Why Do We Keep Watching?

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For a moment, I actually thought the rapture was occurring. I heard a trumpet blaring and for a brief moment I felt as though something was pulling me upward.

This happened when I was in college, over 40 year ago, during a time when I had been reading extensively about the rapture. Late one warm afternoon, I fell asleep at my desk in my dorm room. Suddenly, the sound of a loud trumpet fanfare awoke me from a deep sleep and I thought “this is it; the Lord is returning!” After a few seconds, I realized it was the sound of a trumpet warming up for a nearby band rehearsal.

I tell this humorous experience to stress that I have been watching for the Lord’s return for a long time, although not always that intently. After so many decades I do sometimes wonder, “Why do I keep watching? Why do any of us keep looking for Jesus to come and take us home?

It’s the Signs

Unlike when I was in college, today we see signs of biblical prophecies escalating all around us. The countries of Iran, Russian, and Turkey all have troops in Syria just as Ezekiel 38-39 predicts about an alliance of these same nations in the last days. Just in the past few weeks the world learned the following:

  • Iran is building a military base just eight miles north of Damascus that will soon have missiles capable of striking anywhere in Israel
  • North Korea has shipped components for chemical weapons to Syria along with building materials for a facility to build these weapons
  • Russia said it would regard any nuclear attack on one of its allies as an attack on Russia (Could they be thinking that Israel might consider using such weapons against the Iranian base?)
  • Putin, the president of Russia, recently boasted of new nuclear capabilities on rockets that will travel several times the speed of sound rendering our defenses useless.
  • Russian has stationed super stealth jets in Syria, perhaps as an added deterrent to Israel attacking the Iranian base
  • A top military leader in Israel stated that a major war between Israel and Iran is likely in 2018.

What do all these things mean? When (not if) Israel attacks this Iranian base, the likelihood of it leading to major conflict appears almost certain.

Could this be the Gog-Magog War of Ezekiel 38-39? We cannot know for certain. Even if it is a lessor conflict than the one the prophet predicted long ago, will it not almost certainly lead to the bigger war of Ezekiel 38-39 as Iran regathers its strength to invade Israel?

Add this to the mix the recent Iranian Parliament request for a timetable of one or two years for pulling its troops out of Syria. Is it possible that Iran, along with Russia and Turkey will strike before then? I believe if Iran’s Parliament enacts such a deadline, it’s likely this coalition will attack before that time.

And now Turkey is talking about a huge Arab coalition attacking Israel with a massive army. The drumbeats of the Gog-Magog war are getting louder.

What Do These Signs Have to Do with the Rapture?

At this point, you may be wondering what these signs have to do with the rapture. Why does the nearness of the Gog-Magog War point to the Lord’s return for His church?

Such a war would signify that the tribulation period is extremely close. Some commentators believe this war happens just before the Great Tribulation while some hold that it might happen right at its beginning. Either way, the nearness of this war points to the closeness of the seven-year time of God’s wrath upon the earth.

If the tribulation is rapidly approaching, and many signs point to it, then the rapture must be even closer since it is prophesied to happen just before the start of the Great Tribulation.

The growing turmoil in Syria and Iran’s constant threats against Israel are just two of numerous signs that we are living in the days of human history as we know it. If there was ever a time in history when the rapture could happen at any moment, this is it!!

The Early Church Watched As Well

Long, long before my experience in college at John Brown University, the earliest followers of Jesus also watched intently for His appearing to take them home. We see it all through the New Testament as turning to Christ meant waiting eagerly for Him to come (1 Thess. 1:9-10; Phil. 3:20-21; Titus 2:11-13).

The Didache, which means “teaching” in the Greek, is a brief document from the early years of the church that provides valuable insight into the anticipation of early believers for the return of Jesus. This document summed up the teaching of the apostles at a time when copies of the New Testament were not available or scarce at best. It provides a summary of what the apostles taught.

Chapter 16 of The Didache says this, “Watch for your life’s sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord will come.”  These words indicate an immanency regarding the Lord’s appearing, such as would be the case for someone expecting Jesus’ return to occur at any moment. The early saints regarded Jesus’ command in Matthew 24:44 to mean they must watch for His appearing. They had the same expectancy as the New Testament saints.

I admit that after all these years it’s at times difficult to keep up a sense of watchfulness.

However, I then consider the signs and I also wonder about Israel’s upcoming seventieth anniversary, the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem on May 14, 2018, and the new peace plan that is coming out soon from the United States.

As I hear about all these things added on to the events in Syria, my sense of eager watchfulness returns. It’s possible Jesus will return for us quite soon!

 

Israel Attacks Iranian Base (12/2/2017)

 

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Satellite View of Iranian Airbase from Haaretz.com

Overnight, Israel attacked the Iranian base I mentioned in yesterday’s post. The following is a quote from the Haaretz news website in Israel:

“Israeli warplanes struck a military base near the Syrian capital of Damascus overnight Friday, Syrian state television has confirmed.

“According to pro-Assad news outlets, the target of the attack was an Iranian military base near the city of Al-Kiswa, located some 13 kilometers south of Damascus.”

According to the Jerusalem Post, missiles fired from Israeli warplanes hit an ammunitions warehouse on the Iranian military base. Some reports say that Israel also used surface to air missiles in the attack.

So far, there has been no response from Iran and its close allies to the strike, which may be more of a warning to Iran of a larger strike if they keep building their military base so close the border of Israel.

Why would Iran build such a base anyway if their intention was not to use it to invade Israel in the future?

This is just another sign pointing to the rising tensions in the region. It shows that these nations may be headed toward the battle of Ezekiel 38-39 unless there is a significant change of direction, although that seems highly unlikely.

 

What About Jesus?

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Many people today do not believe in a millennial kingdom. They believe Jesus will return at a distant future time, judge humanity, and bring in the eternal state.

We refer to those to teach such a view as amillennialists because they do not believe in a future kingdom in which Jesus will rule over the world seated upon the throne of David. They believe God rejected Israel after His people spurned and crucified His Son. As a result, the church now fulfills the kingdom promises made to Israel, but in a spiritual and allegorical sense rather than in a literal way.

While I strongly disagree with these teachers regarding God’s rejection of Israel, there is something I believe they overlook. They fail to consider the Old Testament promises made to the Messiah that are separate from the ones God made to Israel.

