Tag: Tribulation

RAPTURE 7: FAULTY IMMINENCE- CONTINUED

Last time I  discussed the hopeful but faulty application of Jesus’ words “You do not know the day or the hour” to the pre-tribulation rapture theory. This post, excerpt 7 of my book*  continues on from there…

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The “imminence” view assumes that the starting moment of the tribulation, including the very day and the time of day, could be universally known by all believers if they were not already raptured. It assumes that the tribulation will be exactly seven years long from that point, to the day and the hour. It expects that the mid-point event of Antichrist’s revealing will be exactly on the middle day and the middle hour of that period. It presumes that those occurrences will be so obvious to everyone on earth that the date and time of the visible return of Jesus could be marked on calendars and devices so that alarms would sound at the moment Jesus pierces the sky in power and glory. While I agree that God means exactly what he says in scripture, I suggest that all of the above assumptions are not correct.

The possibility doesn’t seem to have occurred to pre-tribulation believers that we may not know anything about the covenant of Daniel’s 70th week being “confirmed”, if indeed it is still future. It could be an agreement made behind closed doors: a secret pact or treaty; a private and probably sly resolution to achieve something big. News of it may not reach the ears of the public for a few days, or weeks, or months, with no mention of exactly when it occurred. When is this covenant mentioned in New Testament prophesies of end times? The answer is that it isn’t. Paul said that the first-not the second-unmistakable sign that the Day of the Lord is coming would be a “falling away” (2 Thess. 2:3) which surely can’t be fixed to a time or a day. The second would be the appearance of Antichrist in the Jerusalem temple. Paul didn’t  mention a “covenant” or “peace deal” as a sign of the Day of the Lord, but only that people will be talking peace and safety when destruction suddenly overcomes them (1 Thess. 5:3). Why didn’t Paul tell the Thessalonians “That day cannot come, until the Covenant, spoken of by Daniel, is signed”? He was speaking of  a general false sense of security in his first letter, not a specific event to look for.

So even if  Paul did have Daniel’s “covenant” in mind here, there is still no mention of the rapture being years before this sudden destruction, or for that matter, before destruction at all. It is “the Day of the Lord” which will come “like a thief in the night”, not the rapture (1 Thess 5:2).

Similarly, Jesus said that the first unmistakable sign of “great distress” would be Antichrist standing in the Holy Place of the temple. He didn’t mention any covenant or peace deal, which would certainly be a very useful and significant sign for anyone-even if it were for a Jewish remnant only.

Compounding these facts are the mysteriously different number of days given to Daniel to accommodate the fulfillment of last-days events (Daniel 12:11-12). The difference in these dates is something of a mystery even to the “experts”. Notice also that in this scripture in Daniel’s book, relating specifically to end times, there’s no actual mention of the appearance of the Messiah: it isn’t there. Exactly what happens at the end of each of those time periods isn’t clear, and exactly which of those days-if either of them- Jesus will launch from heaven in power and glory we do not know. It may not be on either of those days. It may be many days after or before the exact end of that seven year or forty-two month period. The day and the hour of Christ’s coming isn’t given away by Daniel, even to those who might see the covenant of Daniel’s prophecy being signed.

When Jesus said, “No one knows about that day or hour” in Matthew 24:36, which “day or hour” had He been speaking of? Which “day” did they not know of? In the previous verses He had been speaking solely of the events of the tribulation and of His physical appearing for the whole world to see (verses 15-35). He was referring to the “Day of the Lord”, the time of tribulation, of his coming, and of the restoration of all things, when he said we could not know. He was not speaking of a pre-tribulation rapture.

