For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:3-5 NKJV
Why are we still here? You would not believe how many have asked that question now that the predicted days of our departure have come and gone. The signs appeared, speculation was rampant, and still we wait upon the Lord. I am certainly as disappointed as anyone that the rapture has not yet occurred, but I refuse to be discouraged. Yet many are, and for this reason I thought I would repost a column I wrote back in January of this year in the hope that you would be “encouraged” and not “discouraged” that God has seen fit to tarry.
Standing on the Promises of God
So 2016 comes to an end and the Church is still here. If you are a watcher like I am, I am sure you are more than aware of all of the failed dreams, visions, and predictions of the past year that claimed we would be gone by now. Something I learned as a small child and something I am equally sure most of you have learned by now is that the greater your expectations are, the more disappointed you are when it doesn’t come to pass. As believers, our hope and expectation is in the Lord and the rapture of the Church to be with Him forever in our heavenly home. Yet although the signs are all around us we finish another year still here on this earth struggling with our feelings.
As I thought about this, it occurred to me that there are three steps leading downward we need to avoid at all costs, and by understanding what they are we can begin to maintain our perspective and better cope with the situation we find ourselves in as we wait patiently for our Lord. It would appear to me that Paul might have been dealing with this in his letter to the church at Philippi, and his advice to them certainly seems to me to provide us some help while struggling with our feelings as we watch and wait.
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. Philippians 3:20-21 NKJV
Paul’s first reminder to the church is that we have a promise from God that Jesus will return to take us to heaven, the place prepared for us to live for eternity with Him. When we accepted His gift of eternal life, we became citizens of heaven and although we may be living on this earth right now, it is but temporary and we have a promise from God Himself that we need to remind ourselves of daily in order to avoid the disappointment which can come from our having to wait. This earth is not our home, and we need to focus on His promise rather than the disappointment of still being here.
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 NKJV
Have you found yourself becoming discouraged by having to wait so long for our deliverance from this world? Have you considered that discouragement is one of Satan’s best weapons against believers who choose to watch for Christ’s return? Disappointment, if left unchecked, leads directly to discouragement. Have you ever noticed that inside of the word discouragement is the word courage? One of the first things that can happen to a discouraged believer is losing the courage to speak of what he or she believes in. Paul says to rejoice always! Have you talked with God about your struggles? Have you told Him you are disappointed and discouraged? Paul says if we do, His peace will surround us and help us guard against this downward spiral.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 NKJV
To me, despair is the bottom of the emotional hole Satan wants all of us to fall into. Despair is a total lack of hope, and it is a result of focusing solely on the negative, and ignoring all of the positive promises of God that are available to us as believers. Paul says here to meditate, the Greek word for number, all the things God has done and promised to do for us. To combat despair, believers need to number the many blessings we do have, and the future blessings we have been promised which will help us regain the trust that we will receive that which has yet to be given.
I began this article by mentioning there were a few failed predictions of this past year. To be truthful, I think I can safely say that this year will also give rise to many failed predictions. As believers, we need to be especially careful to focus solely on what the Word of God says, rather than what man might say based on his own calculations and observations. Many predictions for this coming year are already making news, and many of them concern astrological signs. I thought I would leave you with an excerpt from an article by Jack Kelley written back in 2011 which contains some advice many of us should take to heart as we watch for the rapture of the Church.
So how could an idea like this one become so easily accepted by so many? It’s because as a Church we are a people of zeal without knowledge. For several generations now our leaders have consistently misinformed and misled us and we’ve been too lazy to search the Scriptures on our own to see if the things they’re teaching us about the End Times are true. As a result some who should know better can be fooled into believing that applying astrology to the interpretation of Scripture is a legitimate approach, even though its practice was a sin in Old Testament times (Lev. 19:26 KJV).
Some of us want the rapture to come so badly that we’ll believe anything we’re told that points to an early fulfillment even though it’s certain to result in disappointment. Sure the Bible says there’ll be signs in the sun, moon, and stars, but there have always been such things, and history has shown that seeing them is no excuse for ignoring sound doctrine. These signs are meant to support what the Bible says, not replace what it says.
This is an application of Paul’s warning that in the last days people would not put up with sound doctrine but would gather around themselves teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Tim. 4:3-4)
So when someone comes out with a new idea based on eclipses, or comets, or even Scripture, don’t assume he’s done his homework. And that includes articles you find on this site. Do what Paul told you to do and search the scriptures daily to prove whether these things be true (Acts 17:11).
As the time grows shorter there will be all kinds of false information bombarding us. Some will be out of ignorance and some will be out of malevolence. Either way you could easily become confused or discouraged. Do your homework. Make sure you understand why no part of Daniel’s 70th Week, which begins in Rev.6, can take place until the Church is gone.
I can’t help but remember the words of an old hymn I learned in church as a young believer which says simply, “I’m standing on the promises of God.” Amen.
There is no question in my mind that the rapture of the Church could happen at any time. The signs we have all observed are there to tell us the time is near, but speculation as to a specific date for our departure is ill advised at best. As believers we need to focus on "why" we are still here and fulfill the ministry of the Church until He comes for us.