In order to be an amillennialist, you must negate Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus as well as God’s promises of a future kingdom for Israel.

The Promise of The Father

In Psalm 2, The Father promises the Son all the nations of the world as His “heritage.” Beginning in verse 7 we read, “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.’” The Father makes this pledge to the Son independent of His everlasting covenant with Israel.

The rest of Psalm 2 makes it clear that this is not a spiritual reign, but a physical reign over actual nations with kings. Verse 9 states, “You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” This does not sound like His headship of the church to me. The Psalmist is warning the kings of the earth to “serve the Lord with fear” (vv. 10-11). The Father promised His Son an actual government with authority over all the rulers of the earth.

If you deny the reality of the millennium, how do you deal with God the Father breaking His promise to His Son that He would receive such a kingdom?

If you deny the reality of the millennium, how do you deal with God the Father breaking His promise to His Son that He would receive such a kingdom? I do not think you can do that.

Does this not also explain Satan tempting Jesus with the “kingdoms of the world” in Matthew 4:8-11? He offered Jesus a shortcut to what the Father had already promised Him. Why tempt Jesus in this way if He had no aspirations for or promises about ruling over the nations of the world at a future time?

A Child Who Would Rule

Almost every believer is familiar with Isaiah 9:6-7. We hear these verses read every year around the time of Christmas and if we listen to Handel’s “Messiah,” we hear the words put to glorious music.

We celebrate the fulfillment of the first two lines of the prophecy, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” We regard Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem as the exact fulfillment of these words.

Without the millennium, several of the promises regarding the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6-7 are now null and void.

Most people, however, give little thought to how Jesus might fulfill the promise that someday this “child” would be the head of an actual “government” sitting upon ‘the throne of David.” The rest of the passage speaks to Jesus being King over a real, physical kingdom. If Jesus literally fulfilled the first two lines of this prophecy, why do some believe He will not literally fulfill the rest of the passage? Where do we draw the line between taking the words of the prophet literally and figuratively in in this passage?

Without the millennium, several of the promises regarding the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6-7 are now null and void. Remember, this is a prophecy regarding the Messiah, not Israel. If we deny a future kingdom to Israel, what do we do Isaiah’s prophecy that the Christ would someday sit on the throne of David as the head of an actual government?

Jesus as Judge

In ancient Israel, the king acted as both ruler and the ultimate judge of the land presiding over the most difficult cases. Do you remember King Solomon deciding the case between the two women who both claimed the living baby? This is an example of how the ancient kings took on the role of a magistrate.

Keeping this in mind, here is what Isaiah also prophesied regarding Jesus, “And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth, and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked” (Isa. 11:3-4). The prophet gives us a clear picture of Jesus acting as a judge over all the earth.

This is not a picture of a future judgment; this is the Christ fulfilling His role as ruler over all the earth doing what such a king would do. Like the kings of old, He is administering justice on behalf of his subjects.

This passage does not fit with Jesus’ headship over the church. It also does not match with anything He has done since His resurrection. These verses from Isaiah 11 look forward to a time when Jesus will be the Supreme Ruler over all the earth administering justice and righteousness for all people.

King Over All the Earth

Zechariah 14:9 says this, “And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.” If we look at the context of Zechariah 14, it’s clear that this reference is to a physical kingdom with Jesus reigning over the nations of the world from Jerusalem.

While the context assumes a restored and repentant Israel, Zechariah directs these words to the Messiah; He alone is the subject of the prophecy. He will someday be king over all the earth and hold all the nations accountable to Him, just as we see later in the chapter (vv. 16-19).

Why do I believe in a literal millennium? Why am I a premillennialist who believes that Jesus will return after the tribulation to set up His rule for a thousand years?

To deny a literal millennium, one has to say that the Father will break His promise to the Son and that the prophecies of Jesus ruling over the nations of the earth are no longer valid.

First of all, I believe that all the Old Testament promises made to Israel remain intact. God has not rejected His people (Rom. 11:1) with whom He made an everlasting covenant (Psalm 105:8-11). But, that is the subject for another article.

Secondly, God the Father, through the prophets, promised that His Son would reign over the kingdoms of this world. Psalm 2 goes even further by stating that the Father would someday give the nations of the world to His Son as His “heritage.”

To deny a literal millennium, one has to say that the Father will break His promise to the Son and that the prophecies of Jesus ruling over the nations of the earth are no longer valid.

God has to break both His promises to Israel and to Jesus if there is no future kingdom over which Jesus will rule.

God will keep His promises to His Son as well as to Israel; there will be a millennium!

 

What Did Jesus Tell Us About Our Future?

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It always helps when planning a vacation to talk to someone who has already been to the desired destination. They can tell you about what to see as well as what to avoid. The same is true with restaurants, is it not? How many of you have decided not to go to a certain eating establishment after listening to a less than favorable report by someone who had eaten there? Or, on the other hand, how many of you couldn’t wait to go to a restaurant because someone raved about its food?

When it comes to heaven, we have someone who has been there. I am referring to Jesus, of course. When talking to Nicodemus, Jesus highlighted the fact He had descended from heaven to establish His authority for speaking about heavenly things (John 3:12-13).

When Jesus talked about our future, about eternity, He did so with unique authority as not only One who came from heaven, but also as One who rose from the dead.

What exactly did Jesus say about eternity, about our future?

Jesus promised to take us to His Father’s House: Jesus said this in John 14:3, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” In John 14:2-3, Jesus promised to take His followers, represented by His disciples, to the place in His Father’s house He was going to prepare for them. This very much seems to be a private return of Jesus for His own that differs substantially from His quite public return to earth, which He described in Matthew 24:29-31.

Jesus gave us signs of the end times: During the week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples asked Jesus about the signs of His coming and the end of the age. Matthew 24:3-14 records Jesus’ answer with the list of signs He provided to them. Since these things came from the One who could see ahead to His coming, we should not so easily brush them aside as many do today.

So many believers today pay so little attention to what Jesus said in Matthew 24 despite the fact that His words are unfolding in an amazing way throughout the world today with uncanny preciseness. We are living in the time Jesus spoke about in these verses.

Jesus foretold the future desecration of the temple by the antichrist: Jesus also verified Daniel’s prophecy regarding a future world leader, the antichrist, who would put an end to sacrifice at the temple halfway through the tribulation. Jesus referred to this as the “abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel” (see Dan. 9:27, Matt. 24:15).

