PROPHECY UPDATE 2011

HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM!

PART 2

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            We have spoken of the coming judgment of God upon this world and as we look at the events that are happening around this world, the time seems to be very close. And here is the question we must ask ourselves. “Will God judge the righteous with the wicked?” You see, that is important and we will look at that topic in this study this evening because I believe it is the next big event that the Church will see. You see, the world may say, “Houston, we have a problem!” but we need not to fear! Now before we get to this subject, let me share this story with you. We are told,

When the Apostle Paul was being transported as a missionary prisoner to Rome, his ship docked to the south of Rome in the Italian port city of Puteoli. This was a holiday resort for fashionable Roman society, a spa with nearby hot sulfur springs. Many of the Roman emperors had villas there.

            Puteoli lay in the shadow of a great and rugged mountain – a volcano, though it hadn’t erupted in a thousand years – Vesuvius. Shortly after Paul’s time, Vesuvius exploded like an atomic bomb. It erupted for forty hours, and while Puteoli was spared, another nearby city was flooded by molten lava, buried before the inhabitants could escape. They were killed by the gasses and the ash, then preserved by the molten lava which rolled over them and hermetically sealed them in a gigantic tomb of pumice.

            That city was Pompeii, and for many years it remained buried under twenty feet of hardened lava. Excavations have given us a perfectly preserved Roman city, frozen in time, caught in the act of being itself.

            The twenty thousand people of Pompeii, it seems, worshipped two gods: Venus, the love goddess, and Mercury, the god of commerce. They worshipped, in other words, money and pleasure.  Their worship of Mercury is evidenced by their economic prosperity. Pompeii was a thriving city, a neat grid-pattern of shop-lined streets wrapped in a gated wall. It pulsed with industry, many of its people working in a winery, Pompeii being world-famous for its wine.

            But they also loved pleasure.  They city walls were filled with advertisements by prostitutes. Prices indicate that the average girl cost about the price of a modest dinner at a Pompeiian tavern. On one hotel, a sign said, “If you sit down here, read this first: If you’re looking for a girl, ask for Attica – four bucks, high class.”

            On the walls of the brothels were testimonies by satisfied customers. Everywhere were models and carvings of the phallus – the male sexual organ – which in ancient Pompeii was considered a symbol of success. It was carved on sidewalks and houses, drawn on walls and posts.

            The statues and sculptures of Pompeii, excavated by archaeologists, were hidden for many years in the “off limits” rooms of Italian museums because they were so obscene. On one Pompeiian wall, someone with a knowledge of the Old Testament had written some graffiti – just three words: Sodom and Gomorrah!

            And, like Sodom and Gomorrah, Pompeii perished suddenly by fire. Judgment came swiftly and without warning, and there was no escape.

            And, like Sodom and Gomorrah, our world today is awash in corruption and confusion, awaiting judgment. We don’t know when the volcano of judgment and retribution will erupt, but the Apostle Peter said, The end of all things is near . . . For the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. That day will bring about the destruction of the heaven by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.

- Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Complete Book Of Stories, Illustrations, Quotes, Vesuvius, pp. 504-505

 

            Yes, the judgment of God is getting close, but, as I have said, will God judge the righteous with the wicked? That is an important question for us to understand, for if we get this wrong, our end time theology will be off, it will be wrong! And thus, we will be looking at this event that is called the Rapture where the Lord will come for His Bride, the Church and remove her before He pours out His wrath upon a Christ rejecting world. I think it is important that we understand this. And please understand that this is not a salvation issue, but it will help us to focus on either the Lord Jesus Christ and His return or the Antichrist and his appearance! Who are you looking for? I hope to show you this evening that we are to be looking for Jesus, that is what the Scriptures teach and they also teach that God will not judge the righteous with the wicked!

            You see, I believe that this world is ripe for judgment. The wickedness of man is no different than it was before the flood. It is no different than the days of Sodom and Gomorrah! We flaunt our immorality, our sin in the face of God and we think there will be no repercussions for our actions. How foolish. God is gracious and merciful, He is longsuffering but that is coming to an end and He will judge the earth dwellers!

            Now I realize that there are those that say the Bible does not speak of the Rapture, in fact that word is not even found in the Scriptures. That is true, the word is not found but the idea of the Rapture is seen very clearly in the Scriptures! But again, many like to deny it and say that this idea of the Rapture is of recent origin!

