Welcome to Looking Up

The name of this blog is taken from Luke 21:28 where Jesus says: “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

“There Is No Rapture”

Recently, someone publicly sent me his thoughts based on a YouTube commentary I made.  Randy was quite direct: “There is no Rapture.”  He then proceeded to outline his so-called Scriptural proofs.  In reading his reasoning, I’m fully of the opinion that Randy is completely off-base in his understanding of God’s Word and His overall plans and purposes for humanity.  In Randy’s (I presume) postmillennial view, we who hold to a pre-Tribulation, pre-Millennial perspective are deceived and will be told by Jesus that, “I never knew you.”

Others who believe as I do are more than welcome to weigh in to dispute Randy’s arguments.  In this article, I want to briefly sketch my own responses.  I’m sure many who agree with our pre-Trib position are smarter or more eloquent than me in countering these ideas.  To make it interesting, here are the slightly edited notes from Randy with my Scripturally-based rebuttals below each of his points:

 

  • There is no such thing as a rapture. The Word of God shows His return as singular.

Jan Markell of olivetreeviews.org has a teaching that laments this viewpoint.  It is called: How the Blessed Hope Became the Blasted Hope.  The teaching centers around 2 Peter 3:3-4, which says:

knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”

This is truly the position of so many in the church today, who have become disenchanted with God’s Word and His timing.

 

  • .. Paul calls the event the “resurrection of the dead”… 1 Corinthians 15:42-54 not the conjured rapture.

Paul indeed speaks of the raising of the dead.  Unfortunately, Randy neglects the plain meaning of the passage, particularly verses 51-52:

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

Lo and behold, the Rapture is a mystery.  What the text directly says, however, is that we (who are alive) will be changed.  Some number of us will not die, but will be raised, even as the dead are raised imperishable, i.e. with new glorified, spiritual bodies.

 

  • .. Job 14:12 tells us that man dies and is not resurrected until the heavens are destroyed.

Job didn’t know about the Rapture.  It was a mystery not revealed until New Testament times.  1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 adds to the 1 Corinthians passage:

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.

The dead in Christ will rise first, then those of us who remain alive will rise.  We will be caught up with Jesus in the clouds.  At this coming, Jesus does not set foot on the earth, yet He removes those who belong to Him.

 

  • .. Peter tells the church that Jesus comes “like a thief in the night when the heavens are destroyed with a great noise”….2 Peter 3:10-18.

That little word “then” is critical to understanding this verse.  Jesus comes like a thief in the night in the Rapture, then—at a future time—the heavens are destroyed.

 

  • .. if Jesus were to come prior than the heavens being destroyed… it would destroy the element of surprise in which He stated how He’d come “like a thief”. Jesus is not a man that He should lie.

That’s exactly the point.  The Rapture occurs at a time that no one knows—like a thief.  The heavens are destroyed after the millennium in Revelation 21:1, long after the Rapture and the Tribulation:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

 

  • .. Jesus also informs us that the heavens will be destroyed…. and of THAT DAY, no man knows the day or the hour… Matthew 24:35-36… Why are we constantly LIED to and told that no man knows the day or the hour of a conjured ‘rapture”?

“That day” and “last days” encompass periods of time.  Many prophecies are lumped together and will actually occur in stages.  When Jesus was incarnate, he didn’t know when the Rapture would occur—only the Father knew, just as He stated.  Old Testament prophecies often have a telescoping effect.  There is a near fulfillment and a later completion of that prophecy.  We’ve been in the last days since the time of the resurrection.

 

  • ..John informs us that those martyred for not taking the mark are resurrected at the ‘first’ resurrection…. Revelation 20:4-5

This argument fails to understand that there are various stages in the resurrection as to who and when.  Believers in Christ sleeping and living will rise in the Rapture.  Following that we have martyred Tribulation saints who will be resurrected to participate in the wedding feast at the end of the 7 years plus the Old Testament saints.  Whereas those who participate in the Rapture are the bride of Christ, the subsequently risen Tribulation saints and OT saints are the friends of the bride invited to the wedding feast.

A terrific reference for all the chronology of these last days is The Footsteps of the Messiah by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum.  For those confused by poor teaching that has led to anything but a pre-Trib Rapture view, this book could help them a lot.

 

  • You can see that those who segregate His singular return must conjure terms that are not Scriptural in order to present their agenda. Not one Scripture directly states their view without the elements of speculation, conjecture, assumption, opinion, and lies.

This is just a foolish statement.  The pre-Trib Rapture has more Scriptural evidence than any of the so-called contenders.

 

  • Rather Jesus modeled His return… found in Acts 1:9-14. He will return in “like manner” as He left. He left the Mount of Olives to the sky and then to Heaven. When He returns He will come in “like manner”. From Heaven He will come to the sky to resurrect the dead, and catch up those who are alive and remain, from there He heads to the Mount of Olives “with all of His saints”… Zechariah 14:4-5.

“Like manner” refers to Jesus in His 2nd coming setting foot on the Mount of Olives, the very place He left the disciples looking up incredulous.  There are several iterations of the following list describing how the Rapture and the 2nd coming are two very different events.  This is one version of 20 Reasons the Rapture is Not the 2nd Coming:

 

Rapture

2nd Coming

Christ comes in the air Christ comes to the earth
Christ comes for His saints Christ comes with His saints
Believers are taken away Unbelievers are taken away
Christ claims His bride Christ comes with His bride
Christ gathers His own Angels gather the elect
Christ comes to reward Christ comes to judge
There are no signs; it is imminent Many signs precede it
Revealed only in New Testament Revealed in both Old & New Testament
Mystery Foretold
Mount of Olives is unchanged Mount of Olives is divided
Time of blessing & comfort Time of destruction & judgment
Involves believers only Involves Israel & Gentile nations
Will occur in a moment – in the blink of an eye Will be visible to the entire world
Tribulation begins Millennium begins
The Lord takes believers to heaven Believers return to earth from heaven
Living believers obtain glorified bodies Elect entering Millennium remain in same bodies
Believers go to the Father’s House The elect stay on earth
Satan remains free Satan is bound
False prophet & antichrist at large False prophet & antichrist thrown into Lake of Fire
Unbelievers remain on earth Unbelievers go to hell

 

  • The “raptured’ do not go to heaven, but remain on Earth for 1000 years. The dead get their physical bodies back so that they can rule and reign with Him for 1000 years on a physical Earth. These physical bodies do not go to Heaven… see vs 50 of 1 Corinthians 15:42-54.

Who are these dead referred to?  There must be a spiritual transformation prior to the Millennium—a glorification of our bodies—flesh to heavenly—so as to negate sin in order for us to rule with Christ.  In Randy’s view, how does this happen?  What happened to the bride of Christ and her preparation for the actual marriage?  This perspective simply doesn’t make sense.

 

  • The Mortal are changed to immortal… this is the opposite of Adam… who through sin was changed from immortal to mortal… see Romans 5. Take heed that no man deceive you…. not one Scripture states the pretrib rapture view… that view is desirable for the ‘stony’ soil who have no mindset for tribulation and persecution… see Mark 4:18.