In this verse, Jesus confirmed that that there will be antichrist that will rise to power in the last days and he will defile the temple halfway through the tribulation, just as Daniel predicted. This has not happened since the time of Jesus; it awaits a future fulfillment when Israel will rebuild the temple, the antichrist will establish a covenant that will include Israel, and this leader will break his pledge of peace by defiling the temple halfway through the tribulation period.

Jesus predicted a time of great tribulation: In this same passage, Jesus also predicted a time of “great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be” (Matt. 24:21). In the next verse, He states that if this time was not cut short, presumably by His return to earth, all humanity would perish. Jesus said that no one would survive this time apart from His coming,  which will stop the progression of events that would wipe out human life.

This is the time John spoke about in the book of Revelation. In chapters 6-19, the apostle adds details to this terrible time in human history.

Jesus described His glorious return to earth: I love Jesus’ own description of is glorious return to earth in Mathew 24:30, “Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Jesus entered the world as a helpless baby during His first coming. For His second coming, He will return in spectacular fashion with great power and glory as the entire world watches.

Jesus spoke of His future millennial reign: At this point you might be wondering where Jesus talked about His future millennial reign. While He did not specify it as clearly as John did in Revelation 20:1-6, he certainly implied it in key passages such as Matthew 26.

During Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin, the High Priest demanded that Jesus tell him whether or not He was the long awaited Messiah. “Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven’” (Matt. 26:64). Jesus was quoting from Daniel 7:13-14, a passage that prophesies the Father giving the “son of man” a physical kingdom where “all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him.”

By quoting from this passage in Daniel, Jesus affirms that one day He will be the King over the long awaited physical kingdom that will include the nations of the world.

Jesus warned people about the existence of hell: John Lennon tried to imagine life without an eternity, one without the existence of heaven and hell. In other words, our existence would end after our brief time on earth.

Jesus, however, acknowledged both the existence of heaven and hell. In fact, no one in the Bible talked more about God’s final judgment than Jesus. Seven times Jesus warned people about the existence of hell referring to it as a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Jesus repeatedly warned people of the dire consequences of rejecting Him and His gracious and loving promise of eternal life.

Jesus assured His followers of eternal life in paradise: Jesus did not come for the purpose of condemning the world, however, but for the purpose of giving His life as a “ransom for many” so that “whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (Mark 10:45; John 3:16-17). So yes, while there are frightful consequences of rejecting Jesus’ gracious offer of life, there is the promise of paradise for all those who turn to Him for salvation from the penalty of their sins. Even for the thief crucified next to Him received this assurance after acknowledging Jesus’ ability to save him from his sins (Luke 23:40-43).

Jesus commanded us to watch for His return: In Matthew 24:44 Jesus said this, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” A little later in the same discourse He added these words, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (25:13). The Lord urges His followers, us, to watch for His return. This is not just something for the few on the fringe, but for all who call upon His name.

Jesus’ last recorded words to His church are these, “Surely I am coming soon.” The Greek word for “soon” is better translated “quickly.” It’s clear from His last words to us that Jesus desired for us to watch for His John 14:3 return. If this was true then, how much more today as we see the signs of the approaching tribulation multiply around us?

Why does all this matter? Do Jesus’ words carry more authority than the rest of the New Testament? No, I believe it’s all Jesus’ revelation to the church of His deity, the saving Gospel message, and the joyous eternity He is preparing for all of us who belong to Him. What we believe about the Gospel and our future after this life starts with the words and saving work of Jesus to which He added further revelation through His apostles in the first century.

These things matter so much today because so many professing believers want a Jesus who did not really say or mean several of the things listed above. They want Jesus, but deny the urgency of His saving message, the existence of hell, and His warnings of judgment. They want a Jesus of their own making, not the One revealed on the pages of Scripture.

We can trust Jesus’ words about all these things because He came from eternity and He rose from the dead, just as He said He would. This establishes His credibility beyond anyone else who has ever lived.

Oh, there is one more thing that is absolutely essential to add that many also deny . . . .

Jesus said He is the only way to the Father, the only way to eternal life: In John 14:6 Jesus said these words, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

If you are trusting another Jesus, one who would never deny anyone entrance to heaven, please turn to the true Jesus, the One who is truly the only way to eternal life, who will be true to all His words that I have listed above. He will surely save those who belong to Him and bring them into the joy of eternity.

If you are trusting your good works or being a good person to get you to heaven, please know that Jesus died for your sins precisely because your good works could never merit you any favor with the Father. He is the only way to the Father; He is the only way to eternal life.

The cross proves how much Jesus loves us; He was willing to die in our place.

It’s Jesus’ righteousness that counts, not our own. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” The cross proves how much Jesus loves us; He was willing to die in our place. If you have not yet put your faith in Jesus alone for the forgiveness of your sins, please do not reject His gracious and loving offer of life any longer.

The time of the end is rapidly approaching, please turn to the Savior before it is too late. Jesus said He would return when we do not expect.

What’s So Significant about the Signs?

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Based on the feedback I receive from my writing, especially from one of my recent posts, I know some believers question the relevance of what we are seeing today in regard to the return of the Lord. The world has seen natural disasters, earthquakes, and wars since the beginning of recorded history. What’s so significant about the things we are seeing today? Are they really any different than what has happened in earlier times?

I know many sincere Christians who do not recognize the signs of the times because people have talked about Jesus’ soon return for so long and nothing has happened. They point to World War II and how bad things looked then, but we recovered from that.  “Things may look bad now,” they say, “but history has a way of correcting the extremes in society.”

Do current world events really signify that we are living in the last days? Yes, I believe they do for the following reasons.

Israel

If I could sum up the significance of what we are seeing today in one word it would be “Israel.” Its mere existence as a nation adds considerable weight to everything we see happening throughout the world.

Many people, including me, believe Jesus’ reference to the fig tree in Matthew 24:32-33 depicts the reemergence of Israel as a nation. Scripture often portrays Israel as a fig tree and if that is also the case here, Jesus’ words indicate that the flourishing of Israel as a nation today is definitely a sign we are living in the last days.

The Old Testament prophets often spoke of God gathering the people of Israel back into a nation in the last days. Jeremiah stated that as long as the “fixed order” of the sun, moon, and stars remains, Israel would be a nation in God’s eyes (Jer. 31:35-37). He also spoke of a time when God would bring His people back from nations and securely plant them in the land (32:36-41). The promises go far beyond what happened when the people of Judah returned from their Babylonian captivity; they speak to a future restoration that leads to a descendant of King David, the Messiah, ruling over the nation.

