Category: FAITH

FALSE WITNESS AND THE FREE WORLD

A certain political party which I don’t need to name has to abandon the commandments of God and the Word of God in order to fulfill its philosophical and social proclivities. One commandment being trashed currently is this one:

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16).

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Here’s another instance of the commandment, which includes another related issue:

“Stay far away from a false accusation. Do not kill the innocent or the just, for I will not acquit the guilty” (Exodus 23:7).

I’m not trying to say that the members of one party lie and the members of the other party don’t, because that wouldn’t be true either. But when a party claiming to be fighting for democracy uses as its chief weapon false witness, there’s something very wrong. You probably noticed that my title, at least at the level of leadership we are discussing, is an oxymoron. Freedom cannot exist in a nation or a world using such tactics.

Think back with me. Trump has been accused of almost everything any man can be accused of. Perhaps the most pernicious accusation was that he worked with the Russians to fix his election. But no real evidence was found. It was a set up: a “soft coup” being run by certain members of the political establishment and the news media.

And now, an accusation that he discussed “quid-pro-quo” with the Ukranian leader in order to beat his political opponent has been shown to be false by Trump’s release of the transcript of the actual conversation. Political leaders of the so-called “free world”, along with their allies in the media, have been brazenly and callously bearing false witness against their own president. Not only is this, in my view, the real treason going on around here, but it’s a sign that our society is teetering on the edge of disaster. And that disaster is probably only held back, for now, by the will of God and a few good men.

 

 

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RAPTURE 22: THE FIRST RESURRECTION

I was a pre-tribulation believer and proponent for twenty-eight years. Therefore I am, I  believe, well qualified to critique this mistaken position. Open your minds to reality, dear Christian brothers and sisters…

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Today’s excerpt from my book* is taken from chapter 14. The chapter is rather long, so today’s post contains a part and the rest will appear next week.

Paul, writing primarily about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, wrote that the dead will be raised “imperishable”, and that “we will all be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51). He gave us more detail of these events in his letter to the Thessalonians. Here he made clear that the resurrection will occur first, and then, “after that” those who are still alive will be taken up to meet the resurrected and the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Therefore, if the rapture were to occur before the tribulation, the resurrection would have to also occur before the tribulation. Conversely, of course, if the resurrection were to be at some time later, say, during or after the tribulation, then the rapture would have to be even later than that. So is it possible to pinpoint the time of the resurrection in relation to the tribulation using scripture?

Pre-tribulation believers have to assert that the resurrection will be in stages, because when we read of a resurrection of martyred believers at the end of the tribulation, occurring after the victorious return of Jesus Christ to the earth, it is called in Revelation, “The first resurrection” (Revelation 20:5). There are only two resurrections in total, according to Revelation, and John informs us that if you miss the first resurrection, there’s a long wait until the second:

The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended” (verse 5).

If it were to be the first “first” resurrection (intentional repeat) in which martyrs of Revelation are raised in chapter 20, then the rapture has to be at the end of the tribulation. So pre-tribulation theory has no choice but to say that the resurrection is in stages, that the resurrection of the martyrs is a second or even a third stage, and that the first stage, taking place with the rapture, occurred at least seven years earlier than chapter 20. Are pre-tribulation believers correct in invoking stages for the first resurrection? Or instead, could this resurrection of martyred believers in Revelation chapter 20, labeled by John “the first resurrection” actually be the same event as the resurrection Paul talked about to Corinthians and Thessalonians, which he associated with the rapture?

There’s no doubt that only the martyred are mentioned at this point in Revelation, giving the distinct impression that they’re the last ones left to be raised, and other believers must have been raised at some time before this. However, the fact that they’re the only ones mentioned here doesn’t exclude the possibility that their resurrection is actually just a featured detail; a part of the simultaneous resurrection of all believers. In that case the focus here, as it has been for several chapters of Revelation, is the persecution of all ages under the Harlot, and more specifically during the tribulation, where those living through it- the “saints who hold to the testimony to Jesus”-have been harassed and persecuted by the Beast. In this case their resurrection is most relevant to the account of tribulation events, and so the one in focus at this point.