Multiple Scriptures depict the pre-Tribulation Rapture, but Randy fails to see them for what they are.  This is the problem with faulty teaching that doesn’t take the literal, plain sense of Scripture unless it tells us otherwise.  Passages we’ve already noted here include 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52.  When are these mortal changed to immortal other than during the Rapture?

 

  • My opinion and belief is of no value next to the truth…. and neither is yours. Both Jesus and Paul warn, “take heed that no man deceive you…” concerning this topic…. those who do not take heed become the next generation of deceivers….
  • The terms “rapture’ and ‘second coming” are absent from the Word and directly deceive those with itching ears. The matter is indeed salvific in nature.

This is an old argument we probably get tired of having.  The Latin for “caught up” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is rapturo and the Greek is harpazo.  The Strong’s reference is 726, which means “to seize, catch up, snatch away,” exactly the definition of how the Rapture occurs.  And, oh by the way, as we also like to point out, the word trinity isn’t anywhere in the Bible, but the fact remains that’s what Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in comprising the One true God.

 

  • There will be no disappointment for the wise virgins who have enough oil to endure to the end. The foolish virgins are indeed watching. When the foolish virgins realize they don’t have enough oil to make it through the time of the “mark of the beast”, it will be too late for them, for they are “stony” soil… and have no heart for tribulation and persecution…
  • When tribulation comes, they will immediately stumble as Jesus promises… Mark 4:18… Everything about the situation will be “too late’ for pretrib followers… for Jesus doesn’t give a second chance to the foolish virgins…. rather it is “depart from Me, I know you not.”

This is a complete misunderstanding of the Parable of the Virgins.  It refers to the concept of Jesus’ wedding, where the bride is the church and the bridegroom is Jesus.  Those in the church already have the oil.  They will join Jesus at the wedding feast as they will be Raptured and taken to heaven for seven years of final preparation for that Day.  They return with Jesus at His 2nd coming and partake of the feast.  Those not ready fall short from heaven’s preparations.

The purpose of the Rapture is to remove believers from the time of Tribulation, which has two groups as its focus.  It is necessary for unbelieving Israel to finally turn to Jesus as Messiah.  Unbelievers who chose not to follow Jesus are likewise subject to God’s wrath and judgment during this time.  Where does the believing church fall into these categories?  It doesn’t, which is exactly why the pre-Trib Rapture is necessary.

To deny the Rapture and to deny it in this pre-Trib timing is to deny God’s truth, His purposes, and what he intends to accomplish on the earth with His beloved.

For Randy and anyone else interested, I previously did a verse-by-verse Rapture Bible Study on my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZPs_DRrYDE.  It discusses all the pertinent verses of this very important topic, which as we grow closer day-by-day to Jesus’ return, brings us great hope and blessing.

Whom Will God Rapture? – A Willing Bride

What is the nature of an upcoming wedding?  Surely, it is a bridegroom who eagerly anticipates his wedding night and a bride who looks forward to a loving relationship with her betrothed.  Why then, when we consider the marriage of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, with the love of His life—the Church—that we don’t apply the same standards to the bride?

We know that Jesus wants to be with us.  There’s no question about that.  How do we know that?  By the evidence of His love.  By the fact that He died for us.  That He took all our sins upon Himself to atone for us—actually sacrificed Himself in our place—so that we might be saved in order that we might be able to come to Him.  He proved His love by His actions, not just by words.  Doesn’t Jesus say, “You will know them by their fruits?” (Matthew 7:16).  The proof is in the fruit of Jesus’ deeds.

So, if the church is the bride and one purpose of the Rapture is to unite the Bridegroom with the bride, shouldn’t she be as excited to be with Him as He is to be with her?  The question of the day is: Is she?

I’ve been dwelling on this issue for several posts now, and it doesn’t want to go away.  That could be an indication of perseveration (Dictionary.com: the pathological, persistent repetition of a word, gesture, or act, often associated with brain damage or schizophrenia), or it could mean the Holy Spirit has stirred this within me as a warning to the church.  Take your pick.  Despite either definition, I have no grandiose fantasies that many people will see this article.  This blog has very limited reach.  But perhaps there will be one or two who might need to read it and to whom God wants to speak.

Let’s review the parable of the virgins in Matthew 25:1-13:

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

The virgins were all set to marry the bridegroom.  The day of his return was unknown per Jewish custom.  He could appear at any moment from having been busy preparing their future home, and they had to be ready.  The father set the day of the bridegroom’s return for his bride—only he knew the day and hour.  When the bridegroom came near the bride’s home, a trumpet sounded and an announcement was made that the time for their wedding was at hand.

In the case of the parable, the bride’s readiness is directly correlated with her lamp and the oil she must have ready at all times.  Here we see that the future brides who were eager for the bridegroom to come had prepared in advance.  They had the necessary oil.  They were looking forward to the upcoming marriage.  But there were five virgins who hadn’t prepared.  They weren’t watching and waiting with the expectation of the bridegroom’s return—again, that which could be at any moment.  We don’t know why they weren’t ready.  Too busy or too lazy or simply didn’t care.  The fact is that at the appointed hour they had no oil.

The parable has a sad ending for those virgins who had apparently made the choice not to prepare.  They knew the custom.  The bridegroom had been away for some time, so they knew—whenever it might be—that he had to come at some point.  But they chose, because of some aspect of their lives, not to watch and wait.  They obviously didn’t really care.  All one can deduce is that they didn’t want to be married very badly.  Other things in their lives were more important.  When the bridegroom came, he took those who wanted to be with him.  The others, he left behind.

This parable draws a clear analogy to the Rapture of the Church.  Jesus is coming back.  It could be at any time.  There are those who deny the Rapture altogether; many likewise deny the timing as pre-Tribulation, pre-Millennial, but there is overwhelming Scriptural evidence that it must happen, and in this manner at this time.

Who are the virgins eagerly awaiting Christ’s imminent return?  Those who live for Him, whose hearts are for Him and not for the world.  I can’t go so far as to say that those who love Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, yet don’t believe in the pre-Trib Rapture won’t be Raptured; however, they will be surprised.  The Rapture will take them unawares.

Unfortunately, there are others who no doubt are saved, but who have no interest in Jesus’ return.  Their eyes are wholly on the world, whether through the cares of life or the don’t-cares who mock Bible prophecy.  Regardless of the reason, these are the virgins who have no oil in their lamps.  These Christians—absolutely saved by the blood of Jesus—are those who have decided to pursue worldly ideals like social justice, prosperity, environmental concerns, belief that the church must Christianize the world before Jesus can return, Holy Spirit experiences at the cost of a true encounter with Jesus, and a whole host of other beliefs that turn their eyes from where they should be focused.  These believers are pursuing idols and the lusts of the flesh.  If Jesus were to come while they’re busy in these endeavors, it would spoil everything.  “Come Lord Jesus, just don’t come now!”