In Luke 21:24 Jesus said this, “They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” The implication is clear. Israel’s capture of old Jerusalem in 1967 was highly significant and is a strong indicator that Jesus remembers His promise to return to earth someday.

The Temple

Many who have studied prophecy throughout the ages have not only looked for God to establish Israel as a nation again, but also for the rebuilding of the temple. Isaac Newton, the famous physicist, believed this and looked for both. Irenaeus, a famous church father of the second century AD, also wrote about a future temple existing in the last days, one that the antichrist would defile.

Jesus said that Daniel’s “abomination of desolation,” the antichrist’s defiling of the temple, would take place during the tribulation before His glorious return to earth (Matt. 24:15; Dan. 9:27). In order for this to happen, Israel will need to build another temple and this is exactly what we see happening today.

The Temple Institute in Israel has drafted the plans for the temple, built many of its furnishings, and is training Levites to serve as priests.

The Temple Institute in Israel has drafted the plans for the temple, built many of its furnishings, and is training Levites to serve as priests. The Sanhedrin recently selected a high priest for the temple. And the nation is already planning the infrastructure necessary for the large crowds that will come to visit the temple from all over the world.

Birth Pains

The signs receiving so much attention today come from the lips of Jesus Himself. In Matthew 24:3-8, He described these indicators of the last days as “the beginning of birth pains.” Yes there have always been wars and threats of wars, but never with the frequency as well as the potential for such severe consequences. If North Korea were to follow through on their threats, the resulting war could kill tens of millions almost instantly.

As of writing this paragraph, there have been 249 earthquakes in the world with an intensity of 4.0 or greater in the last seven days. It’s rarely been over 100 earthquakes in the time that I have followed this. Famines and pestilences are also increasing worldwide, just as Jesus said.

After Jesus gave us these signs and talked further of His coming He said this, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt. 24:44). Jesus’ command for believers of all ages was to be ready and watchful for His return. How much more so should we doing this with all we are seeing today?

Ezekiel 38-39

Something else that ignites the interest of prophecy nerds such as me is the aligning of nations in the Middle East exactly according to what Ezekiel prophesied for the last days (see chapters 38-39). Let me give you some of the highlights of what he predicted without going into the details of how we arrive at these conclusions.

Ezekiel said that in the last days a coalition of nations, led by Russia, Turkey, and Iran would come against Israel. Many refer to this as the battle of Gog and Magog. Today we see these nations closely aligned as never before in history and all three have a significant military presence in Syria, close to the border of Israel. Earlier this month, Israel attacked a chemical and biological weapons factory in Syria run mainly by the Iranians. Could something like this be the spark that ignites this prophesied conflict?

Why would these nations attack Israel? Ezekiel says the motive will be the wealth of Israel, which until recently no one would have thought possible. Now, however, we know that Israel possesses a gigantic reservoir of natural gas as well as a rich supply of oil discovered in the Golan Heights. Putin, the president of Russian, already feels threatened by Israel’s natural gas deals with Europe and the closeness of the oil reserves to Syria could easily lead to an attack.

In addition, Iran issues frequent threats to annihilate the nation of Israel and Turkey, which once was an ally of Israel, has now closely aligned itself with those seeking her destruction.

Of equal significance are the nations that do not come against Israel. Egypt is missing from the list and text says that Saudi Arabia will merely protest the attack. Events in the past few years have brought these nations into a much closer alliance with Israel than ever before.

A One-World Government

While the Bible does not use the term “one-world government,” it’s clear from passages both in Daniel and Revelation that the coming antichrist will gain control of much of the world if not all of it. Scripture says a time is coming when the world will be under a ruling body led by the antichrist, which I believe will form quickly at the start of the coming tribulation.

We see calls for such a world-wide government in many places today. Pope Francis repeatedly calls for this as a way to combat global warming. George Soros is putting much of financial resources into making this happen as he repeatedly calls for a one-world monetary system. The UN has an agenda in place to help facilitate the transition to such a universal government. All these indicators and much more show the readiness of the world for this.

The signs we see today point to the nearness of the tribulation where the natural disasters and wars we see today will intensify to a degree never seen before in the history of the world. Since Jesus is coming before this time, the signs also signify the nearness of His return to take His church back to His Father’s house as He promised in John 14:2-3. Although some disagree with me on this, I firmly believe He will take His church out of the world before the coming great tribulation.

While I believe He will come for us quite soon, I am not putting any limitations on that. He may come today, later this month, next year, or sometime after that.

Let me be very clear that I am not setting any dates or deadlines for Jesus to come for us. He is exceedingly patient and waiting for as many as possible to repent and turn to Him. While I believe He will come for us quite soon, I am not putting any limitations on that. He may come today, later this month, next year, or sometime after that.

What I am saying is what we are seeing today points to the nearness of His return. So many things are already in place for the tribulation to begin, but are seemingly held in suspension waiting upon the Lord to remove His restraining force to bring about all that the Bible predicts for this time of trouble upon the earth.

It’s like watching a juggler with ten balls in the air. Eventually you know he will miss one of them and all the rest will soon be bouncing on the floor. He or she may keep all the balls up in the air much longer than we expect, but eventually they all will fall.

 

What Do the Signs Tell Us?

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Last night while we were sleeping, Israeli jets attacked a chemical and biological weapons manufacturing plant in Syria that was operated by the Iranians. It was the largest such airstrike in Syria in the past ten years. The Iranians and Syrians are both furious and vowing revenge.

Israel is expecting an attack in response. During the past several days, the Israeli army has conducted its biggest military exercise in twenty years in the northern part of the country. The planning of the exercise was clearly staged to coincide with the airstrike so as to have the army already in place.

I just finished listening to a video by Amir Tsarfati where I got much of the above information. He is a former military officer in the Israeli army and maintains many key contacts. I will provide a link to his update at the end of this post.

What does it all mean?

The Signs of the End Are Increasing

It’s almost impossible to keep up with all that is happening right now. The news regarding Irma dominates the news as one might expect. The fires out west would perhaps be the lead story on the news if were it not for hurricanes Harvey and Irma. A place in Idaho, which is not far from Yellowstone Park, has experienced over a hundred small earthquakes in the past few days. In the past seven days, there have been 107 earthquakes in the world with an intensity of 4.0 or greater.

