Posts Tagged 'rapture'

Panic Podcast – Thessalonians, Part 10

It’s snowing today, so say a prayer for me.  Did I ever mention how much I hate snow?

We are wrapping up our in-depth study of First Thessalonians, so do open your Bibles up to chapter 5 of this great letter.


Our Glorious Salvation, 5


Our Ultimate Salvation

Salvation has three aspects: past, present, and future. Another way to put it: we were saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved. We were saved by the finished work of Jesus on His Cross. We are being saved by the ministry of Jesus now, in heaven. But there is a future aspect to our salvation: we will be saved. What does that entail? We will be saved. From what? From whom? Let’s find out.

Philippians 3:20, 21

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3:20-21 | NIV84)

In these two verses, Paul teaches us something very profound that others take volumes to say. It’s the “now but not yet” idea. It may not feel like it, but if you are a Christian you are already living in heaven in the sense that your citizenship is there. A look verse 20 in the KJV shows us something interesting:

For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ… (Philippians 3:20 | KJV)

“Conversation” is how the KJV translates the Greek word politeuma, which actually means “citizenship” or “commonwealth.” If you closely at the Greek word, you see part of the word “politics.” Why did the KJV use a work like “conversation,” then? In Elizabethan English, the word “conversation” meant a lot more than talking or speech. It had to do with how one lived in society; how they conducted themselves as citizens in an organized society. As citizens of Heaven, we are just living here on earth temporarily, but subject to the laws governing Heaven. Our conduct should be the kind of conduct befitting citizens of Heaven, even though we aren’t actually there yet. It’s the “now but not yet” idea.

This idea gives us a clue about the future aspect of our salvation. We are citizens of Heaven, therefore we are already participating in and enjoying many of the benefits of the heavenly life, and yet we aren’t enjoying that heavenly life in actuality yet. Our salvation will be complete when that happens. Verse 21 tells us what Jesus will do to make that happen: He will transform our bodies, making them suitable for living in Heaven. When Jesus descended to live in our world, He had to have a body like ours; His heavenly body was not at all suited to our world. When He returned to Heaven, His body transformed back, more or less, to the way it was. Similarly, our earthly bodies are made for living here; they must be changed, as Jesus’ was, to bodies fit for heaven. Our future salvation, then, involves our bodies. When Christ saved us, He saved all of us!

1 Corinthians 15:50-58

I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed–in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:50-53 | NIV84)

You hear these verses all the time at funerals, but they should be read more often because they are full of theology to encourage the weary believer. Paul makes it clear why a “transformation” of our bodies must take place. Our mortal bodies – our present humanity – can’t go into Heaven any more than we can go into space without a space suit. Our bodies as they are constituted now are made to wear out and break down, which explains why they can’t go into Heaven, a place where life never ends. They must, therefore, be changed into something that will never wear out or break down. This is why the unsaved can’t set foot in Heaven at all and why the saved must have their bodies changed.

The “mystery” Paul refers to is the believer’s resurrection body. That whole idea was a mystery to the Corinthians, it may not be mystery to you, though. Looking at the “mystery” in detail, we can see three parts to it:

(1) Not all Christians will be dead when Jesus returns. Some will be alive when that event happens.

According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thessalonians 4:15 | NIV84)

(2) All Christians will receive new bodies when Christ comes back and calls His people to Himself. This will happen at the Rapture, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17.

(3) The change will happen in an instant to Christians who are alive and those who have already passed.

This will be a victorious event in the life of believers. We don’t think about it often, but death is an ever-present reality that robs us of part of the life God has given us: our physical lives. What kind of salvation saves only our souls and spirits (minds)? God made us whole beings and He saves us wholly. Defeating death means eliminating what death does to us. Jesus will literally stop the reign of death as it relates to Christians and reverse what it has done to them.

1 Peter 1:3-9

Peter’s first letter was written to a number of churches facing horrible persecution.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1 Peter 1:6 | NIV84)

These were second generation Christians; people who, unlike the apostles and original disciples, had never seen Jesus. In spite of that, they were wholly dedicated to their Lord. In the midst of these trials, it is significant that Peter encourages them with words like these:

…who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:2 | NIV84)

The very fact that they had been “chosen” implies purpose. And purpose presupposes a plan. Couple that with God’s “foreknowledge,” and these suffering saints had to know what Peter knew: God had a plan for them in spite of their present difficulties. That plan has an air of permanence about it:

…and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:4-5 | NIV84)

They may be suffering right now. They may have lost possessions and even loved ones, but what God has waiting for them will never be taken from them. Not governments, thieves, nor death will be able to take away the believer’s ultimate inheritance.