The more I think about this issue of Whom Will God Rapture, the more convinced I am that there is a need for these who don’t eagerly anticipate the Lord’s return to miss the Rapture and go into the Tribulation so that they can demonstrate by their actions where their heart is.  They’re saved.  No doubt about that.  But if Jesus wants a willing bride, a bride refined as pure silver or gold, then these believers don’t fit that description.

Following hard after Jesus and wanting Him to come at any time is the hallmark of those who will be Raptured.  Those desiring the things of the world are those who—like the five unprepared virgins—will be shut out.  At that time, Jesus doesn’t even know them.

Paul gave a warning in Ephesian 4:17-24 about how we’re to live:

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Is this the heart condition and action of every born-again believer?  Sadly no.  But because of the tribulation of the Tribulation, the hearts of these left behind will be purified, or they’ll decide that Jesus really isn’t worth it.

Should this cause some great concern?  I hope so.  I hope that it changes the desires of some who are currently living in the world and not for Jesus.  But the sad truth of the matter is that most people in that condition won’t see an article like this. Their focus is elsewhere, and they wouldn’t even say, “Who me?” if confronted with it.  On the other hand, if people read this and question if God will unite them with Jesus in the clouds when He returns to harpázō* His bride; then the likelihood is that He will do it because they are concerned.  They want to be at the marriage feast of the Lamb.

Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up [harpázō] together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:17)

* [harpázō (Greek) – Strongs 726 – “properly, seize by force; snatch up, suddenly and decisively – like someone seizing bounty (spoil, a prize); to take by an open display of force (i.e. not covertly or secretly)”]

I know that’s where I want to be.  How about you?

Whom Will God Rapture? – Guest Blogger

[Gary’s Note – 1: The initial post of this blog, that also appeared on Rapture Ready, generated quite a bit of controversy.  The follow-up entry that I wrote was rejected by Rapture Ready—the reason being that they prefer not to contend in this area.  In our respectful interchange, they informed me that my article goes against their belief that salvation equals Rapture.  That is not a view that I can hold given so many warnings about faithless faith in the Bible and the consequences for chasing after the world rather than after God.  In my alternative “Second Look” view, I postulate that it’s conceivable that all who are saved will be Raptured, but only after severe persecution comes to the church.

As it turns out, another blogger commented on my original article, and she has the same concerns that I do!  However, she came to her conclusions a year before me.  In writing my piece, I had no knowledge of her blog.  Because I admire the reasoning that she uses and her additional arguments for continuing to ask the question as to Whom Will God Rapture, I asked for her permission to post her blog in its entirety here.

Heather writes a number of different blogs.  The one where this article below originates is: https://mycrazyfaith.blogspot.com/.  So, with full attribution as I promised Heather, here’s her take on this subject.  Warning-1: Be prepared to be challenged.  Warning-2: This is a long blog post!  You’ll need some time to read and process it.]

 

 

Should Christians Worry About Being Left Behind?

— Heather

 

https://mycrazyfaith.blogspot.com/2018/08/should-christians-worry-about-being.html

 

August 16, 2018

 

This won’t be popular or make people happy but …

Yes, I think Christians need to be concerned about the possibility of being left behind.

This is my opinion.  I cannot say for sure that it’s what’s really going to happen.  But the more I read the Bible, the more I think it teaches that not all Christians will go up in the rapture.

Of course, unbelievers will be left behind.  Those who have rejected Jesus’s offer of salvation and grace and mercy.  Those who have rejected the offer God makes to the faithful church, to be spared from the coming wrath.

But I think there are Christians (and “Christians”) who will be left behind, too.  Specifically, those who have made their life (or money) a priority over their faith, over the Lord … and those who have backslidden, are disobedient to Him, are living for themselves … and those who aren’t being faithful to Scripture but who knowingly compromise it or alter it so that it says what they want it to say … and those who think they are Christian but really aren’t.

And what Scripture is there to back this view up?

 

1.  First of all, consider all this (warning: this point will get a bit messy, but I’m trying to paint a complete picture of the “faithful church” – those who will be raptured):

“Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8)

As I said in an earlier post, I think the elders around the throne in Rev. 4 are representatives of the raptured church.  And what are the elders wearing?

Crowns.

I think these crowns are the crowns that are awarded to those who have longed for the coming of the Lord, those who are looking forward to His return.  The faithful believers.

And I think “that day” the crowns are awarded is the day of the rapture.  And the elders are around the throne before the first seal is opened, meaning that we are raptured before the start of the tribulation.

The faithful church is represented by the Philadelphia church in Rev. 3:7-13.  And what is the promise given to this church?

“Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.  I am coming soon.  Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.”

They remained faithful to Jesus and to the Gospel and endured patiently in the faith all the way to the end, which is far different than the backslidden church, the compromising church, the superficial church, the lukewarm church, etc. (the other churches listed in Rev. 2-3).

And as a result, they alone were promised a crown if they “hold on to what they have” (their faith, their commitment to Christ and the Truth).  They were promised to be spared from the “hour of trial” that will come on the rest of the earth (I believe that’s the tribulation).

(Why the warning to not let anyone take your crown if there’s no chance of losing your crown?  I think the “crown” is part of the reward for the faithful church, taken out at the rapture.  If this is so, then it’s possible to lose your place in the faithful church and not be taken out in the rapture.  It doesn’t mean you lost your salvation, just that you lost your chance to be raptured out because you weren’t ready and weren’t living like you should be.)

So this church gets a crown – like the elders around the throne.  And they are spared from the “hour of trial” (the tribulation) – like the elders who are around the throne before the first seal opens to start the tribulation.

The tribulation is a time to test the people on the earth.  I think this means it’s a time to test their allegiance – if they will turn to Christ or away from Christ.  If they will uphold the Bible or turn against the Bible.

And since the faithful church already proved their allegiance – clinging to their faith until Jesus raptured them out – there is no reason for them to be around for the tribulation, the time of testing.  They have already made their decision about Jesus and have been faithful to Him.

But this time of testing – the tribulation – will come on everyone else.  On those who were not believers at the time of the rapture.  On those who were wishy-washy, compromising Christians.  On those who thought they were Christians but who really weren’t.  On those who changed Scripture to tickle people’s ears.

These people will have to make their decision about Christ and show their faithfulness to Him during the tribulation.

(I also think children under the age of accountability will be raptured, too.  The Bible talks about an age when children are old enough to choose right from wrong.  But if they are too young to understand “right and wrong” – too young to be able to choose between Jesus and Satan – there is no point for them to go into this time of testing.  So they will be spared, taken out in the rapture, covered by God’s grace.)

“and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.”  (1 Thess. 1:10)

The true and faithful church will be rescued from the coming wrath!  The tribulation!

And where will we be taken?

We will be taken to the “Father’s house” (John 14:2-3), which I believe is the “New Jerusalem” that comes down out of heaven in Rev. 21.

What does Rev. 21:12-14 say about the New Jerusalem?

It says that there are 24 names written on its walls and foundations – 12 for the tribes of Israel and 12 for the apostles of the Lamb.

And how many elders are sitting around the throne wearing crowns?

