Are These the Days of Noah?

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Photo from Ark Encounter Website

No, I am not suggesting that we start building ships or that we rush to the Ark Encounter in northern Kentucky hoping that the recreation of Noah’s ark will actually float. I am referring to Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 where He said this, “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”

What characterized the “days of Noah?” Back in Genesis 6, God complained about two things regarding the people of that day. Genesis 6:5 says, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of heart was only evil continually.” Besides the extreme wickedness of the time, this expression appears twice, “the earth was filled with violence” (6:11, 13).

For the past couple weeks I have been contemplating a post on violence in our world, but the recent shooting of Steve Scalise and others pushed this to the forefront of my thinking. I believe that the violence we see in our world is a sign we are truly living in the last days of human history.

Violence Fills the Earth

In 2016, there were 2,478 Islamic terror attacks in 59 countries in which 21,237 people were killed and 26,680 people were injured. In just the past 30 days there have been 174 attacks by Islamic Jihadists in which 1,659 people were killed (source for these numbers is thereligionofpeace.com, which chronicles each such attack). These statistics do not include the thousands of Christians whom ISIS beheaded or crucified during the past few years.

During the bloody civil war in Syria over 500,000 people have been killed, according the last numbers I saw on this, and the bloodshed and killing continues unabated in this horrible conflict.

The greatest source of deadly violence in our world continues to be abortion. In our nation alone, over 50 million babies have been murdered since 1973 and worldwide, this number is much higher. Is not God just as grieved by this senseless bloodshed as He is by the bombings and killing also prevalent in our world? I absolutely believe He is.

Wikipedia lists fourteen current and ongoing wars in our world, including the civil war in Syria, with 1,000 or more deaths each year. The Mexican drug war has claimed the lives of 138,000 people since 2006 with over 12,000 dying because of this violence in 2016 alone.

Does violence fill the earth at this time? Absolutely! We do not know the statistics of violence during the days of Noah, but I have to think what we see around us certainly qualifies as an apt comparison.

The Acceptance of Violence

What’s also disturbing to me is the growing acceptance of violence in our nation. The popularity of the play currently running in New York City portraying the assassination of President Trump demonstrates this growing acceptance of violence. This play is not sponsored, as you might suspect, by some lunatic fringe group, but by the New York Times and other well-known companies. I would condemn such a play regardless of who was president; it would sicken me just as much.

More people have been arrested for violence and for threats of violence in the past six months than in the prior ten years.

Illinois State Senator David Syverson recently posted this on his Facebook page about the growing acceptance of violence, “What’s different about the few random threats made in the past vs today is usually they were made by lone wolves or individuals with no credibility. Their actions were soundly criticized and shut down from all fronts. Today these individuals who are inciting violence are ‘credible’ leaders, in their circles. They have followers and their actions and statements are covered respectfully by the media.”

Senator Syverson also stated that more people have been arrested for violence and for threats of violence in the past six months than in the prior ten years.

The shooting of Steve Scalise was not some random or isolated event; it predictively grew out the frenzied hatred and vitriol by many on the left and in the media toward President Trump and toward Republicans by virtue of their association with him.

Granted, the vast majority of people who oppose President Trump do not advocate violence against him, but the standing ovations at the end of the play advocating his assassination and the often repeated calls for violence against our President sadly testify to the growing acceptance of violence in our culture.

Legitimate protests are a treasured part of our national heritage; it’s those that turn violent or promote violence that not only show a growing acceptance of violence but also cause much harm to our nation.

However, there is overwhelmingly great news for those of us who know the Lord Jesus as their Savior.

A Day Like Any Other

In comparing the days leading up to His coming to the days of Noah, the Lord also made this interesting statement, “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark” (Matt. 24:38). The flood came on a day that started out just like any other day for those who rejected the warnings of Noah.

For us who know Jesus, it will be a day glorious beyond anything we have ever experienced.

Until the moment Jesus returns for His church, life will proceed on earth pretty much as normal as well; there will likely not be any great sign or worldwide catastrophe signaling His appearing to take His church home. Just as in the days of Noah, life will seem normal. It will be a day like any other, that is, until Jesus takes us away to be with Him.

For us who know Jesus, it will be a day glorious beyond anything we have ever experienced.

Please pray for President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. I believe it is vital that we pray for their safety as well as all those around them in the Whitehouse and in the leadership of Congress. If anything, the shooting of Steve Scalise has intensified my prayers for our President and for his wellbeing.

Pray also for the continued and full recovery of Representative Scalise; we need his principled leadership in Congress. He is leading the fight in Congress against the growing problem of sex trafficking. (Update: Steve Scalise continues to improve; God is answering our prayers).

 

Peter, Enoch, and Methuselah

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Of all the late night comedians I watched over the years, I liked Johnny Carson the best. I liked his humor and still remember several of his skits.

Johnny would sometimes come out dressed as Carnac the Magnificent with a large red turban on his head and a dark cape wrapped around him. Ed McMahon introduced the parody referring to the sealed envelopes he held in his hand as containing questions no one could possibly know about beforehand. Carnac held each envelope to his turban before giving the answer to the question in it supposedly never seeing the contents of the envelope.

Sometimes he listed three names as the answer before opening the envelope to read the question, which tied the three answers together in a humorous way.

Similarly, you may be wondering how the three names in the title tie together. What possible connection could they have? I do not have an amusing question tying them together as Carson would do; I have a connection that tells us something about God.

I believe the names listed above reveal something of His patience with humanity before he sends judgment. Let me explain . . .

Peter

The apostle’s warnings in 2 Peter 3 are more relevant today than ever before. Peter tells us that in the last days “scoffers” will come ridiculing the promise of Jesus’ return (3:3-4).  Their key mistake, Peter says, is that of assuming all things have continued the same “from the beginning of creation.”

He explains what they miss, “For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished” (vv. 5-6). In looking at the world around them, these naysayers neglect to consider that God judged the world in the days of Noah and is therefore capable of doing it again.

Peter also gives us the reason for the seeming delay that the scoffers so readily misinterpret.  God is patient, waiting for as many as possible to repent and find salvation through His Son. The Lord, who views time much differently than us, is not slow about keeping His promise but He is giving people a chance to receive eternal life before his judgments fill the earth (vv. 5-10).

I have always wondered why the apostle brought up the great flood in reference to the scoffers and God’s patience with humanity before sending judgment.  I understood how the flood warns us that at some point God will send judgment. But how does that relate to His patience with mankind?

Enoch and his prophecy regarding the upcoming flood helped me clarify that connection.

Enoch and Methuselah

Enoch lived about a thousand years before the flood that destroyed the earth. He stands out in the list of names in Genesis 5 for his close walk with the Lord. Genesis 5:24 says that while Enoch was walking with the Lord one day he disappeared, “for God took him.” He did not die, but the Lord one day took Enoch up to be with him. Many see this as a type of the Rapture and I agree with that.