            Listen to what some have to say regarding this issue of denying the Rapture of the Church. One writer said, “The Catholic Church always has understood this verse to be describing the Second Coming of Christ and the ‘General Resurrection’ at the end of the world.  But approximately 170 years ago – ‘recent’ by theological standards – an Irish Protestant named John Nelson Darby came up with the idea that this event would happen long before the end of the world. He claimed – on his own authority, of course – that this ‘Rapture’ (as he called it) will take all true Christians out of the world to be with Jesus in heaven right before a huge ‘tribulation’ befalls the rest of the inhabitants of the earth (those who are ‘left behind’).”

            Also, John Bray, who also vehemently opposes a pre-tribulation Rapture of the church said, “this teaching is not a RECOVERY of truth once taught and then neglected. No, it never was taught – for 1800 years nearly no one knew anything about such a scheme.”

            And Robert Van Kampen said, “The pretribulational rapture position with its dual parousias was unheard of in church history prior to 1830.”  Folks, that is totally untrue! As we are going to see, Paul spoke of this being a fact, he taught on this and he was inspired by the Holy Spirit and wrote this down for us!

Secondly, in the writings of Pseudo – Ephraem from around 565 AD to 627 AD and he claims that he got his sermon from Ephraem of Nisbis, who is considered to be one of the greatest figures in the history of the Syrian church, who would have written this in around 373 AD.  Listen to what is said, “All the saints and elect of God are gathered together before the tribulation, which is to come, and are taken to the Lord, in order that they may not see at any time the confusion which overwhelms the world because of our sins.” 

So please understand that this is not a new idea!  I think that is very clear, not only did Paul teach on the pre-tribulation Rapture of the Church, but so did the early Church and thus, I believe it because I think the Bible is very clear on this issue, the Scriptures support it! Let me show you what I mean regarding what the Scriptures have to say about the Rapture of the Church!

We are going to begin looking at this idea of the Rapture of the Church in

I Thessalonians chapter 4, verses many of you are very familiar with. In this section Paul is responding to a concern that the Thessalonians had regarding their brethren who died, believers who died, that they would miss out on the Rapture!  That tells me that they too believed in a pre-tribulation Rapture of the Church for they were concerned that those who had died in the Lord would miss out on their resurrection bodies!  Secondly, if they believed that they were going to go through the Tribulation Period, any part of it, then they would have rejoiced over those that had died in the Lord for they would not have to endure all this pain and suffering that was coming. They instead would have grieved for themselves and the horrible things they would have to endure during this time. 

And we will look at the various views of the Rapture, when it will occur in a few minutes, but first, let’s look at these verses here in I Thessalonians chapter 4, beginning in verse 13, where we are told, But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.  For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. I Thessalonians 4:13-18.

            I find this very interesting how Paul opens up this section on the Rapture of the Church. Paul tells us that he doesn’t want us to be ignorant about this event, and yet, the Church is truly ignorant about it.  That word ignorant in the Greek is AGNOEO,    (ag-no-eh’-o) and it speaks of not knowing something because of a lack of information or a lack of intelligence or even worse, to just plain ignore it!  The thing is this, there is now no excuse, you have been given the information, now don’t neglect it.

I realize that some feel there is no such thing as the Rapture, others feel it is at the end of the Tribulation Period, some in the middle of that seven year period of time or the 3½ year mark, others say it is just a little past the half-way mark, and I believe that the Rapture of the Church will take place prior to the start of the seven year Tribulation Period and I will show you why in a few minutes!

            In the Scriptures, when a believer dies it speaks of him going to sleep.  When you go to sleep there is rest, there is peace, there is comfort.  Now, when an unbeliever dies the Bible never speaks of him being asleep because they have no rest, no peace, there is no comfort for them.  When we die, as Christians, our body goes back to the dust of the earth and our spirit and soul go to be with the Lord. That is our hope, it is not that we don’t sorrow, we are sad but we also know that we will see that person one day in glory.  It is like sending a loved one off on a long trip, you will see them again but it will be a long time before it happens and thus, you are sad; you sorrow, but not like the unsaved will sorrow.  You see, for the unsaved there is no hope for them in death, as Barclay points out for us:

            In the face of death the pagan world stood in despair. They met it with grim resignation and bleak hopelessness.  Aeschylus wrote, “Once a man dies there is no resurrection.”  Theocritus wrote, “There is hope for those who are alive, but those who have died are without hope.” Catullus wrote, “When once our brief light sets, there is one perpetual night through which we must sleep.” On their tombstones grim epitaphs were carved, “I was not; I became; I am not: I care not.”