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Was Jesus in his Olivet Discourse really saying that it would be a Jewish remnant who would see the events of the tribulation, and not the Church? He was, in truth, talking to his original and closest disciples who, although certainly Jewish, became the first born-again members of Christ’s body-the Church-on the day of Pentecost. If the theory that the Olivet Discourse was for a Jewish remnant only were correct, why did Jesus keep speaking to his disciples as thought they would see the events he was foretelling, considering that they constituted the first Christian Church: saved, baptized and filled with the Spirit? Were his first-century disciples not eligible for the rapture? Jesus kept using the word “you”, not “they” when speaking to his first representatives and first members of his Church. They were, after all, co-founders of the Church after Jesus himself-not outsiders or Jews who would only find the Messiah upon his return. He told them what to look for as signs of the tribulation beginning and taking hold on the world. He told them to look out for deception and false Christs, and for the revealing of Antichrist on the temple mount. 

Perusing online “evidence” used to defend the doctrine of pre-tribulation theory through imminence, I found the offerings very weak in terms of scriptural evidence and logic. I also found that it’s common for verses to be used without reference to their context. One such offering was a single verse from Luke’s gospel, where Jesus said, echoing quotes from Matthew’s gospel:

You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Luke 12:40).

In this passage Jesus was speaking about a master-servant relationship. For the good servant, his master’s surprise return would be good news;

It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready” (verse 38).

Just as a house owner needs to be ready for a thief, Jesus was saying in verse 40 that we too must be ready. Reading a little further sheds some light on the full meaning of the verse about the Son of Man coming at an unexpected hour. Here Jesus switches his analysis to a servant whose master is away and who mistreats his own servants. So when the master returns, says Jesus:

The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers” (12:46).

Here the wicked servant is the one taken by surprise by the coming of his master. His master comes on a day and at an hour that he was not expecting. The surprise appearance of the master is not a rapture event, it’s a judgment event! The master came at an unexpected day and hour as a judge! This passage is not about the rapture at all, as one website I read is claiming-it’s about God’s interest in our faithfulness. It’s about how we live out our faith rather than living as we did before we professed faith.

Other verses commonly offered as evidence for the pre-tribulation rapture are those speaking of Jesus’ soon coming. For example, somehow James’ words, “the Lord’s coming is near” and “the Judge is standing at the door” (James 5:9) are seen as evidence for an imminent rapture. If we read the whole verse we see that James was really speaking of faithfulness and sincerity of faith. If “the Judge is standing at the door”, we need to take this as a warning to be true, so that we are not judged with the world, just as the wicked servant who did not expect his master will be. Such verses are not valid evidence for a pre-tribulation rapture.

Another verse used as evidence is Revelation 1:1, which tells us that the events of the Revelation “must soon take place”. I agree that these events will occur quickly and will not be expected when they begin, but John is speaking here of the entire prophecy: the entirety of the book of Revelation. Logically, this means that stars falling from heaven, and the mark of the beast, and the new heaven and new earth are also happenings which “must soon take place”. Therefore the rapture can’t be identified as being any “sooner” than anything else in Revelation, and the book’s first verse is not speaking specifically of rapture!

One Matthew chapter 24 verse used to support the imminence of a pre-tribulation raptur is this one:

No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (verse 36).

Which day and hour was Jesus speaking of-was it the time of the rapture? No, he hadn’t even mentioned a rapture, and certainly not a pre-tribulation rapture. He’d been giving an overview of all the events to come, culminating in his visible, physical return in power and glory. This makes even more relevant Peter’s statement that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief” (2 Peter 3:10). Perhaps Jesus was answering the questions of his disciples from a minute or two before, when they wanted to know when the temple would be destroyed, and what would be the sign of his coming and of the end of the age (Matthew 24:3). Jesus answered that “no one knows…” Not even he knew, at that time. However, he gave them, and us, the signs of his coming, which, by definition, would in the future demonstrate that the time was near, once they began to happen.

Even then, people will still not know the exact day or hour. Even then they will not know until it actually happens. They will know they are in the general time, but they will not know the day or the hour. Therefore, Jesus’ talk of believers not knowing the day or hour has nothing to do with a pre-tribulation rapture: it’s about the events of the tribulation and Jesus’ visible, physical return in power and glory.

* My book entitled “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, is available in paperback and e-book at Amazon. However, the entire book will eventually be excerpted or summarized here. And lucky you-you’re getting an up-dated edit, which will all be one day published as a new version of the book. Thanks for reading.