Threats and rumors of war are becoming common to the point where we scarcely notice them anymore.

Besides the raised probability of a war in the Middle East, we also hear the repeated North Korean threats of launching a nuclear attack against the United States. Threats and rumors of war are becoming common to the point where we scarcely notice them anymore.

In South Asia, the death toll from monsoons and resulting flooding has reached 1,400 with millions of acres of cropland destroyed. This will only increase the great famines in the world that go largely unreported.

These signs have been increasing in intensity for a long time, but Israel’s attack on Syria seems to up the stakes. We know from Ezekiel 38-39 that in the last days an alliance led by Russia, Iran, and Turkey will attack Israel. These nations are not only closely tied together at the present time, but all have a significant military presence in Syria, very close to the border of Israel.

Could an attack such as we saw last night be the spark that begins the war that the prophet Ezekiel describes? It’s altogether possible. Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly warned both Russia and Iran in past couple weeks that he will not allow the continuing buildup of Iranian military forces in Syria. Last night’s airstrike on the chemical weapons plant shows that he is not bluffing, but dead serious about his intentions.

It’s a Time for Greater Watchfulness and Readiness

I believe all these things signify that we are living in the last days before the tribulation starts and the judgments of Revelation 6-16 occur. Based on my study of Scripture, I believe that Jesus will come for His church before this awful day starts (although some disagree with me).

As such, I believe Jesus’ return for us is getting very close. However, we must not set dates as He is much more patient that we are; He is giving an opportunity for as many as possible to believe in Him before it is too late. He may come today, this month, next year, or sometime after that. All I know is that the signs are increasing in both frequency and intensity.

Does He not also expect us to recognize the signs today of His return?

Jesus and the prophets gave us all these signs and indicators so we would know that His appearing is getting close. If nothing else, it’s certainly a call to greater watchfulness for His appearing. Remember how the Lord chided the Pharisees and Sadducees for not recognizing the signs of His first coming (Matt. 16:1-4)? Does He not also expect us to recognize the signs today of His return?

Personally, I hesitate to regard the fires and hurricanes as God’s judgment. The destruction and potential for destruction is terrible, but it’s nothing compared to what the world will see during the Great Tribulation when the Lord will clearly be judging mankind for its rejection of Jesus, the Savior who died on cross for them.

Also, another reason for my hesitancy is that a great number of dear believers were severely affected by Harvey and are already being impacted by Irma.

Perhaps it’s best to regard all these things, including the Israeli airstrike on Syria, as warning signs that the tribulation could begin very soon. I think they are also reminders to look up as Jesus instructed. In Luke 21:28 Jesus said this, “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” What we are seeing today certainly qualifies as signs beginning “to take place.”

I believe the signs tells us that it cannot be a whole lot longer until Jesus comes just as He promised in John 14:1-3 to take us to be with Him. It’s time to watch and be ready.

Ann Graham Lotz, the daughter of Billy Graham, also wrote a very good article yesterday calling our nation to prayer. It can be found at: https://hellochristian.com/9240-anne-graham-lotz-its-time-to-get-serious

As I listened to Amir’s update this morning, I could not help but agree with him that what we seeing throughout the world today points to Jesus’ soon return for His church. It’s also why I wrote this post versus the one I was planning to write today.

 

It’s the Resurrection Part 2: Jesus’ Claims

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Since gravity is true, regardless of our ability to jump we always come back to the ground (I return a bit quicker than most since I can’t jump very high). If we drop something, it goes down rather than up. If we trip, we fall unless we regain our balance in time. Since gravity exists, certain things naturally flow from that.

If Jesus can predict the timing of His rising from the dead, it follows that we can trust the claims He made about Himself.

Likewise with Jesus’ resurrection, since He rose from the dead certain other things are necessarily true as well. If Jesus can predict the timing of His rising from the dead, it follows that we can trust the claims He made about Himself. It’s an unbreakable chain.

Think about it for a moment, if He indeed walked out of the tomb on the third day exactly as He predicted, and we know for certain He did, this adds an undeniable authority to everything else He said does it not? It validates beyond any doubt all His many other assertions. The empty grave establishes the credibility and supernatural character of Jesus; He is no ordinary man.

Let’s consider some of the key claims Jesus made about Himself in this light.

Jesus Claimed to Be God in the Flesh

I want to revisit Jesus’ claim to be God as this is crucial to building my case for why I believe what I do. In John 10:30 Jesus made this remarkable statement, “I and the Father are one.” The Jews who heard these words immediately picked up rocks with which to stone Him to death because they recognized Jesus was claiming equality with the Lord God of the Old Testament. They regarded His claim as the height of blasphemy.

In John 14:8, Philip said this to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” In response, Jesus told his disciple he had already seen the Father, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (v. 9). Jesus claimed to be the perfect revelation of His Father in heaven. He claimed to be God in the flesh.

When we look at Jesus, we see an exact reflection of our Heavenly Father who by His word created the universe out of nothing.

The writer of Hebrews put it this way, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3). When we look at Jesus, we see an exact reflection of our Heavenly Father who by His word created the universe out of nothing.

Can you see how Jesus’ resurrection plus His claim to be God in the flesh adds unmistakable value to all His other assertions?

Jesus Claimed to be the Only Way of Salvation

Jesus’ claim to be the only way of salvation is perhaps His most controversial one today. People recognize Jesus as someone great, but dismiss the necessity of putting their faith in Him alone for their salvation. They do not see Him as necessary for their lives.

Jesus made this claim about Himself in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Perhaps the most recognized verse in all of the New Testament, John 3:16, echoes this exact same exclusivity, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus said it’s only those that believe in Him that do not experience God’s wrath, but receive eternal life

The brutality of Jesus’ death adds further weight to this truth. If we could save ourselves by keeping the Law, being moral, or by our good works, do you really think that the Father would have allowed His Son to endure such extreme agony on the cross? Of course not!

If there was any other way of salvation, do you not think the Father would have spared His only Son such a brutal and horrendous death? Absolutely!

Jesus suffered and died precisely because there was no way for the Father to provide eternal life apart from faith in Christ and His death in our place.

