Tag: RAPTURE

UNRAVELING THE PRE-TRIB. RAPTURE

FOR TWENTY-EIGHT YEARS I WAS A FIERCE PROPONENT AND DEFENDER OF THE “PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, UNTIL MY EYES WERE OPENED. WAKE UP NOW, CHRISTIAN BELIEVER, BECAUSE MANY OF US HAVE BEEN FOLLOWING FAULTY THEOLOGY…!

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We as believers all want to be “snatched up” to heaven before things get too rough on planet earth. The reality, however, is that things have been “too rough” for many millions of believers around the world for centuries, including this present one. In seeking clarity of conviction upon my twenty-eighth year of Bible-believing Christianity, at the time of the ascent of ISIS in the Middle-East, I came to the realization that what I had been taught and convinced of was not really supported by deep, honest Bible study.

Here then is a first installment of what I’ve discovered for myself- an excerpt from my book published in paperback and electronic form (see details at the bottom of this post*).

CHAPTER 2: NOT APPOINTED TO WRATH?

Usually the first subject to come up in any discussion on the timing of the rapture is the wrath of God. The whole idea of there being a wrathful God is very much out of fashion in our “post-truth”, relativistic age; in our easy-living and supposedly “tolerant” Western culture. But no true Bible believer can doubt that there is coming, sooner or later, a time of wrath on sinful mankind, when our Creator will finally put the brakes on all rebellion and godlessness in the human realm, and in the spiritual realm also. Such wrath will fall on the world during a time the Bible calls “The day of the Lord”. And since the day of the Lord is normally equated with the entire tribulation among Christians and with the entirety of a seven year period of prophesied events, the obvious expectation to many people is that believers will not be around during that time to suffer any of that wrath. Since Christians are forgiven of their sins and are promised eternal life, they will surely not be the recipients of God’s wrath. But does the tribulation-a specific time of God’s intervention on the earth just before the visible return of Jesus Christ-automatically mean wrath for every mortal living at the time?

The most common defense of the pre-tribulation rapture position is taken from Paul’s phrase, “God has not appointed us to wrath” (1 Thessalonians 5:9). Adherents are most likely to quote this verse as what they believe to be an unarguable, clinching piece of Biblical evidence that believers will be taken away before the beginning of the tribulation: one which should silence any opposition. God, being a God of love, “has not appointed us to wrath”, and so he will obviously be taking us to heaven before the tribulation-the time of trouble and distress- begins.

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Evangelical end-times prophecy interpretation almost unanimously calls for a seven year period of upheaval and trouble world-wide. During this time the “man of sin” or “man of lawlessness”, also known as “Antichrist”, will persecute and generally rage against God and anyone “left behind” by the rapture, so  people assume that the entirety of this coming seven year period entails an outpouring of God’s wrath from beginning to end and in all corners of the world, starting from the very first minute. Therefore, they say, people who get “left behind” by the pre-tribulation rapture are either nominal believers, or folk who knew something about the gospel of Jesus but failed to respond to it in time for the rapture, or others who just didn’t hear the gospel before it was too late.

It’s true that Paul was discussing end-times events with the Thessalonians when he wrote that God has not appointed us to wrath, but let’s put this phrase from Paul’s letter into its proper context. The complete verse which contains this much-used phrase reads thus:

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath, but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ “ (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

In this verse Paul was contrasting the wrath of God with salvation-not announcing a pre-tribulation rapture.

Before we consider the slightly wider context of the passage, let’s look at something Jesus himself said which is similar but very instructive:

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36).

Jesus, using the same Greek word translated “wrath” as the one Paul used in his letter to the Thessalonians, was stating that salvation from sin is found in the Son of God, but anyone who rejects that salvation is already permanently under the wrath of God. The wrath Jesus was speaking of was eternal judgment and separation from God, not the onslaught of suffering in this life or of tribulation events.

Now let’s go back to Paul’s letter. In chapter 4 Paul begins to discuss the coming of the Lord. He wants the church to have hope in seeing their loved ones in the Lord again, and writes about how Jesus will “come down from heaven”. At that point the dead will be resurrected, then living believers will be changed and will meet Jesus and their risen loved ones in the clouds. Paul notes that those in the Thessalonian church are not in the same darkness as unbelievers, and that therefore the day of the Lord would not come upon them like a thief (verse 4). Then comes the much-misused verse:

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 9).

Paul is  contrasting wrath with salvation from sin, just as Jesus was. That’s the primary focus.

