Is the Rapture really the next thing on God’s end times calendar?
IT’S WORTH CONSIDERING
With all the evidence that we are in the last days, more people are thinking about the Rapture when believers will be “caught up” to meet Christ and be taken to be with the Lord:
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voce of the archangel, and the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall 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 Thess. 4:16-17).
But exactly when will it occur? Verses like the following suggest that believers will have been “taken up” before things really get bad:
Because you have kept the word of MY Perseverance, I will also keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth (Rev. 3:10).
For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 5:9).
To determine the timing, we must understand what is meant by “hour of testing,” tribulation,” and “wrath.” Do these terms refer to periods of 7 or only 3-1/2 years?
AS I SEE IT
For most of us, we take a certain position because that’s what we have been taught. The issue can be confusing, and we’re happy to take the word of those who have labored long and hard over it. Consequently, we tend to filter all end times events through our preconceived filter. I have discovered that this is not only a reflection of our own laziness, but it can be downright dangerous. Keep reading and I’ll show you what I mean.
I have been studying 1 & 2 Thessalonians in great detail. As I let the Word speak for itself, it seemed to be contradicting what I have been taught for years, which is that that nothing else needs to happen before the Rapture occurs. It will then be followed by the 7-year Tribulation. In 2 Thess. 2:1-8 it says that before the Day of the Lord comes, two things must occur- the great “falling away” (apostasy) and the emergence of the Antichrist as he “takes off the gloves,” standing in the Temple, declaring himself to be God. This is generally understood to occur in the middle of the 7 year period. (In these passages, the term “Day of the Lord,” seems to be referring to the period of time when God’s wrath is poured out, what we call the Tribulation.) Here’s the sequence:
Apostasy + Antichrist revealed → Day of the Lord
So, where does the Rapture fit in? It’s what Paul had been focusing on in both of his letters to the church at Thessalonica.
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 that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming (2 Thess. 2:7-8).
Here we see that before the Antichrist (man of lawlessness) can be revealed, the restrainer must be taken away. If the restrainer is the Holy Spirit (who is present in all believers), then the “removal of the restrainer” and the Rapture are one and the same. With believers removed, the Holy Spirit’s manifestation through believers is gone. Unhindered, the Antichrist now shows his true colors. Here’s the sequence:
Apostasy → Rapture → Antichrist revealed → Day of the Lord
Since the Antichrist is revealed in the middle of the 7 year period, this sequence suggests that the Rapture occurs just before this revelation. It suggests that the real “Tribulation” (the “dark” side of the Day of the Lord) consists of the final 3-1/2 years. Before the “destruction” comes, people will be saying “peace and safety” (1 Thess. 5:3). According to what I have been taught, the Rapture is the next event we can expect. According to this verse, however, a time of peace and safety must first occur. Are we living in a time of peace and safety? I think not. Consider this. Could the peace and safety be the false peace the Antichrist brings when he makes peace with Israel at the beginning of the 7-year period? Could this be when the great falling away occurs? Here’s the sequence:
Apostasy (peace & safety) → Rapture → Antichrist revealed → Day of the Lord
Consider what will happen if this sequence is correct, but I remain committed to what I have been taught. If I’m alive when the Antichrist comes on the seen at he beginning of the 7-year period and makes peace with Israel, I’ll never recognize him because I’m convince that I’ll be out of here before he shows up. I may be caught up in his deceptions because I had not been open to the truth.
I am not trying to promote a “Mid-Trib” Rapture. I’m still investigating. My point is to keep an open mind. Regardless of what we’ve been taught, we may be wrong. Lots of Church fathers were wrong on some key issues (Martin Luther’s anti-Semitism). We need to understand the times and interpret events through the filter of the Word of God, not the other way around. I’ll have more to say about this in a future post.
ON THE LIGHTER SIDE
Medical Terms in the South:
To live long