Sunday, August 31, 2014

Rapture? Which Rapture?

I am on vacation this week and next, so I thought for today I would share with you an article from a website I visit regularly and one that I would highly recommend for you to go to as well.  It provides a wealth of information and teaching which is soundly based on scripture, and has proven to be a wonderful resource for many believers in these times in which we find ourselves.

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

Among Christians who believe there will be a rapture of the Church, the great majority of us are convinced it will precede the end times judgments. This position is commonly called the pre-tribulation rapture.

Those who reject the pre-trib view are either mid-tribulation, post tribulation or pre-wrath rapture advocates. In this study we’ll review these rapture positions.

The Mid Tribulation Rapture

These believers place the rapture at the end of the trumpet judgments, just before the beginning of the Great Tribulation. Their justification for doing so comes from equating the seventh trumpet of Rev. 11:15 with the last trump from Paul’s description of the rapture in 1 Cor. 15:51-53. Also the mid-trib view does not agree that the Seal and Trumpet judgments are manifestations of divine wrath, which in their view consists only the Bowl judgments.  For them, that makes the Bowls the time of wrath the Bible says we are not appointed to suffer.

The other two positions appear to be similar as far as the rapture is concerned because they both claim to place the rapture of the Church after the Great Tribulation. But as we’ll see, they are actually quite different.

A few weeks ago, I was specifically asked to provide a concise explanation of these two positions. You might ask why such a strong pre-trib believer as I am would be asked to explain positions with which I disagree. The answer, which I’ve recently confirmed for myself, is that many post-trib and pre-wrath articles devote more time to refuting the pre-trib position than they do to explaining their own.

Because of that, people who are just looking for the Biblical support for these positions so they can do their own evaluation have to sift through a lot of anti pre-trib rhetoric to find what they’re looking for. It’s like having to listen to someone’s opinion on why they don’t like Fords when the question you asked was “Why do people like Chevrolets”.

So what is the essence of these positions? It boils down to their interpretation of Matt. 24. Both positions are based on the belief that Jesus was talking about the Church when He mentioned “the elect” in Matt. 24:22, 24 & 31. And they both agree that Matt. 24:29 marks the end of the Great Tribulation.

The Post Tribulation Rapture

The post trib position takes the view that the trumpet mentioned in Matt. 24: 31 is the “last trump” of 1 Cor. 15:51-53 because it will be the last trumpet sounded before the Lord’s return. With a loud trumpet call the Lord will command His angels to gather His elect, who they believe to be the Church. At that time the dead will rise and the living will be changed in accordance with 1 Thes. 4:16-17, and together they will meet the Lord in the air to join Him in His return to Earth in power and great glory.

As you can see, the post trib position has the resurrection/rapture and the Second Coming happening at the same time. They justify this by saying the Bible only speaks of a first and second coming. Therefore, making the rapture/resurrection a separate event would require a third coming. Post Trib believers also point out that in John 6:39-40 the Lord promised to raise all believers up at the last day, which they interpret to mean the day of His return.

 The Pre-Wrath Rapture

The pre-wrath position takes a decidedly different path to arrive at a post tribulation rapture. They interpret Matt. 24:22 to mean that for the sake of the Church, the Lord will cut the time of the Great Tribulation short. To them this means the 6th Seal judgment marks the end of the Great Tribulation, with the pre-wrath rapture coming at that time. To arrive at this conclusion, they say Matt. 24:29, which speaks of the sun being darkened and the moon not giving its light at the end of the Great Tribulation, describes the same event as Rev. 6:12, which has the sun turning black and the moon becoming blood red. To them, the saints of Rev. 7:9-17, who are shown to be in heaven between the sixth and seventh seals, are the raptured Church.

God’s wrath will then follow in two parts, consisting of the Trumpet judgments, at the end of which which the 2nd Coming will occur, and finally the Bowl judgments, which will take place in the 30 days following the Lord’s return.

There have been several adaptations of the pre-wrath view. The one I’ve outlined here is the official position as it was originally set forth by those who developed it.