WHERE ARE THE OTHER STAGES OF RESURRECTION?

Even though Paul had revealed the “mystery” of Christ’s return; the resurrection and the rapture, many years before the writing of Revelation, there’s no other reference in Revelation to the first resurrection before this one in chapter 20. Why not? It’s not at the beginning, or in any of the letters to the churches, or in the account of John being taken up to heaven. There’s no mention in heaven of resurrection before any seals are opened, or during or after them, until this talk of the “first” resurrection in chapter 20, after Christ’s return with his angels in chapter 19.

Verse 4 of chapter twenty, in which we see the martyrs raised, and before the martyrs are mentioned, speaks of “thrones, on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge”. We normally associate judgment with the physical return of Jesus to the earth. Indeed, how can anyone be judged without him? We, even as Christians, are going to receive a form of judgment, without condemnation (2 Corinthians 5:10 with Romans 8:1). So if the “judgment seat of Christ” is going to occur at the time of the resurrection of the martyrs, either the resurrection of the martyrs is a part of the general resurrection occurring simultaneously, or if the rapture occurred years earlier, the raptured have had to wait seven years to by judged. The other unlikely alternative is that Christ keeps getting out his judgment seat for each proposed phase of the resurrection. Why are seats of judgment being brought into view now for the first time in chapter 20? There’s no mention anywhere of any judgment occurring seven years before or at any previous point in Revelation.

Note, again, what Paul didn’t say to the Thessalonians or the Corinthians in the very scriptures we use as evidence of the resurrection and the rapture. He didn’t say, “some” of the dead will be raised imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:52). He didn’t say that those who are “ready” for the rapture will be taken and the others left. He didn’t say “some” of the dead will rise first and the rest later (1 Thessalonians 4:16). He said nothing in these passages about a two or three-staged resurrection, or a two-staged rapture, or for that matter a two or three-staged return of Jesus.

DANIEL’S RESURRECTION

Daniel’s prophetic book gives us an early, Old Testament glimpse of the resurrection. Chapter 11 first foretells some narrative of military and political struggles in the Middle-East in a chronological order, and then, by the end of chapter 11, we’re brought all the way up to the actual time and location of last-days tribulation events. There we learn a little about the movement of Antichrist and his forces in the Middle East.

Chapter 12 continues the order of events Daniel was shown, speaking of a time of “great distress” for the nation of Israel. This description closely resembles Jesus’ remarks in his Olivet Discourse, in which he speaks of the appearance of Antichrist, and the time of “great distress”, unequaled at no time past or future (Matthew 24:15-22). It also evokes Paul’s description of the time of Antichrist’s revealing which will release all sorts of evil on the world (2 Thessalonians 2).

It’s at the end of the succession of events Daniel is told about, and not at the beginning, that the angel talking to him speaks of the resurrection. First comes the warning of “a time of great distress, such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then”. Then the resurrection is described:

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).

*ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, by Nicholas Fisher, available on Amazon.

WILL JESUS KEEP US FROM THE HOUR OF TRIAL? (RAPTURE 21)

Will Jesus Christ keep true believers from the coming “hour of trial”, meaning the tribulation? That’s the claim of many people who teach an early rapture. This phrase is taken from a verse in Christ’s letter  to the church in Philadelphia, and the promise applied to believers in our age:

I will keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10b).

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I have to wonder just how the Philadelphian church received the benefit of this promise, because if you think about it, they, being first-century Christians, didn’t get raptured before they died. Their bodies still sleep even now while their souls are “present with the Lord”. In the pre-tribulation rapture sense which people now hope for, that is, going to heaven while alive and so escaping persecution and death, there was no fulfillment for the Philadephians. Why would Jesus make a promise of rapture, if that’s what this is, to a first century church?

Could it be instead that the promise is being misinterpreted? Perhaps we could look at it in a different way. And the way I”m going to suggest isn’t going to be popular with some of you: the natural death of those in the first century church was their escape from trial. Isaiah wrote:

The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find their rest as they lie in death” (Isaiah 57: 1-2).