- William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, p. 203

 

            What a sad place to be, but in Christ our hope is that as He rose from the dead God will raise us up one day in glory.  Why be in a place where there is no hope when Jesus wants to give you hope? In fact, in verse 14 this word if does not indicate doubt or being unsure but because of the fact that the Lord rose from the dead He will bring with Him on that day those who have fallen asleep in Christ, it is our hope!  In John 14:19 Jesus said, . . . Because I live, you will live also. He is speaking of resurrection life! But for the unbeliever there is no hope, he will have an eternity to think about the wrong decision he made and regret every moment as he is in the Lake of Fire because he has rejected the free gift of life that is only found in Jesus, while we rejoice with our Lord!

            And please understand that this was not Paul’s idea but it came from the Lord and Paul establishes that fact up front, which is important for many even today deny the teaching of the Rapture of the Church.  Also notice that Paul speaks of two groups of people who are involved in this event; those who are alive and those who have fallen asleep or have died in the Lord.  There might have been some concern with the Thessalonian believers that those who have gone to be with the Lord were going to miss out on something, but that is not the case. All Christians will participate in the Rapture. Also, there is an order that Paul tells us about.

            With a shout of authority and as He speaks forth, as the trumpet sounds the dead in Christ will rise first, they will get their resurrected bodies.  You see, Paul tells us in

I Corinthians chapter 15 that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. And thus, we must be changed.  In John 14:1-4 Jesus said this regarding these new bodies, Let not your heart be troubled; you 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 to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.  And where I go you know, and the way you know. 

You see, these bodies of flesh are like tents; they are temporary dwelling places for our spirit and soul to dwell in.  But the Lord has a permanent abode for our spirit and soul to dwell in made by Him.  In fact, He calls it a mansion that will never fade away as compared with these tents that are fading away.  That is what they will receive and we who are alive when the Lord returns, will receive!

            And this event will happen very quickly, it is not a long, drawn out process, we don’t have to wait for our bags to be packed! You see, in I Corinthians 15:50-52 Paul tells us regarding the Rapture, Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

            Paul is telling us that this event, the Rapture of the Church is instantaneous.  The word moment is from ATOMUS in the Greek and it is the smallest conceivable quantity, it can’t be cut or divided any smaller!  Also, it will happen in the twinkling of an eye as the trumpet sounds.  Think of it like this, the twinkling of an eye is the time it takes for light to hit the surface of the eye till it hits the retina.  Let me now put that into perspective in how fast that is.  Light travels at a speed of 186,000 miles per second, which means it would take 1.5 seconds for light to travel from the earth to the moon. The moon is some 239,000 miles from the earth!  So then, in the twinkling of an eye the light would only reach one foot from the surface of the earth!  Thus, no one will see it happen, it will be instantaneous, but they will see and feel the effects of the Rapture!

            Why does this happen?  Paul tells us that these bodies of flesh and blood can’t enter the kingdom of God, they must be changed.  A metamorphosis will take place like a caterpillar changing into a butterfly, these bodies will be changed so they can enter God’s kingdom. 

Listen carefully to what Paul said in I Corinthians 15:35-49 regarding this, But someone will say, How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?’ Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies.  And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain — perhaps wheat or some other grain.  But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body.   All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds.  There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.  There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory.  So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.  It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.  It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.  And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’  The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.  However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.  The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven.  As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly.  And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.

            Thus, the rapture is a unique event in history, unknown to the Old Testament saints, a mystery that has now been revealed in the New Testament and it speaks of all the believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who are alive when the Lord returns will be instantaneously and miraculously taken into heaven without experiencing death.  The Lord is going to take His Bride, the Church home to be with Him.

            How will this happen? Paul tells us that we will be caught up which comes from the Greek word HARPAZO, and that word means to take by force, to seize.  Granted the word “Rapture” is not in the Bible, it was take from the Latin Vulgate, the Latin word RAPTURUS is used for caught up and from that word we get our English word RAPTURE from.  If you don’t want to use the word “rapture” then call it the “great snatch away!”  That is what the Greek word means but I like Rapture better!  And where do we meet the Lord?  We meet Him in the air, and in His Second Coming we come with Him and He comes back to the earth to set up His kingdom and every eye will see Him.  There is a big difference between the Rapture of the church and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ; they are not the same event!

