation will be fulfilled, and Israel will know her Messiah.
Some say, look at the Christians being persecuted, killed, for their faith. Isn't this tribulation? Yes. But it is not THE Tribulation. We do not know what may yet be endured before the Rapture. What we must not do, is mistake the wrath of Satan for the wrath of God. During the Tribulation, God's wrath will fall on unrepentant man...and it will be like nothing ever seen before. Someone after reading Tim LaHaye's Left Behind series, said to me, I want to be here for the Tribulation...it is going to be so exciting, I want to be in the Tribulation force! Well, that is not Biblical. That author and his reader have hopelessly miscalculated the wrath of God. Those Gentiles who get saved under the teaching of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists of that period, will mostly be martyred for their faith. They will not be fighting Antichrist. The remaining Jews will be divinely protected in a place prepared for them, and the blaspheming unbelieving world while under Antichrist with his false peace plan, will at the same time endure calamity and the most unnatural of disasters the like of which has never before transpired. "Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved..." Matt 24:22. It is therefore not in keeping with the character of God to make the Church go through the Tribulation. Just as He delivered Enoch prior to the judgment, saw Noah through it, and drew Lot away from it, "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly...and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment..." 2 Peter 2:5-9.
Some teach that the Rapture is post trib, but this takes away from the imminency of the Lord's return (we are to be ready and waiting for His return at any moment).
Also, a post trib view lends to date setting, something we are not to attempt.
There are other reasons to think that this view is incompatible with Scripture. Note this quote from Dr. Rob Lindsted, from Why the Church will NOT Go Through the Tribulation: "The first seal, which is the seal that releases the Antichrist, cannot be opened until the book has been taken by the Lamb. Before the book can be taken, all of heaven must bow down and throw their crowns at the feet of the Lamb. Before the crowns can be thrown at the feet of Christ, the Church must be given crowns. The Church cannot receive its crowns before it has been raptured. Therefore, the Church must be raptured, taken out, before the Tribulation time occurs."
A friend, http://www.accordingtothescriptures.org/prophecy/rapture.html notes: the trumpet John hears, Rev 1:10, 4:1-2, is similar to the Rapture trumpet 1 Cor 15:51-54, "a voice... as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter (meta tauta). And immediately (like in the twinkling of an eye) I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and [one] sat on the throne." This trumpet is none other than the voice of our Saviour who speaks and dead are raised and "… at the end of the church age shall call to us “come up hither”, “...blessed be our Trump of God...” Then chronologically speaking the Church is in heaven worshipping God, Rev 4-5, then the Tribulation starts, Rev 6."
On one hand, there are warnings for those who would dismiss the idea of a Rapture, a postponed Rapture, or the literal Second Coming.
The word Maranatha is used once in Scripture, 1 Corinthians 16:22.
"If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema, Maranatha." ('Anathema' means cursed. Maranatha means 'the Lord cometh.')
"Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as [they were] from the beginning..." 2 Peter 3-4
Matt 24:48 "that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming..."
The truth? 2 Peter 3:9, "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." THAT is why He has not yet returned.
On the other hand, there a blessings for those who look with longing towards the return of the Lord.
As we witness cataclysmic changes about us, changes that are forerunners to Tribulation events, we must become more and more students of God's Word, as deception all around us deepens. Deception is the overriding caution that the Lord leaves with us regarding the days preceding His return. We must know, then, what is our BLESSED HOPE.
Summarizing from Dr. Lindsted once again, what IS that hope?
Hope is future.
Salvation is right now, not a work in progress (not being saved as some versions would have it*), but right now, when we are saved, 'he that believeth...hath eternal life...we have passed from death to life, so, salvation is not this hope.
Our hope is not death, for we will not all die 'but we shall all (believers) be changed.
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, Eph 1:18. The believer is "looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ," Titus 3:13.
We have a 'lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 1 Peter 1:3. Not only will we believers who are 'alive and remain' be raptured, but so will Christians who have already died prior to this, so they will not 'miss out' on this great event. My dying sister and I had this discussion, and what a comfort it was, and is. We are to 'comfort one another' with this teaching. We are not to live in fear. 'God is not the author of confusion,' He has 'not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.' Remember what happened to brave Peter walking on water, when momentarily he took his eyes off Christ, he began to sink. "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace" states the old hymn.
