Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Timing of the Rapture

Jesus taught a pre-tribulation rapture.  He said, "And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.” (Luk 17:26-29)

The Day of the Lord Like the Days of Noah and Lot
Why did Jesus liken these two incidents to the day of the Lord? What did these two have in common with each other and with the return of Jesus Christ? The apostle Peter also used these same two examples in speaking about the day of the Lord (2Pe 1:19; 2:4-8; 3:4,10).

First, in both accounts, there was the presence of a minority of righteous people in the midst of a majority of wicked people.  Noah and his seven family members were amidst an entirely wicked world.  Lot and his two daughters were amidst a completely wicked city. 

Secondly, there was the salvation of the righteous and the destruction of the wicked.  Both the wrath of the wicked and the salvation were from God.  

Thirdly was the timing of the deliverance of the saints from God’s wrath. In other words, they were delivered, and then the wrath of God was poured out.  Only as soon as Noah entered the ark did God destroy all the wicked on the face of the earth.   Only as soon as Lot went out from Sodom did God destroy all the wicked of Sodom.  This does not mean we won’t suffer or go through very hard times.  Jesus said, “But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” (Luk 17:25).  The same is true of His disciples.  For Jesus said to the disciples, "The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.” (Luk 17:22).  This indicates there will be days when disciples of Christ want very much for the Lord to return, but His return does not happen as soon as they wish. The reason disciples would long to see His return is that mankind has become so completely wicked, and that they mistreat the saints, not because the wrath of God is being unleashed in the world. 

His discussion with them was all about “the days of the Son of Man,” which He mentioned explicitly four times:

And He said to the disciples, "The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.” (Luk 17:22)

"For just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day.” (Luk 17:24)

“And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man:” (Lk 17:26a)

"It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.” (Luk 17:30)

Don’t Look Back!
It was in that very context that He said "On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out; and likewise the one who is in the field must not turn back.” (Luk 17:31).  What does this mean?

In this discussion, in which He compared His return to the day Lot left Sodom, the rapture of the saints will be like Lot’s departure from the city.  Lot was saved and the city was destroyed.  He said those who look back would not be saved.  He used Lot’s wife as an example of those who do go into the house to take out their earthly goods or who turn away from the Lord’s appearing to go back to something else in the world.  He said, "Remember Lot's wife.” (Luk 17:32). Lot’s wife was not saved, because she looked back.  She turned into a pillar of salt.  That’s what the Lord meant when He said we must not look back on that day when He is revealed at His coming (Lk 17:30-31).

God had made provision for Lot's wife to be saved.  Was it His fault that she wasn't?  No, it was a matter of her will.

The Lord explained that on the day He is revealed, some would in fact look back as Lot’s wife did, and He described the outcome of their action.  “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” (Luk 17:33).  The one who looks back will be destroyed, because he will seek to save his own life.  That’s why it is called the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. On the other hand, the one who loses His life will be saved and go up in the rapture.

Jesus taught plainly that some would be taken up in the rapture and others would be left.  I will quote the whole paragraph, but pay close attention to the last part, beginning with the words, “I tell you,” when He speaks of the two people in the same place who experience different outcomes. "It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out; and likewise the one who is in the field must not turn back. Remember Lot's wife. Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left. [Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left.]  (Luk 17:30-36; cf., Mt 24:40-41). 

He gave three examples that each described how two people in a similar situation would experience completely different outcomes.  First there are the two in the same bed, such as a husband and wife.  Then there are the two women grinding in the same place. And finally there are the two men in the same field.  In each instance, He said, “One will be taken and the other will be left.”  We know why one would be left behind, because He already said the one who looks back would be destroyed, since he would seek to save his own life. 

One Will Be Taken
There is no question that this passage is about the rapture that will occur on the day when Jesus is revealed just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, and shines to the other part of the sky.  All will see, but some will look back, because they love their life more.  He referred to the rapture when He said three times, “one will be taken” (Lk 17:34,35,36).  That phrase, “only one will be taken,” is very solemn.  It clearly indicated that not everyone would be taken, and not everyone would be spared from what would immediately follow the rapture.  The one who is not taken will experience a similar fate as the wicked of Noah’s day, the wicked people of Sodom, and Lot’s wife.  The one who is taken will experience a similar fate as Noah and his family, as well as Lot and his daughters.

The word “taken” is “paralambano” which means, “called to one side in an affectionate manner.” It means, “to receive near, that is, associate with oneself (in any familiar or intimate act or relation)” (Strongs).  Although various forms of Paralambano do occur in other places in the New Testament, the present indicative passive of Paralambano (paralambanetai) occurs only in this passage, which refers specifically to the coming of Jesus for His people.

