Tag: Holy Spirit

RAPTURE 5: DID PAUL SAY THE CHURCH WILL BE TAKEN INTO HEAVEN WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT BEFORE THE TRIBULATION?

Will believers really be taken into heaven before any trouble comes upon the world? That was my conviction for twenty-eight years. I was wrong.

Welcome to the fifth excerpt from my recent book, “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”.

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Some believe, based on the words of Paul, that there’s coming a day before the Tribulation when the Holy Spirit will be withdrawn from the earth into heaven. We’re told by Paul that Antichrist can only be revealed to the world and do his work on the earth when the one who holds him back has been “taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-8). The assumption drawn from this chapter is that Paul is telling us the Spirit of God is going to be withdrawn completely, into heaven from the earth, before the “seven year tribulation” begins. And since the Spirit indwells all true believers (Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9-11) the theory goes that all believers must be taken into heaven with the Spirit, because He wouldn’t leave the Church which He indwells.

When we read this passage in 2 Thessalonians we see that it doesn’t actually say that the Holy Spirit will be taken from the earth into heaven. Neither does it say that He will be taken out of the way seven years before Antichrist is revealed. Here is what it does say:

And now you know what is holding him (Antichrist) back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way”.

Antichrist could probably have appeared many times over during the history of man, if the Holy Spirit of God not been here to prevent him, or to “hold him back”. Hitler, for example, would have been a perfect candidate for the position of Antichrist. But Antichrist’s advent must occur at “the proper time” (verse 6). That is, when God says it’s time.

Some people think that it’s the influence of Christians in the world which is preventing Antichrist from being revealed. The Church, they say, is the restraining force holding back the Antichrist. Only when Christians get raptured and “taken out of the way” can that power of lawlessness come to fruition.

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I think there’s a degree of truth in the idea that Christians hold back the forces of evil. We are, after all, “the salt of the earth”. But it seems we need a rather grandiose attitude to assume that the mighty “We” are the ones holding back the the appearance of Antichrist. We failed to hold back Hitler, and WW2 saw the deaths of tens of millions of people, including six million Jews. We failed to hold back Stalin, Pol Pott and Mao, who between them murdered over a hundred million of their own people, including Christians. And there have been innumerable other tyrants and murderers in the history of mankind. We failed to hold back the Black Death which killed a third of the population of Europe, including Christians. Furthermore, and more specifically, there is no statement in Paul’s letter or anywhere else in Scripture declaring that Christians are holding back the power of Antichrist and Satan. It’s an assumption only.

Neither did Paul say that the Holy Spirit must be taken into heaven in order to let Antichrist loose. It seems to me more likely that when the Holy Spirit is “taken out of the way” (verse 7) God will simply be removing his restraining power from a (or the) man who would fulfill Satan’s will on earth, and from the “secret power of lawlessness”. He will stop restraining the flood of evil which He constantly holds back like a dam, even now. For that He does not need to leave the earth at all.

A relevant and instructive scripture passage which reveals an important principle of Scripture is found in Romans chapter 1. Paul writes here about a people who have so turned their back on God that He literally gives them over to their sin:

…since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:28).

We sometimes wonder why the wicked prosper, and why they get away with the things they get up to. Unfortunately for them, it may be because God has handed them over to their wickedness. In this case, what man regards as success may actually be God’s judgment. It’s the worst thing that could happen to anyone, because he or she no longer has the Holy Spirit of God drawing him and calling him, and he’s even less likely to find repentance and salvation in Jesus. At that point, Satan has successfully and totally blinded him to the truth, because in effect, he wants to be blind.

This is the intention of God for the tribulation. His purpose in the Tribulation is not to unite the godly with the wicked, but to cement the division between them, and to seal the wicked in their chosen fate:

They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12).

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SEVEN YEARS-REALLY?

Second, according to several Bible passages, Antichrist will not be revealed to the world until the mid part of the Tribulation, at the time when he enters the temple and claims to be God (Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Revelation 13:5-6). This, and not before, is the time when the restraining power of the Holy Spirit will be removed, mid -way through the assumed seven-year period-not before them! If believers really want to see the removal of the Holy Spirit as the event concurrent with and necessary for the rapture, they should perhaps consider themselves “mid-tribulation” believers.

Thirdly, we know the gospel will be preached during the Tribulation, and that there will be followers of Jesus, so we need to recognize that it’s not possible for the unbeliever to be regenerated without the work of the Holy Spirit:

…if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ he does not belong to Christ”… “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:9-11).