What’s Wrong With That?

First, all these positions assume that because it appears in the New Testament, our Lord’s explanation of the end times in Matt. 24 is meant for the Church. But its appearance in the New Testament is the only justification for this assumption. Nothing in the text of Matt. 24 requires a Church centered interpretation and a careful examination shows it to be specifically oriented toward Israel.

In the first place, Jesus had only rarely mentioned the Church and had never said that it would interrupt Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy, leaving one week unfulfilled. As far as the disciples knew, they were 483 years into Daniel’s 490 year prophecy and were only 7 years short of the end of the age. That’s why they were so surprised to hear Him say everything would be torn down without one stone left standing upon another.

And even as He was explaining how the end of the age would unfold, He never mentioned the Church. Had He done so, they wouldn’t have asked Him if He was going to restore the kingdom to Israel while they were standing on the Mt. Of Olives following His resurrection (Acts 1:6). This has led some experts to conclude that all of Matt. 24 deals with Daniel’s 70th week from Israel’s perspective alone.

It’s Israel much more than the Church who has been and will be persecuted, put to death, and hated by all nations (Matt. 24:9). It’s Israel who has to stand firm to the end to be saved (Matt. 24:13). Israel is warned to flee into the mountains of Judea when they see the abomination of desolation (Matt. 24:15-16). Israel has to pray their flight won’t take place on the Sabbath (Matt. 24:20). Israel has to be wary of false Messiahs (Matt. 24:23-24).

The Elect

Also, there’s no mention of the Church being “the elect” in the gospels. In the only times the Lord mentioned the Church at all (Matt. 16:18 and Matt. 18:17) He did not use any form of the Greek word for “elect”. The first clear description of the Church as the elect did not happen until Romans 8:33 which Paul wrote over 20 years later. On the other hand, Jesus was called God’s elect in Isaiah 42:1, Israel was called God’s elect in Isaiah 45:4, 65:9, 65:22, and angels were called His elect in 1 Tim. 5:21.

In my opinion, to think that the disciples would have understood the Lord to be referring to the Church in Matt. 24:22, 24, 31 is an unwarranted assumption.

The Time And Duration Of God’s Wrath

A plain sense reading of the Book of Revelation tells us that the time of God’s Wrath begins with the seal judgments (Rev. 6:16-17) and ends with the Bowl judgments (Rev. 15:1). The fact that mid-trib and pre-wrath believers don’t accept that means they haven’t accepted God’s word as written.

The Seventh Trumpet of Rev. 11:15

This trumpet is never called the last trump in the Bible, as in 1 Cor. 15:51-53, or the trumpet call of God, as in 1 Thes, 4:16-17. It is simply the final trumpet in the series of Trumpet judgments. It’s not blown on Earth but in Heaven. Also, there is no connection between the seventh trumpet and the second coming. Rev. 11:15 tells us in Heaven the seventh trumpet signals that the Lord has taken command of the kingdoms of the world, but His return to Earth doesn’t begin until Rev. 19:11-16.

The Trumpet of Matt. 24:31

This can’t be the last Trump of 1 Cor. 15:51-53 either because it’s the Lord’s signal to His angels to round up the elect in heaven. At the rapture the trumpet call of God is to alert believers on Earth.  Also he’s sending angels, plural, to do this. In 1 Thes. 4:16-17 only the archangel is mentioned in connection with the trumpet call of God. And finally, in Matt.24:31 the elect are already in heaven.

To be fair, Mark 13:26-27 tells us the angels will gather His elect from both Heaven and Earth, but there no trumpet is mentioned at all. This means while the trumpet will not be heard on Earth, there will be members of His elect still on Earth. These are people who will have survived the Great Tribulation and became believers in the process. But it doesn’t mean they are part of the Church.

Third Coming?

The idea that the separation of the rapture/resurrection from the second coming would require a third coming does not stand up under scrutiny for several reasons. First, at the rapture the Lord doesn’t come to Earth to get us, we go up in the clouds to meet him.