Jesus Claimed to be the Resurrection and the Life

In the next claim we will consider, Jesus again emphasizes that He alone is the way of salvation. In John 11:25-26 Jesus said this about Himself, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. . . .” In claiming to be “the resurrection and the life” Jesus promises that all who believe in Him will live, even if they die.

We have no ability whatsoever to save ourselves; only He is capable of bringing us safely to eternity.

Do you see the essential relationship between this claim and Jesus’ resurrection? If Jesus’ bones are buried somewhere in Israel, then our belief that we will rise again to new life someday is also buried with them. When Jesus physically walked out the grave, He demonstrated His ability to give eternal life to those who believe in Him.

This is why only He can offer salvation to a lost humanity. We have no ability whatsoever to save ourselves; only He is capable of bringing us safely from this life to eternity. That’s why it’s so necessary that we put our trust solely in Him.

Those who believe in Jesus will someday rise again to a glorious and wonderful life. Jesus’ resurrection guarantees this for all who truly know Him as their Savior.

Jesus Claimed to be the Long Awaited Messiah

If I was a Jewish Christian living in the first century AD, this would likely have been the first claim of Jesus that I would have mentioned. Jesus claimed to be the long awaited Messiah spoken of throughout the entire Old Testament. He is the Christ that the prophets, beginning with Moses, said would come to Israel one day.

The woman knew of the hope for a Messiah and Jesus simply responded saying that He was the One, the hope of Israel.

Interestingly, Jesus first claimed to be the long awaited Messiah while talking with a Samaritan woman, “The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he’” (John 4:25-26). The woman knew of the hope for a Messiah and Jesus simply responded saying that He was the One, the hope of Israel.

This sampling of Jesus’ key claims about Himself helps us understand why the resurrection is so foundational to all that we believe. The remarkable claims Jesus made about Himself are true because Jesus walked out of the grave on the third day, exactly as He predicted. If not for His resurrection, all of His claims would be meaningless because He could not be God. And if not God, then incapable of keeping the many wonderful promises He made to us.

However, because He rose from the dead, we have hope. He is our risen Savior.

These claims of Jesus are building blocks upon the sure foundation of our faith, the resurrection of Jesus. From here, we will keep on building. In the coming posts, we will take this a step further; we will start looking at some of the implications of Jesus claims. My next post will seem a bit off topic at first, but it will soon be clear how it relates.

 

Paris Peace Conference Update

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A couple weeks back, I wrote about the fulfillment of prophecy before our eyes as it related to UN resolution 2334 and the expected January 15, 2017 peace conference in Paris. The world seemed intent on finally establishing a Palestinian state at the expense of Israel’s security.

Last Sunday, January 15, I watched for news on the Paris Peace conference. I expected a big splash announcing the outcome, but saw only scant references to it. At first, I thought the leaders of the nations were purposely downplaying the result of the conference only to surprise the world with a stunning resolution at the UN Security Council Meeting on January 17.

However, such was not the case.

The Peace Conference Flopped

Once the Paris peace conference started, there was much disunity, particularly from Britain and some of the Balkan countries who objected to the harsh language of the proposed statement.  In short, the conference flopped.

The conference’s final statement did not go beyond anything that was already stated in the December 23, 2016 resolution of the UN Security Council.  The final statement added nothing new to the discussion. The heralded meeting of nations failed to live up to all expectations. Discord rather than unity prevailed at the forum of nations.

According to Amir Tsarfati, the European Union could not even agree to support the weakened statement that did come out of the conference as Britain and some of the Balkan countries refused to vote for it.

What Happened?

God’s people prayed.

Between the December 23 UN resolution and the Paris meeting of nations, calls went out for believers to pray. Many Christian leaders sent out urgent appeals for prayer regarding the conference and the future of Israel.

James 5:15 states that ”the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” As Christians prayed, God thwarted the intentions of nations in Paris. Instead of recognizing Palestine as a nation and giving them old Jerusalem as well as Judea and Samaria, they failed to agree on anything substantial.

However, some might ask, “Weren’t you praying against what Scripture says will happen? Prophecy seems clear that the nations will divide Israel and that Jerusalem will be the focus of the nations at the end of the age.”

Indeed, as I mentioned in my previous post, the prophet Zechariah clearly spoke of a time when the world would be obsessed with Jerusalem (12:1-3). We clearly see this in all that has happened. In spite of all the atrocities happening in nearby Syria and the battle for Mosul, the nations are almost exclusively focused on Israel.

Yes, I agree that as Joel 3:2 indicates, the nations of the world will eventually succeed in dividing up Israel and will someday come against it in force to demand that Israel comply with their demands.

However, before this happens, the Bible says that something is also currently at work in the world holding back the evil planned against Jerusalem.

The Restrainer

Amir Tsarfati,* in his prophecy update after the Paris conference, pointed to the work of the Holy Spirit as the restraining force at work in France as a result of the prayers of believers all around the world.

I believe that 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 speaks of the restraining intervention of the Spirit during the last days. Paul recognized that “the mystery of lawlessness” was “already at work” (v. 7). The apostle went on to say that “he who now restrains it [the mystery of lawlessness] will do so until he is out of the way.”

Paul recognized, as did the apostle John (1 John 4:1-3), that the spirit of the antichrist was already at work even as he wrote. However, the person of the antichrist will not be revealed until the restrainer, the Holy Spirit, is taken out of the way (2 Thess. 4:7-8).

The Holy Spirit, residing in the members of the body of Christ, the church, is effectively thwarting the full measure of the “mystery of lawlessness” until the time is right for the unveiling of the antichrist and his treacherous plans for the world. I believe that when Jesus comes for His church, the restraint holding back the full designs of Satan will be lifted.

In the past several weeks, I believe we have seen this in operation. The “mystery of lawlessness” was at work in the passing of UN Resolution 2334 removing Israel’s legal right to east Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. However, God spread discord at the meeting of nations in Paris preventing further action, at least for the foreseeable future.

What will happen between now and when Jesus comes for us? I am not sure. We definitely see the rise of wickedness and violence in the world. Sometimes it seems as though the restraint of wickedness has already been lifted to some degree. It’s possible we may see further action taken against Israel before the rapture.

Pray and Wait

While we cannot know what might happen next or when Jesus will suddenly appear, in the meantime we wait for His return with much prayer.

We know God has a sovereign plan and prophecy will be fulfilled exactly as stated in His Word. We also know that prayer changes the outcomes of what happens around us. James said that our prayers matter, they “avail much.”