The fact is that you cannot come to Jesus-you are not saved from your sins or regenerated-without the Holy Spirit. You would not even begin to understand the things of Christ without the Holy Spirit:

The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

How then can the saints during revelation become saints, hold to the testimony of Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:17) hold on to their faith through terrible persecution and a godless world and become fearless witnesses, without the Holy Spirit?

Moreover, this view of believers disappearing into heaven along with the Holy Spirit is a little selfish, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be harsh, cold and un-loving for God to withdraw the only possible help from his Tribulation saints? The Spirit would be the only  comfort and strength available-assistance which they would surely need in order to deal with intense persecution and upheaval. According to the Pre-Tribulation theory, while the Tribulation saints are standing up to Antichrist and intense persecution the rest of us would be enjoying first class treatment and the luxury of heaven, in return for not having to stand up for the name of Jesus at all!

Finally, it’s undeniable that Paul told the believers in Thessalonica not to let anyone convince them that the day of the Lord had come, until Antichrist was revealed (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3). Jesus spoke of the same initial sign to his disciples (Matthew 24:15-21). He did not say anything like this: “Do not to worry about the Tribulation, because you will not be here when the Day of the Lord arrives”.

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MUSIC AS A LOVE LANGUAGE OF GOD

If you’re a music lover and a believer you’ve probably experienced at least one of those sublime moments while listening to a piece of music, when you feel that the Spirit of God is right there with you, and when you’re convinced that the music was inspired by Him. I’ve enjoyed that sensation many times, with many different kinds of music. No-one could persuade me that Beethoven’s hand and mind were not guided to write “Moonlight Sonata”, or that Liszt was not similarly driven to pen “Consolation No. 3”. Could Debussey’s “Claire de Lune” have been the product of chance and time – a creature evolving from nothing via slime? Ridiculous! I even experience this feeling occasionally in Techno and other electronic music, Surf, or “Classic Rock”. You may get the buzz from something very different, but I know it’s a fairly common phenomenon: I’ve heard people say that they feel close to God when they hear certain music.

I’m not saying that every time someone has this feeling it’s because God is giving it to them, or that the music they’re listening to was necessarily inspired by God. It can be caused by drugs, or by our amazement at someone’s skill, or for a number of other reasons. I’ve experienced the feeling while watching the Blue Angels at an air show: their display was breath-taking.  But God has made humans creative. He’s arranged the physical universe so that music can be enjoyed by humans. He’s given us the ability to make it, hear it, decipher it and experience pleasure from it, but it’s not always Him writing it, and it’s not only believers who get that buzz, because we are all created to be able to enjoy what He has made.

Scripture suggests that our Enemy is an inspirer, a writer, and a shaper of music. You don’t have to hear much modern music to notice that. So how do we tell the difference between what God has inspired, what man has contrived, and what Satan is using? That’s not the subject of this blog post, except to say that the result of our listening experience is a clear indicator. Does it leave us feeling empty, angry, insufficient, incomplete, suicidal, or like doing something we know is against God’s will? Then it’s certain that God has not just spoken.

I’m sure that most often neither the Lord nor Satan wrote the music: it was contrived by the mind of man using God-given creativity.

However, I’m convinced that sometimes that feeling, that emotion, that buzz is a physical sign that the Spirit of God is ministering to us.

I once thought I heard God speak to me as a teenager while I was listening to Deep Purple. I said “What did you say? And he said “Turn it down!” It was my Dad.

Here’s a little joke:

Knock-knock

“Who’s there?”

Knock-knock

“Who’s there?”

Knock-knock

“Who’s there?”

Knock-knock

“Who’s there?”

“Philip Glass”

(Those of you who don’t know his music will not understand, sorry).

I’m a predominantly melancholy sort of character, and people who are not may not understand my following ramblings, but I’m attempting to illustrate what I want to convey.

I was listening to Glass’s “Solo Piano” recently. His music – not the very repetitive material which inspired the joke, but his rather more melodic music – moves me to tears. While composers of the past would devote a few measures or perhaps a short piece to something in a minor key to stir the soul just a little, then bounce back to the lively, more cheerful clichés and movements, Glass not only stirs our melancholy emotions and keeps them stirred, but takes our hearts down to the depths of our souls and makes them wallow there for some considerable time. It was in one of these wallowing sessions that I observed within myself the emotions and thoughts evoked by the piece, and by the passionate sensitivity and sincerity of the piano playing.