In a similar way, Paul told the Ephesian church that when they were “dead in trespasses and sins” in their un-saved life, and when they were following “the prince of the power of the air”, they were “children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV). In contrast, he said, God “made us alive together with Christ” because of his mercy (verse 4).

There’s no discussion of end-times events here, and the wrath of God’s tribulation did not fall in the first century. The intended point is the contrast between being saved from our sin nature, and remaining an object of wrath. Again, the Greek word translated “wrath” in this Ephesians verse is the same as that used in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians.

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Yes, Paul’s subject in Thessalonians concerns being ready for the day of the Lord”, but his way of being ready and of avoiding God’s wrath is salvation from sin through faith in Jesus Christ. If we put this much-used phrase into its proper context we see that Paul was contrasting wrath with salvation from sin-not announcing a pre-tribulation rapture. People can be prepared for the day of the Lord by obtaining salvation in Jesus. In this way, in this eternal sense, true believers are delivered from God’s wrath, and will never suffer it.

Bad events in the lives of true believers are never from the wrath of God, and never will be. They’re just evidence that we’re all human, and subject to the consequences of the Fall, of the actions of others and our own mistakes. In fact, believers are free of God’s wrath even if they lose their lives violently at the hands of men. That’s why Jesus said:

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul…” (Matthew 10:28).

Antichrist will persecute and kill “saints” during the tribulation, according to Revelation, but this will not be from the wrath of God-it will be the result of man’s wrath and of the devil. No-one but God has any power over the souls of his saints.

Consider the Thessalonian believers of the first century. They died, did they not? They’ve been dead for almost two thousand years, and they didn’t get raptured while alive. But in their deaths they did not, and will not, suffer the wrath of God, but had already found eternal salvation through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

PERSECUTION DOES NOT COME FROM THE WRATH OF GOD. SUFFERING, EVEN IN REVELATION, DOES NOT ALWAYS COME FROM THE WRATH OF GOD

God’s will is not, and never has been, to always deliver us from suffering in this world. In the opening chapter I mentioned the suffering inflicted on many Christians by ISIS in Middle Eastern countries. You can study the history of the Church and find countless examples of suffering inflicted on Christians, including death and torture. These people were not under the wrath of God, they were under the wrath of man, and no doubt sometimes the wrath of Satan. Even in our present day there are many believers around the world in prison and under threat from those who hate the gospel of Jesus. Jesus warned his disciples this would happen:

They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service (John16:2KJV).
God’s plan is to deliver us from the eternal consequence of sin. This consequence is eternal separation from him, which is far worse than temporary physical suffering, and Christians have been persecuted throughout history. Not only that, but Christians have also been among the victims of plague, war, famine, natural disasters, sickness and the outcome of the Fall, just as non-believers have, and will continue to be subject to these things until the resurrection and the rapture occur.

Whatever you think of those tribulation saints found in the book of Revelation, living through the time of tribulation, it’s important to see that even though they’re God’s people, they will be persecuted and martyred (Revelation 12:17; 20:4). However, persecution and martyrdom do not come from the wrath of God: far from it. In fact, those martyred during the tribulation will be considered to be blessed, not cursed:

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on” (Revelation 13:12-13. See also 14:12 and 20:4).
It seems abhorrent to us in the West to consider that God would allow his people to suffer persecution, but unfortunately, that’s the history of the Church, the condition of many of our brothers and sisters around the world today, and the testimony of scripture.

*THIS POST IS AN EXCERPT FROM MY BOOK, “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, BY NICHOLAS FISHER, AVAILABLE ON AMAZON, PAPER-BACK AND E-BOOK. THE NEXT EXCERPT WILL CONTINUE FROM THIS POINT.

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RAPTURE: UNSPOKEN WORDS, AND THE END OF THE CHURCH AGE

At the outset I need to make one thing very clear, and should have done so at the start of my series: I am not an amillenialist…

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WHAT PAUL AND JESUS DID NOT SAY

Sometimes facts can be clear or implied by what isn’t said, and I believe that’s the case with the rapture. Yes, Paul called the rapture a “mystery” (1 Corinthians 15:21), and his designation is used today to bolster the idea that Jesus will come like a thief in the night for his Church (see the previous part of my series).  But Paul wasn’t secretive about what he knew about the rapture: he went on to describe it (verses 51-55). 