Above all else, these believers – and all believers, for that matter – need to keep the faith. Trials, like the ones Peter’s friends were undergoing, come along from time to time to test our faith. These “tests” are not for the purpose of “passing or failing” believers. These tests serve to keep our faith on the promise and the One who made it. Max Lucado expresses it this way:

Jesus gives us hope because He keeps us company, has a vision, and knows the way we should go.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Unlike Peter’s letter, Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians was written very early in the Church’s history, during the first missionary journey in fact. It was written to correct some false teaching and ideas that had come into that church after Paul, Silas, and Timothy had left. It seems these Thessalonian Christians had some doubts about believers who had died. Convinced as they were about the soon-coming of Jesus, they wondered what would happen to those deceased Christians? Some believed that those unfortunates would miss out on the glories and blessings of the Second Coming. To help them understand what happens to the dead in Christ (Christians who had died, in other words), Paul goes on to tell them about a revelation he received from Christ.

According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thessalonians 4:15 | NIV84)

There will be a distinct order of events. In terms of the believer’s ultimate salvation – that of his body – the dead in Christ will be called up first, followed almost immediately by those who are still alive at the “event.” This event is the rapture, and during this event all believers, those who have died and those who are alive, will receive their new, heaven-suited bodies.

This event, and in particular the teaching that all believers will receive new bodies, is the final and ultimate proof that, as William Barclay wrote, God cares.

Revelation 19:1-3

After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah!Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments.He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries.He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” (Revelation 19:1-2 | NIV84)

This great moment of worship in Heaven takes place during the Tribulation, a period of God’s judgments on earth. At this time, God will pour out His wrath on all ungodly rebellion, and this will be the cause of great rejoicing in Heaven. It’s not pain and suffering or even vengeance, but rather perfect justice; God’s straightening out a crooked world, that motivates the saints to celebrate.

This, too, is part of salvation. Just as God created our bodies and will deliver them from the effects of sin, so it will be with the world. God created the world and when Jesus returns, He will begin the work of restoring it; of reversing what sin has done to it.

Revelation 19:4-9

Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” (Revelation 19:9 | NIV84)

The motivation for this great interlude of worship and celebration in Heaven is God’s actions on earth, but soon the worship moves from what is being done to the One responsible; the One sitting on the throne and to another event in Heaven: the union (“marriage”) of the Lamb (Christ) and His bride (all the saints of God).

This is the believer’s ultimate salvation; the culmination of his salvation. As close as we may get to Christ now, when our salvation is made complete we will be united to Him in a spiritual union impossible to conceive of with our finite, flesh-bound minds. The Bible writers use the term “marriage,” which describes the closest possible union two human beings may enter into, to describe how close our final union to Christ will be.  All believers should look forward to this great day, when our faith becomes reality.

Three Appearances of Jesus, 4


In all, Jesus will make three appearances, each corresponding to an aspect of our salvation.  His first appearance on earth as a baby in a manger brought God’s plan of salvation down to man from the Father.  His second appearance was in Heaven, after His death, resurrection and ascension.  There, Jesus makes intercession for His people, maintaining their salvation.  Our Lord’s third and final appearance will be when He returns to earth in power and glory.  This will be the consummation of our salvation.

When Jesus returns to earth, He will be returning with His saints.  Let’s take a moment to distinguish Jesus’ returning with His saints and His coming for them.

Some results when He comes for His people 

We call this event the Rapture.  Jesus will appear in the clouds for His people, but He won’t touch down on earth.  His purpose will be to remove believers from the earth just prior to the Tribulation, a period of seven years during which God will pour out His wrath on the nations of the world in judgment.  He will also bring Israel to its knees, metaphorically speaking, for the purpose of bringing them into His family.  Given the main purposes for the Tribulation, there is no need for the Church to be here.  Even so, during this time there will be many converts to Christ; great revivals will break out and even in the midst of God’s judgments, the Gospel will be preached.

Here’s what will happen when Jesus comes for His people:

The resurrection of the dead in Christ. 