RAPTURE 6: IMMINENCE

Welcome back to excerpts from my book “All Left Behind: The Case Against the Pre-Tribulation Rapture”. I was once a zealous defender of the pre-trib. rapture, but came to see things very differently when I eventually faced up to certain scriptures I had previously ignored, and analysed them more realistically. Here then is installment 6, which considers the doctrine of Imminence.

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Pre-tribulation believers say that Christ’s coming is ‘imminent’. In the context of the rapture those who use the term mean that Jesus could come back secretly at any moment, just for his Church, without any warning or notice; leaving everyone else including nominal believers behind. There’s nothing else which needs to happen “on God’s prophetic clock” before the rapture, they say. Seemingly in support of this view are the words of Jesus who said we cannot know the day or the hour of his coming (Matthew 24:36-42). He said he is coming “quickly (KJV)” or “soon” (NIV, Revelation 22:12).

According to the doctrine of Imminence, if we were to see any of the tribulation signs of his coming we would be able to know he’s coming and when he’s coming. But this cannot happen, since Jesus said he would come “like a thief in the night”. Therefore his secret coming must happen before the “seven year tribulation”. If we saw the “signing of the peace treaty” we would be able to calculate the day and the hour of his coming, but Jesus said we cannot know the day or the hour-therefore we will not see it. Instead the Church will be taken in a surprise rapture before the “peace treaty” is signed and before the tribulation begins. Don’t even question the doctrine of Imminence, they insist: that’s very nearly heresy. Imminence is presented on one web-page in defense of the pre-tribulation rapture as “the grand-daddy of proofs”.

Admittedly, it’s clear from Jesus’ own words that we cannot know the day or the hour of his coming, so it’s inarguable that his coming truly is “imminent”. However, the application of imminence to the concept of a pre-tribulation rapture does not stand up to close scrutiny. 

Pre-tribulation teachers will say, as they must, that most of the content of the Olivet Discourse is intended for a Jewish believing remnant who will be around during the tribulation while the Church is in heaven, and not for the Church. Yet it was during that discourse and to those same believers that Jesus said these commonly-quoted lines:

No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36) and;

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Matthew 24:42) and;

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” (25:13).

There’s something wrong here. Why would Jesus say “you do not know the day or the hour” to the very people who the pre-tribulation believers say will be around during the tribulation, if that warning is intended to support a pre-tribulation rapture? Pre-tribbers tell us that these quotes mean the rapture is imminent and so before the tribulation, but in fact Jesus is saying these things for the benefit and instruction of the people who will be living on earth during the tribulation! Jesus wasn’t even talking to believers who might be gone before the tribulation when he said, “you do not know the day or the hour”. He was talking to his disciples about his visible, physical coming in power and glory!

If Jesus was talking to early rapture candidates in his Olivet Discourse, wouldn’t he have said something like, “Fear not, because I”ll take you away before such things happen”.

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There’s more. Here’s another quote from the same passage:

So when you see standing in the holy place the abomination that causes desolation…” (24:15).

Jesus was speaking of the abomination of desolation-which is at the mid-point of the expected seven years-to the very same people who he said couldn’t know the day or the hour of his coming, and he said that they would “see” it. If this was intended as a warning, not to the Church but to a Jewish remnant, wouldn’t they be able, upon seeing the “desolation”, to calculate the day and hour of his coming? Why then did he also tell them they could not know the day or the hour of his coming, if seeing the abomination would tell them the exact day and time? How can we take his admonition to “keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” as an evidence of Imminence doctrine in the form of a pre-tribulation rapture? Jesus is speaking to people living through the tribulation!

By the reckoning of pre-tribulation teachers, the people Jesus was addressing in his Olivet Discourse-the Jewish remnant- should also be aware of the “peace-treaty” they say will be made, and of the rebuilding of the temple. So presumably under the logic of Imminence theory, they would then be able to calculate the day and hour of his coming! But Jesus told them they could not know the day or the hour. It’s faulty logic and just plain wrong to say that if believers were to see any tribulation events occur, they would be breaking the words of Jesus when he said we cannot know the day or the hour.