Paul warned the Thessalonians not to be easily led into the notion that the ‘day of the Lord’ had already arrived. Evidently some such deception was going around at that time. According to Peter, the “day of the Lord” includes the destruction of this present earth (2 Peter 3:10-13), and according to Paul it will include sudden destruction falling on an ungodly world of people (1 Thessalonians 5:1-4). So the ‘day of the Lord’ includes the Tribulation and following events. Paul told the Thessalonians what to look out for as signs that the day of the Lord had really begun. He said:

“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:3 KJV).

Please notice what Paul did not say. He didn’t say anything like this:

 “That day will not come before we’re all taken into heaven, so don’t worry about it”.

This to me is very telling. It seems like a serious omission, if he really knew and was preaching, as some claim, that there was a rapture coming before Antichrist is revealed. The first sign, said Paul, was a falling away and the man of perdition: not rapture. This fact is compounded when we see that Jesus identified the very same event, which he called ‘the abomination of desolation’, as a clear sign that the Tribulation was about to begin. It has to be significant that Jesus said nothing about any rapture coming before the “abomination” (Matthew 24:15-22). He wrote about the rapture in Matthew chapter 24: why didn’t he say that it would occur first as a deliverance from what was to come? Instead, he said “..but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (verse 14). The first clear event, according to Jesus, was the abomination.  He also spoke to his disciples as though they would see that sign.

WHEN WILL THE END OF THE CHURCH AGE BE?

The beginning of Daniel’s seven-year period has been assigned by “prophecy experts” as the end of the Church age, since it marks the continuation of God’s dealings with Israel. They presume that it is therefore the end of God’s dealings with the Church on the earth, and as such, the Church is no longer required to be on the earth. But are there any clearer indicators of the end of the Church age?

THE FULNESS OF THE GENTILES

Paul said that “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25). So a very pertinent question here would be, “when does the hardening of Israel end, according to Bible prophecy?”. This will mark the end of the ‘full number of Gentiles’ being saved. And this in turn would, surely, mark the end of the “Church Age”.

If we look into some of the Old Testament Prophecies, we find that the Jews will come to realize who their Messiah is when he appears physically over Jerusalem, at the end of the Tribulation (Zechariah chapter 12, especially verse 10). Even then, considering that salvation will still be by faith in Jesus, is it right to see an end of the Church Age at any other time than his visible return to the earth? The gospel will still be preached during the Tribulation (Revelation 14:6), so how can we arbitrarily put an end to the Church age before it?

DO THE 24 ELDERS REPRESENT THE ALREADY RAPTURED CHURCH?

Some Pre-Trib. teachers refer to the twenty four elders who John sees on thrones, initially observed in Revelation chapters 4 and 5, situated around the throne of God. The elders sing of redemption (5:9-10), and the NIV translates certain words in their song to ‘they’ and ‘them’, suggesting the elders are referring to the redemption of others who are still on the earth. Pre-Trib. teachers say that the words should be translated ‘we’ and ‘us’, as they are in the KJV. In other words, the redemption the elders are singing of is their own, and they are actually representatives of the Church, and possibly Old Testament saints also. This, say the experts, signifies that the Church will be in heaven before the Tribulation.

I don’t know enough about Greek to comment on whether these words should be translated to refer to the elders around the throne, or to humans still on the earth. I can only make a couple of observations here. One is that when John is taken on his trip to heaven, which Pre-Tribulationists say is a type of the rapture, the elders are already there and settled in: they didn’t arrive with John in his ‘rapture’ (chapter 4 verses 4, and 9-11). Instead they already know everything about what’s going on and proceed to tell John (5:5; 7:13-21). This seems strange since John was an original member of the Church. More that that, since John was the disciple who was especially close to Jesus, it seems odd that if at least twelve of the elders in heaven are representatives of the Church, he wasn’t even invited to “take his place” with them. Also, there are still followers of Jesus on the earth, as I have already pointed out. Are these believers, who “hold to the testimony of Jesus Christ”, and who willingly give their lives for him, not to be represented in heaven?

 

MIND-BURP 10: BEWARE OF THE EXPERTS!

 

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HAS THE MOON TURNED TO BLOOD?

(Eurodollar: “My Final Thought”)

There’s been plenty of talk in some Christian circles over the most recent lunar eclipses, particularly among Pentecostals. The claim is that the latest “Blood Moons” not only coincide with Jewish feasts-a rare occurrence-but are also likely to be, as they have been in times past, harbingers of important events affecting the Jewish nation. Therefore, the reasoning goes, this is that which is spoken of in Bible prophecy:

“The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Joel 2: 31).

Well, so far, the sun hasn’t “turned to darkness”, a necessary accompaniment to the Biblical “Blood Moon.”