Before his ascent into heaven, the Lord enabled Enoch to see far into the future. Jude, the brother of Jesus, tells us Enoch saw far ahead to Jesus’ Second Coming, “It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him’” (Jude 14-15).

What an amazing revelation for that time; all the way back during the timeframe of Genesis 5, Enoch saw the Second Coming of Jesus. I wonder what the Lord also showed him. Is it not likely Enoch also saw Jesus’ first coming as well?

Enoch, at the relatively young age of 65, bore a son he named Methuselah, which means “when he dies judgment.”  If we follow the timeline in Genesis 5 and 6, we see that the flood came in the very same year that Methuselah died.

So not only did Enoch see ahead to Jesus’ return to execute judgment upon the earth far into the future, he also predicted the timing of the coming flood that destroyed the world of Noah’s day when he named his son.

God’s Patience

Do you see how this all relates to God’s amazing patience with sinful humanity?

Who has the longest recorded lifespan in Genesis 5? It was Methuselah, of course. After Enoch named him, indicating that when he died judgment would come upon the world, the Lord enabled Methuselah to live the longest of anyone named in the Bible. He was not eager to send judgment upon the world.

God is so patient with us! The very length of Methuselah’s life shows God’s unwillingness to send judgment until it becomes absolutely necessary.

We see this same patience today and many people, just as Peter said, take this to signify that the Lord will never intervene in the affairs of humanity. They scoff in unbelief at the idea that he could ever judge the world for its sins as they conveniently overlook God’s destruction of the world in the days of Noah.

So what do Peter, Enoch, and Methuselah tell us about the day in which we live? They tell us that while the Lord is exceedingly patient, at some point God’s judgment will fall upon a sinful world.

So many people today ridicule such a notion. They take God’s patience as an indication of His distance from us. They see Him as uninvolved in the affairs of mankind and hence not willing to hold anyone accountable for his or her sins.

I believe we are very near to the time of tribulation predicted in the Old Testament and outlined in greater detail in the book of Revelation. I am convinced we are near the time when just like in the days of Noah, God’s patience will end His judgments will arrive on earth.

If you have never put your faith in Jesus as your Savior, please do so before it is too late. He said this in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Apart from Christ, there is no other way, no other path leads to eternal life except the one He provides through His death on the cross and resurrection.

Things will not continue forever as we see them today. The Lord will intervene first through judgments upon sinful humanity and then through His glorious Second Coming. Those outside of Christ, who are alive at the time, will suffer God’s wrath on earth and face an eternity without Him.

For those of who are followers of Jesus, we need not fear the wrath of the day of the Lord; we will be delivered from it, caught up to be with the Lord (see 1 Thess. 5:3-10). I believe the day of the Lord wrath referred to in this passage includes all of the tribulation, although some limit it to just the latter judgments of the book of Revelation.

Regardless, the Lord asks that we watch for His appearing and be ready for He is returning at a time we do not expect (Matt. 24:44). This urgency is not because we can ever be caught by surprise by God’s wrath, but rather Jesus desires that we be as active as possible in serving Him so He can reward us accordingly at His appearing and we can avoid the shame of not being ready when he takes us home.

 

Understanding the Times Part Three: So What?

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So what???

So what if we do not hear sermons on prophecy?

As long as we are focused on the Gospel and fulfilling the Great Commission, does it really matter that so many preachers ignore our hope for eternity?

Isn’t it enough that people come to know the Lord as their Savior? Why do we need to venture into controversial matters such as the Rapture? Will that not detract from our message of hope for the world?

While it’s common to hear such reasoning, is it really scriptural? Are there valid reasons for preaching and teaching about the Lord’s return . . . even at the risk of “upsetting” some Christians?

Yes! Absolutely!

Here is why I believe it is so essential that we teach, preach, and write about Jesus’ return for us.

All Scripture . . .

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Since “all Scripture” is “profitable” for our maturity, for our spiritual growth, why would we ignore such a large portion of it?

The topic of Jesus’ return, and all the events surrounding it, is second only to salvation as the most dominant theme in the New Testament.

There are an estimated 1,845 verses in the Bible that speak to Jesus’ return. Seventeen Old Testament books deal prominently with this matter while 23 of the 27 New Testament books of the Bible refer to Jesus’ appearing for His church, the Second Coming, and the events surrounding His return. Dr. David Jeremiah, my source for this information, states that the topic of Jesus’ return, and all the events surrounding it, is second only to salvation as the most dominant theme in the New Testament.

My question is this: if all Scripture is “profitable” for us, does it not stand to reason that prophecy deserves our attention? Why would the Lord give us so much information regarding His return if He intended our church to remain silent on the topic? He gave us the Bible to build up the church in the faith and teachings on His return and eternity are a key part of the message intended to accomplish that goal.

How does Paul conclude the sections in 1 Thessalonians where he deals with the Rapture? He commands his readers to use the good news of Jesus’ appearing to encourage one another (4:18; 5:11). Our hope is to be a means of comforting each other through the storms of this life.

The Lord did not inspire large portions of Scripture dealing with His return simply to satisfy the curiosity of scholars; He did so to give us hope and bring us to maturity in Christ. Prophecy is not there just for the sake of speculation, it’s essential for building us up in our faith.

Not only does Scripture emphasize the Lord’s return and our hope for eternity, it’s something Jesus emphasized as well.

Jesus Commanded Us to Watch for His Return

After answering His disciples’ questions regarding His return, what did Jesus command them to do?

He instructed them to “stay awake,” to be “ready” for His return (Matt. 24:36-44). He then told them a parable to encourage watchfulness based on the fact that He would return at a time that many would not expect (Matt. 24:45-51). In other words, He could return at any time.

Can you see why the early church emphasized watchfulness and readiness for the Lord’s return? This awareness came straight from the words of the Savior delivered to the early believers through the teachings of the apostles, most of whom heard Jesus’ command to be watchful.

The Second Coming is in no way imminent. It’s not something we currently anticipate because many prophetic events must happen before Jesus returns and stands upon the earth.

Many assume the Matthew 24 passage to be an exclusive reference to his Second Coming. However, Jesus’ Second Coming will not surprise those of His followers who are alive at the time. We know Jesus will return to earth 1,260 days after the antichrist defiles the temple. Anyone living at that time, who understands Scripture, will know the day of Jesus’ return to the earth. They will know the day.

The Second Coming is in no way imminent. It’s not something we currently anticipate because many prophetic events must happen before Jesus returns and stands upon the earth.

It’s the Rapture that will catch many unprepared; that’s the event that Jesus says will happen at a time we may not expect, similar to a thief showing up in the middle of the night.

Furthermore, what were Jesus’ last spoken words to His church? In Revelation 22, he states three times that “I am coming quickly.” Some versions of the Bible translate “quickly” as “soon,” but word here more aptly describes the speed of an event rather than its nearness in time.

