Sunday, July 7, 2013

Is the End Really Near?

But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.                1 Thessalonians 5:1-5  NKJV
If you have studied scripture for any length of time, you have probably heard someone say that whenever you see a verse that begins with the word “but”, look to see what came before.  The reason for this is that any verse which begins that way is always a continuation of the subject which the preceding verses were discussing.  If we use that idea and look at the verses at the end of chapter four we read this;

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. 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.                                   1 Thessalonians 4:16-18  NKJV
So now we see the subject Paul is discussing is the rapture of the Church, and it is here we find that Paul makes a very interesting statement when he tells us that as “children of light, and children of the day,” we will not be surprised when Jesus returns and takes us away to be with Him.  As I thought about this passage, one of the first things that I began to consider was why Paul uses the difference between day and night to show us why we will not be surprised.  As I began to think more about this, there were a couple of things that seemed obvious, but possibly overlooked, that I had not really considered before.

The first and probably the most obvious is that in the daylight it is much easier to not only see what surrounds us, but also to see what in fact, is right in front of us.  Now if that seems to be an oversimplification simply try walking down a strange hallway in the dark when a few chairs have been scattered about.  Yet turn on a light and it’s a very simple exercise to avoid bumping into any of them.  So in truth, what Paul is telling us   about the rapture of the Church is that those of us who are believers and have accepted the salvation offered to us by the death of Jesus on the cross will not be surprised by the rapture because we will see it coming!
Now if that sounds a little strange to you, consider how Paul also uses the illustration of a thief in the night to explain why believers won’t be surprised.  A thief loves to use the cover of darkness simply because it makes it harder for people to see him, and therefore allows him to come and steal without you knowing he has been there.  So it comes as a surprise to awaken and see what has happened under the cover of darkness.  If the thief tried to break into your house in the middle of the day while you were awake and at home, how far would he get before you recognized what was happening and called the police?  If you were watching and knew what to look for, I think you would have probably called the police when you very first saw and recognized what he was, and long before he approached your door.

I believe what Paul is telling us here is that in the very same way, believers will not be surprised at the rapture because we will recognize “the times and the seasons”.  How is that possible you ask?  The answer to that is found in the phrase Paul uses in verse two where he says that we “know perfectly”.  In my mind, when I examined the meaning of this phrase in the Greek, I immediately thought back to the illustration of the chairs in the hallway. 
As I see it, the advantage to walking down the hall with the light on is that you can see with both perception and recognition.  To my way of thinking, perception is seeing and knowing what is in front of me while recognition is the understanding of how to carefully deal with what I see.  So I was surprised to find that the definitions of these two words seem to say that very thing.  The word “know”, eido, means…to see, to perceive with the eyes, to perceive with any of the senses, to perceive, notice, discern, discover.  The word “perfectly”, akribos, means…exactly, accurately, diligently,  from the root word akribes…exactly, carefully.

So in essence Paul is telling us that when it comes to the “times and seasons” of the rapture of the Church, believers, as children of the day, will not be surprised because we will “know perfectly” or perceive and recognize that our blessed hope is near.  When I first graduated from college my intent was to pursue a career as a coach.  One of my first experiences was learning how to scout the next opponent of our team, and I was paired up with a coach who had more than forty years of experience doing just that.  His method of teaching me was to constantly ask me what I was looking at and what I saw.  I quickly learned from him, and knew I had learned well when I began to watch and see the same things he did.

So let me ask you this question.  Have you noticed in the past few years just how many believers think we are living in the last days?  Do you notice that those numbers are increasing every day?  Have you yourself come to that conclusion based on what you see going on in the world around us?  There is no doubt in my mind, based on what I see that the rapture of the Church could happen at any moment.  I am willing to say that anyone else who believes that is definitely a member of the “children of light, and children of the day,” that Paul speaks of.

Is the end in sight?  When so many in the body say they see the same thing, don’t you believe it’s a reasonable conclusion?  As one very prominent Christian speaker has said, the more you know about the subject of Christ’s return, the more you recognize how close it is.

Keep watching.