We are instructed how to live in light of all these things. (This section is loosely based on Dr. Wilmington's The King is Coming.) We are to love His appearing. The hope of the Rapture is to be a purifying influence in our lives. As it can happen at any moment, it is incentive to live daily as we ought, choosing well our priorities in light of eternity.
Col 3:1-4 "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, [who is] our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory."
We are to assemble with believers, more so 'as ye see the day approaching.' Heb 10:25
We are to keep the Lord's Supper 'till he come,' 1 Cor 11:26
We are to love believers and all men...1 Thess 3:12-13
We are to live patient, separated lives, giving out the gospel to others. If others cannot tell us apart from the world, then we need to examine ourselves.
We are not to be ashamed of the glorious saving gospel of our Lord.
He is the Vine, we are the branches, and we are to abide in Him. Some of us cannot do much, but we can all abide in Him. (Remember that while the Lord wants us to do good works, we are not saved by good works. Our heavenly rewards will however be affected by our walk.)
We are told to 'pray unceasingly...' and we are to pray for discernment. As we obey, the Lord grants more discernment. If we disobey, we risk losing understanding.
The very best way to deal with fear, usually is to face it head on. Of course the very first thing we must do so that we can look forward to the return of Christ, is to be born again. 'Make believers' will not make it to heaven. The Lord knows His own. We can turn to Him in simple faith and repentance from our sins, and cast all our cares on Him. If we call on Him He will 'in no wise' cast us out. Jesus paid it all. He is our all sufficient Hope.
"Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing," 2 Tim 4:8. And then, Isaiah 26:3: "Thou wilt keep [him] in perfect peace, [whose] mind [is] stayed [on thee]: because he trusteth in thee." Right now there is a song playing in my mind, "I'll see you in the Rapture one fine day!" May it be so.
The Countdown Song (A Rapture song for children. Sorry, I do not know the author nor a link to the tune...it was well known.)
Somewhere in outer space
God has prepared a place
For those who trust Him and obey
Jesus will come again
And though we don't know when
The countdown's getting lower every day.
10 and 9, 8 and 7, 6 and 5 and 4,
Call upon the Saviour while you may,
3 and 2, coming through the clouds in bright array
The countdown's getting lower every day.
Jesus was crucified, suffered and bled and died,
But on the cross He did not stay
He made this promise true, I will come back for you,
The countdown's getting lower every day.
Resources used in this paper:
Authorized King James Bible 1611
David W. Cloud, Israel, Past, Present, & Future, Way of Life Literature, 2010
David W. Cloud, Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible & Christianity, Way of Life Literature, 2008
Robert Lindsted & Emil Gaverluk, Why the Church Will NOT Go Through the Tribulation, Southwest Radio Church, 1982
J Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible With J Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Radio,1983
Walvoord, John F., & Zuk, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament Edition
H. L. Wilmington, The King is Coming, An Outline Study of the Last Days, Tyndale House, 1988
* Modern Bible versions while claiming to be God's Word, often make drastic changes to Bible doctrine, by changing a few words. Much information is available on this subject; Pastor Mike Austin teaches well on this in a DVD series "Testing the NKJV" (www.libertygospeltracts.com). He notes how 'repent' when changed to 'relent' as it is in for instance the NKJV, actually changes the meaning of the gospel. One can 'back down' like Pharaoh did, when the Lord sent plagues, without actually ever repenting, which is necessary for salvation. When 'saved' is changed to 'being saved,' salvation becomes a process instead of a done deed. 'Translated' in the Rapture passage Hebrews 11:5 KJV is altered to read 'taken away.' Now, 'translated' involves change. Being taken away does not need to involve change. Flesh and blood as we know them, cannot inherit heaven! To be 'born again' involves change, becoming a new creation in Christ. Elsewhere the NJKV also tampers with the word 'translated' thus watering down the teaching of conversion. The intentions, methods, and outcomes of new Bible versions are something on which we need to educate ourselves. For an easy introduction to the topic: http://www.wayoflife.org/database/kjvtoodifficult.html. Beware deception in Bible interpretation.