24

I think these elders are the 24 names written on the New Jerusalem because they represent those who live in the New Jerusalem – the faithful believers of all time before the rapture.

Look again at the Philadelphia church.  What does Rev. 3:12 say about them?

“Him who overcomes … I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven …”

God promises those in the faithful church that He will write the name of the new Jerusalem on them.  He will write the name of their new home on them – the new home of the raptured church.

All of this ties the promise of a crown for those who long for the Lord’s appearance with the elders who are wearing crowns before the first seal opens … with the Philadelphia church who was promised crowns for their faithfulness and promised to be spared from the “time of testing” (the tribulation) … with the New Jerusalem where the faithful church is taken (the “Father’s House”)!

All of this means that the faithful church will be raptured out before the tribulation, and we will go to the New Jerusalem while the world enters the “time of trial.”

[One other interesting note about the Philadelphia church:

Rev 3:8 refers to an “open door that no one can shut” which is set before this church.  Many have said this means that it’s an evangelizing church, that the “open door” is a door to the world, to go out and tell others about Christ.  And maybe this is so.

Or … maybe it’s a reference to the rapture?  Maybe the “open door” is the door to heaven … and only this church (the true believers) has the right to enter it?

Look at Rev. 4:1:  “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven.  And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here …'”

John saw a door open in heaven (same door the Philadelphia church gets to enter?) … and he hears a voice like a trumpet (any relation to the trumpet during the rapture?) … and a voice says “Come up here” (like the command given in 1 Thess. 4:16?) … and John is immediately “in the spirit” and taken up to heaven.

Could this be a foreshadowing of the rapture?  Of what the Philadelphia church will experience?]

 

2. “It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.  On that day, no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them.  Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything.  Remember Lot’s wife!  Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.  I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other one left.  Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.”  (Luke 17:30-35)

I think this shows that there will be those who could have escaped the wrath, like Lot’s wife could have escaped, but that they chose to turn back to their lives.  They put their lives over their faith.  They lived for themselves instead of living for the Lord.

I think the Lord will only take those who are ready and willing to come with Him, who have shown they love Him more than their lives by how they lived.  And as I said in a previous post, I think there might be a “time of decision” while the rapture is happening for Christians to decide if they want to go or stay.  If they will run to the Lord or run to their homes, like Lot’s wife.

But honestly, if we are not ready for the Lord or are living in a way that would make us ashamed before Him, then I think we’ll be caught by surprise and be too ashamed to stand before Him at the rapture.  Instead of running to meet Him when He comes, we’ll be running back to our houses to hide.  And we will be left behind.

 

3.  “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  As it was in the days of Noah … one will be taken and the other left.  Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come…. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him…. Who then is the faithful and wise servant…?  It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing [his job] when he returns…. But suppose that servant is wicked … The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of.  He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  (Matthew 24:36-51)

“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.  For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth.  Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”  (Luke 21:34-36)

Notice in the Matthew passage above that the person who was assigned a place with the hypocrites was actually a servant.  He was a servant just like the faithful servant.  They were both servants (Christians?).  But the wicked one was a lazy, self-serving servant who was not doing what he was supposed to be doing or living the way he was supposed to be living.

To me, this is comparing two types of Christians: those who are faithfully living as God wants them to and those who aren’t.

They were both servants, but only the faithful one was ready for the Lord to come back.  The unfaithful, lazy, self-serving one was sent to the place with the hypocrites, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

I think this “weeping and gnashing of teeth” describes the tribulation time.  Unfaithful believers will be left behind to face the tribulation, and it will cause them to weep and to gnash their teeth.  (I talk more about this in the next post where I differentiate between the tribulation and hell.  Two different places where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.)

The above Luke passage also shows that “that day” (the rapture, I believe) will overtake those who are not expecting it, those who got distracted with the cares and pleasures of life.

But we can watch for that day and pray to escape it, which I think means we can pray that we remain faithful to the end.  And if we are faithful to the end, we will have the confidence we need to stand before the Lord on the day He comes to get us.  Those who are ashamed of how they are living will not be able to stand before Him.  They will hide and stay behind.

They just weren’t ready to face the Lord.

 

4.  What about those who change Scripture to tickle people’s ears?

There are so many churches doing this right now.  They change what God says about so many things to please people, to tell people what they want to hear.

And most of them truly think they are trying to honor God and uphold Scripture, even while they change or soften Scripture.  They use Jesus’s love as an excuse for telling everyone that everything they do is okay and that God would never make anyone feel bad about their choices, that He loves everyone just as they are and doesn’t expect anyone to change a thing.  As long as you “love others,” you’re good with God!  (Click here and here for more on that nonsense.)

I think these are the “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15).

They are those who won’t share or tolerate sound doctrine, but who trade in God’s truth for a more people-pleasing “truth,” for myths (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

They are the ones who will hear “Away from me; I never knew you” when they say, “But, God, didn’t we do this and that in your name!?!” (Mathew 7:21-27).

They seem all good and godly, but they are misleading people terribly.  (And it’s that fact that they seem so good and godly that makes them the most dangerous.)

These compromising churches are not part of the faithful Philadelphia church.  They are not promised to be spared from the “hour of trial.”  In fact, Jesus promises the compromising Pergamum church (Rev. 2:14-16) that He Himself will fight against them if they do not repent.

It’s one thing to know the Truth; it’s another thing to live it.

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.  And if anyone take words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”  (Rev. 22:18-19)

(I believe the “holy city” is the New Jerusalem, the place the raptured church goes to.  And this is possibly saying that you can miss out on the holy city – the rapture – by altering God’s Truth.  This is a serious warning for the many churches who have altered God’s Word about things like homosexuality, abortion, gender, marriage, etc.)

 

5.  And why do I think that those who cherish money too much (such as some of those from the “prosperity gospel” group) are at risk of being left behind?

“No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money.”  (Matthew 6:24)

I think there are people who believe they worship God, that they love God.  But in reality, they are worshipping material things.  They love His gifts more than they love Him.  They pursue temporary pleasures over heavenly treasures

They are the Laodicea church (Rev. 3:14-22) who is rich but lukewarm, self-sufficient, and self-serving.  They are living in their wealth instead of in the Lord.

And the Lord is not pleased with them.  He promises to spit them out of His mouth.  He tells them that they are on the wrong side of the door from Him, that He is knocking on the door of their hearts/lives but they need to open the door and let Him in.

And if they do not do so soon, they will be left behind when He comes for His own.

Missing the rapture will be a huge wake-up call to them.  And they will realize they were worshipping the wrong thing all along.

[Incidentally, some scholars believe the churches listed in Rev. 2-3 are not only real churches at that time, but that they also represent the various churches all throughout history and that they are a listing of various over-arching “church ages” in chronological order.

If this is so, notice that the Laodicea church is the last in the list.  And if the Laodicea church is the age of the “prosperity gospel,” then we are at the end of the church age, right before Jesus returns.

To the previous churches, Jesus says things like “I will come” and “I am coming soon.”  But to this church, He says, “Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.”