            And here’s the thing. If we were to go through the seven-year Tribulation Period, these words would not be comforting to us and yet, here in verse 18 Paul tells us to comfort one another with these words. You see, the hope of the return of Jesus for His bride, our eternal union with Him is a source of great comfort.  I know, some say it is escapism and Jesus did say that in this world we will have tribulation.  Here’s the thing, right now Satan and his forces are persecuting Christians all over the world. But in the Tribulation Period it is God’s wrath being poured out upon a Christ rejecting world.  Look at I Thessalonians 5:9 and here Paul makes this powerful point, For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Amplified Bible puts this verse like this, For God has not appointed us to [incur His] wrath [He did not select us to condemn us], but [that we might] obtain [His] salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah).  I think that is very clear!

            And don’t you want to escape the wrath that is coming upon this world? I do and I think you do to! What is wrong in believing that if this is what the Scriptures are saying? There is nothing wrong and I am thankful that God has provided a way out of this judgment, through His Son Jesus Christ!

            How do I know that the Rapture takes place before the Tribulation Period starts?  I think the book of Revelation lays that out for us. In Revelation 1:19 Jesus tells us how the book of Revelation is divided up, and it is pretty simple.  He says, Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.  The things that John has seen are found in Revelation chapter 1.  The things which are relates to the Church Age or the seven letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor found in Revelation chapters 2 & 3.

            The last division of the book, which covers Revelation chapters 4-22, deal with the things that will take place after this or the Greek expression is META TAUTA.  After what things?  After the things of the Church when the Church Age comes to an end.  Paul, in Romans 11:25 tells us, For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.  The fullness of the Gentiles speaks of the last person to be saved prior to the Rapture and then God will once again deal with the nation of Israel; He will finish up the seventieth week of Daniel, that last 7-year period we call the Tribulation Period!

            In Revelation chapter 4, after we finish the letters to the Churches in Asia Minor which are found in Revelation chapters 2 & 3, it also closes that period of time known as the Church Age and the last days Church, one of them anyway is the lukewarm church and we see that beginning even today.  Then, in Revelation 4:1-2 we are told, After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, ‘Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.’  Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.

            John is a type of the church and after these things of the church, as the church age comes to a close, John looks up and sees a door open in heaven, then a voice like that of a trumpet and the call to come up, and immediately, instantaneously he was in heaven! 

Does that sound familiar to you? It should because I believe that is what Paul is talking about in I Corinthians chapter 15 and I Thessalonians chapter 4; it is a picture of the Rapture of the Church. And, interestingly enough, the next time we read of the Church on earth is in Revelation chapter 19 when we return with the Lord to the earth to set up His kingdom!

            Think of it like this, before World War II started, Japan and Germany called their ambassadors home, they left America and went to their own home countries, why?  Because war was about to break out and their countries wanted them to be home before war was declared!  So too with our Lord, before He declares war on earth, before He pours out His wrath upon a Christ rejecting world, He will call His ambassadors home, you and me!  Remember, this is not our home, we are aliens and strangers just passing through, for our citizenship is in heaven and that is where we are called to go, to be with our Lord.  I love what Paul says in Titus 2:13, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. 

That is what we are doing and in knowing He is coming back, in knowing we will be with Him, what should we do?  Paul told us, Therefore comfort one another with these words.  I Thessalonians 4:18. 

            Now I want to spend some time looking at the various views of the Rapture and then we will close looking at what I believe is the correct view, what the Scriptures are teaching. You don’t have to believe what I am saying, but I would encourage you to put away any preconceived ideas you may have and let the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit teach you what God has said so that you would not be ignorant of these things.

 

MID-TRIBULATION VIEW

The first view in regards to the Rapture that we will look at is called the Mid-Tribulation view and in this view the believers will remain on the earth for the first 3½  ears of the 7 year Tribulation Period and then be caught up to be with the Lord before the Great Tribulation falls upon the human race. They use Daniel 7:25 and 9:27 to support their view saying that the Church is persecuted for the first 3½ years. The main problem with that is those verses are speaking of Israel and the Antichrist is coming against them, not the Church.

The Church, the Body of Christ, was a mystery to the Old Testament prophets. Paul tells us this in Ephesians 3:9-10, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. I do not believe that the Bible teaches a Mid-Tribulation view and as we look at the Pre-Tribulation view you will clearly see why.

 

POST-TRIBULATION VIEW

The next view we will look at is the Post-Tribulation view and this says that at the end of the Tribulation period, at the end of the 7 years, believers will be caught up to be with the Lord and then they will immediately return to earth with Him to set up the Millennial Kingdom. Here is a definition of what they believe, “Postribulationism teaches that the Rapture and the Second Coming are facets of a single event which will occur at the end of the Tribulation when Christ returns. The church will be on the earth during the Tribulation to experience the events of that period.” (Ryrie, Basic Theology, p. 500).