Quick question: In the Left Behind series, the 3rd video (Tirbulation Force) is clearly nonbiblical, creative licensure; I won't show it to my students. The first two videos with K. Cameron also have some creative licensure (the Eden Formula, Anti-Christ shooting two people in a meeting, main characters personal interaction with Anti-Christ, etc.) but depicts the Rapture as you have correctly Biblically described it. It is not based on fear or destruction, but rather to give an example of how the Rapture is a fulfillment of Biblical Phrophecy, how true born again believers are 'snatched away' , and that many will be left behind; but still have the opportunity to accept Christ, though there will be substantial problematic situations after the Rapture occurs, and as the Tribulation begins. The person who told you he wanted to be part of the Tribulation Force obviously doesn't understand correctly, as you clearly pointed out. That's just beyond ridiculous. Again, Part 3 of the video series, The Tribulation Force, is not worth viewing, from a Biblical Worldview. But do you think that the first two Left Behind videos have no Biblical teaching points/ merit at all? Thank you for your time!
Thanks Anita for your comments.
When the series initially came out, I read Left Behind, and Second Chance. I took at look at Tribulation Force but could not be bothered past that.
Am excerpting some an initial critique I did at the time, hope you find it helpful. If you find error, please advise, since I not looked at this series for many years:
(One of )The ... questionable theme(s) is that of â€˜second chance'. (There is also a children's version called Second Chance.) Our â€˜heroes' have been exposed to the truth prior to the rapture, rejected it, yet they get saved when once they see that what their loved ones had warned them about has in fact come to pass. As the pastor puts it (pg. 195) "... we all knew the truth ....there wasn't a one of us who didn't know what it meant to be a true Christian." This pastor then teaches "you have another chance. Don't miss it." (Pg. 214) Rayford "was grateful he had been given a second chance ... " In light of II Thess. 2:7-12 this ought to be of very real concern. The passage (speaking of those who heard but rejected the gospel prior to Rapture) clearly teaches that "... And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."
This God-sent delusion will be no mere deluding influence. The fate of pre-rapture rejecters is very clear. This novel lumps together the subjects of God's wrath in II Thess. 2:7-12 (the recalcitrant pre- trib rejecters) with those who have never even heard the gospel. This latter group according to scripture will in fact have opportunity to hear, via the two witnesses and the 144,000 witnesses. (Matt.24:14 "... this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come.") It is of this latter group that many will be saved, and refusing the mark of the Beast, multitudes will be martyred. According to II Thess. 2:7-12, the heroes of Left Behind would be precisely of those who will come under the God-sent delusion and certain damnation. Instead, these â€˜heroes' go "on the offensive" (pg. 419) and become the "Tribulation Force" who (pg. 468) resolve "to stand and fight the enemies of God during the seven most chaotic years the planet would ever see." In essence this book makes heroes of those whom God has damned. If this is not the ultimate underestimation of the wrath of God, then what is? (Whatever happened to "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord we persuade men ..."?) Chloe, the captain's daughter, is made to say (pg. 405),"God wouldn't make it hard to learn, and he wouldn't, or I should say he couldn't, ignore a desperate prayer, could he?" She gets her answer to prayer. But what would scripture say? "... and the door was shut" (from Matt. 25:10-12). "I know you not." (See accompanying notes.) Unless you are prepared for the possibility of unwittingly having your thinking altered, keep on top of the theology in Left Behind. (Pg. 198) "The logic was that when Jesus went to heaven after his resurrection, the Holy Spirit that God gave to the Church was embodied in believers. So when they were taken, the Spirit would be gone, and there would be no more hope for anyone left. You can't know the relief when Pastor's tape showed me otherwise."
That is quite a statement, coming from the character who claimed he had known precisely what it meant (pre-rapture) to be a true Christian!
IIThess. 2:7 states "For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth (restrains) will let, until he be taken out of the way. ...v.8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, ..." Since in this age the Holy Spirit is the only one who has the power to restrain evil, surely â€˜he' refers to the Holy Spirit. IIThess. 2:7 states "he" will be taken away precisely in such a fashion as the authors in the above passage (pg. 198) seem to deny.