If these churches represent a chronological order throughout time and if the “prosperity gospel” church is the Laodicea church, then He is nearly here.  Something worth considering!]

So if we all know that Jesus could come back at any moment, why aren’t more of us watching for Him?  Why aren’t we working and living the way He wants us to, knowing that we could have to face Him any day? 

Here’s a good look into that.

What it all boils down to it this:

If you are a genuine believer who’s made a heart commitment to Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and who’s faithfully upholding Scripture as it’s written and doing the work God has given you (whether that’s being a missionary or a full-time-mother or a doctor or plumber or whatever), and who’s living in a way that won’t make you run from the Lord in shame when He comes … then you have nothing to worry about.  You will be raptured out of here before the tribulation.

But those who do not fit in the above group should seriously consider how they are living and who they are living for.  If they have placed anything over the Lord.  Because as I said, I don’t think all Christians will be raptured out.  I think many will find themselves left behind, entering the tribulation.  (I am not saying that they lost their salvation, just their chance to be raptured out.)  And the “time of testing” will be their chance to finally live out their faith.  To show the Lord they choose Him over their own lives.  But this time – in the tribulation – it will come with great persecution and possible martyrdom.

Don’t wait that long!  Make your decision now!

[Of course, many would say that all Christians, no matter how they are living, will be raptured out because they have the Holy Spirit in them.  So when the Holy Spirit is taken out, they’ll be taken out, too.  And this may be the case.

But I do think it’s worth at least considering all the Bible’s warnings about being ready and being faithful, about watching for His return and not being caught by surprise, about the potential to lose your crown, about the need to “remember Lot’s wife” who lost her chance to be rescued because she longed for her life, about the bad things that will come upon the various churches in Revelation (all but the faithful Philadelphia church).  Even if they don’t mean what I think they do, those warnings are there for a reason.  Take some time to examine why.]

I love this song: In The Sky

How I long for that day!

Previous “end times” post:  What Will the Rapture Be Like?

Next “end times” post: Where There Is Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth

 

[Gary’s Note-2: As both Heather and I take pains to explain, this isn’t about scaring people or to cause them concern, if they love the Lord and, in their own way, are pursuing Him.  I believe that anyone who contacts either of us with the question as to whether they meet that standard probably isn’t someone who needs to be concerned in the first place.

Someone who doesn’t care is generally the person who’s likely at risk.  Their eyes are on the world; they’re pursuing the things of the flesh; the return of Christ isn’t of interest or importance to them for a variety of reasons, the most likely being that they’re chasing after idols of one form or another.

Scripture urges us time and again to watch and be ready.  Why is that?  Is there really no consequence from the Lord for those who choose not to follow His admonition other than the loss of crowns?

That could be the case.  Neither Heather nor I sit in the heavenly throne room and are privy to the discussions in that exalted place.  We could be completely wrong.

However, even if we are wrong, shouldn’t those who aren’t saying, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!” turn from the world so that they might speak those words and desire that outcome in their hearts?  And what about the rest of us who do live by that phrase?  Should we be unconcerned about these seekers after the flesh who are presumably saved?  That’s almost the natural outcome for those who hold to the salvation equals Rapture doctrine.  “Well, they’re saved.  How they live is no skin off our nose.”  Seriously?  Isn’t there a problem with that?

But, if we have brothers and sisters in the Lord who live for the world, don’t we have an obligation to warn them that the consequences may be drastic because God wants them to Himself?

It’s a thorny question.  As Heather notes, it’s messy.  Church doctrine and what we believe in our westernized Christianity isn’t always correct.  That’s one of the things I’ve learned lately, and it’s important.

What we believe about the Rapture is a peripheral doctrine, not a core salvation issue.  But it does have great significance in how we live our life.  We are to seek out the mysteries of God.  Let’s not stifle inquiry into something just because “we’ve always done it that way.”

Let’s put on our thinking caps.  Let’s be Bereans.]

Whom Will God Rapture? – Another Look

My previous article with a similar title elicited quite a bit of response and pushback.  In that piece I suggested that God would Rapture His true church, thus potentially leaving behind some number of Christians who didn’t fit that definition.  To be clear in what I previously said, I wasn’t redefining salvation and equating it with being Raptured—this isn’t a salvation issue in my mind—nor was I suggesting a partial Rapture with some going up initially and others sometime later in the Tribulation.

The response I received came in the form of “How do I know I’m part of that true church?”  The pushback was “No way, no how!  ALL who are saved are Raptured.”

I didn’t come to this idea lightly.  It’s born of a concern for the state of the church and seeing how lackadaisical far too many Christians are in their salvation.  It also derives from my reading of Scripture, which issues many warnings about how we revere and interact with God, or rather our lack thereof.  I previously mentioned Christ’s warning to the church at Laodicea.  Here is Hebrews 9:28:

so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

We have other verses such as Titus 2:13 that speak of those who look forward to His glorious appearing and 2 Timothy 4:8 which says we’ll receive a crown of righteousness in longing for that appearing.

Obviously, a desire to see Christ return is important.  It may also be that what I see in some places as a “withholding” of the Rapture for some may actually be a lack of a crown, not a failure to be Raptured.

Here’s my heart in this, and I suspect that most reading this article will likewise feel the same.  God wants His church to be on fire for Him.  He wants a fire-purified bride, a church refined as pure silver and gold.  Anything else is, frankly, abominable to Him (remember Laodicea).  He wants us to not only be born again, but to desire fellowship with Him.  The issue for me is that fellowship in much of the church is all too lacking.

My pastor preached a message on a recent Sunday about Naaman, Elisha, and particularly Elisha’s servant Gehazi.  The story, found in 2 Kings 5:15-27, describes how after Naaman took Elisha’ advice he was cured of his leprosy.  He wanted to reward the prophet, but Elisha would have nothing to do with that, so Naaman went on his way back toward Syria.

The servant Gehazi had other ideas.  He ran after Naaman, lied to him, and received silver and clothing, which he then hid for himself.  When Elisha questioned him, Gehazi lied to the prophet of God—never a good idea.  For his efforts, Gehazi received Naaman’s leprosy for himself and his descendants forever.

As sad as that is, here’s what Gehazi really missed.  Recall that Elisha was likewise Elijah’s servant.  Elisha wouldn’t let Elijah out of his sight and at the right time requested a double portion of Elijah’s anointing, which he received.  Elisha ran after God, while Gehazi ran after the things of this world.  Each received his due reward from the Lord.

Gehazi is mentioned in Scripture only one further time, telling the king of Israel about the exploits of Elisha; he had none of his own.  Think about this.  Elisha pursued God, not the things of the world.  Gehazi pursued the things of the world, not God.  There was no mantle for Gehazi, simply grief for him and his descendants.  It’s a sad story.

What does God want of us?  Simply, that we run after Him.  Now, here’s the crux of this second look at the question of Whom Will God Rapture?  If God wants His church, His children, to pursue Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and a significant number of them don’t and aren’t, what is He to do?