One main problem with this view is that Jesus said that no man knows the day or the hour that He will return for us. But if this view is correct, we would be able to count off 3½ years from the abomination of desolation to the Lord’s return. That is not speaking of the Rapture but of His Second Coming which can be calculated out after the Tribulation Period begins. (See Matthew 24:36). Once again I feel that the Scriptures don’t support a Post-Tribulation view and again, as we look at the Pre-Tribulation view, you will see why this view can’t be correct!

 

PRE-WRATH RAPTURE

The next view we will look at is what is called the Pre-Wrath Rapture and this is the newest view that was ushered in by Marvin Rosenthal with his 1990 book entitled “The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church.” Its thesis is as follows:

“The Rapture of the church of Jesus Christ will occur, not at the beginning of the seventieth week of Daniel, but sometime after its midpoint, just prior to the Day of the Lord. The Day of the Lord will be a time of wrath from God upon the inhabitants of the earth. Church-age believers will go through the first half of the seventieth week - three and one-half years and more but will be spared the time of wrath.”

So after the sixth seal, after the cosmic disturbances, the Church will be Raptured before the Day of the Lord and then His divine wrath is poured out. That is the basic premise of this view. I will share with you two important facts regarding this issue of divine wrath which is said to occur after the sixth seal.

First, in Revelation chapter 5, John begins to weep convulsively because no one was able to loose the seals of the scroll. We read in verse 5, . . . ‘Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.’ The wrath that is about to be poured out upon the earth dwellers comes by Christ Himself and thus begins the seventieth week of Daniel and the Day of the Lord, not just past the midway period of the Tribulation Period.

If that is not enough, during the sixth seal being poured out upon the earth dwellers, notice what the people are doing and who they are hiding from. We read, And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’ Revelation 6:15-17.

The question we must ask ourselves is that if God’s wrath is not present until the first trumpet, after the sixth seal, or as some feel, after the last trumpet, why are these people hiding themselves during the sixth seal and understanding that the wrath that has come upon them is coming from God?

In Isaiah chapter 2 we see a very similar passage. We read For the day of the LORD of hosts shall come upon everything proud and lofty, upon everything lifted up -  and it shall be brought low. . . . They shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, from the terror of the LORD and the glory of His majesty, when He arises to shake the earth mightily. Isaiah 2:12, 19. There is much more regarding why this view is not correct, but I think you can see from these verses alone, this is wrong. Another very wrong concept comes from II Thessalonians chapter 2, the restraining force, they teach, is not the Holy Spirit, but Michael the Archangel. That makes no sense since Michael is not omnipresent, only God is and thus, this can’t be speaking of him! This view, the Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church, I also do not feel the Scriptures support.

 

PARTIAL RAPTURE

And sadly there are those that believe that there is only a Partial Rapture. Only the spiritual believers will be caught up before the Tribulation begins while the carnal believers will go through the Tribulation Period. You must be SANCTIFIED ENOUGH for this highly selective Rapture. I am not sure how much you need to sanctify yourself, but you have to be sanctified enough to make it! I have even heard a Calvary pastor teach this, but I don’t believe the Scriptures support it.

You see, in Revelation 19:7-9 says, ‘Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!”’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true sayings of God.’

 Notice what we are told here, that the complete and perfect Church will be presented to Christ - not just a partial bride. And we are made perfect through Christ and not on our own merit. If you think you are perfect, your pride just caused you to fall! You see, how good do you have to be? Does that mean that the finished work of Christ on the cross of Calvary is not finished, I must complete the work? But it is not my righteousness that gets me into Heaven in the first place. It is His righteousness that has been imputed into my life by faith! Now some would argue that would cause people to live like the Devil, to sin all they wanted and they will then make it in the Rapture? Folk’s, if you can sin like the Devil then you are not saved in the first place. I hope that is clear! So obviously this is wrong and it just brings condemnation upon people for their failure to live a certain way!

 

NO RAPTURE

Then there are those that believe in the No Rapture view. This view holds that there is no Rapture, no Tribulation and no Millennium Kingdom. Believers only look forwards to the eternal state of heaven in the future. The Lord will return to judge everybody in a general resurrection and then eternity will begin. Obviously the Scriptures don’t support this view at all!

