As a believer in Jesus Christ, there is nothing to be more thankful for than His soon return. Being rescued by our Lord and Savior from this fallen world is called the “blessed hope” for good reason.
“looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” Titus 2:13.
I recently spoke to someone who made the surprising statement, “I don’t believe in a Rapture.” I’ve heard people share various theories about when the Rapture will occur, but seldom hear a dedicated Christian state that they did not believe in a Rapture. With that recent conversation, I wondered if there is simply too much confusion about this “touchy” subject to want to form an opinion. It is true that the Bible does not use the word “Rapture” at all when speaking about “His glorious appearing,” so maybe that’s part of the problem. However, the Lord’s first coming was literal and His second coming will be fulfilled in just just as literal a fashion. So, let’s look at what the Bible has to say . . . God’s Word is where all truth is found.
Anyone can find someone who teaches, or authors, a more desirable version of this doctrine that will support what the masses desire. We will never give you what you want in lieu of giving you the truth from the sum of God’s Word. We understand that God is our Judge and we serve Him, not man.
The question to ask yourself, is… do you want truth or a “feel good” doctrine that will ultimately disappoint and confuse and leave you unprepared? “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32.
Finding the truth is paramount if we want to avoid being deceived. In the above Scripture, Jesus is stating that the truth is found in His Word. There is not a second place to find truth. Your feelings (which are emotions) are not a discerner of truth… your spirit, controlled by the Holy Spirit confirms God’s Word. The Word of God is our only source of His truth.
Another problem with deception is that it breeds more deception. As a believer, we are commissioned to seek out the truth because deception is ultimately fatal. God will not let us off the hook for believing false doctrine… no matter what religious leader told you so.
In these last days, many false doctrines have made their way into the church. Why? To deceive! To bring division, confusion and mistrust of God and of all absolutes. Sounds like the handiwork of Satan, doesn’t it? It makes sense that he would accomplish that within the compromised church. He started doing it even in the early church regarding the Rapture, as we will see in Scripture. That means it is important to Satan that we are confused regarding this subject. So it validates the importance of getting it right!
There are two scriptures that immediately come to mind when I consider the principle of deception. The first is the warning Jesus gave His disciples when they inquired about what to expect in the last days and what would be the sign of the Lord’s return.
“Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’ And Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you.’” Matthew 24:3-4.
The second scripture is also about the last days and why the people will be deceived. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” 2 Timothy 4:3-4.
With the above foundation, let’s look at the doctrine taught in Scripture and taught by the early church leaders, regarding Jesus’ second coming. Believing in fables and false doctrines will do you no good, even if you like it with all your heart.
In Matthew 24, also referred to as the Olivet Discourse, we hear from Jesus directly regarding His return and the sequence of events leading up to that glorious appearing.
The timing of the Lord’s return, that Christ gave the disciples, placed His second coming (Parousia) after the great tribulation by Antichrist. The sequence of events described in the Olivet Discourse could not be clearer. First Jesus describes the “birth pangs” (Matthew 24:4-8), then He described the “hard labor,” the “great tribulation” (verses 9-26), and then He describes His “glorious appearing” (verses 27-30), which the church calls the Rapture (verse 31), and finally, God’s judgement on the Antichrist and his followers (verses 32-51).
In Jesus’ own words, the timing of the Rapture is “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (verse 29), which, as Christ had already promised would be “cut short”… for the sake of the elect (verse 22).
From my decades of study on this subject, the most viable conclusion, based on Christ’s own teaching in the Olivet Discourse, is that the Church will indeed go through the great tribulation by Antichrist. Not the wrath of God. No. That comes later. But believers will see events like: the Mark of the Beast, the 4th Seal, 5th Seal, and 6th Seal. And the final 3 1/2 years will be cut short by the sign of the end of the age—Christ’s second coming (Parousia) when He comes to Rapture (rescue) the true church and judge the world.