When we consider the martyrs of the church through the ages (Hebrews 11) and see them in operation today throughout much of the world, we realize that it’s through tribulation, trials, persecution, and suffering that people’s hearts are purified toward God.  Contrary to human logic, there is joy in suffering.  Jesus said that when we follow Him, we will be persecuted.

Okay, so if all are Raptured, the fiery ones among us along with the apathetic, when do the Words of Jesus apply?  When does this definitive statement in 2 Timothy 3:12 apply?

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

I’d bet that few of us reading this verse from the comfort of our homes have ever faced true persecution.  In America particularly, our comfort is foremost.  We have no idea what suffering for Christ truly is.

Scripture is replete with verses that speak of the falling away of the church.  Maybe it’s the falling away that actually answers the question.  As the church diminishes, so too does the mystery of lawlessness increase.  With lawlessness comes hatred toward Christ and those who follow Him.

We can see the effects of this in America and around the world.  Things are getting dicey for Christians.  How long will it be before the treatment we see toward Christians in the Middle East comes to America and other “safe” areas?  Is that even possible?  Yes.  The darkness is increasing at a rapid rate.  Things are deteriorating more quickly than anyone would have expected.  The hot term is convergence.  It’s plausible this persecution will accelerate in these last days with the unthinkable happening that we comfortable Christians could also be persecuted.

I subscribe to the belief that the Rapture has no preconditions and could happen at any time.  Yet, for God to purify His church—as I believe He must—then in the time we have left before Christ returns, the purifying fire may be just around the corner.  In this time, those who truly love the Lord and follow hard after Him will be solidified in their faith.  Those on the fence will have to make a decision.  In the Middle East, time and again, lukewarm and apathetic Christians have learned of God’s mercies through their trials and become ardent followers of Him.  Anyone that falls away, perhaps they were never truly saved in the first place.

I can’t imagine any of us who love the Lord want to see the church in its condition today with deviant, heretical teachings and false prophets who lead people astray.  Every one of us should have God’s heart for this prodigal church that’s so prevalent.

For God to be true to Himself, tribulation must come to the church so that the bride of Christ truly wants the betrothal.  It very well may be that a time is coming soon whereby the virgins in waiting will either bring oil for their lamps or they won’t (Matthew 25:1-13).  They’ll either enter through the door to meet their bridegroom, or it’ll be shut with them on the outside because they didn’t care enough to be ready.

Or consider Luke 12:35-48:

“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

This is strong language.  What does it mean to be shut out as in the case of the virgins?  What is it to be cut to pieces and put with the unfaithful?  Or for the knowledgeable but negligent servant to receive a severe beating?

Doesn’t something have to give in all this?  If the “cutting to pieces” or “beating” doesn’t happen in the Tribulation because all the servants are Raptured, then for this kingdom parable to be true, it must happen prior to the Rapture, and then not just to the apathetic servants, but presumably to all who claim the Name of Christ.

There’s good logic in that.  In the early days of Christianity in the times of Nero or Diocletian, there were few who followed Christ—likely whether on fire or lukewarm—who escaped the judgment of these terrible emperors.  Persecution was as common as the sun rising each morning in the east.  It could well be that those same days are coming for us regardless of the depth of our faith.

In that case, all who believe and are saved would be Raptured.

“How long, O Lord, how long?”

God’s Grief

Have you ever encountered the question, “Why is the Bible filled with stories of rebellion and all-around bad behavior?”  Sure you have.  The standard answer is: “That’s what makes it real; one of the reasons why we know it’s true.”  This is a good response, but does it go deep enough?  I don’t think so.

Throughout Scripture we have stories of bad or neglectful fathers, often kings who were probably too busy to sow into their son’s lives.  Kings had many responsibilities, and many wives!  Who could blame them for not shepherding often dozens of children?  As we know from observing the culture around us, perhaps even from our own lives, when children don’t have a father figure as an example of how to grow up, how to live, and for sons: how to be a man; they often have authority issues.

Even for the king, the father, the man after God’s own heart: David; there were issues in his household.  Absalom betrayed him and tried to usurp the kingship.  In that time, this wayward son even tried to kill David.  But we see David’s heart toward his son despite his rebellion in 2 Samuel 15:30:

David walked up the road to the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went. His head was covered and his feet were bare as a sign of mourning. And the people who were with him covered their heads and wept as they climbed the hill.

He was grieved immensely.  What must he have been thinking about this beloved son?  How could he turn on his father the way he had?  It had to be pure heartbreak for David.

Through it all, David had to contend with the consequences of Absalom’s aggression against him.  As much as he hated to do it, he prayed for Absalom to accept foolish advice (2 Samuel 15:31) since he couldn’t allow his son to succeed.  David’s responsibilities as king to the people wouldn’t allow that.

Ultimately, Absalom dies and David’s grief overflows in 2 Samuel 18:33:

The king was overcome with emotion. He went up to the room over the gateway and burst into tears. And as he went, he cried, “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son.”

It had to happen, yet the reality was exceedingly difficult for David.

The account of David and Absalom isn’t an isolated incident in the Bible.  We don’t really know what kind of a father Solomon was other than that he had many wives and children.  One legacy he left for us is the wisdom of Proverbs with the warnings to his son(s) about following wayward women.  Solomon obviously had much experience in this area.  His own son, Rehoboam, caused many problems with his reign.  How had Solomon been an example to him?

All this is instructive to us today, but what about the deeper issue I mentioned earlier?  Right from the start of humanity, we have Adam and Eve disobeying God’s Word and being led astray.  But even that doesn’t go back far enough or cover the ground we need to in this article.

The original rebel was the serpent.  We don’t know why Satan chose to go this route, although I’ve suggested previously (http://garyritter.com/satans-jealousy-of-man/) that it came about because of Satan’s jealousy.  Have you ever wondered what God thought of this?  Why had this beloved son of His done this?  But it gets worse.

After God scattered mankind in Genesis 11 because of the Babel incident, He set His sons over the nations where he’d placed mankind (Deuteronomy 32:8).  Why did He do this and what did He expect?

Naturally, God knew exactly what would happen; it was no surprise.  God wanted His sons to watch over these nations, to be judicious and wise rulers.  He intended for them to point their people to Him as the One true God.  But they didn’t.  They made themselves gods in the place of their father.

Here we have to ask: Was God a bad dad?  Was He too busy for these many sons in His sovereign duties?  What was it that they lacked that they would literally all go off the rails and rebel against their father in this manner?

I can’t imagine they lacked anything; it’s a silly question since they are God’s sons.  However, what they had was what humanity also had: free will.  They had the ability to choose.  They were made in the image of God, their Father, and just like He certainly has ego and pride (how could He not if He gave us those attributes?), they had the means to follow in ways that were ungodly.  Because God is God, He has the self-control never to allow any aspect of His nature to lead Him astray.  His divine sons, just like His human sons, never had that self-control.  Just like we developed a sin nature, in some way, so too did God’s heavenly kids.

As a result of their corrupt ways, God had to punish them.  We see His judgment in Psalm 82, and His heart in the matter:

God has taken his place in the divine council;

    in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:

“How long will you judge unjustly

    and show partiality to the wicked? Selah

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;

    maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.