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a mighty shout and with the soul-stirring cry of the archangel and the great trumpet-call of God. And the believers who are dead will be the first to rise to meet the Lord.   (1 Thessalonians 4:16  TLB)

What a stirring passage of Scripture!  The Lord Himself – not an angel – will step out of heaven to personally call His people to Himself.  He won’t be sending surrogates get His people.  When He returns to establish His kingdom on earth, He will send His angels to do the ground work, but He will be the One gathering His people.

He will descend with a “mighty shout.”  Jesus didn’t do a lot of shouting during His time on earth, but He did shout at Lazarus to come out of the tomb.  There will also be the “soul-stirring cry of the archangel” and the “great trumpet-call of God.”   It is Jesus who will be commanding the “dead in Christ” to rise.  His voice alone will be orchestrating the events on earth.   This is what Revelation refers to as “the first resurrection.”  The apostle Paul wanted to part of this group:

So whatever it takes, I will be one who lives in the fresh newness of life of those who are alive from the dead.  (Philippians 3:11  TLB)

The transformation of the living.

Then we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up…  (1 Thessalonians 4:17a  TLB)

As the Lord descends, the saints will ascend to meet Him in the air.  That phrase, “caught up,” is from the Greek verb harpazo, meaning, “to seize and carry off speedily, to catch away.”  This is where we get the term, rapture.  There will be a glad reunion with the departed and resurrected loved ones:

Then we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever.  (1 Thessalonians 4:17  TLB) 

It is here that this event will occur:

It will all happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For there will be a trumpet blast from the sky, and all the Christians who have died will suddenly become alive, with new bodies that will never, never die; and then we who are still alive shall suddenly have new bodies too.  For our earthly bodies, the ones we have now that can die, must be transformed into heavenly bodies that cannot perish but will live forever.  (1 Corinthians 15:52, 53  TLB) 

What a marvelous day this will be.  It will be an orderly event:  the dead will be raised first, followed by the living.  That last phrase is, to me, the most exciting one:  and remain with him forever.  Nothing and no one will be able to take us away from our Lord.  Little wonder Paul said this:

So comfort and encourage each other with this news.  (1 Thessalonians 4:18  TLB)

The things we’ve been talking about shouldn’t terrify or confuse any believer.  The teaching of the end times, and in particular the rapture, should be a comfort to all believers.  That word “comfort” also means “exhort.”  Believes are to talk about these things to comfort, in the traditional sense, but also to exhort each other.  Jesus will be taking His Church out of the earth one of these days, ready or not.  The dead will be lifted out of their graves first, followed by the living and together we will be standing with the Lord, in His presence forever.  In fact, we will be coming back with Him to the earth when He physically, literally and visibly returns to earth.

Some results when Jesus appears with His people.

Jesus will have a job to do when He comes back.  He will –

Manifest His own. 

Part of living right is thinking right.  According to Paul, one motivation for living and thinking right is the prospect of a glorious future:

And when Christ who is our real life comes back again, you will shine with him and share in all his glories.  (Colossians 3:4  TLB)

Part of our glorious future will be our manifestation alongside Christ when He returns.  He second coming will be full of majesty and splendor, and we will be right there, in the midst of it.  Lightfoot’s ancient comments still make you shiver:

The veil which now shrouds your higher life from others, and even partly from yourselves, will be withdrawn.  The world which persecutes, despises, ignores now, will then be blinded with the dazzling glory of the revelation.  

Punish the disobedient. 

And so I would say to you who are suffering, God will give you rest along with us when the Lord Jesus appears suddenly from heaven in flaming fire with his mighty angels, bringing judgment on those who do not wish to know God and who refuse to accept his plan to save them through our Lord Jesus Christ.  They will be punished in everlasting hell, forever separated from the Lord, never to see the glory of his power…  (2 Thessalonians 1:7 – 9  TLB)

This is not an insignificant thing that Jesus will do.  Right now, we see criminals and evil doers getting away with it.  The justice system seems to be a joke and the perpetrators of crimes seem to get more consideration than the victims.  But we are assured that when Jesus comes back, He will mete out perfect justice.  Nobody will be getting away with anything.

Closely related to His punishment of those who are disobedient, will be what happens to the nations of this world.

Judge the nations. 

But when I, the Messiah, shall come in my glory, and all the angels with me, then I shall sit upon my throne of glory.  And all the nations shall be gathered before me. And I will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and place the sheep at my right hand, and the goats at my left.  (Matthew 25:31 – 33  TLB)

The grip nations have on their citizens and their ungodly rule of this world will finally be broken as our Lord calls them to account for the godlessness.