Folks, as we go to meet the Lord in the air we will immediately go before the throne of God, just as John experienced. What an awesome time that will be. That is why Paul exhorts us by saying to us that we should be, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you. Titus 2:13-15.

 

PRE-TRIBULATION VIEW

The last view we are going to be looking at, and I believe it is the correct one, is the Pre-Tribulation view. In this view it says that all true believers in Christ will be caught up in the air with Christ. That is ALL believers throughout the Church Age, living or dead. They will receive their eternal heavenly bodies. Then following the Rapture of the Church we see the Tribulation Period, which leads into the return of Christ, which leads into the Millennial Kingdom and finally a new heaven and earth.

I support this view. Remember what Jesus said to the church in Philadelphia in Revelation 3:10, Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. The Amplified Bible puts this verse like this, Because you have guarded and kept My word of patient endurance [have held fast the lesson of My patience with the expectant endurance that I give you], I also will keep you [safe] from the hour of trial (testing) which is coming on the whole world to try those who dwell upon the earth.

 What I want you to notice is that Jesus said that He will keep us OUT OF the trial that will be unleashed upon the earth dwellers. Folk’s, we are not earth dwellers. Again, listen to what the Scriptures tell us. In Philippians 3:20-21 we are told, For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.You see, our citizenship is in heaven and thus, we are not earth dwellers. God is bringing His wrath upon the earth dwellers to test them, not us!

Also, in Genesis chapter 19, before the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by God because of their wickedness, righteous Lot and his family first had to be removed. The angel said to Lot, Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything until you arrive there . . . Did you notice that the pre-requisite to the destruction of the city was that Lot had to be removed. And in II Peter 2:9 we read, then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment.

Thus, the pre-requisite to the Tribulation Period, I believe, is that the Church MUST be removed before God can pour out His wrath on a Christ rejecting world.

Also, in the first 3 chapters of the book of Revelation we see the Church mentioned some 18 times. Then we don’t see the Church on earth again until we return with Christ in Revelation 19:7-14. During chapters 4 through 18 we see that when the Church is mentioned they are in heaven.

Yes, the Church will endure trials that come upon them, and these are the trials of this world, but they will not experience God’s wrath which is being poured out upon a Christ rejecting world, the earth dwellers! That is what the Tribulation Period is all about, besides God dealing with the nation of Israel. Thus, with the start of the 70th week of Daniel, the beginning of the Tribulation Period, the Church will be home with the Lord. And with that line of demarcation, the Rapture of the Church, we also see the beginning of the Day of the Lord. And the Day of the Lord begins with the introduction of God’s wrath being poured out and it extends through the Millennial Kingdom. Thus, with the Rapture we see the Day of Grace end and the Day of the Lord begins, the time of Jacob’s trouble, Jeremiah 30:7.

Now let me share with you a Scripture that you might not have thought shows the Rapture of the Church, but after I have looked at this and read this text, it seems to be correct. In II Thessalonians 2:1-12 we are told, Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

            What is the focus of this text? Verse 1 tells us that it the gathering together of the Church to meet the Lord and Paul is saying that this day has not happened yet. And the verse I would like to focus on here is verse 3 that says, Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition.  And The Amplified Bible puts it like this, Let no one deceive or beguile you in any way, for that day will not come except the apostasy comes first [unless the predicted great falling away of those who have professed to be Christians has come], and the man of lawlessness (sin) is revealed, who is the son of doom (of perdition), [Dan 7:25; 8:25; 1 Tim 4:1.]

            The Greek word for “falling away” is APOSTASIA, (ap-os-tas-ee’-ah) and many believe this is speaking of a departure from the faith. That is, those that once believed in the foundational truths of the Scriptures have departed from that and now are rejecting what the Scripture are saying, as The Amplified Bible says. That could be true and we do see that today, this falling away from the faith, but is that really what this verse is saying?

Could this be speaking of a departure from this earth, the Rapture of the Church? I think it is a good possibility! Dr. Thomas Ice tells us,   

The Greek noun apostasia is only used twice in the New Testament. In addition to 2 Thessalonians 2:3, it occurs in Acts 21:21 where, speaking of Paul, it is said, “that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake (apostasia) Moses.” The word is a Greek compound of apo “from” and istemi “stand.” Thus, it has the core meaning of “away from” or “departure.” The Liddell and Scott Greek Lexicon defines apostasia first as “defection, revolt;” then secondly as “departure, disappearance.”