Jesus commands us to watch for His return to take us home. His final words to His church emphasize the need to be ready since when He comes for us, it will happen quickly. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:52, those who are alive at the time of His appearing will be changed “in the twinkling of an eye.”

Jesus’ Soon Return Inspires Us to Serve Him

Many today argue that a focus on eternity diverts our attention from taking the Gospel to all the nations of the world. As a result, they emphasize obedience to the Great Commission at the expense of Jesus’ instruction to be watchful for His appearing to take us home.

They forget one thing. The same Jesus who commanded us to take the Gospel to the lost also instructed us to watch for His return; especially as we see the signs of the end of the age occur with greater frequency and intensity, as we do now.

It’s not an “either or.” Both represent obedience to Jesus’ final instructions to His disciples. In fact, I believe that an emphasis on eternity adds fervor to our passion to see people come to saving faith in Jesus.

C. S. Lewis said this regarding the connection between our hope and evangelism, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”

In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis said this, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since because Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”

Lewis blamed our lack of preoccupation with our eternal hope as the reason for our failure to impact the world around us.

I believe C. S. Lewis is correct in his assessment. I suspect Lewis would not have agreed with all my views regarding the Rapture. However, I agree with his recognition that an earthly perspective hinders our work in making disciples. It’s an eternal perspective that drives us forward in spreading the Gospel just as it did for the apostles.

Consider the example of Paul.

In Philippians 3:14 the apostle says this, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” I realize that some commentators believe this “upward call” is the call to salvation. However, why would Paul press forward toward something he already possesses?

Although some will disagree, I believe the “upward call” is the return of Jesus for His church. Just a few verses later, Paul describes believers as eagerly waiting with great anticipation of Jesus’ return for us. Does not this fit better with the prize that drove Paul forward?

Yes, the call of salvation is a wonderful reality for all who believe. The word “upward,” however, fits much better with a sense of going up into the heavens such as what we will experience at the rapture. The word was used in the time of Paul of being called up to the stand to receive a prize for winning a race.

I believe Paul regarded the Rapture the imminent prize igniting his passion for serving the Lord.

One common theme we hear today is the lack of giving among believers and how that limits the mission of the church to reach the lost with the Gospel. However, what do we expect when our preaching emphasizes this life to the exclusion of eternity?

During this past tax season I worked at an accounting firm. There I saw many tax returns with people putting large sums of money into their retirement accounts with very little allocated toward giving to churches or even to charities for that matter. It’s natural for those who have no hope in Jesus to do so. But what about believers? Are they not following this pattern as well?

Of course, it’s certainly wise to prepare for retirement. However, when pastors push the reality of eternity to the far distant future, then believers will naturally pour most of their expendable resources into preparing for their future on earth since that represents the only real hope they have before death arrives and eternity begins. It’s only natural to do so if retirement is our only immediate hope.

I confess that if I had believed there was no chance of Jesus coming in my lifetime, my pattern of giving over the past couple decades would have been much different. I would also have placed a greater emphasis on my final years on earth rather than my eternal retirement.

A focus on reaching the lost that ignores our eternal hope is self-defeating by its very nature. While some may press forward undeterred by a lack of understanding regarding the times in which we live, most believers who only hear an earthbound message of hope will soon fall by the wayside occupied with preparing for their future on earth rather than some far and distant eternity, which scarcely seems like a reality to them.

So why should we stress prophecy in our teaching and preaching?

  1. It’s a large part of the Scriptures given to build up followers of Christ in the faith.
  2. We obey Jesus by watching for, and thereby talking about Jesus’ soon appearing to take us home. We obey the Apostle Paul by using our hope of Jesus’ appearing to encourage others.
  3. An emphasis on eternity arriving at any moment energizes followers of Jesus to use their gifts, talents, and resources in the effort of making disciples of all nations.

I am not at all downplaying the necessity of evangelism and missions. I am saying that our anticipation of eternity is the fuel that drives the church forward in this regard. We will not get very far by draining the fuel out of this engine.

Eternity is the future tense of the Gospel we share with the world.

 

Understanding the Times

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In 1 Corinthians 10:6, Paul says that the sins of the Israelites in the wilderness happened as an “example” that we might not follow in their footsteps. On the other hand, we find many positive models of faith in the Old Testament we can follow such as some men from the tribe of Issachar.

In 1 Chronicles 12:32 we read this about them, “Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, 200 chiefs, and all their kinsmen under their command.” What did they understand? They knew it was time to make David king over all of Israel, not just Judah. They understood the times in which they lived.

The Pharisees, during the time of Jesus, lacked such insight. In Matthew 16:1-4, Jesus scolded them for not recognizing Him as their long-awaited Messiah. They correctly predicted the weather based on signs in the sky, but they missed all the signs identifying Jesus as the promised One of Israel. They failed to understand the times in which they lived.

What about us today? Do we understand the times in which we live?

There are eight times more references regarding Jesus’ return to earth than for His first appearance.

There are eight times more references regarding Jesus’ return to earth than for His first appearance. In Matthew 24, Jesus repeatedly instructs us to be watching and ready for His return. He said this after providing many signs of His return so we would know when that time was drawing near.

In spite of this, many believers are asleep today. They hear no urgency regarding Jesus’ return in their churches. Instead, many pastors downplay any imminence regarding Jesus’ appearing. They tell us that Jesus will someday bring heaven to us, but not any time soon. Jesus’ return is a far distant event, they tell us, without any relevance for our current lives.

This is NOT how the early church regarded Jesus’ appearing.

Early Believers Eagerly Awaited Jesus’ Appearing

If there is one thing that the Lord has impressed upon me during the past year, it’s that the apostles instilled an eager anticipation of Jesus’ return in the hearts of early believers.

In 1 Corinthians 1:7 Paul said this, “. . . as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The apostle repeated this same thought in Philippians 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” The sense in both verses is not just that of simply waiting, but of an eager anticipation of Jesus’ return for them. The believers in Corinth and Philippi deeply longed for Jesus’ appearing. They watched for it with great desire as well as fervent expectation.

We also see this same sentiment among the Thessalonian believers. Turning to Jesus, away from their idolatry, led to their eager awaiting of His return (see 1 Thess. 1:8-10). In Titus 2:13, Paul said that the result of  turning to Christ signified, among other things, “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” For these early followers of Christ, believing the Gospel was synonymous with waiting and watching for Jesus’ appearance.

A GEICO commercial portrays a spy fleeing from both armed men and a black helicopter. His phone rings as his adversaries appear ready to capture him. Thinking the call is from those coming to rescue him he answers the phone shouting, “Where are you?” We then see and hear his mom calmly talking about squirrels in the attic after which the narrator says, “If you’re a mom, you call at the worst time. It’s what you do.”

Reflecting on what Paul said in the verses quoted above, we might expect him to say something similar: “If you believe the Gospel, you live in expectancy of Jesus’ return. It’s what you do.”

Passage after passage in the New Testament points to Jesus’ appearing as our immediate expectation.