It’s important to note at this point that Jesus didn’t actually mention any “seven year peace treaty” in his “Olivet Discourse”. Why not? Did he forget? Did he not think it was important? Did the translators leave it out?

When Jesus said “No one knows about that day or hour…” (verse 36) he had, moments before in verses 28-31, been speaking about his physical, visible appearing in power and glory for all the world to see-not about a secret rapture. He was saying this at the time he gave the discourse in the first century, and even in our time now, nobody knows exactly when he’s coming. As we’ve seen, even during the future time of distress he described in Matthew chapter 24, it seems people will still not know “the day or the hour” of his coming. We can look, and we can expect and hope, and we can see certain events which suggest the time is near, but no-one, then or now, or in the future, can know the exact “day or the hour”.

Strangely, the same people who say that “nothing needs to happen before the rapture” will tell you that there are plenty of signs of the coming tribulation to be seen now, and they proceed to publish books and videos and TV shows about those very signs which they are clever enough to divine. They’re the “watchmen on the wall”, and so make a good living telling the rest of us what prophetic signs have been fulfilled, while also telling us that the coming of Jesus is imminent and nothing else needs to happen before the rapture. If it’s imminent to the point of us not having a clue about the time of his coming, and if “nothing else needs to happen before the rapture”, what’s all this talk of signs being fulfilled? Why does the “Imminence” principle have to be applied to a pre-tribulation rapture only?

Thanks for reading. This subject will be continued in a few days.

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”.

SETTING DATES FOR THE FULFILLMENT OF BIBLE PROPHECY

Here’s the article which many ministries-benefiting from your desire to know, and living an exciting life on your money and their speculation-aren’t giving you…

THE WESTERN WALL

One of the worst things a student or teacher of Bible prophecy can do is to set dates for its fulfillment. Having said that, I think there’s a place for asking if what we’ve been believing about end-times events is really true. This question, I think, affords and even requires a little ball-park speculation on the matter of timing. Yes-I’m going to set some dates! This article has few Bible references. I’ve listed relevant references elsewhere, and will do so again soon.

When we think about the possibility that we’re near the time of the return of Jesus Christ, the most compelling reason to believe that we are is the modern state of Israel. No, I’m not one of those fooled by replacement theology.

In 70 AD the legions of Rome destroyed Judea and Jerusalem, and expelled any Jews they didn’t kill from the ancient homeland. Against all odds and with no conscious intent to fulfill prophecy, but only to avoid another holocaust, the modern state of Israel was established officially in 1948. In 1967 Israelis regained control over all Jerusalem. Mirroring Bible prophecy, Israel since 1948 has very quickly grown and prospered. Its population has increased, with Jews immigrating there from all corners of the world. Its determination to hold on to the capital against the will of the world has been successful.

REMAINS OF THE SECOND JEWISH TEMPLE, WITH ISLAMIC DOME OF THE ROCK BEHIND IT

Also in line with prophecy the foretold enemies of the nation have been claiming the land belongs to them and not to Jews. Only the election of Donald Trump has temporarily halted the world’s schemes to remove Israelis, or at least professing Jews, from their ancient capital. Once he’s gone from power, for whatever reason, you can expect the pressure from all sides-including and perhaps especially the U.S., to continue apace, eventually culminating in a military assault as predicted in such Bible books as Zechariah.

Some commentators have mistakenly had the opinion that the current regathering of Israel cannot be the predicted one because, they assert, the Bible says Israel must be spiritually cleansed and holy as a prerequisite to restoration. To the careful reader, the Bible tells a different story: cleansing will not take place until the Messiah shows up to defend the nation at a time of extreme crisis.

TIME LIMITS, TIME CLUES

However, there are two potential problems with the entire Israel regathering “scenario” (to use a prophetic cliche). Perhaps they aren’t problems at all-perhaps they are in fact further indication that the time of fulfillment is very near.