This teaching in Left Behind is contrary to the doctrine that this reviewer and more importantly, many solid Bible teachers have understood over the years. Certainly the Holy Spirit will not restrain evil in the Tribulation as He does now. In this present age of grace it is the Holy Spirit who draws men to himself. His spirit will not always strive with men. Thus the scenario (pg. 198) must be dangerously misleading, offering vain hope. There is indeed hope in the Tribulation period --- but for those who never heard the true gospel: for the 144,000 who will be saved and sealed as a result of the work of the two witnesses, and for many who will be saved of every kindred and tribe, having believed the testimony of the 144,000. (Page 319)
In a curious statement, the inference is made that Mother Teresa is missing, apparently having been raptured. This book was written in 1995, prior to Teresa's death. This statement could mean one of several things. Either the authors were blissfully unaware of the theology espoused by Teresa, or else they were not interested in truth, nor were they afraid of misleading their readers. The other possibility is that they were sympathetic to her theology; she was ecumenical to the core, believing there was more than one way to God. (This has been well documented, elsewhere. If Teresa had a deathbed conversion it must be a well-kept secret.)
To read, or not to read - we need to ask some questions. What happens if an unbeliever picks up this book? â€˜Well - if these guys waited - I can wait. If this rapture stuff is true, I'll get saved after.' And why not?
And if the believer reads? Several that this reviewer knows of have come away confused, hoping perhaps their rejecting family members may, after all, experience post- rapture salvation. Could this take away from the urgency of witnessing to and praying for them? Who is the author of confusion? Another reader got his eyes off the Blessed hope of our Lord's coming for His own when he suddenly had a yen to get in on the Tribulation action. Could the â€˜Tribulation Force' become in the eyes of some readers, heroes to be emulated? Are these books becoming something of a sacred cow, a source of division among the relatively few of us who do believe in the dispensations and the Rapture? We have seen some evidence to that effect. Are these books a useful witnessing tool or is there enough skewed doctrine here to prove lethal if swallowed whole? Or are they simply a harmless end-time soap opera to amuse the saints while we wait for the rapture? Perhaps the series is a way for us to wake up to the horrors of the Tribulation, but would a better way be to study God's word without fear of being misled? For those insistent upon lining the pockets of the entrepreneurs who bring us this series, it would at least be advisable to pray for discernment before digging in, and read with an open Bible. Please don't just hand out these books without careful screening for yourself, especially not to children. The real shocker about Left Behind is the names of a few of those who endorse it. We've come a long way. Christian, tread carefully. ...
Questions/Comments relating to the Left Behind series and the Tribulation.
_ II Thess. 2 Part 1 of verse 7 we are in the Church age, then the transition via rapture. Verse 8 - the tribulation has begun. Verses 8 to 12 are future tense, except those verbs referring to those who "received (past tense) not the love of the truth that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed (past tense) not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." Would this not strongly suggest that ''received not; believed not; had pleasure; refer back to the Church age? _ Note what they did not receive - the passage does not state that they received not the truth; rather, it is the love of the truth they did not receive. Would this not imply that they had heard the truth? Pharaoh heard, rejected, and God hardened his heart, however we are told 3 times in Exodus and once in 2 Chron. that Pharaoh hardened his heart and was stiff-necked. It seems God helped him in his chosen delusion (as He will do with unrepentant hearers after the Rapture). Apparently one can hear, understand, and reject; "... chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him ...: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. " (John 12:42-43)
_ II Thess. 2:12 "That they all might be damned who believed (past tense) not the truth ..." If all means all unbelievers alive at the time, why do we need 144,000 Jewish evangelists to preach to all the damned? (Who is finally to fall under the God-sent delusion?) We do know that souls will be saved during the tribulation: (Rev 7:14) "...These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Many having been beheaded because they rejected the mark of the beast but worshipped God, Rev 20:4) Would it not seem then that all of II Thess. 2 cannot include those who had not previously heard the gospel, as many will be saved rather than damned? Rather only those who rejected the gospel they had heard prior to the rapture, seem to comprise these all. In the KJV (Authorized Version) this seems quite clear. Is there something of a parallel here? "All Israel shall be saved ..." (Romans 11:26); and yet, Zechariah 13:8 & 9 two thirds shall die and the third part shall be left.)
