Sunday, 6 November 2011

Reflecting on the Rapture

Let's look at the subject of the rapture today. Unfortunately there are those out there who predict the day that Christ will return. Even more unfortunately there are those out there who believe these people. why? Because they don't check what someone says to see if it lines up with scripture. Please, my dear brothers and sisters, do not be deceived by these people. They may just be misguided but they are also misguiding others and causing heartache and anxiety.  I don't mean to sound harsh but I'm so saddened by those who believe  these false prophets and find themselves confused and doubting when what is prophesied doesn't come to pass.

Don't misunderstand me, I firmly believe  in the rapture, Jesus is coming one day and those who are his people will meet him in the air. I don't believe in those who say they know when this event is going to take place because of what the bible says. I'm going to talk briefly about what the Bible teaches in the  hope that someone who reads this won't be mislead into believing what someone tells them if it doesn't line up with scripture.  I'm not a pastor or theologian and my own understanding of these issues is limited, so I encourage you to check what I say and the scriptures I will give and if what I say doesn't line up with scripture please disregard me and be guided by the  Word.

There are bible scholars who disagree about the order of end-time things. Some say that the rapture will come first, followed by the tribulation and then the glorious appearing of our lord Jesus. Others believe that the rapture will take place half way through the tribulation and others don't believe in the rapture at all. I'm not a theologian by any means but i personally take the first view, that the rapture will occur before the tribulation.

Now to explain a few terms so you will be able to follow the rest of this study, just in case you are already confused. The rapture is when those of us who believe in Jesus will be caught up in the clouds to meet him in the air. Every Christian who ever lived will rise from their graves and we will be given new, glorified bodies that are far superior to the bodies we have now, just as a mansion is far superior to a tent.
The tribulation is a 7 year period of time where the Lord will begin to judge the earth for their rejection of his son Jesus. There will be those who come to salvation at this time and many of those will be martyrs. At this time we will see the rise to power of a man who will be at the head of a one-world government. He is known by many names but most commonly known as the Antichrist. in the second half of the Tribulation, known as the Great Tribulation, he will be worshipped as God, and those who don't worship him or who don't have his mark on their head or hand will not be able to buy food.

The tribulation is also known as 'the time of Jacob's trouble' and there will be a second and worse Jewish holocaust where two Jews out of three will be killed. Please don't think I am antisemitic by saying that, I'm really not.

The Tribulation will end with the glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus, who will come in the clouds and everyone will see him. he will defeat the antichrist and set up his kingdom on earth for 1000 years. This is called the millennium.

This study is just a brief overview of some key passages dealing with the rapture. this isn't a full study on end time things but if people are interested we can do a deeper study of these things in the future.  one of the key passages dealing with end time things is Matthew chapter 24, where Jesus addresses some of those issues. I actually started preparing a study on that chapter before I realised that wasn't the direction I should take this study. We are going to look at a few verses though as I think they are relevant:

And Jesus answered them, "See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.

Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, 'Look, he is in the wilderness,' do not go out. If they say, 'Look, he is in the inner rooms,' do not believe it.
[verses 1-8, 23-24]

Jesus warns us that false christs and false Prophets will arise and they will lead people astray.  The trouble with false prophets is: unless we know the scriptures we may not even know we are being deceived. that's why it is all the more vital for us to know what the bible says and if we don't know if something is true or not, to check it up and not just believe what someone tells us. most authentic bible teachers and pastors will encourage us to do that very thing, check if what they teach is in agreement with what the bible says.  It is sad but true that devout believers have been mislead into joining cults because they accepted and believed what  they were taught and were discouraged  from checking to discover if what they were told was scriptural. .

The passages where the rapture is discussed  most clearly are in the books of 1 and 2 Thessalonians. we are going to read these passages and I will make a couple of comments.

The Coming of the Lord

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe
 that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
[1 Thess 4:13-18]

The first thing that needs to be clarified here is what Paul means by sleeping, and Jesus clarifies that nicely in John 11:

After saying these things, he said to them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him." The disciples said to him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover." Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus has died,"

The early Christians distinguished between the death of a believer and the death of a non-believer.  For a believer, absent from the body is present with the Lord and the Church knew that they would see that loved one again in heaven. For an unsaved person they said he died because Death is a place of no hope, where god is not

The Church at Thessalonica had received a letter purporting to be from Paul, claiming that the resurrection had already happened. Also some of them were worried because they knew in the future there will be a time known as the great tribulation but at that time they were experiencing a lot of persecution. What if this was the end time already? Did that mean they missed the rapture?and what about their departed loved ones? So they were confused and uncertain, which is why Paul wrote these letters to them and explained these matters a bit more clearly.     Confusion is one of the enemy's tricks.

The time of The rapture will happen at a time we are not expecting it. Jesus set it up that way so that we would have to be ready. If we knew he wasn't' coming for 100 more years we would relax and not try too  hard to reach the lost and we wouldn't care about our spiritual growth, but if we realise he could come at any moment we are going to want to be ready. There won't be any advance warning, we can't predict from the scriptures when the Lord will return. That's why we shouldn't listen to anyone who says the world is going to end in 2012 or anything like that. the bible gives us prophecies of things that will happen in the last days but we can't discover the exact dates of things.   

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.
[1 Thess 5:1-4
If we knew that our house was going to be robbed on a certain night we would be there waiting for the robber and we wouldn't let him take anything and would take him to the police. In the same way, if we knew Jesus was coming today we would wait for it and we would be very careful about how we lived and what we did on the last day. We don't know when he will come but we need to be ready. i have heard of some Christians who think  "O well, the rapture is coming soon, so I don't need to worry about saving money for the future and i can just live for today because Jesus is coming back soon."  That, of course, is spurious.  The knowledge that the lord could come at any moment should encourage us to get our lives right and deal with any sin we have in our hearts so that if he does come today we will be ready.

God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels   in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,  when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
[2 Thess 1:6b-12]
This refers to what is known as the judgement day, it will happen at the very end of time, when everyone who has rejected the great thing  that Jesus did for us by dying on the cross  will  be judged. The time of judgement for the Church takes place after the rapture, when all of our works are tested by fire.[See 1 Corinthians 3]

We need to remember that we will have to give account for the way we lived our lives here on earth. It should make us reflect on the way we live and the decisions we make.

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask  you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.  Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time.  For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.  And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
[2 Thess 2:1-12]
This is talking about the glorious appearing, the return of Jesus to the earth after the tribulation. he will defeat the antichrist, [the lawless one mentioned in this passage],  and all those who follow him and then Jesus will reign over the whole earth from Jerusalem for 1000 years. After that time the devil, who had been chained and left in the bottomless pit for 1000 years, will be released, and the final battle between good and evil will take place.  None of this will happen until the tribulation happens and the tribulation i believe won't happen till after the rapture, it's the explanation that makes  most sense to me although bible scholars disagree about the order of things.

I hope this has been helpful to someone. Let us live each day in readiness for the return of our Lord and saviour!