Being human in the twenty-first century West we think that escape from trial should mean instant transport to heaven. But perhaps God has a different idea. Jesus told the Philadelphians that as they’d patiently endured they would be kept from trial, and we think that we deserve the same treatment-that is, rapture-while those “left behind” to live through the tribulation don’t. This attitude isn’t borne out in scripture. Even those who will bravely live through the tribulation, and refuse the mark of the beast, are said to “patiently endure” and remain faithful to Jesus (Revelation 14:12). At this very point in John’s book we’re told that those who die in the Lord at this time are “blessed”. And in language very reminiscent of the Isaiah quote above, we’re told that their deaths are their “rest”:

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on”…”Yes, says the Spirit, they will rest from their labor, for their deeds follow them” (verse 13).

Here, we’re told what we cannot grasp in our relatively free and safe Western culture-that escape from trial does not have to entail rapture. And the obvious observation must be made that millions of believers through the centuries, and even today in many parts of the world, have not been delivered from persecution by being raptured. Jesus said,  No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you as well (John 15:20).

PATIENT ENDURANCE

Here’s that quote from Jesus’ letter again:

I will keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10b).

It seems easy to apply this phrase to the pre-tribulation rapture, doesn’t it? And yet there isn’t really any mention of “rapture” or of being changed and transported to heaven. Perhaps we should look at the context of this phrase before we make a decision. With the first part of the verse in place, it reads like this:

Because you have kept my word about patient endurance…I will keep you from the hour of trial…” (etc).

The reward of the Philadelphians was in return for their patient endurance. What does Jesus mean by “patient endurance”? When I was first a Christian I was waiting for the rapture to happen any day. I thought I didn’t need to get a job because I would be zipping off to heaven before I’d even signed the application form. I had told my unbelieving family members where I would be when I disappeared along with millions of others around the world, and I’d written out a large “Where I’ve Gone” note for them to find. Is that what Jesus meant by “patient endurance”, or was I missing something? We can get a good idea of what the Philadelphian church was patiently enduring, and what other churches were patiently enduring, by reading through Revelation, particularly the letters. In John’s opening testimony, he wrote:

I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 1:9).

John was suffering persecution because of his testimony-the testimony of Jesus. Because of this suffering he was “patiently enduring”, just as the Philadelphian church was (3:10).

Interestingly, Jesus also expected the Philadelphians to “hold on” to what they had, and he said to them (and to us) “Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God” (3:11-12). Despite the fact that they were going to be kept from the world-wide trial which we may see as the tribulation, they were still expected to endure and to overcome. Their lives were not trouble free. They were not delivered from all trouble, and they were not raptured.

Overcoming is a common theme in the letters to the churches. It speaks of enduring persecution (Revelation 2:7; 2:11; 2:17; 2:26; 3:21). The Olivet Discourse includes a very relevant passage in which Jesus speaks of those living in those future, last-days times of “distress”. Speaking about all the trials they will experience, he said:

But he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13).

These words, “stands firm” are translated from the very same word which is also translated “patient endurance”. The first-century church in Philadelphia lived through their own trials and patiently endured, just as the tribulation saints will be expected to patiently endure, because they will be the ones living at that time. The Philadelphians died nineteen hundred years ago and so by natural death were kept from the future hour of trial which will affect the whole world, if that’s the trial Jesus was speaking of. He may have been speaking about judgment instead.

Again, the “hour of trial”, if it is the tribulation, is not necessarily seven years long. The world will be in some sort of relative peace and security before Antichrist is revealed three and a half years before the return of Jesus, not seven years (Revelation 13:5). Therefore, even if Jesus had meant in his letter to the Philadelphians that we, in our time, will escape the tribulation, there is no guarantee that the rapture will occur seven or more years before the visible return of Christ.

Thanks for reading. This post is the twenty-first edited excerpt from my book, “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, by Nicholas Fisher. It’s available in paperback and kindle editions on Amazon.