The book of Revelation describes the moon turning red (Revelation 6:12-14). It occurs upon the opening of the sixth seal, when the earth will really be “in the thick of it”: world-wide war, earthquakes, famine, plagues, persecution of believers, and the sky itself rolling up, and “every mountain and island” being removed from its place. The blood moons we’ve witnessed so far surely pale (excuse the pun) in significance to the apocalyptic events which will produce the real blood red moon.

Anyone who’s looked at my blog before will know that I believe the times spoken of in Bible prophecy regarding the return of Jesus Christ are approaching, and I’m more and more convinced as I see the ongoing trend of events in the Middle-East. Most significantly, the nations of the world reject Israel’s determination to retain its ancient capital and to defend itself against perpetual aggression.

However, I’m very skeptical about “cut and paste” fulfillments which probably aren’t fulfillments at all, but are more likely normal, naturally occurring phenomena. In my more cynical moments, I can’t help wondering if they aren’t opportunities for more book royalties, DVD sales, and TV specials.

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EXPERTIUS WRONGIMANUS AND THE BIG BANG

There’s a certain disease which has reached pandemic proportions, and I’m not talking about the one being imported to the West from Africa (why is the President not stopping flights from the affected nations?). I mean the one which affects “experts” negatively, so that they get the most simple facts mixed up or just plain wrong. How often, over the years, I ‘ve heard of new “conclusive” evidence for evolution being discovered, and then quietly retracted later.

In March, the world’s news media reported that “smoking gun” evidence for the Big Bang had finally been found (again). The BBC’s “Today” program reported that the US BICEP team said it had found a pattern on the sky left by the rapid expansion of space just fractions of a second after the Big Bang.

Professor Steven Hawking remarked that the finding was “another confirmation of inflation”, the idea that the Universe experienced an exponential growth spurt in its first fraction of a second.

However, in June the Institute for Creation Research, in an article titled “‘Smoking Gun’ Proof of Big Bang Already In Doubt” written by Jake Hebert, Ph.D., reported that “only two months after this ‘discovery’ a number of secular scientists have become increasingly skeptical” http://www.icr.org/article/8177/

The Beeb has just reluctantly admitted “…new data has found that the group may have underestimated the confounding effects of dust in our own galaxy”.

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-29326918

In September,  in an article called “Another Big Bang Blunder”,  ICR, commenting on the over-exuberant March pronouncement,  reported:

“One prominent theoretical physicist even called it a “Big Bang blunder” and noted that the BICEP2 researchers made their dramatic announcement to the world before their paper had even been peer-reviewed by qualified scientists. This was a serious breach of scientific ethics and protocol. Worse yet, researchers from King’s College London are now claiming that accepting the BICEP2 results as legitimate would imply that the universe should have collapsed back in on itself shortly after the Big Bang, so that our universe should not even exist!” (see the article for references): http://www.icr.org/i/pdf/af/af1409.pdf

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EXPERTIUS WRONGIMANUS AND THE RAPTURE

This very day I heard a famous preacher on the radio, answering a question on whether or not the Church would go through the Tribulation. He pointed to the book of Revelation for his “conclusive” evidence for the “Pre-Trib.” Rapture, saying that the first three chapters are all about the Church, the fourth is about the Rapture (funny, I can’t see the Rapture of the Church there), then, said the “expert”:

“…the Church is never mentioned again in the whole book”.

Hmm. He must have a different version of the Bible, because mine says this in chapter 22 of Revelation:

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches…” (Revelation 22:16).

The entire book of Revelation, says Jesus, is a “testimony for the churches.”

I’ve written in a previous post that “saints” are seen throughout Revelation, with the word having the same meaning as it has throughout the Bible, and that “those who hold to the testimony of Jesus” are seen to be persecuted at a time when, according to our “experts” the Church is supposed to be in heaven.

I have one little bit of advice: test the experts, and don’t blindly trust everything they say.

A WORLD BEING TURNED UPSIDE DOWN

A Lincoln, Nebraska middle school staffer gave teachers training documents advising them not to use “gendered expressions” by calling students “boys and girls” or “ladies and gentlemen,”

Unfortunately, this is a far-from-unique occurrence. You may want to check whether your daughter’s school is allowing boys into the girls’ locker rooms and rest rooms.

http://watchdog.org/174768/gender-inclusive/

WHEN BAD IS REALLY GOOD

Places named “badlands” in the US are, as far as I’m concerned, some of the most beautiful places on earth. I call them “goodlands”.