I often listen to some very hard hitting, wild and fast euphoria-inducing music, but I usually find that melancholy music is my ticket and my courier to peace, rest, resolution, hope and faith. It connects with my inner being. It unlocks my soul and opens it up to be repaired, cleansed, refreshed and loved.

Part of what gets to me in Glass’s music is the simplicity, the understatement, and the  masterful control amidst those perfectly selected minor scale intervals and chord changes: a delicious touch of minimalism. And more than that, there’s the knowledge that in order to write that very piece which touches my soul the composer and musician must also experience very similar feelings to my own. Perhaps Glass does not have similar beliefs to mine, I don’t know, but no matter, because God can speak through a gentle breeze, a donkey, a storm, or an unbeliever. We drive cars designed and made by unbelievers, we wear clothes designed and made by unbelievers, we watch movies conceived and made by unbelievers, so why not listen to some beautiful music created by unbelievers?

Philip was sending waves of sensations down my back and through my body, making my hair (what I have left) stand up. But beyond the physical, he was connecting with my psyche, my soul. Unwittingly perhaps, he was causing me to think something along these lines:

“There is a God! God is incomprehensibly creative and powerful! He is in ultimate control of this universe, both the physical and spiritual. One day, all things will be as they should be!”

Now, some people are going to listen to the very same music and after two measures proclaim: “This is boring! This is depressing! This is garbage!”

I wrote several weeks ago that I wish there were some real variety in Christian music to reflect God’s creativity. Thankfully, contrary to what some would have us think, He did not create one kind of music wishing to force-feed us with it. Instead, we find that we all have differing tastes: music I like may be detestable to you, and although you may find it hard to believe, your kind of music may be detestable to me. But here’s one of my main points: God made us all different intentionally, and it’s okay to have different tastes. It’s not sinful to politely dislike what others think you should like. Even better, God can speak to us individually in what moves us but what may not move others, because somehow there is a universal “language” behind music, behind our conscious minds, and music is just the interface that translates between us and the spirit world what our very finite human brains cannot process.

In heaven, yes, everyone sings the same songs together. But oh what music! Oh what songs! The Inspirer of “Moonlight Sonata” and “The Alleluia Chorus” has something far better in store for those of us who want to praise Him for ever.

I personally prefer to listen to instrumental music. I find that most lyrics are contrived and dull, unable to really express what needs to be said. So many songs say so little, but music alone can be free to let that language of the spirit do its work for me, unhindered.

Paradoxically, there is a song which expresses the conundrum of words being inadequate. Andy Partridge of XTC wrote many brilliant songs later in his career, and the world has very few equals to his lyrical genius in my opinion. Not only so, but the accompanying music and the band’s musicianship amply complimented and reflected the message in his words.  His song “No Language in Our Lungs” laments that we humans are unable to adequately put into words our deepest and most profound thoughts and feelings. In fact he sang:

“I want to write this instrumental but the words got in the way”.

Unfortunately for Andy and so for us all who could really benefit from a song-writing talent like his if he were a believer, while that spirit language is free to use his talent to minister to others, and while he may well sense something beyond the music, his agnosticism/ atheism prevents it ministering to him. Oh the dreadful irony!

Even more ironic is the fact that Andy’s words “There is no language in our lungs to tell the world what’s in our hearts” are actually in agreement with the word of God.

THE SCRIPTURAL CONNECTION

The apostle Paul also observed that there are times when we are unable to put into words what needs to be said. However, says Paul:

“The Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will (Romans 8:26, 27).

As an aside, some Christians are convinced that Paul was here referring to the gift of “speaking in tongues”. If this were true, then Paul is saying that the Spirit only prays for Charismatics, which I totally reject. Paul had made it clear that tongues are (or should be) expressed in “words” (1 Corinthians 14: 19), whereas the Spirit prays in ways that “words cannot express”. Anyway, how could non-words be translated into words (1 Cor. 14: 13)? If tongues were non-words, interpreting the “inexpressible” in words would somehow defeat the purpose of the tongues in the first place, would it not?

No, it’s that which cannot be put into words which the Spirit is praying, and it is the Spirit praying, not the believer: that’s Paul’s point.

Linking Paul’s point with mine, it’s my belief that the Spirit does indeed pray for us, not only when we are on our knees in meditation and supplication, but often when we are being repaired, cleansed, refreshed, serenaded and loved, through a beautiful piece of music.