New Testament believers watched for and anticipated the appearing of Jesus as something that could happen at any moment.

The Early Church

Many object to the idea of such imminency reasoning that if this was the expectation of New Testament believers, why did no one in the early church, after the time of the apostles, believe this?

Church history tells us a much different story than what many might expect.

The Didache, which means “teaching” in the Greek, is a brief document from the early decades of the church that provides insight into its beliefs regarding Jesus’ return or the rapture, as we call it today. Scholars believe the Didache originates from as early as AD 70, although it likely was not formally compiled until around AD 300.

Chapter 16 of this short document contains instructions regard watching for the coming of the Lord, “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.”

Reflecting on Jesus’ command in Matthew 24, the Didache reflects the same imminency regarding the Lord’s appearing that we see in throughout the New Testament.

The church, well into the fourth century AD, remained almost uniformly premillennial. The early church looked for Jesus to return, setup His kingdom, and reign for 1,000 years. Prominent early church fathers such as Papias, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, and Tertullian strongly advocated the literal interpretation of Revelation 19-20. They uniformly proclaimed their belief in Jesus’ return to reign upon the earth!

Irenaeus, writing late in the second century AD envisioned the Lord coming for His church just as Paul promised in 1 Thessalonians 4.

Irenaeus, a prominent early church father, believed Jesus would return for His church before a period of tribulation upon the earth. In his famous book Against Heresies, Book 5, Chapter 29, he said this, “And therefore, when in the end the Church shall be suddenly caught up from this, it is said, ‘There shall be tribulation such as has not been since the beginning, neither shall be.’”

Using the same terminology as Paul did in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, Irenaeus said Jesus would take believers out of this world before a time of great tribulation upon the earth. Irenaeus, writing late in the second century AD envisioned the Lord coming for His church just as Paul promised in 1 Thessalonians 4. This would happen, according to Irenaeus, before a time of tribulation on the earth.

Another reference to the imminency of Jesus’ return comes from a most interesting person in church history known as Ephraem the Syrian (also known as Saint Ephraim of Edessa). Born in AD 306, he became a monk, a poet, a writer of hymns, and a preacher. Some believe he attended the Council of Nicea in AD 325.

In his sermon entitled On the Last Times, the Antichrist, and the End of the World, Ephraim clearly referred to the Lord coming for believers before the day of the Lord, before the tribulation. As such, he strongly encouraged believers to be ready for the soon appearing of Jesus to take His church out of this world after which the world would be engulfed in a time of great turmoil and suffering.

The belief in the imminency of Jesus’ return for His church did not end with the apostles. It carried over into the early centuries of the church. As late as the fourth century AD, we find an example of someone warning believers to be ready for Jesus’ return ahead of a period of tribulation upon the earth.

What Are the Signs Today?

Fine, you may be saying, but how does that relate to us today? Is there any evidence Jesus is coming soon? After two thousand years of waiting, should we still be expecting Him to appear at any moment?

YES! (I’m so glad you asked!) There are many, many signs we are living in the days leading up to the Great Tribulation and hence to Jesus’ return for us just prior to that, known as the rapture.

In Matthew 24:15, Jesus repeated Daniel’s prophecy that a coming world leader, the antichrist, would defile the temple in Jerusalem during a time of tribulation upon the earth. Irenaeus, 150 years later, also wrote about how the antichrist would someday perform such an abomination in the temple.

Although the Jews currently have no temple, a group known as the Temple Institute is busily preparing for its construction. The architectural designs are complete as are many of the furnishings for the Third Temple. The altar is ready for sacrifices and if you are a Levite, you can attend a special school to train for serving as a priest in the new temple.

The signs Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24:4-14 are coming true today as never before in human history. We live in amazing times!!!

The signs Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24:4-14 are coming true today as never before in human history. Indicators of Jesus’ return to earth at the end of the tribulation abound today. Earthquakes, wars, rumors of wars, famines, and persecution of believers already occur with increasing frequency and intensity and will continue to do so all through the tribulation. Just like birth pangs, these signs are occurring more frequently and with greater intensity.

Ezekiel 38-39 speaks of a great war against Israel in the later days. Remarkably, we see the nations lining up exactly and precisely as predicted in these chapters. The nations prophesied to come against Israel have now joined forces as never before in history. The countries that remain on the sidelines during this conflict, including Saudi Arabia, are now aligning with Israel, at least to some degree.

Each day, we see increased tensions between Israel and the leaders of this coalition: Russian, Iran, and Turkey. The discoveries of rich deposits of natural gas and oil in Israel add to the intrigue and provide much motivation for these countries to someday attack Israel.

As Amir Tsarfati recently stated, today we see the history being written that will lead up to the great conflict of Ezekiel 38-39.

The Bible also predicts that a one world government and one world religion will engulf the world during the tribulation. The foundations for both these realities are carefully being laid so that once the church is gone, they can quickly be put in place. Not since the time of the Roman Empire has there been such an emphasis on unifying the planet under one world order.

With so many indicators of the approaching tribulation abounding today, why do so many preachers push Jesus’ appearing to the far distant future?

Why do so few believers recognize the signs of Jesus’ soon imminent return? Why do so few really understand the times in which we live?

I am often perplexed myself by these questions.

In my next post, I will examine why I believe so many pastors as well as believers do not understand the day in which we live and hence are not watching for Jesus’ return.

 

A Confusion of Roles

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The anti-Trump sentiment has hit a fever pitch in recent weeks over his immigration policies. Even though President Trump’s initiatives differ little from the policies of other recent presidents, this has not stopped the fierce condemnation of his executive orders. Many forget that President Obama stopped all immigration from Iraq for six months in 2011 citing similar reasons for his travel ban that President Trump is giving for his actions.

I saw that over 100 evangelical leaders recently joined together in posting an advertisement in the Washington Post condemning President Trump’s temporary travel ban on immigrants from seven countries where terrorist activity is high.

On the other side, many other Christian leaders such as Franklin Graham and prophecy pastor JD Farag are voicing strong support for the temporary travel ban mandated by the President’s executive order.

Why is the Christian community so divided on immigration? Does Scripture give us any guidance in sorting out these various viewpoints?

What is going on here? Why is the Christian community so divided on this issue? Does Scripture give us any guidance in sorting out these various viewpoints? I believe it does.

The Role of Government in the New Testament

2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (NKJV). Since my early years of attending Awana, this verse has always stuck with me. In the original, the idea of “rightly dividing” Scripture is that of making a “straight cut.” It signifies handling God’s Word accurately.

I believe that the leaders siding with the opponents of Trump are not “rightly dividing” God’s word in that they are not separating the role of the government from that of us as followers of Jesus. They are confusing the role of civil authority with that of believers. Let me explain.

The Bible teaches that the primary role of government is to punish those who break the law and in so doing protect its citizens (Rom. 13:1-7). God entrusts human government with the responsibility of intervening when a crime is committed and gives it the right to punish the wrongdoer.