Gordon Lewis explains how the verb from which the noun apostasia is derived supports the basic meaning of departure in the following:

The verb may mean to remove spatially. There is little reason then to deny that the noun can mean such a spatial removal or departure. Since the noun is used only one other time in the New Testament of apostasy from Moses (Acts 21:21), we can hardly conclude that its Biblical meaning is necessarily determined. The verb is used fifteen times in the New Testament. Of these fifteen, only three have anything to do with a departure from the faith (Luke 8:13; 1 Tim 4:1; Heb 3:12). The word is used for departing from iniquity (2 Tim. 2:19), from ungodly men (1 Tim. 6:5), from the temple (Luke 2:27), from the body (2 Cor. 12:8), and from persons (Acts 12:10; Luke 4:13).

“It is with full assurance of proper exegetical study and with complete confidence in the original languages,” concludes Daniel Davey, “that the word meaning of apostasia is defined as departure.”

Paul Lee Tan adds the following:

What precisely does Paul mean when he says that “the falling away” (2:3) must come before the tribulation? The definite article “the” denotes that this will be a definite event, an event distinct from the appearance of the Man of Sin. The Greek word for “falling away”, taken by itself, does not mean religious apostasy or defection. Neither does the word mean “to fall,” as the Greeks have another word for that. [pipto, I fall; TDI] The best translation of the word is “to depart.” The apostle Paul refers here to a definite event which he calls “the departure,” and which will occur just before the start of the tribulation. This is the rapture of the church.

So the word has the core meaning of departure and it depends upon the context to determine whether it is used to mean physical departure or an abstract departure such as departure from the faith. . . .

It is important to note that Paul uses a definite article with the noun apostasia. What does this mean? Davey notes the following:

Since the Greek language does not need an article to make the noun definite, it becomes clear that with the usage of the article reference is being made to something in particular. In II Thessalonians 2:3 the word apostasia is prefaced by the definite article which means that Paul is pointing to a particular type of departure clearly known to the Thessalonian church.

Dr. Lewis provides a likely answer when he notes that the definite article serves to make a word distinct and draw attention to it. In this instance he believes that its purpose is “to denote a previous reference.” “The departure Paul previously referred to was ‘our being gathered to him’ (v. 1) and our being ‘caught up’ with the Lord and the raptured dead in the clouds (1 Thess. 4:17),” notes Dr. Lewis. The “departure” was something that Paul and his readers clearly had a mutual understanding about. Paul says in verse 5, “Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?”

The use of the definite article would also support the notion that Paul spoke of a clear, discernable event. A physical departure, like the rapture would fit just such a notion. However, the New Testament teaches that apostasy had already arrived in the first century (cf. Acts 20:27-32; 1 Tim. 4:1-5; 2 Tim. 3:1-9; 2 Pet. 2:1-3; Jude 3-4, 17-21) and thus, such a process would not denote a clear event as demanded by the language of this passage. Understanding departure as the rapture would satisfy the nuance of this text. E. Schuyler English explains as follows:

Again, how would the Thessalonians, or Christians in any century since, be qualified to recognize the apostasy when it should come, assuming, simply for the sake of this inquiry, that the Church might be on earth when it does come? There has been apostasy from God, rebellion against Him, since time began.

Whatever Paul is referring to in his reference to “the departure,” was something that both the Thessalonian believers and he had discussed in-depth previously. When we examine Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he never mentions the doctrine of apostasy, however, virtually every chapter in that epistle speaks of the rapture (cf. 1:9–10; 2:19; probably 3:13; 4:13–17; 5:1–11). In these passages, Paul has used a variety of Greek terms to describe the rapture. It should not be surprising that he uses another term to reference the rapture in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. Dr. House tells us:

Remember, the Thessalonians had been led astray by the false teaching (2:2–3) that the Day of the Lord had already come. This was confusing because Paul offered great hope, in the first letter, of a departure to be with Christ and a rescue from god’s wrath. Now a letter purporting to be from Paul seems to say that they would first have to go through the Day of the Lord. Paul then clarified his prior teaching by emphasizing that they had no need to worry. They could again be comforted because the departure he had discussed in his first letter, and in his teaching while with them, was still the truth. The departure of Christians to be with Christ, and the subsequent revelation of the lawless one, Paul argues, is proof that the Day of the Lord had not begun as they had thought.

This understanding of apostasia makes much more sense than the view that they are to be comforted (v. 2) because a defection from the faith must precede the Day of the Lord. The entire second chapter (as well as 1 Thessalonians 4:18; 5:11) serves to comfort (see vv. 2, 3, 17), supplied by a reassurance of Christ’s coming as taught in his first letter.