In addition to Jesus’ description of the last days and His return, let’s look at what Paul taught about these events. Paul’s powerful teaching about the timing of the Rapture in his two epistles to the Thessalonians, coincides perfectly with Jesus’ teaching in the Olivet Discourse.
“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.
Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians deals with the fact that the Rapture and the Day-of-the-Lord judgement will occur back-to-back, one right after the other. Paul’s second letter pinpoints the timing of these two events in relation to the activity of Antichrist. As an example of this rescue and immediate judgement, consider the story of Noah.
“But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Matthew 24:37-39.
The Thessalonian Christians understood from Paul’s teaching, that they would have to endure persecution before being mercifully rescued just before the Day-of-the-Lord judgement (see 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10).
Much like today, false teachers had come into the church and confused the believers about the timing of these things. And so, Paul teaches and cautions the Thessalonian Christians:
“Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come” 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2.
Paul again established the back to back connection of “our gathering together to Him” (the Rapture) and God’s judgement on the wicked (the Day of the Lord). He then undeniably tells them—as well as the church today—exactly what must take place before the Rapture can occur.
“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4.
Whether we want to believe it or not, Paul is clearly telling the early church believers that the last generation of Christians, alive at the end, will experience the event of the Antichrist standing in the temple of God and saying that he is God. This describes the midpoint of the final seven years. Paul continues…
“Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders,” 2 Thessalonians 2:5-9.
Paul is teaching that there is a spiritual restrainer who will be removed at this specific time to allow freedom to Antichrist to revel himself for who he is. Shortly after this event, the Lord will consume the Antichrist with the brightness of His coming.
These events exactly parallel those given by Jesus and occur during the great tribulation by Antichrist. Although Antichrist will be in power for 3½ years prior to his unveiling as Satan incarnate, his severe persecution of Israel and professing Christians—the great tribulation—will begin at the midpoint of the final seven years (Matthew 24:15-41). This severe tribulation against believers will be “cut short” by God. In other words, it will not be allowed to last the entire second 3½ years.
The purpose of Christ’s second coming includes 1) the deliverance of His saints (verse 1) and, 2) the judgement of Antichrist (verses 2, 8). And just as clearly, the Olivet Discourse likewise teaches that the coming of Christ can occur only after the great persecution of God’s elect is cut short.
God will not come back for a compromised church, only faithful believers. Those who confess Jesus but are compromised, will be allowed to be tested and persecuted by the Antichrist according to the 5th Seal (Revelation 6:9-11). And it may cost their life to hold onto their faith and not deny Jesus Christ.
“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” Revelation 12:11.
At the 6th seal (Revelation 6:12-17), the Day of the Lord begins with Christ’s glorious appearing and the catching away of the saints. And immediately after this blessed event, God’s judgement will begin to be poured out on the unbelieving who are left. Again, much like in the days of Noah.
The Rapture is something believers long for and look toward with great hope. Even more so when it comes in the midst of tribulation. It will be our ultimate escape from Antichrist’s kingdom and his persecution, and our transition to heaven and God’s glorious kingdom.
Understanding the correct doctrine—which Jesus taught, Paul taught, the early church leaders believed, and John revealed—is a critical necessity if we are to remain faithful during the days ahead. We can face the uncertain future if we walk in truth.
I encourage you to read all the Scriptures referenced in this message. Study to show yourself approved. Please do not simply adopt a doctrine you like, that makes you feel good if it does not COMPLETELY, in every part, line up with Scripture. Believing a lie regarding eternal truths is risking your eternal life. Jesus has unveiled the truth of what is ahead for our benefit. Those who truly love God, love His Word and will follow it.
“Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” John 14:23.
God has ordained you to live in the place you do and in the times we are in, for His purpose. Trust in Him to lead you in fulfilling your calling.
“when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed. Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power” 2 Thessalonians 1:10-11.
Remember, with God nothing is impossible!
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