Our government leaders are entrusted with the responsibility to keep us safe. This is their primary task.

When government does it job correctly, its citizens enjoy a “peaceful and quiet life” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Is this not why we are commanded to pray for our leaders? Our government leaders are entrusted with the responsibility to keep us safe. This is their primary task.

Franklin Graham summed it best, “But we have to realize that the President’s job is not the same as the job of the church.” Government is chiefly responsible for protecting its citizens.  National borders are not some evil invention of humanity, they originate in God’s sovereign purposes for the nations of the world (see Acts 17:26).

Graham’s organization, Samaritan’s Purse, has provided relief for refugees in most of the nations listed on the travel ban. Their hospital outside Mosul in Iraq even cares for wounded ISIS fighters. But as he pointed out in a recent Facebook post, caring for them in Iraq is far different than allowing them to migrate to our nation.

Graham went on to also say this, “Taking time to vet who we’re allowing to enter America isn’t too much to ask—we need to know who they are. God does tell us to help the stranger and those in need; but God doesn’t tell us to expose our cities, homes, and lives to hostile people.”

The primary role of Government is to protect its citizens. The Lord calls believers to a far different task.

The Role of New Testament Believers

As followers of Christ, we are commanded to welcome strangers as well as show mercy and compassion to the hurting. We do not take our own revenge when wronged or if a crime is committed against us or someone we love. Instead, we forgive and place any resolution of justice in the hands of God alone and then with the civil authorities.

The evangelical leaders criticizing the immigration policies of President Trump cited the parable of the Good Samaritan as proof of their argument that we should welcome Muslim refugees to our nation.

The parable, however, speaks to our responsibility to minister for those we encounter in our daily walk. It says nothing about the function of government. Jesus’ words here speak solely to our duty as believers to care for the needs of the hurting that He brings our way. It’s a mistake to apply this to our government that has far different responsibilities.

I applaud the efforts of evangelicals who are ministering in Jesus’ name to the needs of the refugees who have reached our shores. They are acting as “Good Samaritans” to these people. They, along with Samaritan’s Purse, are obeying Jesus’ call to minister to the hurting both here and the Middle East. Many have come to know Jesus as their Savior as a result of these initiatives.

Much confusion results when we apply God’s commands to us as His followers to our government leaders who are tasked with much different obligations.

Are we as followers of Christ commanded to be welcoming to strangers and aliens? Are we to help those in need? Absolutely! This is what Jesus taught through the parable of the Good Samaritan.

This does not, however, imply that our government should open its borders to those who intend to harm us. Its first responsibility is to protect those within its God-ordained borders.

Much confusion results when we apply God’s commands to us as His followers to our government leaders who are tasked with much different obligations.

The Need for Further Discernment

As believers, we must also be discerning of what we hear even though such wisdom is increasingly difficult amidst the avalanche of “fake news.” It’s prevalent everywhere we look. I have all too often become agitated by something I read only later to find out that the story was false or misleading.

There are several things, however, that I believe are well-supported.

We know that refugees from those nations on President Trump’s travel ban have joined in terror attacks in France and Belgium. ISIS has made it clear it intends to enter our country posing as needy refugees. The FBI has already arrested several refugees in our country for their association with ISIS.

Many of the Muslims already here are seeking to impose Sharia Law upon us rather than accept the laws of our land. Sharia Law denies all the rights we currently enjoy because of our Constitution and Bill of Rights. The treatment of women under Sharia Law is both abominable and demonic.

The threat is real and we do need good measures for vetting immigrants who seek refuge in our country.

We are a nation of immigrants and we have derived tremendous strength from those who have come to our shores from other nations. This, however, has come about from those who have come lawfully to our country and then submitted to our laws.

Is our government really fulfilling its God-given purpose if it lets in those who seek to harm us and subvert our laws? Are we really wise to let in strangers who shout “death to America” and make no secret about their hatred for us? I do not believe so.

President Trump’s purpose in the travel ban is meant to accomplish two stated purposes. First, he is seeking to improve the current vetting process, which even the FBI director appointed by President Obama said was insufficient and not capable of keeping out the bad guys. Secondly, the President is seeking to make the process fair for Christians, who are by far the most persecuted group in the Middle East.

During the last year of President Obama, Christian refugees made up about one half of one percent of all the refugees from nations such as Syria. Why the shameful discrimination against persecuted believers? I am happy to hear that our President intends to correct this serious injustice.

Conclusion

Does Scripture place the same responsibility upon government and its leaders as it does upon us as followers of Christ? No. While our leaders in government do not escape responsibility for the justness of their actions, their primary purpose is to punish evil and thereby protect its citizens.

We may disagree on whether President Trump’s policies are necessary for our security and that is fine. Based on what I see here and in Europe, I believe his temporary travel ban is both wise and necessary. I pray it will result in a safer vetting process as well as the acceptance of many more Christian refugees seeking to avoid the brutality of ISIS.

Whatever the outcome of the debate, it’s comforting to know that our hope is solely in Jesus and in His return to take us home. My hope is certainly not based on the government always getting its policies correct nor my ability to always do what’s right in showing mercy to others. My hope is solely in Christ who died in my place that I might have eternal life. I would have no hope apart from Jesus.

Jesus will not fail us regardless of the turmoil we see around us every day. Even when everything we see disappoints us, we can know for sure that Jesus will remain faithful to His own forever and ever.

Never forget that He alone is our hope. He is coming soon to take us home! In the meantime, He will never leave nor forsake us. It does not get much better than that.

If you have never put your trust in Jesus as your Savior, please do so before it is too late.

Maranatha! Come quickly Lord Jesus!

 

 

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

 

The Cubs, The Wait, Our Hope

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Something is bound to go wrong! Can the Cubs really hold on to this lead, defeat the Dodgers, and go to the World Series?

As I watched the Cubs defeat the Dodgers last Saturday night, I had nagging doubts until the very last out.  Would the Cubs win and actually gain a spot in the World Series for the first time since 1945?

Perhaps my qualms came from desiring to see this happen for so very long.

As a small boy back in the 1960’s, I frequently listened to Cub games on my transistor radio all the while hoping they would somehow make it to the World Series.

I remember 1969; it seemed like that would be the year for the Cubs. Before the season began Ernie Banks said, “The Cubs will shine in ’69” and they played like champions for much of the season. Then the New York Mets got hot and the Cubs faded like an ice cube on a scorching hot day. In my high school history class, the teacher brought in a box of Kleenex specifically for Cub fans as hopes of a pennant faded.

Although I have not followed baseball for many years, I always pay attention to the fate of the Chicago Cubs. Most seasons, hopes fade early as the Cubs lose game after game. This season, however, the Cubs immediately took the lead in their division and ended up with the best record in all of baseball.

So what was the source of my misgivings regarding the Cubs as they played the Dodgers for a trip to the World Series? It was not the amazing amount of talent on the team.