In his book, Angels on Assignment, brother Roland Buck wrote about the time he asked the angel Gabriel about the return of Christ.  He stated: “And in that great calling, He is calling us as His bride to be with Him during that great joining of Christ to His church. 'Called to His side in an affectionate manner.' Then Jesus spoke to me and said that word was, 'Laid on the shelf, never to be used again.' I looked this up afterwards and it is true, it's used once. Paralambano if you care to look it up, you may. God said it. God did it. There is coming a time, real soon on God's calendar, it's almost here. I don't know how eternity relates to time but on God's calendar the countdown is almost finished.”

The apostle Paul said, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” (1Th 4:16-17).  This expression “will be caught up” comes from the word “harpazo” meaning “to seize (in various applications): - catch (away, up), pluck, pull, take (by force).” (Strongs). It’s talking about being suddenly “taken” as Jesus said would happen at His return. 

Where the Vultures Will Be Gathered
When Jesus had given the three examples of people in similar situations who would experience completely different outcomes, the disciples wanted to know where this would happen.  They asked, “Where, Lord?”  (Lk 17:37)

Jesus answered with a sort of riddle, and He said to them, "Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered." (Luk 17:37)  Vultures are scavengers that eat meat, and they almost exclusively eat the decaying meat of dead bodies.  They can literally smell a corpse from a mile away.  It's a myth that they circle over dead bodies.  When they locate a corpse, they quickly come down and gather upon it to pluck at the body with their beaks before other predators find it.  According to Melissa Mayntz in her article about vultures, she states: “While vultures eat mostly dead animals, they are capable of attacking and will often prey on extremely sick, wounded or infirm prey, especially if food has been scarce and there are no carcasses nearby.”

So we should ask, “What is the body that Jesus was referring to in this riddle?”  Jesus did not say a “dead body,” but simply “a body.” From the writings of the apostles, we know that the Church is the body of Christ.  We also know that the return of the Lord will not occur until there is first a great apostasy or falling away (2 Thes 2:3).  We know this is the Laodicean age of the church, when it has become “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Rev 3:17).  We could liken this to the very kind of body around which vultures would typically gather. 

So when you see a place where throngs of people are gathered around churches that have become apostate, and that are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, then you know that is the place Jesus was speaking when He said, “One will be taken and the other will be left.” 

Now in order to understand this, we need to realize that it is the Lord Himself who views the Laodicean Church as wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, but the Church itself does not see itself that way.  Rather, it says, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing."  So when you see a lukewarm, apostate Church that is rich, wealthy, thinks it has need of nothing, and yet is popular, drawing crowds, you have found the place where this will occur.  Only some of those among the crowds of people in these churches will be taken up in the rapture.   The ones that look back at the world, who love their lives, and seek to hold onto their earthly possessions will be left behind.

Why would people be drawn to such churches, as we see crowds of people doing today?  Peter describes the preachers in these churches like this: “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” (2Pe 2:1-3).  Peter added, “…They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness…These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.” (2Pe 2:13-19).

The preachers of these apostate churches that have become so popular are false prophets who introduce destructive heresies, reveling in their deceptions, even denying the Master who bought them.  They are full of sensuality, having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; forsaking the right way. They exploit the saints with their false words. 

Paul gave the reason why such preachers would be so popular: “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,” (1Ti 4:1) “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” (2Ti 4:3-4)

Paul said the message of these preachers would be one of peace and safety, which everyone likes to hear.  “While they are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.” (1Th 5:3)

Like a Thief in the Night
The Lord warned the disciples (in this same discussion about His return) to be on the alert, since we don’t know which day our Lord is coming.  He is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.  He used the analogy of a thief in the night to show why we must be ready.

"Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.” (Mat 24:42-44)

However, the day of the Lord will only come as a thief in the night for those who are not ready.  That was the point of what Jesus said. 

Likewise, Jesus sent this message to the church in Sardis: "To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: 'I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 'Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. 'So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.’” (Rev 3:1-3)

The Lord warned the church in Sardis that since they were a dead church, if they did not repent and wake up, He would come like a thief. The dead church today must wake up and repent or else the Lord will come like a thief.

This is repeated again in Revelation: "Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame." (Rev 16:15)

For those who are alert and sober, who stay awake and keep their clothes on, the sudden nature of the Lord’s return will not overtake them like a thief.  Paul said, “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.” (1Th 5:4-6).  The key here is Paul’s admonition at the end to be alert and sober, just as the Lord warned the disciples.

Peter also spoke of that day as a thief in the night saying, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!” (2Pe 3:10-12)  Just as Paul admonished the saints to be alert and sober, Peter reminded the saints of the need for holy conduct and godliness.  There is action required on our part to be ready.  As Peter said, “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless…” (2Pe 3:14). 