RAPTURE 20: HOW TO BE READY

I was a pre-tribulation rapture believer for twenty-eight years: I finally saw the light. This series on the rapture is designed to present the alternative to anyone who really wants to know. You can search for other parts of this series in the box above, or you could get my book*

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HOW TO BE READY FOR THE RAPTURE

In Revelation chapter 19 we read that the bride-the Church-has made herself ready for the wedding of the Lamb (Revelation  19:7). In what way has the bride “made herself ready” before Christ returns to the earth? Has she been in heaven for seven years or more, getting those linen robes fitted, and practicing for the wedding? I think we’re given a strong clue as to the answer in the following two verses, though they’re often conveniently overlooked:

Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints)”.

As I’ve pointed out, not only the bride of chapter 19 wears fine linen but angels do too. However, those saints who are martyred during the tribulation-and possibly before it- also seem to be wearing something very similar:

I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained…then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer…” (6:9 and 11).

In chapter 19 fine linen is given to the bride seemingly as a gift, just as salvation is a gift of God. Salvation is by faith and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, we’re told in chapter 19 of Revelation that the Church’s fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints. Doesn’t that sound a little like works?

There’s precedence to this imagery, in Jesus’ letter to the church in Sardis. Jesus speaks there of the deeds of those in the church (Revelation 3:1). They had a reputation for being alive in Christ, but they were not. He told them to repent and “wake up”. He acknowledges that there are a few people in Sardis, “who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white…” (verses 4-5).

Similarly, the church in Laodicea is accused by Christ of being “lukewarm” in their love for him. He tells them that they are “wretched, pitiful, poor blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17). They have no robes on. Clearly he means the kind of robes we’ve already discussed. So among other things he counsels them to buy “white clothes to wear” from him (verse 18).

Therefore, considering our opening verse, ” …his bride has made herself ready”, along with the references above, being ready does not at all have to relate to being raptured. As with the bride in Revelation, so with these churches in existence well before the tribulation, and by extension anyone who wants to walk with Christ in white, we must live out the “deeds” expected of us (verse 1). As Christians we do not believe in salvation by works, but we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10). We can’t live the way we did before our profession of faith, or else our profession is not genuine. At least some of those deeds expected of the church in Sardis included being spiritually awake and attentive to their Lord. Perhaps that’s the entire requirement. Clearly a vital theme, Jesus Christ reiterates it after the penultimate bowl judgment on the earth and before the final one:

Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed” (Revelation 16:15).

Getting to the point of this observation, it seems clear that the bride mentioned in chapter 19 “makes herself ready” by her deeds. The bride has not made herself ready for the wedding by being raptured or by getting used to being in heaven for seven years, or by spending seven years putting robes and make-up on: she’s made herself ready by the deeds done in her lifetime on the earth. She doesn’t have to be raptured before the tribulation in order to make herself ready. And those saints still struggling against the Antichrist on earth can be just as ready for the groom as those who may be in heaven. John gave counsel in this regard in his first epistle:

And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming” (1 John 2:28).

In short, the bride, conspicuously intangible, along with the wedding supper in the chapter 19 scene in heaven, usually described as the bride’s preparation for the attack force, does not even have to be in heaven to be ready for her groom.

*My book, “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST A PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, is available on Amazon. Alternatively, the entire book is being published here in an updated and edited form. This is part 20. More to come next week.

SEEING GOD

Millions of people make the gigantic mistake of expecting God to peep through the clouds, or to audibly speak the winning lotto numbers, before they’ll believe he’s there. God isn’t undetectable. He isn’t “the God of the gaps” as one famous evolutionist insists we evangelicals believe. He isn’t only in the things we can’t explain.

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In fact, God is so there that it’s really impossible not to see his handiwork, unless you are that determined not to see it. What evolutionists observe while intentionally ignoring the fact, is God’s workmanship. Go and look outside, or look in the mirror: there’s all the evidence you’ll ever need that there’s an amazing, mind-bogglingly intelligent Creator, full of beauty, love, power and order. What we can see, hear and touch, and the fact that we can see it, is proof enough:

“Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).