Rather, I doubted that something I had anticipated for so very long would actually happen.

Isn’t it the same way with our hope for Jesus’ return to take us home? After waiting for something for so long, we begin to think it won’t happen!

Isn’t it the same way with our hope for Jesus’ return to take us home?

Most of us have looked for His appearing for many years, if not decades. Just like waiting for the Cubs to win the pennant, it’s easy to think this will not happen, at least not anytime soon.

As result of waiting so long, we all too often dismiss our hope and live as though Jesus will never show up and radically change everything.

Scripture tells us, however, that Jesus will return just as promised; our waiting will not be in vain.

The Waiting

Unlike waiting for the Cubs to go to the World Series, our hope in Jesus’ return remains certain. The Lord said He would someday return for us (John 14:1-3); no such promise ever existed for the Cubs to ever win the National League pennant.

The same Lord who predicted both His death and resurrection promises to return and take us to be with Him. With Jesus’ track record, it would be foolish to doubt His promise to return for us. And yet . . . we wait!

The same Lord who predicted both His death and resurrection promises to return and take us to be with Him. With Jesus’ track record, it would be foolish to doubt His promise to return for us.

And yet, if there’s one word that stands out in the New Testament regarding the Rapture, it’s “wait.”

In Philippians 3:20 Paul clearly addresses this wait, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” The word Paul used for “await” in this verse denotes “intense anticipation” and an “excited expectation” of a future event. The word implies eagerness and even a longing in our hearts for a future event.

At times, our waiting for Jesus’ appearing may seem a bit surreal. Will it really happen? Will He show up just as He promised?

Yes! The Cubs’ victory reminds us that things we hope for do happen.

Will the Cubs go on to win the World the Series? We cannot know at this time.

Will Jesus come someday for us?

This we can know for sure. He will come just as He promised regardless of the wait.

Despite the length of our wait whether it be a day, a week, a month, a year, several years, Jesus will not disappoint. He will come at precisely the right time!

Habakkuk in the Morning

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I need the message of Habakkuk this morning!

As I look at the evil and injustice flourishing in our nation, discouragement looms at my doorstep.  Habakkuk helps me close the door to such feelings of despair.

The book of Habakkuk begins with the prophet’s complaint of violence and injustice in Judah:

2 O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,

    and you will not hear?

Or cry to you “Violence!”

    and you will not save?

3 Why do you make me see iniquity,

    and why do you idly look at wrong?

Destruction and violence are before me;

    strife and contention arise.

4 So the law is paralyzed,

    and justice never goes forth.

For the wicked surround the righteous;

    so justice goes forth perverted.

Does this not describe our nation today? Is this not our world!?

My heart grieves as I think of all the violence all about us, of the despicable practices of abortion clinics, of the growing violence toward police, and of the almost daily terrorist attacks that claim the lives of so many innocent lives throughout the world.

I’m horrified by the actions of Planned Parenthood as well as by both political parties that not only refuse to take action against the selling of baby parts, but continually vote to continue taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood. Just this week, Hillary celebrated the anniversary of Planned Parenthood. We live in evil times!

BTW, Hillary believes Christianity must be changed to accept abortion and if elected she will have a Supreme Court that will fully back her in this matter.

We see “iniquity” prospering throughout our nation as never before. Twenty years ago I never could have imagined that our Supreme Court would someday rule in favor of same sex marriage or that a candidate of a major party would fervently support this along with a host of other sins so clearly forbidden in Scripture.

The prophet saw that the law was “paralyzed.” Could there be a more apt description of what is happening in our nation?

The prophet saw that the law was “paralyzed.” Could there be a more apt description of what is happening in our nation? The rich and powerful are not called to account for their evil and yet bakers who stand by their biblical convictions face obscene fines.

Truly, justice is “perverted” in our nation as the “wicked surround the righteous.”  The institutions that we as nation rely on to bring the wicked to justice are now stained with political corruptness.

I see a nation one election away from surrendering to an oppressive and socialistic world order that will, as President Obama clearly stated recently at the United Nations, “take away some of our rights and freedoms” for the “common good.” The recently uncovered e-mails reveal that Hillary is totally on board with this evil agenda to subject America to this satanic and demonic world government.

The message of the prophet, however, calls me to a higher perspective far away from the feelings of despair that lurk nearby.

The Lord Sees

The Lord saw all the evil in Judah during the time of Habakkuk; He sees everything today.

His response to the wickedness of Judah was already on the way, even before the prophet voiced his complaint (1:5-11). God was raising up the Babylonians who in about twenty years from the time of Habakkuk would begin their conquest of Jerusalem.

The Lord sees and just as in day of Habakkuk, we can be sure God will respond in a similar way to the wickedness around us unless we repent as a nation.

It’s so easy to think the Lord does not see the vile things done today in our abortion clinics or the lewd display of evil around us. We think He would surely have done something by now if He truly saw the violence and injustice that daily surround us. How could He possibly let this continue so long?

The Lord sees and just as in day of Habakkuk, we can be sure God will respond in a similar way to the wickedness around us unless we repent as a nation.

In Ecclesiastes 8:12-13 we find this warning, “Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God.”

Far too often we mistake God’s patience for His lack of interest or unwillingness to deal with sin. As Solomon points out, such a perspective ends in tragedy for those who believe the Lord does not see or care about their wicked lifestyle.

It’s a Matter of Faith

Habakkuk convicts me of my unbelief. Yes, I know all the warnings of Scripture concerning His judgment of nations and of wickedness, but at times my thoughts do not reflect a belief He will actually judge evil or punish the wicked in this life.

Habakkuk begins his book questioning God’s absence and ends with an amazing statement of faith despite the lack of the Lord’s blessing.

The prophet Habakkuk provides us with two amazing statements regarding faith.

The Apostle Paul later quoted his words in 2:4, “. . . but the righteous shall live by faith.” In midst of the calamity about to descend upon Judah, the Lord says that those who know Him will “live by faith!”

As the book ends, we see the prophet proclaiming that regardless of any calamity he might see, he would still “rejoice in the Lord” (see 3:17-18). Habakkuk starts out questioning God’s absence and ends with an amazing statement of faith despite the lack of the Lord’s blessing.

The message of Habakkuk assures us God will not let evil continue unchecked. At just the right time, the Lord will show up and deal with any society that rejects Him and openly flaunts its rebellion toward Him.

We see this clearly in Psalm 37. The Lord not only sees the evil about us, but laughs at the wicked because He knows what’s ahead for them. I know this message is true, but do I live by faith believing God will someday soon intervene in our world?

The test of faith often comes as a result of God’s patience; He often waits a very long time so people have as much opportunity as possible to repent and avoid His wrath.

It’s a Matter of Waiting

As the Lord responded to Habakkuk regarding how he would deal with the Babylonians for their sins, He said this in 2:3, “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”

We know Jesus is returning soon. We recognize all the signs for the beginning of the Great Tribulation on the earth. And yet . . . we wait.