I believe Jesus is coming soon. In the meantime, we pray knowing that our prayers along with the restraining work of the Holy Spirit will make a difference.  When this restraining influence is out of the way, the world will, as Jesus said experience “great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never shall be” (Matt. 24:21).

Prayer changes things. From our vantage point, it can change the course of history. From God’s perspective, He enjoys working through the prayers of His people to bring about His sovereign and preplanned purposes.

I believe this is what we are seeing today.

Jesus will return for us at precisely the right time. In the meantime, let’s keep praying, waiting, and watching, of course.

 

*Note: Amir Tsarfati is a former office in the Israeli army who speaks around the world on the subject of prophecy

Prophecy Comes Alive Before our Eyes

 

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Jerusalem as seen from the Mount of Olives

 

When writers like myself talk about the nearness of the Lord’s return, I’m sure for some it brings up an image of a scruffy old man draped with a sandwich sign with the words “The End is Near!” printed in bold letters on both sides.

After two thousand years of waiting, I know many dear believers have difficulty wrapping their minds around the nearness of the Lord’s return, and understandably so.

Could Jesus really come for His church in our lifetime? Could the tribulation actually start in the coming years? Why do some believe that the end of human history is at hand?

Prophecy. With so many events aligning so closely with what Scripture predicts about the last days, it’s difficult for me to imagine that we are not getting to close to the time of the tribulation and hence to Jesus’ return for His church.

So while we do not limit God’s patience or foolishly set dates, I believe Jesus would have us be wise in discerning the signs of the times in which we live. The Lord chided the Pharisees and Sadducees for not recognizing the signs of His first appearing (Matt. 16:3). Would He not also expect us to recognize the signs of the tribulation or of His return?

So while we do not limit God’s patience or foolishly set dates, I believe Jesus would have us be wise in discerning the signs of the times in which we live.

For example . . . in just the past couple weeks the dispute over old Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria has reached a fever pitch with highly significant prophetic implications that leap out at us from the pages of Scripture.

The Prophecies Regarding Jerusalem

The prophet Zechariah, writing 2,600 years ago, said this regarding the behavior of the world toward Jerusalem in the last days:

“Behold, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of staggering to all the surrounding peoples. The siege of Jerusalem will also be against Judah.  On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will gather against it” (12:2-3).

Zechariah long ago prophesied a future worldwide preoccupation of the nations with Jerusalem to the extent that the leaders of the world would literally become intoxicated with it and eventually injure themselves coming against it. The “heavy stone” signifies a boundary stone thus indicating a fixation on the boundaries of Jerusalem.

Does this not describe what is happening today? Isn’t it bizarre that with all the terrorism and violence taking place in the Middle East, the atrocities in Aleppo, the world remains almost solely focused on Jerusalem? One agency estimates that 90,000 Christians were martyred for their faith in 2016 and yet Jerusalem consumes all the attention of the nations, just as the prophets said would happen in the last days.

The prophet Joel, who likely wrote before the time of Zechariah, said this about Jerusalem and Judah:

“For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land“ (3:1-2).

The first part of this prophecy has come true; the Lord has restored “the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem.”

The next event in this passage is the gathering of nations to fight against Israel with the Lord’s subsequent judgment on them. But notice the reason for His anger with the nations: it is because they have divided up His land, which is precisely what we see happening before our eyes today.

This undue preoccupation with Jerusalem and its boundaries is really no surprise. The ancient prophets said this would happen ahead of Jesus’ Second Coming.

These prophecies from Zechariah and Joel long ago predicted what is currently taking place at the UN. This undue preoccupation with Jerusalem and its boundaries is really no surprise. The ancient prophets said this would happen ahead of Jesus’ Second Coming.

UN Resolution 2334

On Friday, December 23, 2016 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2334, which essentially divides up the land by making all Jewish settlements in old Judea and Samaria illegal. It gives all this land to the Palestinians. Land, by the way, that never belonged to the Palestinians in the past. Israel took that land from Jordan in the 1967 war and now has a peace treaty with that nation.

The resolution also gives the Palestinians control of all of east Jerusalem; something Israel will never accept. It’s now illegal, according to the UN, for Jews to go to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

As a follow up to this resolution, seventy nations will gather in Paris, France on January 15, 2017 with the stated goal “to promote a “two-state solution” as the way that lasting peace will be brought to the Middle East.”[i] Many believe the objective of the conference will be to draw up a UN resolution to this effect that will be presented to the UN Security Council before January 20, when Donald Trump becomes the president.

It’s the prophecies of Zechariah and Joel coming to life before our eyes.  Christian author and speaker David Hunt said this several years ago regarding the Zechariah 12:3-4 passage:

“Consider how remarkable even this one prophecy is. Who could have imagined when the Old Testament was written that all the nations of the world would be involved in deciding the fate of Israel? And this involvement of all nations in dividing Israel has occurred exactly as prophesied and is still in the process of being implemented.”

This fascination of the world is even greater now than when David Hunt wrote these words.

Author Michael Snyder wrote this regarding the tension building in Israel regarding what might happen in the January 17 meeting in Paris, “In Israel, there is a tremendous amount of concern that whatever is agreed upon at this conference will immediately be used as the basis for a UN Security Council resolution that would permanently divide the land of Israel and create a Palestinian state. “[ii]

What’s the Significance?

Why is the current activity regarding Jerusalem and Israel such a big deal?

It may very well be another issue that brings the nations of the world to Israel’s doorstep at the end of the tribulation. However, it’s rather easy to see how the current UN resolution as well as the result of the upcoming meeting in Paris on January 15th could become the impetus for military action against Jerusalem such as prophesied to take place just before the Lord’s return to earth.

Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly stated that Israel will never give up the old sector of Jerusalem. He clearly stated in his response to Resolution 2334 that Israel will not agree to its terms. If the world further seeks to impose a two-state solution upon Israel, it will be met with the same resistance.

Can you see why so many students of prophecy believe we are in the last days? We are already seeing events shape up in the world that could easily set the stage for the great battle at the end of the tribulation, which I believe is at least seven years away.

I pray that President Obama does not allow passage of any UN resolution forcing a two-state solution upon Israel. I very much believe this will lead to disastrous consequences for the United States as well as set the stage for the Great Tribulation. It will lead to greater violence, not peace, and possibly ignite a series of events leading up to the battle of Armageddon.