Rescue the weak and the needy;

    deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

They have neither knowledge nor understanding,

    they walk about in darkness;

    all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

I said, “You are gods,

    sons of the Most High, all of you;

nevertheless, like men you shall die,

    and fall like any prince.”

Arise, O God, judge the earth;

    for you shall inherit all the nations!

These divine sons of God were wicked.  Yet God surely loved them.  Hasn’t He loved us despite our many sins?  The interesting thing is that for mankind, God made a way for us to reunite with Him through the shedding of Jesus’ blood on the cross and the forgiveness of our sins.  That didn’t happen with these sons.

God judged them.  He decreed they will die like mere men.  The judgment upon them will be for all eternity.  And yet, despite this awful fate for these once-heavenly sons, can you hear God’s grief in this Psalm?  God’s expectation was high for these children, and they knew better.  Perhaps God had to make an example for the rest of heaven.  Yet it certainly weighed heavily upon Him.

When we read the accounts in the Bible of human depravity and rebellion, the rest of the story is that God’s divine sons likewise drastically strayed.  The examples in Scripture of man’s turning away from God are a mirror of some of the heavenly host likewise rebelling.

We also see the immense mercy God has showered upon His human family that He didn’t give to His divine children.  We’re growing into the perfect image of God through the process of sanctification.  It may be that God’s heavenly sons already had that perfection, and still chose to go their own way.

How blessed we are that God chose to extend His mercy to us, unlike with His other sons in heaven.  He could easily have decided to separate us from His presence forever just as He did with them.

That’s worthy of much thanks and praise to the King of kings and Lord of lords!

Whom Will God Rapture?

In a number of my blog posts, I make the statement that God will Rapture His true church.  Recently, upon reading one of my articles where I said that, Linda contacted me with a concern that warrants discussion.  In her email, Linda wrote:

You said that Jesus will rapture those who are faithful, believe and follow hard after Him.  The “follow hard after Him” makes me uneasy.  If that is the case how will I know how “hard” is enough?  The thought of not following enough and being left behind is terrifying.  Can you clarify that for me?

The first issue is why I say what I do.  Am I speaking of a works-based faith or one that comes by grace alone?  In my even asking the question, you should know that it’s strictly the latter.  Nothing that we “do” can ever be good enough.  Christ paid it all with the blood He shed on the cross.  He paid our legal debt, wiped the slate of our charges clean, and we scamper out of the courthouse free men and women through the work He did when we repent and trust in Him.

That’s salvation, but it may be a very different thing than “qualifying” for the Rapture.  I have no doubt my perspective here will be controversial, but I guess that comes with the territory.  Throughout Scripture I think God is very clear that He wants a people refined as pure silver and gold.  Now, we’ll never achieve that ultimate perfection in this life.  We’re on a path of sanctification.  Here are some questions: What are we doing on that path?  Are we continuing the climb upward to John Bunyan’s celestial city by seeking diligently to know Jesus more intimately and relationally every day, or are we whiling away our time more interested in the things of this world?  Are we looking for the soon-return of Christ as He comes to take His people away with Him in the clouds, or are our sights set on those things around us?  Would we rather Jesus come quickly, or that He delay His coming so that we can see our kids married along with myriad other worldly enticements?

We had a missionary on a recent Sunday who serves in a very difficult area with an unreached people group.  He used a word to describe Christians of different stripes.  The word he used was trajectory.

He told of supposedly saved Christians who were actually ministry leaders when he first came to the Lord.  Today, they’re no longer serving God, and he’s risking his life among Muslim refugees from Somalia.  At that earlier time in his life, this missionary was saved but still living a worldly life.  As he tells it, he was trying to figure out this whole Christian thing, and he definitely had sin issues.  However, his desire, his passion, was for the Lord.  He was moving toward Jesus and a life serving Him.  His trajectory was upward.  Apparently, those other ministry leaders weren’t sold out in any measure.  They certainly had no upward trajectory.  Perhaps, in a sense, they were playing at Christianity.

The fact that someone like Linda even asks the question tells me that her heart is for the Lord.  In my blog posts, a number of which have appeared on Rapture Ready, I mention Dr. Michael S. Heiser and his book, The Unseen Realm.  One thing that Dr. Heiser has said that I like a lot is that what God desires from us is believing loyalty.  Our belief must be in Christ alone AND we are loyal to Him in that we have no other gods before us.

I think it was Bill Bright with Campus Crusade for Christ (now CRU – why did they change the name?) who created the image of a circle with a throne.  The circle is our life and the throne is Christ.  Where is the throne?  Is it outside the circle, and thus Jesus is just one more item in our lives like family, job, church, etc.?  Or is the throne in the center of the circle?  Is Jesus why we live?

A true Christian, in my estimation fits these different criteria, in whichever way one would like to think: Our trajectory is upward toward Christ; we have believing loyalty toward Him; and He is at the center of our lives and the reason we exist.

Christians that don’t look like this, who are more what I call Chinos—Christian in name only—those are the people, I believe, who could be at risk at the time of the Rapture.

This viewpoint admittedly enters treacherous waters for those left behind whom we would consider saved.  The period following the Rapture will be difficult by anyone’s standards.  We know that the vast majority of those who come to believe in Jesus during this time—and there will likely be millions—will also likely be beheaded.  If professing, but lukewarm, Christians must face this challenge, that does seem rather harsh, doesn’t it?  I don’t know the answer, but remember how Jesus reacted to the Christians at Laodicea: He wanted to vomit them out (Revelation 3:16).  He also says that He will rebuke and chasten them—because He loves them (Revelation 3:19).

There’s a simple solution to this dilemma: Don’t be a lukewarm believer.  Actually do what Jesus tells us to do and live as He commands.  Focus on Him and not the world.  If we live our lives in this manner, I don’t think we need to be anxious about anything.

Re-Examining the Third Commandment

Have you ever wondered why the Third Commandment has such a penalty enacted by God?  Doesn’t it seem a little extreme?  Let’s examine Exodus 20:7:

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”

Think about that.  You swear just like millions of others, and the Name of God or Jesus slips your lips.  You’ve uttered an expletive deleted, or maybe not deleted these days in which few words other than one that starts with ‘n’ are disallowed.

So, you and a zillion other people are held by God in contempt.  You’re guilty.  Period.  Just for having said a word—a Name—that hardly anyone cares about with any reverence.

Does that really make sense in and of itself?  I would argue that’s not the case.  I think we have to look deeper than that.  In fact, the giving of this commandment goes all the way back to Genesis 11:1-2,4:

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there…Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

Once again, we find ourselves back in the Ancient Near East, this time at the Tower of Babel incident.  God had directed Noah and his descendants after the flood to go out to all the earth, subdue it, and multiply; just like He had originally commanded Adam and Eve.

But, what do these stubborn humans do?  They tell God to stick it.  They have free will and have got different plans.  In the zeitgeist of the day, they choose to remain together.  There’s power in numbers.  “Hey,” Nimrod says, “let’s build a ziggurat, a tower, by which we can approach God, and perhaps He’ll come down to us and do what we want.”  And that’s what they do.  Because, what is their grand purpose?  “Let us make a name for ourselves.”