Restore Israel. 

No, God is not finished with Israel.  Not by a long shot.  Some churches teach something called Replacement Theology, which says that God is done with Israel and that the Church has taken its place.  Therefore, all the promises made to Israel may now be claimed by the Church.  That’s not only bad theology, it’s anti-Semitic.  When Jesus returns He will completely restore national Israel.  It will finally be the nation God always intended it to be.

The Lord will defend the people of Jerusalem; the weakest among them will be as mighty as King David! And the royal line will be as God, like the Angel of the Lord who goes before them!  For my plan is to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.  Then I will pour out the spirit of grace and prayer on all the people of Jerusalem. They will look on him they pierced, and mourn for him as for an only son, and grieve bitterly for him as for an oldest child who died.  (Zechariah 12:8 – 20  TLB)

I want you to know about this truth from God, dear brothers, so that you will not feel proud and start bragging. Yes, it is true that some of the Jews have set themselves against the Gospel now, but this will last only until all of you Gentiles have come to Christ—those of you who will.  And then all Israel will be saved. Do you remember what the prophets said about this? “There shall come out of Zion a Deliverer, and he shall turn the Jews from all ungodliness.  At that time I will take away their sins, just as I promised.”  (Romans 11:25 – 27  TLB) 

Destroy the Antichrist. 

The Antichrist will be, and he may already be, a real person.  He will be the big political leader during the Tribulation.

Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army.  But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.  (Revelation 19:19, 20  TLB)

Rule the nations. 

Our Lord will judge the nations but He won’t destroy them; He will rule them.  The world will – and even today already is – desperate for a political savior; that one brilliant politician who will make everything right and undo all the damage done by previous leaders.  The fact is, only Jesus will be able to do this.

In his days may the righteous flourish and prosperity abound till the moon is no more.   May he rule from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.  (Psalm 72:7, 8  TLB) 

The Lord will be king over the whole earth.  On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.  (Zechariah 14:9  TLB)

Some signs of signs of His coming. 

While there are no signs for when the rapture may occur – it could have happened any time in the past and can happen any time in the future – there are many, many signs that will point to the Second coming of Jesus.

We know that the Bible does not teach that the Church will convert the world.  That just isn’t going to happen.  We know that the world will be in terrible shape just before Christ comes.  Things may be bad now, but imagine how things will be with the Church it taken out of the way?  All the horrible things that will take place during the seven-year Tribulation will be the signs pointing to Christ’s return.

The preaching of the Gospel. 

Yes, even though the Church will be taken away, many people will come to know Jesus during the Tribulation and they will take the message of salvation all over the world.

And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it, and then, finally, the end will come.  (Matthew 24:14  TLB)

Of course, the Gospel  has been preached since the days of the Apostles, and it’s being preached today.  But during the Tribulation, with the convergence of Bible prophecy and the knowledge that supernatural events are occurring, many will find the Lord and preach the Gospel in spite of the danger.  There will be many martyrs during this time, but if history teaches us anything, it’s that the more pressure the world exerts against believers, the harder they pushback.  The Gospel will be preached around the world like never before.

The budding fig tree, Israel. 

Then he gave them this illustration: “Notice the fig tree, or any other tree. When the leaves come out, you know without being told that summer is near. In the same way, when you see the events taking place that I’ve described you can be just as sure that the Kingdom of God is near.  (Luke 21:29 – 31 TLB) 

The fig tree is symbolic of the nation of Israel.  God doesn’t keep time with a Timex.  If you want to know how far along we in God’s prophetic timetable, look to the nation of Israel.

This parable is found in all three Synoptics, but is most complete in Matthew 24.  The fig tree represents Israel.  Her revival will be the harbinger of the Messiah’s return.

Perilous times. 

You may as well know this too, Timothy, that in the last days it is going to be very difficult to be a Christian.  (2 Timothy 3:1  TLB) 

Then there will be strange events in the skies—warnings, evil omens and portents in the sun, moon and stars; and down here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides.  The courage of many people will falter because of the fearful fate they see coming upon the earth, for the stability of the very heavens will be broken up.  Then the peoples of the earth shall see me, the Messiah, coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  So when all these things begin to happen, stand straight and look up! For your salvation is near.  (Luke 21:25 – 28  TLB) 

Perilous is a good word to describe the days just preceding the Second Coming, for sure!

