Broadcast starts approximately at the 5 minute mark.
Broadcast starts approximately at the 5 minute mark.
I’ve come across a few references to “the rapture” over recent weeks, in blog articles, YouTube videos and even from an elder of the church I attend – it seems some people are looking to the current virus situation as an indication that “the rapture” will be soon.
I want to address these expectations (hopes?) by looking at what the Bible says about this event, and especially the timing of it, by looking at specific references and what they actually say, without (hopefully) projecting meaning onto them that is not genuinely there.
If I miss a “rapture” reference – please let me know.
What do the following say about “the rapture”, what do they indicate about it’s timing, particularly with regard to the “timeline” of Revelation?
Gospel of Matthew
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Gospel of Mark
But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.
I recall that a few years ago I read a pre-tribulation believer expressing surprise that Jesus didn’t mention the rapture in His Matthew 24 discourse. I wonder how he could have overlooked the above references.
Letters to the Thessalonians
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thess 4: 13-18) NIV
Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed. (2 Thess 2: 1-3) NIV
From these two references we learn the following:
Another Thessalonians reference.
you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. (1 Thess 5: 2)NKJV
While this doesn’t specifically refer to a catching up of the saints, it has been used by pre-tribulation believers to convey the secret and unexpected nature of their version of Jesus coming to catch up His saints. It was also used as the title of a popular Christian film from the 1970s portraying a post rapture world in which those left behind had to live through the tribulation.
From 1 Corinthians.
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. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)NKJV
This also mentions a trumpet sound but specifies that it is the LAST trumpet. How many trumpets are there after the last one? That suggests that all other trumpets related to prophecy would come before this one.
Now, where does the rapture occur within the Revelation timeline? There are many claims made by supporters of a pre-tribulation rapture, but they are very questionable – such as suggesting it is represented here:
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.” (Rev 4:1)NKJV
While there is a kind of “catching up” of John, and there is a mention of a trumpet, it clearly isn’t the last trumpet mentioned in other references to the catching up of the saints.
While pre-tribulation proponents struggle to provide a convincing Revelation reference to support their belief, there ARE references in Revelation that fit with the “rapture” occurring later in the end time narrative as disclosed in other parts of scripture
The signs of a darkening sun, blood red moon and falling stars, mentioned in the gospel references, happen at the opening of the sixth seal in Revelation 6: 11-13.
I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind.
The last trumpet sounded in Revelation and therefore in scripture as a whole, is the seventh trumpet in Revelation 11: 15.
Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”
Any trumpet before this can therefore not be a “last trumpet” as per the rapture reference in 1 Cor 15, so the rapture needs to be after Revelation 11 and the trumpet judgements.
Finally, the reference to the day of the Lord coming like a thief, used by pre-tribulation adherents, is actually included in Revelation 16.
Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.(Rev 16: 15) NIV
This comes after the pouring of the sixth bowl judgement.
So in the above I believe I have shown how none of the references to the catching up of the saints, (the rapture) support belief in that event being prior to the tribulation.
Why is this so important?
Apart from the need for truth, especially regarding prophecy, one of the Thessalonians’ references above speaks about a falling away from the faith, and Jesus warned:
At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other. (Matt 24: 10) NIV
Could the shock and disappointment of realising they hadn’t been raptured before they faced the terrible events associated with the tribulation be enough for people to abandon the faith?
Yesterday morning I received a newsletter that included a link to the article below, about New Testament prophets.
Such perfect timing!
It even includes an observation regarding examples of NT prophecy through Agabus that I had been intending to address in an article of my own – but instead I’ll recommend the article below, which addresses the topic in far more detail and astute observation than anything I wrote could have done.
Considering the response I got after some previous resources I shared, let me state clearly that my recommendation of this article is not an outright endorsement of any ministry or individual associated with the article. It’s not an endorsement of any ministry or person the writer of the article may have associated with at some time. I’m also not necessarily in agreement with everything the writer says in the article.
I don’t have the time or desire to forensically check the writer’s background or associations to make sure there’s not the tiniest bit of “heresy” lurking somewhere in the background. That was the approach of the Pharisees in Jesus’ time, who continually tried to find something incriminating in Jesus and His message, by which they could accuse and condemn Him.
Instead of emulating the Pharisees we ALL need to consider the way of the Bereans, who gave Paul the courtesy of searching the scriptures daily for themselves to make sure what he was teaching was legitimate.