There’s that pesky word “wait.” Is this not where our faith so often falters?

We know Jesus is returning soon. We recognize all the signs for the beginning of the Great Tribulation on the earth. And yet . . . we wait.

We see horrific violence in the world and daily hear “rumors of war” like no other time in the history of humanity. Every week I read a story about how World War III is about to start and I wonder how much longer the Lord can delay His appearing to take away His church. And yet . . . we wait!

I remember a particular thunderstorm from my grade school years in Rockford, Illinois. In the midst of the wind and rain, everything grew perfectly calm for several seconds. Then suddenly, a huge bolt of lightning and loud crashing thunder interrupted the tranquil moment. Although the lightning struck harmlessly on our property, it set our neighbor’s home on fire.

I sense we are in the calm before the storm. Despite all the threats of violence and rumors of war throughout the world, our nation seems eerily peaceful on the surface.

I Thessalonians 5:3 speaks of a time when “people are saying, ‘There is peace and security’” ahead of the “sudden destruction” that will mark the beginning of the day of the Lord or the Great Tribulation.

The leaders of the world today often proclaim “peace and security” not realizing they are fulfilling prophecy. I believe the “sudden destruction” of 1 Thessalonians looms over the world at this very moment.

How long will this last? We cannot know. God is patiently waiting for as many as possible to repent and find eternal life in Him. However, I believe the rapture and subsequent Great Tribulation are rapidly approaching.  How much longer will the Lord wait?

Yes, I need the reminders from Habakkuk this morning as I recover from my angst of the past couple days when everything seemed so murky.

Habakkuk reminds me of God’s sovereignty; nothing escapes His notice and or diverts Him from His purposes. His Word will not fail!

The Lord will not let evil go unchecked. At precisely the right time the Lord will show up, much, much to the dismay of those who now reject the Lord and so openly flaunt their rebellion toward Him.

The Rapture, What’s to Fear?

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What causes fear in us at times regarding the rapture? Does our apprehension arise from its abrupt nature or its unexpected timing? Does the unknown or the supernatural cause anxiety to rise within us? Perhaps we do not want our dreams for this life to end so soon.

I suspect many of us at times can identify with a least a few of the above reasons.

Does Scripture give us any help to relieve our apprehensions and hesitations? Is there a way to look at the rapture that sparks delight and hopefulness rather than dread or even disdain?

I believe there is.

One of the most comforting pictures of the rapture in Scripture is that of the bridegroom coming for his bride. Both Jesus and the apostle Paul purposely used language to invoke images of the Jewish wedding customs of their day when speaking of Jesus’ return for His church.

The Marriage Covenant

Jewish marriages in the first century AD began with the groom making a covenant with his bride. The groom “would drink a cup of wine with her which sealed the covenant and he would pay the bridal price for her to the father.”[i] The bridal price ensured that the groom would follow through on the covenant.

Do you see the similarities with what Jesus did for us in purchasing our salvation on the cross? He paid the price with His blood so that we, His church, might become His bride.

Jesus’ words regarding the cup of wine He drank with His disciples in the upper room resemble those spoken by a groom sealing the marriage covenant with his bride, “In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood . . .’”[ii]

The drinking of wine from a cup and the announcement of a covenant both spark images of the Jewish marriage customs as well as point to fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies regarding the new covenant.

The Announcement

Once he confirmed the marriage covenant with His bride, the groom announced he was going to prepare a place for his bride in his father’s house.[iii] He would not see his bride until he completed his work on the honeymoon chamber and returned for her.

Once he confirmed the marriage covenant with His bride, the groom announced he was going to prepare a place for his bride in his father’s house.

Jesus’ words in John 14:2-3 mimic this announcement of the bridegroom, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 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.”

I believe Jesus purposely chose words to show how His actions resembled a groom leaving to prepare a place for his bride with a promise to someday return for her.

The Return of the Bridegroom

Similar to Jesus’ words regarding His return, the Jewish bridegroom returned later to take his bride back to the place he had prepared for her.

The Jewish groom enjoyed coming as a thief in the night to quickly snatch away his bride and take her back to his father’s house. He arrived at his bride’s home with much fanfare as his friends shouted and blew a shofar or trumpet to announce his surprise arrival. The groom then took his bride back to his father’s house for seven days.

In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul speaks of Jesus coming for His church with a shout or the “voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God” (v. 16). In John 14:2-3, Jesus stated that the purpose of His return for us will be to take us back to His Father’s house. There we will remain for seven years while the Great Tribulation takes place on the earth.

The Comforting Message for Us

The brides of Jesus’ day did not fear the arrival of the bridegroom. The bride looked forward to the surprise return of her bridegroom; this was an expected and exciting part of the wedding festivities.

This picture of the rapture provides much comfort for us because of the following reasons:

1. He’s preparing a place for us!

Jesus is now preparing a place especially for us. This is frequently overlooked in teachings regarding the rapture.

We can be sure this place will be amazing beyond anything we can imagine. Jesus is designing and preparing it with our specific needs and desires in mind. The best five star hotels on earth cannot compare to the place Jesus is getting ready for us.

The rapture represents Jesus return to take us to the place He has prepared for us. We can be sure this place will be amazing beyond anything we can imagine.

The rapture represents Jesus return to take us to the place He has prepared for us. Would not the brides of Jesus’ day eagerly anticipated seeing the place their grooms had prepared for them?

2. The Rapture is a groom returning for His bride!

While the element of surprise in the rapture may alarm us at times, it helps to remember this was part of the excitement for Jewish weddings of the first century AD. The groom was not coming to harm his bride, but to take her home to begin their exciting adventure together.

Rather than be something to fear or even dread, the bride joyously anticipated the day when the groom would snatch her away and take her to his home. Her groom’s surprise appearance represented a key part of the love story they would share for the rest of their lives.

So it is with Jesus’ return. He’s taking us away from this life to something wonderful, to an eternity full of wonder and amazement, which we will enjoy in new immortal bodies that will never be subject to illness, pain, gaining, or death. Jesus is coming as a bridegroom coming for His bride; it’s an act of love to give us a much better life than we can imagine.

3. The Rapture will lead to much celebration!

Once the bride and groom had spent seven days together, the feasting began. They joined their attendants, friends, and invited guests for a huge celebration of their wedding.

This is in our future as well. Revelation 19:6-10 describes the “marriage supper of the lamb” that occurs in heaven before we return to earth with Jesus. Just as with the marriage celebrations of Jesus’ day, I do not believe this will be just a sit-down dinner lasting a few hours; it will last several days, at least!

4. It’s the alternative that should be frightening to us!

Here is where the comparison breaks down a bit. During the seven days the bride and groom spent together in the honeymoon suite, the bride’s attendants and friends of the groom began celebrating.