Date Setting
Many people have set dates for the Lord’s return, yet they have all been wrong.  Jesus said "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” (Mat 24:36).  However, I think we will know when we are in the season for the Lord’s return, because Jesus taught that we must be able to interpret the signs of the times.

He said, "And in the morning, 'There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.' Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?” (Mat 16:3)

He also said, "Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.” (Mat 24:32-33)

I read the following excerpt from a conversation brother Yong-Doo Kim had with the Lord Jesus:

Brother Kim: My beloved Lord, thank you for your grace. Someone has stated that You will come when his/her grandchild is a teenager, specifically mid teens. Is he/she deluded?

Jesus: My beloved servant, if I disclose the date of my coming to some of my servants, then chaos will come upon the world. As I have stated in the Bible, I will come like a thief and no one will know. However, for those who are spiritually awaken, they will know that my coming is soon. They will not know the exact date but will know the season. They will suddenly realize the urgency of the coming. In that season, it will only be a matter of time.

It will not be years and days of prophesying that the gates of heaven are opening or if the archangels are blowing the trumpets. When I come for My bride, it will happen abruptly. For those spiritually awakened, when you are in a moment of prayer, suddenly, you will know and feel it spiritually through the spiritual realm that I am coming. All who are waiting and awakened will feel it together.

I do not state the date to any single person, otherwise, the world may become chaotic and disorder may follow. Therefore, a date will not be given. Only the Father knows the date. My beloved servants, if you only love Me and you are abiding in Me, you will never be bewildered for not knowing the date. 

The man of Lawlessness
One last thing I want to clarify is that the apostle Paul seemed to say the rapture would not occur until the man of lawlessness has been revealed.  He said, “…with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him…it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.” (2Th 2:1-4)

There was a time when I used to think I clearly understood the order in which end time events would happen.  However, I have since come to realize that I don’t have all the answers. We know in part. For example, take the tribulation.  Will it last seven years or three and a half years? Will only the last three and a half be considered the great tribulation?  Will the appearance of the man of lawlessness mark the beginning of the tribulation?  I am not going to attempt to answer all of these questions here.

However, I will say that I think the Great Tribulation is the time of God’s wrath on the wicked on the earth, and it is not God’s will for one of His children to go through that, in the same sense that it is not God’s will for any one to perish.  However, that does not mean nobody will ever perish, since man has a free will.  For the same reason, some professing Christians may go through the Great Tribulation, if they do not repent. 

But before the Great Tribulation, I think we will see days of suffering on the earth due to the wickedness of men, as I’ve already mentioned.  I also think that the man of lawlessness will be revealed while the saints are still on the earth, which would be prior to the beginning of the Great Tribulation.  First there will be the wrath of man, and I think the saints will experience that. I think the man of lawlessness will be a part of it. And before that is finished, then the rapture will occur and the wrath of God against the wicked will begin.

Putting it All Together
So Jesus did teach that the saints will be raptured before the Great Tribulation.  It's recorded right in the gospels.  We are not destined for the wrath of God.  That does not mean the saints will escape all suffering.  There will be suffering from the increase of wickedness on the earth, including persecution in the form of gross human rights abuses against Christians.   In fact, the man of lawlessness must be revealed before the coming of the Lord and our being gathered to Him.  But that is much different from the wrath of God.

On the other hand, not everyone will be taken.  Some will look back like Lot's wife and be left behind.  Others will go inside to get their earthly goods and be left behind.  Everyone who seeks to save his life will lose it.  This will happen where the vultures are gathered around a body that is sickly or dead.

Nobody knows the day or hour, so there should be no date setting.  But we will know the season of His coming.  There are many signs that indicate we are in the season of the rapture right now.

Yet the Lord will come at an hour when you do not expect.  That's why we must remain awake spiritually, alert, and ready for His return. We conduct ourselves in holiness and godliness.  We must repent of all known sin in our lives and seek the Lord.  Seek Him while He may be found.  Call on Him while He is near.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. The "Time is at Hand" painting © 2012 is by Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist.

Jjron at en.wikipedia, the copyright holder of the photo of the White-backed vultures (Gyps africanus) eating a dead wildebeest in Maasai Mara National Park, Kenya. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled GNU Free Documentation License.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, you  may also enjoy my children's poems The Time is Near and Make Your Bride Ready.  I also recommend my articles, The 311 Moment, Peace, Safety, and the Thief in the NightAre you Rapture Ready? and Holy Living in a Perverted World.  You may also visit our Signs of the Times Directory, and access my complete blog directory at Writing for the Master.  The following posts contain divine revelations given to seven different people regarding the rapture:

Rapture Revelation to Angelica Zambrano The Day of Our Lord’s Wedding is at Hand Rapture Revelation to Ayodelle Sawyerr

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

No comments:

Post a Comment