Second, if every time he left heaven to come to earth was a “coming” then his second coming would have taken place on the day He was resurrected. In the morning He told Mary not to cling to Him because he had not yet ascended to His Father (John 20:17). Hebrews 9:11-12 tells us He was going to sprinkle His blood on the altar in the tabernacle in Heaven. But that afternoon He was back on Earth where He met two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-16). Who knows how many times He’s been back and forth since then.

Third, the Second coming is a particular event where He publicly descends to Earth in power and great glory to take His position as King of the whole Earth. The number of times He’s been here and back in the mean time is irrelevant.

John 6:39-40

“And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

The phrase “last day” appears twice in these verses. The Greek word “last” means to be the last in time or place. It often refers to the last one in a series of events. The first resurrection, the resurrection of believers, is such a series. Jesus was the first fruits. Then we have the Church (1 Thes. 4:16-17) then the tribulation martyrs (Rev. 20:4) and the Old Testament believers (Daniel 12:2). These are all part of the first Resurrection, which is not a single event, but a single type, those who are resurrected to eternal life. There is no requirement that they all have to happen on the day of the Lord’s Coming. In fact only the tribulation martyrs are specifically indicated to be resurrected on that very day. Jesus could very easily have been referring to Old Testament believers, some of whom were no doubt standing before Him as He spoke, who will also be resurrected at the time of the second coming.  The point is you can’t use John 6:39-40 to prove a post trib rapture of the Church.

Those Days Will Be Shortened

“If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened” (Matt. 24:22).

John, who heard the Lord speak these words first hand on the Mt. of Olives, also heard the duration of the Great Tribulation described by the Lord again as being 42 months long (Rev. 11:2) 1260 days long (Rev.12:6) and, 3 ½ years long (Rev. 12:14). Using 360 day years these are equivalent times.

There are only two possibilities here. Either John made a mistake or the Lord didn’t mean He would shorten the duration of the number of days. The Great tribulation is one of the most carefully measured periods of time in the Bible beginning with Daniel 9:27, where it’s half of seven years, Daniel 12:7 where it’s time, times and a half (3 1/2) and the three references in Revelation. They are all the same.

Many scholars have interpreted Matt. 24:22 to mean if the Lord didn’t put a stop to the Great Tribulation at its appointed time but let it run it’s course no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect He will bring it to a close at the appointed time. This is consistent with the various measurements. Therefore the assumption that the Great Tribulation will be shortened is not a good one to serve as a cornerstone for the pre-wrath position.

Does Matt. 24:29 Equal Rev. 6:12?

“Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken” (Matt. 24:29)

Jesus was quoting Isaiah 13:10 where the context is the effect of the day of the Lord.

I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red,  and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind (Rev. 6:12-13)

John was quoting Joel 2:31 where the context is a sign that the day of the Lord is coming.

The two verses are similar but not the same. Matt. 24:29 shows one of the results of the day of the Lord. Rev. 6:12-13 is a warning that precedes the day of the Lord. Later on in the book of Revelation the sun is so hot it burns people (Rev. 16:8-9) but when the sun goes out in Matt. 24:29 it will never come back (Rev. 21:23-24). The two verses do not describe the same thing.

Are The Saints of Rev. 7:9-17 The Church?

They are from every nation, tribe, people and language so they are of both Jewish and Gentile origin. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, so they’re saved believers. They will serve God day and night in His Temple, but are not called priests, and they have no other responsibilities so they are not Kings, so they are not the Church.

In Rev. 7:14 one of the elders tells John they have come out of the Great Tribulation, but the English translation is misleading. The Greek word translated “out of” literally means out of both the time and place of the event being referenced, in this case the Great Tribulation. This means they will have been martyred during the Seal judgments. According to the pre-wrath view the seal judgments are the Great Tribulation. But the Greek language says they’ll be martyred before the Great Tribulation, which in a chronological reading of the Book of Revelation begins on Earth in Rev. 13.  So for these reasons the martyrs of Rev. 7 cannot be the raptured Church.