As a final note I ask that you follow the link to the WHOLE article and don’t merely read the brief excerpts I’ve provided.
If your theology is off, your prophecies may be as well. If you don’t believe that believers can suffer, then how can you prophesy that someone is going to suffer? If you don’t believe in judgment, you cannot prophesy judgment. And for those who think that all New Testament prophecy rosy, the only two examples we have were warnings; one about a famine and the other that Paul was going to be persecuted in Jerusalem.
After Paul lays out his very clear teaching on prophecy, he makes it clear that if you disobey or reject his teaching you are not a prophet.
If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored. (1 Cor. 14:37-38)
Beware of those who claim there are good days ahead leading up to the return of the Lord: saying that there will be no time of tribulation, instead they say, the world will get better.
Consider their claims against the scriptural warnings about false prophets and their messages quoted below.
I post this because I’ve recently read two disturbing articles by the same man.
I’d read other articles by him that were encouraging and enlightening – but the two latest things on his site show how easy it can be to get things so badly wrong if you allow outside influences to shape understanding of scripture rather than let scripture speak for itself.
The first one promoted a view that a media conspiracy of exaggeration was behind the present Corona virus situation; that things weren’t as bad as they were being portrayed.*
The second presented a view launching from that assertion, claiming that the end times wouldn’t be as bad as commonly portrayed – that things would effectively get better not worse.
As far as I can see the writer came to these topics from a desire to combat fear – fear of the virus, fear of bad times ahead. But fear is not overcome through misrepresentation of reality and truth, or by denying the thing being feared.
Fear is overcome through faith in Jesus who regularly commanded his followers to “fear not”. He didn’t say this because there were no fearful circumstances, but because He was bigger than those circumstances. His provision is greater than any lack we might be afraid of, or any difficult situation we might face, and faith in Him is more than sufficient, equipping for us to overcome fear.
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart,I have overcome the world” (John 16)
Jesus told His disciples the following regarding the time leading up to the end of the age and His return.
…you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matt 24 (NIV)
That’s only a small excerpt of what HE said would be ahead, including a warning of the rise of false prophets.
Jeremiah had previously addressed the issue of false prophets, giving description of them and the messages they presented.
This is what the Lord Almighty says:
“Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you;
they fill you with false hopes.
They speak visions from their own minds,
not from the mouth of the Lord.
They keep saying to those who despise me,
‘The Lord says: You will have peace.’
And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts
they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’
But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord
to see or to hear his word?
Who has listened and heard his word? (Jer 23)NIV
“I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their ancestors forgot my name through Baal worship. Let the prophet who has a dream recount the dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?” declares the Lord. “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?
“Therefore,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me. Yes,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, ‘The Lord declares.’ Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,” declares the Lord. “They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least,” declares the Lord. (Jer 23) NIV
The above excerpts from Jeremiah are referring to false prophets who gave assurances that good times were ahead, despite the sin of the people and approaching judgement from God.
The issue of end time prophecy being misrepresented is not so much assuring God’s people they are not going to be judged, but that they don’t need to face hardships from an increasingly hostile world (despite Jesus’ warnings), because the world will allegedly become more favourably inclined towards them.
Surely there can be no clearer sign of false prophecy than outright denials of the Lord’s own words.
By promoting false expectation of escape for the church from persecution and hostility, these false prophetic claims make end time believers unready for what (according to the Lord) will come upon them. What could be more fear inducing than finding yourself, unprepared, in a terrible situation that you were taught would not eventuate?
* I’m becoming more convinced that the conspiracy claims about the Corona virus are the latest attempt by Satan to bring contempt upon the church and to denigrate the gospel by attacking our credibility.
Instead of denying reality by claiming it’s all media exaggeration – the world needs Christians to preach THE TRUTH of hope and freedom from fear through Jesus.
While many are looking forward to great national and worldwide revival that will turn their nations to the Lord. I find the expectation of revival described in the article and video below has a much more sound biblical foundation, and has been my view for many years.
Then He said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. (Luke 21:10-13) NKJV
Revival or Persecution? Unmasking What Revelation Tells Us About the End Times.
One of the most precious promises in the Bible is Acts 2:17, that “In the last days it shall be,’ says God, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh” (Acts 2:17). We understand this to be a promise of a world-wide revival in the end times. (Yeshua also said that the “harvest is the end of the world” (Matt. 13:39).