The cry of the Bridegroom’s friends. 

And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.  (Matthew 25:6  KJV) 

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night…  (2 Peter 3:10a  KJV)

We don’t know when the rapture will occur and we don’t know when Jesus will come again, but the fact of His coming is settled in Scripture.  He is coming.  And He will be here when the world is least expecting Him.

We aren’t in the Tribulation yet, no matter how bad circumstances may be, but even now the signs pointing to His return are obvious to those of us who are looking.  The way things are going, with all the violence and uncertainty all over the world, now more than ever, all believers should lift up their heads, and know that their redemption draweth nigh.

The Three Appearances of Jesus, 3


The second coming of Christ to the earth, which is the third appearance of Jesus, begins with the rapture of the saints (the “blessed hope” of the Church), followed by the visible, literal, and physical return of Christ to the earth with His saints, where He will rule and reign for one thousand years.  This period is known as the Millennium and, among other things, will bring national Israel into God’s family and establish universal peace.

That paragraph, which large chunks of the Church believes, has caused a lot of theological violence over the years thanks in part to the adherence of certain denominations to something called The Westminster Confession of Faith which is a wonderful document written by men in an attempt to systematize and categorize the elements of Christian doctrine.  It’s a worthy attempt at this but, as worthy as this document is, it is necessarily flawed as it written by man.  The WCF (as it is known) devotes a scant sentence or two to the doctrine of the Second Coming.   Since the document fails to mention the rapture, the Millennium, and other Biblical elements of eschatology, churches that wholly embrace it  will have nothing to do with them.  In fact, sometimes, they are downright nasty in their opposition to them.  For some unfathomable reason  they feel positively threatened by people who hold to this orthodox, historical version of Eschatology.

Before going any further, let me assure those who may hold to a different view of Eschatology that I am not your enemy!  I have no war with you, nor do I think any less of you.  I think the WCF is an awesome document.  However, when it comes to doctrine and theology, I am of the opinion that it is better to go to the best document available:  the Holy Bible.  It’s helpful to know what others think the Bible says, but it’s essential to know what Bible says.  No Christian needs the Westminster Divines, John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Wesley, me or any other great or near-great Christians to tell them what and how to think.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  (2 Timothy 3:16  NIV) 

With that out of the way, let’s discuss an unnecessarily hotly disputed point.  Will our Lord return before or after the Millennium?  There are those who say He will return before the Millennium; that He is One who establishes the Millennium.  Others teach that Jesus will return after the Millennium.  Still others – hold on to your seats – teach that we are in the Millennium right now.  The Bible contains the truth, and that’s what we need to know.  According to the Good Book, what will the world look like when Christ returns?  What will be the condition of man at the moment He returns?

The testimony of the prophets, Daniel 12:1, 2 

“At that time Michael, the mighty angelic prince who stands guard over your nation, will stand up and fight for you in heaven against satanic forces, and there will be a time of anguish for the Jews greater than any previous suffering in Jewish history. And yet every one of your people whose names are written in the Book will endure it.  And many of those whose bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”  (TLB)

These two verses seem to put to death the notion that we are in the Millennium right now.  This is what society will look like at the tail end of the Great Tribulation, just before the Jesus returns.  We know this because Jesus used language just like this to describe world conditions just prior to His return.  But here, Daniel’s vision concerns his people, the Jews.  It will be a dark time for them “at that time,” a phrase that designates the end of the end times.  It will be a time of unparalleled anguish and suffering.   Obviously there will be no utopia on earth.

What the Gospels say

The Second Coming of Jesus will be preceded by a time of terrible distress on earth that will touch both Jew and Gentile.

Then there will be strange events in the skies—warnings, evil omens and portents in the sun, moon and stars; and down here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides.  The courage of many people will falter because of the fearful fate they see coming upon the earth, for the stability of the very heavens will be broken up.  Then the peoples of the earth shall see me, the Messiah, coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  (Luke 21:25–27  TLB) 

The kingdom of God, which is by definition “God’s rule and reign,” is here now but will be consummated and fully established at our Lord’s second coming.  To look at the what the world is like now,  it’s hard to imagine that the Lord “ruling and reigning!”  But He is.  Matthew 13 gives us a realistic view of the pathetic state of the kingdom of God as it is constituted right now.  It will be even worse just before Christ returns.