_ In the tribulation, won't believers almost certainly be beheaded? Revelation 13:15 and 20:4 seem to indicate so. New believers will hardly be waging war against the Antichrist; rather they will be persecuted, in hiding, and martyred.
_ "God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned..." There is no room for a mere deluding influence in the Authorized Version, and the judgment in the Authorized is certain damnation. If this is not so, who are they that do believe the lie? If even believers have trouble (in the Church age) seeing through Satan's devices, how will the hitherto unrepentant see through a post-rapture God-sent delusion designed to deceive them? (Other than for the remnant, Israel was blinded in part, for our sakes. Have not few been saved over the centuries? Yet Satan has blinded many Gentiles. By comparison many Gentiles have been saved.)
_ About urgency - it is always warranted. Since "except those days should be shortened there should be no flesh saved" (Matt. 24:23) - all should, as stated, be urged to act now. With hearing comes responsibility. "Now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation." (II Cor. 6:2). We are never guaranteed another day.
We fear that a number of the current popular fiction books and videos of the of the 'left behind' type, are giving some people the wrong impression, and do not clarify, or even altogether omit, the coming strong delusion. It is very risky business to delete such an important doctrine from our Bible understanding.
A serious problem arises with fictional books about Scripture. Generally speaking, something ends up being added, something taken away, to make a story flow. It isn't something we should do with Scripture. True, God used Baalim's donkey, He can use whom /what He pleases, but not all are His choice servants ore methods, many being used despite themselves. In the case of the Left Behind series, perhaps they have been used for good, I don't know. There seems a real danger that the Rapture, such a pivotal and riveting essential doctrine of Biblical Christianity, comes across as cheap sci-fi.
As a dear old pastor said to me, Left Behind, is best left behind. Let's stick to the Bible on such important teaching.
You all can stay if you want when the rapture comes, I will be shouting as I rise
Glad you took the time to read and respond. The really good news about all this, is that according to the Scriptures, it is TRUE and we are not following cunningly devised fables. As unbelievable as the idea sounds, the Lord Himself "shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
Thanks for the happy note--based on reality!
There is one main problem with the idea of a pre-tribulation rapture and that is that Israel, not the Gentile component, is the true church, assembly, ekklesia or kehilat of Yah. How could He take the grafted branches and leave the main olive tree behind?Moreover, how could He take the Gentile component that has been so immersed in pagan practices, and who has been taught that Yah's eternal Sabbaths have been done away with?
Thanks Shoshana for your comment.
Seems you have overlooked a foundational truth of Scripture.
When one is born again, one becomes part of the body of Christ, the church, which is comprised of believers of both Jewish and Gentile extraction.
In fact, the Bible addresses 3 groups of people: the Jew (unbelieving), the Gentile (unbelieving), and the church of God (not a building nor an institution but all born again believers -- who believe 1Cor 15:1-4), 1 Cor 10:32.
God can and does save any person Jew or Gentile who comes to Him in faith, repents of his iniquity ('for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God'), and places his trust for salvation on the shed blood of the sinless Son of God, Christ Jesus alone. The paganism is then a thing of the past. For Jew or Gentile, being born again means, 2Cor 5:17 "Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
If you reread the Rapture paper, take note of the divisions and 'the church.' Until we understand that Scripture addresses the three divisons of mankind, we will not understand who is being addressed where. This results in utter confusion.
Then too we must understand that 1Cor 2:14 "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned." In order for Scripture to make sense to us, we must be born again.
We are to make our salvation sure, we are too examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. The first epistle of John is called the 'know so' book for it helps us to discern if we have correctly understood and are in fact, born again. I urge you to search this out.
Once that is established, the Lord can show you the plan for Israel is not the same plan He has for the church, but, that ultimately all believers be they of Jew or Gentile extraction worship the Lord together; " Eph 2:14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition [between us]..."
Hope this helps. (You might find the prophecy section this website, re the fulfillments of prophecy, helpful.)