Some people do not believe in such a revival in the end times. They point to the prophecies about persecution and tribulation and the Antichrist in the end times, and conclude (reasonably enough) that there could be no widespread revival.
So which is it? Revival or persecution? Victory or tribulation? The answer of course is both. There is revival in the midst of persecution; victory in the midst of tribulation.
“Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.”
(Luke 6: 39-40) NIV.
Yesterday I woke with the following phrases in my head:
“Removing the glory of the ‘shepherd’, replacing it with the glory of God”.
Learning to recognise His voice.
I saw these had something to do with the current situation that has led to the closing down of churches and our enforced isolation.
Depending on where our priorities and affections lie, those restrictions potentially give us more time we can spend in the word and in prayer – strengthening our relationship with God, with the help of the Holy Spirit.
There is an opportunity to grow beyond reliance on those ‘shepherds’ and church systems that keep people dependent on them instead of leading them to maturity.
A few days ago I watched a short video of a man criticising the proclamations of several “prophets” given at the end of last year, who all predicted the wonderful things ahead in 2020. None of them had anything to say about the health and economic crises caused by Covid-19, but several of them spoke of increased prosperity and stadiums full of people – a prediction the presenter happily contrasted with footage of the abandoned sporting arenas, empty now that all sporting events and gatherings (large and small) have been brought to a stop.
I could have posted the video here, however despite the presenter’s gleeful, and deserving, exposure of the false prophets, his own theology was no less flawed in some serious areas. And I suspect that his opposition was not only to the false proclamations he was addressing in the video, but it extended to dismissing the validity of any prophetic gifts in the present day, contrary to instruction in scripture.
With so many false prophecies and teachings pervading the church, we need to be certain we recognise HIS voice above all other voices. Even the voices of our favoured teachers. It’s easy to be dismissive, even condemnatory, of those outside of our particular church settings, but we often don’t scrutinise our favoured teachings to the degree they deserve.
There are big problems across the whole spectrum of the church – from a far too casual approach to prophecy, to the dismissal of large sections of scripture by those who ironically insist scripture alone is the foundation of their belief. (The kind of people who insist the complete canon of scripture removes the need of the very spiritual gifts that the scriptures tell us to ‘earnestly desire’ [1 Cor 12]).
Many who claim their theology is bible based are not really believing and promoting what the bible says, instead they follow and preach the doctrines of their favoured theological systems or church traditions. So maybe it’s long past the time that we all should have become more diligent in seeking God for ourselves.
That’s why I see the current situation, where we’ve all been distanced from church meetings and programs, is offering the perfect opportunity to spend more personal time in the word. For many who find themselves unable to go to work, there is even more time to fill, some of which can be used for extra bible reading and prayer.
It all depends on how much people want to know God and serve Him, instead of being satisfied with sticking to what they’ve been taught about God.
For those confident that their church and pastor are beyond reproach when it comes to the doctrine and practices they teach, what is there to lose anyway in devoting more of your time to strengthen the foundation they have helped build in your life?
And surely, the stronger prayer enhanced, bible based, Spirit led faith we ALL have the opportunity to develop in coming months, can only be of benefit to our fellowships when we are able to meet with them again.
“I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
“…when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth”
I’ve hesitated to post this because it involves something I’ve not previously experienced, and something that I’ve seen abused and misused in the past by others who have made “prophetic” claims. I can only submit this for consideration, in the hope that I’m not going off track. I’ve also been reluctant to jump on the corona virus bandwagon, considering it’s been given more than enough publicity everywhere else.
In recent months I’ve occasionally woken in the morning with particular phrases stuck in my mind.
The first time it was straight from scripture and related to a cancer diagnosis I’d been given: “To live is Christ, to die is gain”.
I’ve shared some of that on my blog recently, how I came to the understanding that God’s will relates to the first part – that life in service to Christ here and now is the preferred option, over the “selfishness” of going to be with the Lord.
The second time it was again scripture: ” God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”. This led me to study the context, which took me into some realities of the new creation we have become, that requires us to take off the old and put on the new. I’m still learning the consequences of that and how it SHOULD be reflected in our lives and ministry of the gospel. I’ve also been sharing some of that.
Most recently it wasn’t a phrase of scripture, but a simple and seemingly obvious statement, considering what’s happening in the world at the moment. “Things are going to change”.
The following morning, there was a “flood” of thoughts continuing on from that, the first was “things are not going to return to ‘normal’, along with the term “tipping point”.