The pre-wrath rapture uses terms that do not appear in the Bible (Man’s Wrath, Satan’s Wrath, etc.) re-interprets parts of Matt. 24, and violates the chronological order of the Book of Revelation. Of all the rapture positions it’s the most difficult to justify from a Biblical standpoint. Personally, I think it’s impossible.

The Bible is not a book of multiple choices. There’s only one God, One Heaven, one Earth, one Israel, one Church, one Savior, one way to salvation, and one rapture of the Church. The only one that’s true to a literal, contextual interpretation of Scripture is the pre-tribulation rapture, and it’s coming soon. You can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah. 08-30-14

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”     Matthew 14:22-31  NKJV

I’m sure many of us first heard this story of Jesus walking on the water when we were quite young and attending Sunday School, sitting in our little chairs and listening in fascination as our teacher related this miracle of our Lord.  I know I was, and I remember thinking Peter wasn’t too bright because he turned his eyes away from Jesus and suffered the consequences.  Of course, as I grew older, I began to see just how often I had followed in Peter’s footsteps by making the same mistake that he did by choosing to look away and focus on my circumstances rather than on the promises of God.

If you look closely at this story, it becomes apparent that all that occurred was a setup by Jesus for the purpose of teaching the disciples, and us as well, the importance of looking to Him for our deliverance in times of trouble.  Jesus intentionally told the disciples to leave ahead of Him knowing the storm was coming, and rather than looking for another boat to follow them in, He decided to walk across the sea to where they were in trouble.  Today I want to share with you just four of many points I believe are found in this passage, which I believe we as believers need to remember in these times of trouble that so many of us find ourselves in today.

Obedience can bring a storm.

The disciples followed Jesus’ instructions to proceed without Him, having no idea that by doing so they would encounter a storm so great that they would fear for their very lives. Jesus, on the other hand, knew exactly what was about to happen and sent them on their way knowing full well that they would suffer no harm.  Have you ever followed the path you feel Jesus wants you to take and encountered troubles that make you question your choice to do so?  God knows exactly what will happen when we follow His Son and will never send us someplace where His power cannot save.
For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:       1 Peter 2:20-21  NKJV

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.      Philippians 2:8  NKJV

Jesus knows what we are going through.

As big as that sea was, have you ever thought about the fact that Jesus knew exactly where the disciples were?  In all of that expanse, in the middle of a great storm, Jesus walked directly to where they were in trouble.  Jesus not only knows what we are going through, but He also knows exactly where we are.  Even though we might feel we cannot see Jesus when we are in distress, He can see us.  His assistance, comfort, and deliverance are available to us if we simply call on Him and ask for His help.  God’s omniscience and omnipresence guarantee we are never alone.

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.     Hebrews 4:15-16  NKJV

then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,     2Peter 2:9  NKJV

Jesus has perfect timing.

The disciples who were fishermen were well acquainted with being on the sea in storms, and at first were probably unconcerned with what they were encountering.  Yet since Jesus had sent them off in the evening, and now we see it was the fourth watch or almost morning, they had spent a good twelve hours battling to cross a sea that was only five miles wide.  I have no doubt that it was at this point that even these men were beginning to fear for their lives.  Why did Jesus wait so long to appear?  I think quite possibly Jesus waits until we acknowledge we cannot do it on our own before He appears to deliver us from our troubles.

The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.                         Nahum 1:7  NKJV

And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!       2 Timothy 4:18  NKJV

Success of our walk depends on the focus of our eyes.

It is almost comical to think back to that Sunday School class and remember when the teacher asked the question “why did Peter begin to sink”?  I can still hear ten little voices crying out “he took his eyes off of Jesus”!  Even little children understand the point of this story and yet as adults, how often do we forget?  How often do we begin to focus on our surroundings, our circumstances, or our relationships and forget to keep our eyes on Jesus?  Never doubt that Satan’s goal is to use this world to change our focus and cause us to stumble.  I can never forget the words of a hymn we sung so often when I was young; 

“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.”