- Dr. Thomas Ice, Sunday, Is the Rapture in 2 Thessalonians 2:3?, September 25, 2011

 

            You see how this fits together. The Church is Raptured and then who is revealed? It is the Antichrist. Thus, we are to be looking for Jesus Christ because that is the next big event for the Church, His coming for His Bride, you and me! And I do believe there is a big difference between the Rapture of the Church and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. David Breese gives to us some of the differences between the Rapture of the Church and the Second Coming of Christ. He wrote, “The rapture, therefore, comes before the tribulation, and takes Christians out of this world before that seven-year period of the wrath of God. Notice that, in the Rapture, Christ does not come all of the way to this world. Rather, Christians are caught up to meet Him in the air (I Thes. 4:17). At the second coming of Christ, His glorious return, He comes with His saints. In fact, He returns with an army from heaven for the conquest of the world (Rev. 19:11-16). Remember, in that this is an army of His saints (Jude 14), you and I will be a part of that glorious conquest that centers on the return of Christ in power.” This is the view I feel the Scriptures support, the Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church!

            I hope I have cleared this up for you and as you look out at this world and you see what is happening, as you see what the Bible is saying come to pass, you will be excited because the return of the Lord for His Church is getting closer. It is our blessed hope, the appearing of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ. The early Church believed it and thought it could happen at any moment and so should we.

            Let me share with you these words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man of God who was murdered by Hitler’s forces for his faith. And I want you to listen to his words because there was a change in the life of this man. You see, Germany was into higher criticism and intellectualism and they may have great minds but they did not apply these things to their lives. And during his time in the United States Bonhoeffer’s focus changed as you will see. In this letter he wrote in January of 1936 he said,

            I plunged into work in a very unchristian way. An . . . ambition that many noticed in me made my life difficult. . . . Then something happened, something that has changed and transformed my life to the present day. For the first time I discovered the Bible . . . I had often preached. I had seen a great deal of the Church, and talked and preached about it – but I had not yet become a Christian. . . . I know that at that time I turned the doctrine of Jesus Christ into something of personal advantage for myself . . . I pray to God that that will never happen again. Also I had never prayed, or prayed only very little. For all my loneliness, I was quite pleased with myself. Then the Bible, and in particular the Sermon on the Mount, freed me from that. Since then everything has changed. I have felt this plainly, and so have other people about me. It was a great liberation. It became clear to me that the life of a servant of Jesus Christ must belong to the Church, and step by step it became plainer to me how far that must go.

            Then came the crisis of 1933. This strengthened me in it. Also I now found others who shared that aim with me. The revival of the Church and of the ministry became my supreme concern. . . . My calling is quite clear to me. What God will make of it I do not know . . . I must follow the path. Perhaps it will not be such a long one. (Phil 1:23). But it is a fine thing to have realized my calling . . . I believe its nobility will become plain to us only in coming times and events. If only we can hold out.

- Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, pp. 123-124

 

            I pray that as we begin this New Year that each of us understand what time it is and we have a passion to do the work of God no matter the cost. Are we willing to lay our lives on the altar of sacrifice and totally give our lives to God to be used as He wills and not as we desire? I believe over the next several years our faith is going to be tested as never before and thus, we need to know what we believe and not only know what we believe but live what we say we believe. We need to trust in the Lord and serve Him faithfully and fully.

As I begin to close this study this evening, listen to what well known author, Tim LaHaye wrote,

When I was a boy, I took a tour of [the] Henry Ford factory in Dearborn, Mich. Then we saw an electromagnetic crane move over a large railroad car filled with what seemed to be junk steel. At the flip of a switch, everything in that car leaped up to the magnetic crane. Then I saw a strange thing: some pieces of steel fell back into the car. I waited until others had left on the tour and then climbed up to look inside and find out why these pieces fell back in. I found they were not steel at all. Lying on the bottom of the car were some old two-by-fours, a broom handle, and some broken pieces of wood. Only objects made of the right component responded to the magnet, the rest were left behind.

- Tim LaHaye

 

            Folk’s, I believe that the next event on the prophetic scene is the Lord coming for the Church, His Bride. Don’t let anyone steal that joyous hope that God has given to each of us! Comfort each other with these words of hope that God has given to us. But for those of you that don’t know the Lord, you are not clothed in His righteousness by faith, you don’t have the right components you might say, and like the materials that were not made of steel, and the magnet could not lift them up, when the Lord comes for His Bride, if you don’t know Him, YOU WILL BE LEFT BEHIND!