I also recognize that the refusal of the United States to block such action against Israel may be a part of the fulfillment of end time prophecies. Perhaps we might even expect it even though our hearts react strongly against such action by the UN.

If the UN votes to officially take land from Israel and give it to a newly formed Palestinian State, will it not be yet another bright flashing sign pointing to the nearness of the Lord’ return?

Is this not exactly what the prophets Zechariah and Joel said would happen in the last days?

I believe such a vote would signal the approaching of the tribulation and even sooner appearing of Jesus for His church.

Even if not, it certainly represents prophecy coming alive before our very eyes.

Maranatha!!

[i] Michael Snyder, Circle January 15th: 70 Nations Will Gather In Paris to Discuss the Creation of a Palestinian State, Online article from the Website, The Economic Collapse.

[ii] Ibid.

Is The Pretribulation Rapture a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card?

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During the past year, the Lord called me away from my career as a financial analyst to pursue writing on a fulltime basis. His call began with a stirring of my heart as I saw the ridicule of the pretribulation rapture on Facebook and I felt a strong desire to defend my beliefs.

I am not a scholar. However, a careful and prayerful study of many passages in the New Testament over a period of many years has led to my deep conviction that the rapture happens before the start of the tribulation. I have studied opposing viewpoints as well.

I recently read a blog post arguing against the pretribulation rapture. In doing so, the writer made three common arguments, ones based more on human reasoning than on the Word of God. At first, I dismissed the post.

As I later reread the article, however, I felt compelled to answer his attacks on the pretribulation rapture. I have heard similar arguments over the past several decades; they are not new.  However, in the past I have not written out a response to them.

This is the time to do so.

I will respond to this article in a series of three shorter posts rather than one lengthy post.

A Get-Out-of Jail-Free Card?

The first argument of this blog post is that the pretribulation rapture offers believers a “get-out-of-jail-free card.” Here is his exact quote:

First, believing I won’t have to endure the awful end-times tribulation period, fosters in me an “early-out” mentality, in which I don’t need faith to live my life. Waving my get-out-of-jail-free card, all I need do is simply hang on, and hang out until my sudden extraction. How does this jive with Jesus telling us that all who believe, will ‘suffer persecution’ ? It doesn’t. Perhaps what He meant to say was, “All (but the last generation) would suffer persecution.” But that’s simply not what He said, and I always credit the Son of God to have said what He meant to say. Doesn’t wisdom begin with that? [i]

In other words, this writer believes that the pretribulation rapture offers believers an “easy out” of the persecution of the tribulation. Since the church is not experiencing opposition at the moment, in his opinion, our belief in the pretribulation rapture thus represents a desire to miss out on such oppression.

Persecution Versus Wrath

First of all, there is a significant difference between persecution and the wrath of God that will be poured out on sinful humanity during the tribulation. Approximately half of the world’s population will die in the judgments of the tribulation. This is not the “persecution” of the church; it is God’s judgment on the world to bring them, as well as Israel, to repentance.

No one who advocates a pretribulation rapture does so to escape persecution. It is God’s wrath we seek to avoid and understandably so. Who wouldn’t want to miss out on that!

We believe we will escape this wrath because the Lord promises us such a deliverance.

This is not an “early-out mentality” whatsoever. The Lord, through the apostle Paul, says the church will miss the pouring out of God’s wrath on the earth during the tribulation (1 Thess. 5:9). We believe we will escape this wrath because the Lord promises us such a deliverance.

The rapture is the promise of a ceasing of persecution for the church after which the Lord’s judgment falls on a Christ-rejecting humanity. This, I believe, is the message of 2 Thessalonians 1.

The Church Is Being Persecuted Today

Second, the writer’s point only makes sense for believers in America. For most believers in our world today, the rapture is most certainly not a “get-out-of-jail-free card.” Many believers across the world are experiencing fierce persecution; they have seen loved ones brutally killed by ISIS and have left all their belongings behind while fleeing for their lives.

What this blogger describes applies only to the church in America. It’s a totally invalid argument in almost every other nation of the world where believers are currently undergoing intense oppression.

Yes, Jesus says His followers should expect persecution and this is what we see in many places in our world and even to some extent in America. The tribulation, however, is God’s wrath poured out on a sinful world that refuses to repent. It’s far worse than “jail.”

As a defender of the pretribulation rapture, I am not looking for an easy out in regard to persecution. I may yet experience fierce opposition for my faith. Who really knows what we will face tomorrow?

I am, however, looking and waiting for Jesus to take me home before the coming period of wrath overtakes the world. That is a much, much different matter than an escape from persecution!

Our Great and Glorious Expectation

In Philippians 3:20 Paul wrote this, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” The word he used for “await” in this verse denotes “intense anticipation” and an “excited expectation” of a future event.  It implies a deep heart-felt longing for whatever is expected.

In this case, it’s the return of Jesus to take His church back to His Father’s house in heaven (John 14:1-3).

Paul characterizes believers as recipients of grace who as a result look for the “blessed hope” of Jesus’ appearing.

Titus 2:11-13 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Paul characterizes believers as recipients of grace who as a result look for the “blessed hope” of Jesus’ appearing.

I could cite several other verses from the New Testament that point to Jesus’ appearing as our immediate hope, our great and glorious expectation. Believers in the New Testament, regardless of their circumstances, eagerly awaited Jesus’ return.

We may yet face fierce persecution in the United States; we almost certainly will face dark times in our lives that will test our faith. We do not know where the path of following Christ will lead us

One thing is certain, Jesus is our hope. Our great expectation is that of seeing Jesus face to face. It’s a wonderful anticipation that brings hope and joy in the midst of the most painful of circumstances and calms our fears.

Our great expectation is that of seeing Jesus face to face. It’s a wonderful anticipation that brings hope and joy in the midst of the most painful of circumstances and calms our fears.

No where does the New Testament tell believers to await the pouring out of God’s wrath such as will characterize the entire seven years of the tribulation.

The pretribulation rapture is not a “get-out-of-jail-free card.” It’s the promised cessation of persecution for believers while the Lord judges a sinful world in order to bring them and Israel to repentance.

The pretribulation rapture is precisely what Jesus promises us through the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:9, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The same Jesus who tells us to expect persecution in this life also promises to deliver us from the wrath of the coming tribulation.

[i] John Miltenberger, Rapture