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.                                                                    2 Corinthians 4:17-18  NKJV

the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,  Ephesians 1:18  NKJV

As we see this world approaching it’s day of judgment, and we find ourselves as believers experiencing troubles and difficulties, never forget to turn your eyes upon Jesus.

Keep watching.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Seek First

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.      Matthew 6:33  NKJV

I suspect that most of us, in one way or another, receive instructions of some kind most every day of our lives.  Instructions are a guide to help us accomplish a goal in the most efficient and productive way possible while avoiding the pitfalls that follow from a lack of direction.  Who among us has not at one time or another thought we could assemble something, or perform a task without following the instructions and paid the price for our overconfidence?  Eventually, usually from painful experience, we learn the lesson to follow the guidance received from instruction.

In this passage from Matthew, our Lord was giving instruction to His listeners concerning the priorities they should have as true believers.  His instructions to them were to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”, while having faith that God would not only see, but provide for their other needs.  How contrary to what the world would advise are these instructions from Jesus to His believers?  How many of us spend time every day laying out plans which revolve around providing for our own needs by our own efforts rather than following the advice given us by our Lord?

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.  By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.       Hebrews 11:6-7  NKJV

Have you ever considered the possibility that your actions are displeasing to God?  In these verses we are told that “without faith it is impossible to please Him”.  We do that by setting aside our own priorities and making our first priority to actively “seek Him”.  How do we do that?  I think most of us have experienced the emotion of falling in love, or at the very least believing we are.  Did that emotion cause you to alter your daily life?  Did your priorities suddenly change?  I think we can all think back to that time and agree that it had a profound effect in our lives.  Here are three ways I believe we can show we are seeking God first.

Seek to know God.

“Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.”           Exodus 33:13  NKJV

In this prayer, Moses tells the Father that his desire is to “know” Him.  The Hebrew word for know is “yada’” which is translated; to learn to know, perceive, discern, distinguish, to know by experience.  Obviously this is not referring to a casual friendship, but rather a deep, serious relationship where Moses wants to understand how God thinks, what He wants, and how best to serve Him.  This is an example of a desire to totally commit oneself to understanding God and His ways in order to please Him by doing only those things which we know He would approve of.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.    1 John 4:7-8  NKJV

Seek to experience the presence of God.

When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek. Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.       Psalms 27:8-9  NKJV

How important is it to you to spend time in the company of someone you love?  Most of us can relate to, and understand the desire to spend time with the one we love.  In this passage we see exactly how important it was to David to spend time in the presence of God.  The desire of his heart was to “seek” the face of God and to experience a relationship where the possibility of separation was so frightening to David that he literally pleads with God not to hide his face from him.  How much time do you think believers should spend with God compared with the time spent on other relationships?

Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.                 1 Peter 2:1-3  NKJV 

Seek to see God’s glory.

[[A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.]] O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.            Psalms 63:1-3  NKJV

When I think about the glory of God I think of two things.  The first is what happens in the Bible whenever someone experienced the glory of God firsthand, and that is that they immediately fell on their faces in worship to Him.  The presence of the Glory of God produces worship, and I can think of no other desire that shows a believers love for God than the desire to worship Him.  The second is that those who experienced His glory firsthand had an immediate change in their physical appearance.  Have you had the opportunity to observe the change in someone when they think they are in love?  When we as believers seek God’s glory, it will reflect in our outward appearance.

For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.          2 Corinthians 4:6  NKJV

Do you “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”?  Is your relationship with Him the most important relationship you have?  If so, that love should be obvious to everyone we come in contact with.  How?  Our desire will be to study His ways until we know exactly what He would want us to do in any situation.  We will want to spend as much time with Him as we possibly can in order to experience the love He has for us.  Most of all as we seek to worship Him we will reflect His glory in such a way as to show the world that the love He has for us is a life changing love which is available in no other than a personal relationship with Him through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  Romans 14:16-17  NKJV

Keep watching.