During the seven years we are with the Lord in heaven, however, the Great Tribulation will occur on earth. Evil will flourish. Humanity will experience God’s wrath as a final call to repentance. It will be a time of great suffering and much death upon the earth.

Whenever I am tempted to fear the Lord’s return, I think of the alternative. We will be sooooo much better off being with the Lord than remaining on the earth. I believe the “sudden destruction” mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 5:3 happens shortly after the rapture.

It’s the alternative of Jesus not coming for us that should frighten us. Jesus is coming to lovingly take us out of this world before the terrible judgments and destruction of the tribulation.

Truly, it’s the alternative of Jesus not coming for us that should frighten us. Jesus is coming to lovingly take us out of this world before the terrible judgments and destruction of the tribulation.

Just as with a groom coming for his bride, the rapture represents Jesus’ love for His church. Will Jesus’ return surprise us when it happens? Most likely! Will He in love tenderly welcome us to the place He has prepared us? We can count on that.

The wedding imagery of the rapture helps us see it as an act of love rather than something to fear or dread. It’s meant to change our perspective, to help us look forward to Jesus’ return for us with excitement rather than anxiety.

When anxious thoughts of the rapture creep into your thinking, remember it’s not about striving to replace fear with hope but of looking forward to Jesus’ appearing as a bride getting ready for her groom’s arrival.

Jesus does not want us to be afraid of His return for us but rather eagerly anticipate it as the beginning of eternity or our time in paradise. He’s coming to rescue us out of this world and take us to a place of amazing beauty and joy, beyond all we can imagine.

[i] Winston, Joy, Jewish Wedding Ceremony, Article on the Rapture Ready Website

[ii] 1 Corinthians 11:25

[iii] Winston, Joy, Jewish Wedding Ceremony, Article on the Rapture Ready Website

It’s Coming, Possibly Soon

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The small sign flashed through the darkness, “I80 Closed Ahead.”

Tired from almost 14 hours of traveling, I drove past both the sign and nearby exit before fully processing the message. I soon began telling myself the message couldn’t possibly be true. If the interstate was truly closed ahead, there would have been a much bigger sign warning of its closure. Besides, very few cars were getting off at the exit by sign. Like me, almost everyone else kept going. I also knew of another upcoming exit; I still had time to get off the highway before being stopped.

Within a few miles I saw the flashing lights of a police car and slowly rolled to a stop. Interstate 80 was closed!

As I reflect on my response to the warning sign that night, I realize many explain away God’s warnings in Scripture regarding the tribulation in much the same way. They drive past the way of escape offered through Jesus’ death on the cross thinking the world around them will never change. Almost everyone else is going their way, what could possibly go wrong?

Scripture repeatedly warns of a coming time of terrible tribulation upon the earth. The prophet Jeremiah referred to this period as “time of Jacob’s trouble.”[i] Jesus Himself described a future time of great tribulation in Matthew 24:15-29 as He warned of terrible conditions on earth just before His return in glory. The book of Revelation provides alarming details of this time of God’s wrath yet to come upon the world.

The coming tribulation will affect everyone reading this post, possibly quite soon. Either you will be caught up to forever be with Jesus before it starts or witness the beginning of this terrible time of suffering on the earth.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign

Today, we see signs of the coming Great Tribulation upon the earth everywhere. In Matthew 24:4-14, Jesus gave us signs of what the world would look like as this time of tribulation approached.

It’s almost as if Jesus opened a laptop and read current news stories from the Internet to His disciples when He spoke of the signs of the coming tribulation.

Today, we see these signs everywhere we look. It’s almost as if Jesus opened a laptop and read current news stories from the Internet to His disciples when He spoke of the signs of the coming tribulation. Here are a few of the signs we see of the coming Great Tribulation:

Earthquakes: Earthquakes are following this exact pattern as the number and severity of earthquakes have rapidly increased during the past 20 years.  They are increasing like birth pangs, exactly as Jesus predicted.

Wars: “Wars and rumor of wars” abound in today’s news stories. Just today I read a news item where “experts” say we are closer to WW III than at any time in the previous 60 years.

Persecution: Persecution of Christians worldwide continues to dramatically increase, just as Jesus said would happen ahead of the coming tribulation.

The Temple: Jesus spoke of a Jewish Temple that the antichrist would defile halfway through the tribulation. Signs of this coming temple appear almost every day. The Temple Institute is now training Levites to be priests and the Sanhedrin recently named the high priest for this temple.

One World Government: The framework for the one world government of the tribulation is already in place. Those planning this coming world order are not hiding their plans and agenda; it’s no secret as to what they are planning. By 2030 the elite plan to have this worldwide socialist order in place with all nations of the world under one leader.

There is an Exit

There was an exit by the sign that night that would have allowed me to miss the traffic jam on Interstate 80. In the same way, Jesus is our only way of escape from the coming wrath that will befall the world.

Jesus made it clear that He alone is “the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through” Him.[ii] If you have never placed your faith in Jesus and His death on the cross for your sins, please do so before it is too late. Scripture promises that all who call upon “the name of the Lord will be saved.”[iii] Turn to Jesus; look to Him alone for the forgiveness of your sins and eternal life. He is the only place of refuge in a world heading for calamity.

John 3:16 assures us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” These familiar words hold the promise of life for all who believe. Jesus died so that we might have eternal life.

The “I80 Closed Ahead” sign is flashing brighter than ever before in history. Do not make the same mistake with your eternal destiny that I made that night in ignoring the flashing sign and driving past the exit. My failure to heed the warning led to a temporal delay in getting home. Rejecting Jesus and His gracious offer of salvation will have eternal consequences far beyond the coming Great Tribulation.

Please understand this does not mean we desire to see suffering on the earth or the deaths of so many people as will occur during the tribulation. That is most definitely not our hope. Our hope is in Jesus’ appearing and our desire is that as many people as possible find Him as their Savior before this time of tribulation begins.

I see God’s hand of restraint in so many areas around the world. How much longer will He hold back the evil and destruction that seem ready to explode to an even greater degree in our nation and throughout the world?

Without Jesus’ intervention, however, the world is on a path to total self-destruction in which all human life will be lost.[iv] Jesus made it clear that without His return after the tribulation all life on earth would perish. God’s judgments during the tribulation will be warnings for people to repent, which millions of people will do and find eternal life in Him.

We do not know when Jesus will come for His church. I believe everything is in place for the tribulation to begin; it’s just a matter of time before God’s patience comes to an end and Jesus appears to take us home!

While things may seem bad now, Paul tells that the restrainer now actively works to hold back the antichrist until the time is right for the day of the Lord, or the tribulation to begin (see 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7). When that happens, things will get much worse in our world in a big hurry.

I see God’s hand of restraint in so many areas around the world. How much longer will He hold back the evil and destruction that seem ready to explode to an even greater degree in our nation and throughout the world?

[i] Jeremiah 30:7 (KJV)       [ii] John 14:6       [iii] Romans 10:13     [iv] See Matthew 24:22