In making that name, where does that leave God?  Playing second fiddle.  Nimrod and his crew wanted to elevate themselves above God.  Even though the Commandments hadn’t yet been given, they were already trespassing the First and Second.  God wasn’t supreme; man was in their eyes.  In fact, the idea of man above anything else had already become an idol for these people.

The Hebrew word for “takes” or “takes up” in the Third Commandment is nasa.  It means to bear or to magnify or exalt oneself.  In other words, the Third Commandment could read a little differently, such as:

“You shall not bear the name of the Lord your God or exalt yourself with His Name, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in this manner.”

What God was telling His people, then and now, is that we are not God.  We have no right to think in any way that we can take His place.  If we lift up ourselves to His level, we’re committing a heinous offense.  God wants all to know that He alone is God and no one who presumes upon His sovereignty will escape unpunished.  In fact, what did God do to Nimrod’s people for this offense?  He scattered them.  In so doing, He placed His divine sons over them so He wouldn’t have to deal with them directly (Deuteronomy 32:8).  All mankind other than Israel at that point (Deuteronomy 32:9) was in outer darkness with no more direct contact with their Creator.  God effectively divorced all nations other than Israel until He was ready to bring them back to Him.

Let’s briefly think about how this Babel incident and taking up God’s Name plays out today.  What is the objective of Eastern religions—of New Age thought?  All is one.  Everything is composed of the same spiritual matter.  We are all God because our essence is that of all things in the universe.  There is no separation between a transcendent God and man.  Through a little work, and several million incarnations, we, too, can achieve or ascend to that position of God and actually realize it like Jesus, the supreme ascended master.

Those who follow this hollow occult philosophy have taken up the Name of God, bearing it and magnifying themselves above the One true God.

Should we avoid using God’s Name as a curse?  Of course, because it’s dishonoring to Him.  But the deeper implications of this Commandment reflect the world as it is today.  Jesus is indeed a cuss word and self is exalted.  God warned Ancient Israel against this heresy, and He warns us today.  Let us not magnify ourselves over Him.  He will not hold us blameless.

Instead, may our heart position be one of lifting up the Name of God through His Son Jesus Christ, for He alone is worthy.

Prophecy Update: Convergence Increasing

The hot word among those who watch the signs of the times is convergence.  It’s a good word.  The definition basically means the movement toward a point of conclusion.  In the case of Bible prophecy, it’s where all the disparate strands of God’s end times fragments come together for His final judgment upon the earth.  It’s like the master chess player moving his pieces in for the kill: checkmate.  You lose.  In this case, the losers—to put it bluntly—are those who oppose God.  Vengeance is finally His.

In the last several weeks a number of these elements rose up enough to catch my attention.  These are only a few of the many items, but they all add up.  Every week we could probably report on matters like this with a similar article.  Here they are in no particular order.

A July Washington Institute article discussed how Iran and Turkey are cozying up to each other much more than in the past because of their mutual interests.  We know the ultimate mutual interest is the destruction of Israel that will be attempted in Ezekiel’s War articulated in Ezekiel 38-39.  Lately, however, Ankara has moved to resolve tensions with Teheran over Iran’s nuclear program by backing the Iranian government over the protests of its people and by coming alongside it as sanctions have increased.  Turkey actually expressed outrage at the attempt to cut off Iranian oil exports.  Is this simply altruism on Turkey’s part?  Of course not.  Turkey has revival of the Ottoman Empire on its mind, so it’s hoping that Iran will buoy it in its regional objectives of political and economic power.

From the Middle East we move to Yellowstone Park, as noted by Fox News commenting on an August New York Times op-ed.  Apparently, there’s a supervolcano beneath Yellowstone just waiting to erupt and unleash its fury upon unsuspecting humanity.  In fact, there are 20-some supervolcanos lying in wait under the planet.  Just one of these erupting would be “the greatest catastrophe since the dawn of civilization” according to the European Science Foundation.  Yellowstone and its counterparts are the epitome of an ultra-catastrophe because of their potential to destroy all human life.  Jesus spoke of this in warning of the times to come in Luke 21:11, so the rise of these life-threatening planetary horrors is no surprise:

There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.

Further west we go to Silicon Valley and the giant tech firms.  According to the media outlet AFP, a study originating from the Dutch NGO Pax quotes these companies as “putting the world at risk of killer AI.”  Through the killer robot developments that Amazon, Microsoft, and Intel are working on, these lethal autonomous weapons in various related military project have the potential to sow much chaos in the future.  Pax says these Artificial Intelligence entities “could decide to kill people without direct human involvement.”  Pick a prophecy relating to this scenario.  Among others, we could certainly point toward the Sixth Seal Judgment in Revelation 9:13-19, which could be demonic in nature, AI robots run amuck, or a combination of these.  Regardless, this will be an ugly time for unbelieving humanity:

Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number. And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur, and the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths. By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths. For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound.

Finally, we come to our financial analyst Jim Rickards, whom I’ve noted previously has a good handle from the secular side that economic catastrophe is coming.  In my last Prophecy Update, I reported that Mr. Rickards was looking at a new Axis of Gold.  Here, he’s predicting that many factors are lining up for a “Perfect Storm.”   We know what that is from the movie of the same name some years ago, which depicted the plight of some fisherman caught in it off the coast of Nova Scotia.  Just like in that instance, things appeared peaceful prior to its development, so too is what Rickards is saying will happen in the financial realm.

Rickards uses very interesting language in his June Strategic Intelligence newsletter.  In recounting prior financial meltdowns, he says, “Here’s one thing I learned: Every one of these episodes was preceded by mass complacency or euphoria…The worst panics are always preceded by a sense that nothing can go wrong.”

Biblically, to review, here’s what Jesus said in Matthew 24:37-39:

For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 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, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

What are the items leading to the perfect storm?  Rickards lists three, just as there were three in the 1991 disaster:

  1. The effort by the Democrats to impeach President Trump
  2. The socialist-progressive tilt in the 2020 presidential race
  3. The fallout from the Mueller report

Without getting into those here, again the verbiage that Rickards uses dovetails our thesis: “These components are independent of each other, but are at high risk of convergence in the coming months.”  These developments are brewing, the waters are being stirred.  Currently, they’re with us but in the background.  The economy is humming along, on the surface.  Interest rates are low, as is unemployment.  People are going about their lives, in a sense, enjoying the fruit of President Trump’s policies.  The times of Noah and Lot seem to be upon us.  But, as Rickards says, “A storm with no name is coming.”

What could that storm be?  We who love and look forward to the glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ believe that storm upon the earth will come as a result of the Rapture of Christ’s true church; those who are faithful, those who believe, those who follow hard after their Lord and Savior will be whisked away into the clouds.

The signs are indeed converging.  We don’t know when these myriad events will come to a head with Jesus returning for His bride, but we know they’re pointing to a time that is rapidly approaching.  We wait with bated breath.