I got out of bed to write these things down and the phrase “bringing down nations” was added.
Then finally, “revival has started, but not in the form expected” brought an end to the morning “flood” of phrases.
I shared these things with a few trusted brothers and sisters to get their impressions.
To me there seems to be a flow – starting with something I personally needed, then on to truths applicable to the wider church, regarding our identity and God’s equipping of His saints for ministry. Then finally (so far) putting those things into a context of urgency.
I can only see my health diagnosis and the medical prognosis as part of a personal shake-up I needed to get me on track in preparation for wider change in the world.
It’s now a week later and I’ve come across a few claimed prophetic views of the current virus situation. Most of them are predicting that it will all be over very shortly – prior to Passover, which is only about two weeks away. That’s a message that seems to have been grasped by the US President too – looking at returning business to usual by Easter. All of that in spite of what’s evident in the world right now, and particularly in the US which has just been reported as currently having the most cases of COVID-19 in a single nation. An end within two weeks would clearly be a miraculous outcome.
Those prophetic views have been expressed by several high profile individuals who all expect “revival” to come out of the current crisis. However their views of revival tend to focus on NATIONAL revivals – a turning around of nations (the US in particular since that’s where those expressing that “prophetic” insight are located).
While the optimistic outlook of a miraculous end to a world health catastrophe would be very welcome, and I would be pleased to be proven wrong, I don’t share that optimism.
One reason is that I find the “revival” they expect is based on a false hope. Revival has been on the minds of many in charismatic/Pentecostal churches for as long as I can remember, since my first association with them in the mid 1970s. I recall how much I longed for revival – basically because I thought it would make it easier for my family to hear the gospel and be saved, without me having to say much to them.
I see no reason for expectation of national revivals in scripture – apart from the many clear prophecies about Israel turning to the Lord AS A WHOLE NATION in the very last days. I suspect some of the expectation for revival in our own nations has been fuelled by a misapplication of promises made to and about Israel.
One example of this is the common reference to 2 Chronicles 7:14, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
That is a promise/directive given specifically to Israel, a people of God who actually HAD a land to be healed – a land given to them by God Himself.
While disciples of Jesus are God’s people, we have no land to which that promise can be applied – the nations in which we live are not ours. We are part of God’s Kingdom and His Kingdom is not of this world. And can we really consider that anyone with current “wicked ways” could be thought of as a disciple of Jesus?
In this world believers will have trouble, not acceptance and comfort, something that we in the west seem to view with aversion, having never really suffered in the way those in the early church did and those in other nations currently do.
It seems to me that the current emphasis on national revival is focused on politics and political outcomes. I believe that contrasts significantly with God’s focus on His Kingdom and those who claim to represent it. And it is among those representatives that revival is needed – to stir up, experience and share the abundant life Jesus came to give, to encourage others to migrate from the world’s Kingdoms to God’s Kingdom. There is no answer through worldly politics or politicians, and I suspect that the association of evangelicals with partisan politics will backfire as the sandy foundation of their political expectations are exposed.
Things are going to change and will not return to “normal”, no matter how much some people may expect and insist that we’ll push through the current situation and get things back on track on the other side. Whether that change is in process now or not, scripture makes it clear that it IS eventually coming, and in a much more disastrous way than anything we’ve experienced so far.
As for the term “tipping point”, it’s one I came across a few times over the days following my own reference to it, I assume it refers to the earlier two statements regarding change.
There will be a bringing down of nations – whether politically, economically, or in any other natural way, I’m not sure – but hopefully it will mean a bringing down of nations in the esteem and expectation of Jesus’ disciples, redirecting their attention and hopes solely upon His Kingdom.
Revival has started but not in the form expected – I can only write from personal experience that my commitment to God has been significantly revived, ignited by the need to face adverse personal circumstance in my own life. Maybe others are being faced with similar experiences.
As for revival beyond the personal, and particularly regarding any expected “end time ” revival upon the earth, I’ve long seen that as being associated with the kind of intense persecution against the saints prophesied in scripture. As persecution causes many uncommitted to fall away, this “pruning” of fruitless branches will lead to more fruitfulness in those branches that remain, those who are genuinely committed to Christ.
That increased fruitfulness will lead to a more genuine witness of, and bringing more people into, the Kingdom.
But that kind of revival OF THE CHURCH is far different to the “glorious” nation-changing move of God that seems to be the expectation of others.