1: THE “SECOND” RETURN FROM EXILE

The first problem concerns a Biblical limit to the number of returns of the nation from total exile. Isaiah wrote:

In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people…he will assemble the scattered people of Judah
    from the four quarters of the earth (Isaiah 11:11-12).

In the Bible only two returns are allowed from total exile. The first occurred when ancient Israel and then Judah were invaded and carried off by the Assyrians and the Babylonians. The second return began officially in 1948.

The idea that the current return is bogus and the real one is yet future just doesn’t make sense. If the miraculous events of the past several decades and the struggles between Israel and their neighbors and the world are not those prophesied, they are an incredibly realistic dress-rehearsal. Also, believing that the real return is yet future, we would have to expect the current inhabitants of the land to be driven out by some huge war or other disaster. The land would have to be invaded and claimed by enemies again, and then left empty and waste for a long period of time. Israelis there now would once again have to be dispersed to all corners of the earth for a long period of time.

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WEST BANK AND GAZA

How many times in the course of human history can the incredible set of events prophesied actually play out, in such an amazing series of what would have to be “coincidences”, as they have over the last several decades? It seems to me that either the 20th C restoration of Israel-the current one-must be the second regathering spoken of in Isaiah, or we would have to accept that the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel and others were wrong, and therefore didn’t speak the word of God at all. In that case, no Biblical scripture could be trusted.

Also, when you consider other conditions in our world at this time in relation to Biblical prophesies, it’s clear that there’s much more than just coincidence at work here.

2: THE INVASION OF A LAND RECENTLY REGATHERED

The second time-issue concerns a Biblical limit on the time which can transpire between the regathering of Jews to the land and the judgment of the nations. Prophecies in Ezekiel foretell an international assault on Israel and the Middle-East in general ending in God’s clear and decisive intervention, after which the whole world will know there is a God who is still the Protector of Israel. This assault is said to come:

…against a land that has recovered from war, whose people were gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate (Ezekiel 38:8).

This and other passages indicate that Israel will be invaded by nations who recognize that its regathering is recent. So the vital question is, just how long a time period, scripturally-speaking, could be considered “recent”? Here’s my theory.

First, Israel, says the prophecy, would boom in population and in economic success. This would naturally take some time, but it has happened in just a few decades.

Israel, (that is, Jews and those from the northern tribes who had joined with Judah) were expelled from the land for seventy years (Ezra 1:1). God had told Isaiah many centuries BC that Ephraim was “about to” be judged by Assyria (Isaiah 8:7 NIV). That “about to” period was sixty-five years (7:8). We Bible students know that to the Lord “a thousand years is as a day”, so using that scale of what time seems like to God the “recent” period from the regathering of Israel to the invasion could be many thousands of years.

However, those two terms-“recent” and “thousands of years” don’t fit together well to us mortals, and the invading force of end-times certainly wouldn’t see an event thousands of years previous as being “recent”. God’s words, “sixty-five years” were just about meaningful as a short time period to Isaiah. The “recent” time period in Ezekiel must be seen as being truly recent to humans.

I’m not setting dates by saying that sixty-five years is the time period we must look for, but it seems logical that it’s a “ball-park” number. It could actually be fifty, or seventy, eighty, or more. At what point would the regathering of Israel not be considered by its invaders to be “recent” any more? And when exactly would the “prophetic clock” start ticking: 1948? 1967? Perhaps it would start when the majority of Jews had returned from the nations-perhaps the year 1990, or 2000, or 2010.

We could create a maximum time of fulfillment so that, say, seventy-five years from the dwindling of returnees to the land from the nations would take us to the year 2085. This would be the very latest date we could reasonably expect the prophecies of Ezekiel to be fulfilled. Alternatively, If we add sixty-five years to 1967, the year Israelis regained their ancient capital which figures so highly in last-days prophecy, we get the year 2032…only thirteen years from now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

RAPTURE 1: 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.