Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Vanishing

The faithful man has perished from the earth, And there is no one upright among men. They all lie in wait for blood; Every man hunts his brother with a net.         Micah 7:2  NKJV

There is a saying popular with many teachers of the Bible today which I find not only very true, but also extremely helpful in understanding both the Old and New Testaments.  You are probably familiar with it but even so I will repeat it here; “the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed”.  I am continually amazed as I study the scriptures to find how much of the New Testament is actually hidden in plain sight in the Old Testament, and this passage from Micah is a perfect example. 

The Hebrew word translated “perished” in the NKJV means “to vanish”.  From the teachings of the Apostle Paul in the New Testament, it becomes obvious that what Micah is describing is the rapture of the Church, and the state of the earth after all believers have been taken.  What this world will be like during this time of tribulation should literally scare any rational person to the point of salvation, yet we know this is not the case.  The passage from Micah does, however, help us to understand the anxiety which the church at Thessalonica experienced when they thought they had been “left behind”.

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.                                                2 Thessalonians 2:1-2  NKJV

Paul tells us immediately in verse 1 that the subject of the letter is about the rapture, or parousia of the Church which occurs when Jesus comes to take us home to be with Him. According to verse 2, Paul says they were "shaken" and "disturbed". This is one of those times where I think it's really important to look closely at the meaning of the words Paul uses. The word shaken is saleuō in the Greek and means "agitate" or become "insecure" in mind, while disturbed is throeō and means "clamor" or "tumult". So the picture Paul gives us is that the believers in the church were in an uproar and very agitated because they had become insecure in something they believed but now have doubts about, and obviously it has to do with the rapture. Paul then identifies the reason at the end of verse 2 when he refers to someone claiming  by spirit or by word or by letter”  that the day of the Lord had already come.

This brings us to the question, why were they so shaken? The reason for their distress is the part I believe gets missed most often when studying this passage of scripture. The problem was that they had been told by someone that the tribulation had already begun, and they had obviously been left behind, yet according to what they had been taught this could not be. This passage is one of the many reasons I believe so strongly in the pre-tribulation rapture of the church because if Paul hadn't taught the pre-tribulation rapture, the church at Thessalonica would not have been upset.  Obviously they were now either under the impression Paul had taught them wrong, or they had done something wrong to get left behind.

At the time of this letter, the Church was undergoing persecution from Rome and it was easy for people to believe that all of what they saw happening around them fit the picture of events which take place during the Tribulation. Unfortunately, all it took to shake them up was someone to suggest that their belief in the pre-tribulation rapture was wrong. So it becomes Paul’s purpose here to review the main points he taught about Jesus' return and its aftermath when he first started the church, and then taught again in his first letter to them.  

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.          2 Thessalonians 2:3-7  NKJV

What Paul chooses to clarify is that while the present circumstances were troubling, they should not be confused with what will happen in the future when the tribulation period begins. He explains that the mystery of lawlessness is the evil in this world produced by Satan and his angels, and the man of sin is the coming world leader or anti-christ, who will be revealed at the beginning of the tribulation. Paul makes the point that although evil forces were at work already, they are being held in check by "he who now restrains", and are not the same as what will occur after the Church, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, is removed at the rapture.  Paul gently reminds these believers that they too "know" these things because he had taught them before.

How often do we too need to be "reminded" of what we have already been taught, yet somehow begin to forget or doubt? I know I'm guilty of that, so I can sympathize with the situation the believers at Thessalonica found themselves in. I'm also sure there are many believers today who find themselves to be in a similar position as those in the church at Thessalonica. We see horrific images of things going on in the world around us, events we know are the signs Jesus said would occur at the end of the age, and there are those saying we have already entered the tribulation period.

But just as we find in this passage, we can't have entered the tribulation period because as Paul so simply said, the Church is still here! Evil is present, but so are we; the Church, the body of Christ. There is no doubt in my mind that we are as close to leaving this world as we can possibly be. One day very soon, the Church will vanish from this world in the blink of an eye. If you find yourself in the same position as those believers back then, the best advice I can give you today is the same advice Paul gave the church in Thessalonica:

Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.  2 Thessalonians 2:15-17  NKJV

Keep watching.

I also want to share a couple of articles which I ran across today from two individuals who I greatly respect.  Both deal with the subject of Pentecost which occurs today.  Enjoy.