Let both grow together until the harvest, and I will tell the reapers to sort out the thistles and burn them, and put the wheat in the barn.  (Matthew 13:30  TLB) 

That’s the tail-end of a parable which tells of a farmer’s wheat field that has been infested with weeds.  The workers wanted to go out and pull all the weeds but the owner of the field, God, told His workers to hold off.  Pulling weeds – judging between saint and sinner – is not the job of the workers.  The point of that parable is that in the kingdom now are many who don’t belong here.  Just look at the state of the Christian church today.  It’s hard to know who the players are without a program!

When I return the world will be as indifferent to the things of God as the people were in Noah’s day.  They ate and drank and married—everything just as usual right up to the day when Noah went into the ark and the Flood came and destroyed them all.  And the world will be as it was in the days of Lot: people went about their daily business—eating and drinking, buying and selling, farming and building—until the morning Lot left Sodom. Then fire and brimstone rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.  Yes, it will be ‘business as usual’ right up to the hour of my return.  (Luke 17:26 – 30  TLB) 

The key words in what Jesus said are:  “Noah’s day” and “days of Lot.”  In case you forgot, neither of those days were particularly good days!  Sin was rampant.  In fact, man had deteriorated to such a state that God had no choice but to execute a devastating judgment.  In the case of Noah’s day, all life on earth was destroyed, save for the life aboard the ark.  In Lot’s day, the sinful inhabitants of a whole valley were killed.

Yes, the world was at its worst during the days of Noah and Lot.  No, things will not get better and better before the Lord returns.  It’s clear things will get worse and worse.

“But the question is: When I, the Messiah, return, how many will I find who have faith and are praying?”  (Luke 18:9  TLB) 

That’s a rhetorical question Jesus asked.  The self-evident answer is “None.”  In other words, faith will be in very short supply when Jesus comes back.

What the letters say 

It’s not only Jesus who talked about His second coming.  Paul did.  Here’s a sampling:

But the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some in the church will turn away from Christ and become eager followers of teachers with devil-inspired ideas.  These teachers will tell lies with straight faces and do it so often that their consciences won’t even bother them.  (1 Timothy 4:1, 2  TLB) 

There has always been false teaching in the church, but it’s rampant today.  But then you can’t have false teachers in the church without eager listeners and followers in the pews.  Today’s Christian is so Biblically illiterate, it’s a sad testimony to members of my profession.  Today’s Christian will believe just anything!  They have no discernment and no understanding of or even desire to understand deeper spiritual things.  They don’t know what they don’t know.  They have itchy ears and will follow anybody whose teaching makes them feel good.

For people will love only themselves and their money; they will be proud and boastful, sneering at God, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful to them, and thoroughly bad.  They will be hardheaded and never give in to others; they will be constant liars and troublemakers and will think nothing of immorality. They will be rough and cruel, and sneer at those who try to be good. They will betray their friends; they will be hotheaded, puffed up with pride, and prefer good times to worshiping God.  They will go to church, yes, but they won’t really believe anything they hear. Don’t be taken in by people like that.  (2 Timothy 3:2 – 5  TLB) 

That’s not an editorial from “Christianity Today!”  It IS Christianity today, as seen from a vantage point of some 2,000 years ago.  Jesus once said that His church would prevail; that even the gates of Hell wouldn’t stand against it.  He was right; Hell won’t wreck the church because church members are doing a good job of that on their own.

First, I want to remind you that in the last days there will come scoffers who will do every wrong they can think of and laugh at the truth.  This will be their line of argument: “So Jesus promised to come back, did he? Then where is he? He’ll never come! Why, as far back as anyone can remember, everything has remained exactly as it was since the first day of creation.”  (2 Peter 3:3, 4  TLB) 

When there is no respect for the teachings of Scripture or the institutions of faith, people stop taking the doctrines of faith seriously.  Naturally we see this occurring in the world all the time; that shouldn’t surprise us at all.  But we are starting to see it happening in the church.  Bible teachers and pastors making fun of those of us who take Bible prophecy seriously; questioning the intelligence of their fellows who are doing exactly what the Bibles admonishes Christians to do:  watch and pray.

Once again, I ask the question: Why is knowing this important?  A lot of Christians think it isn’t.  They think it’s a foolish waste of time talking about future events that they don’t even think will happen.  And even if they are going happen in the future, what of it?  How does what will happen effect us in the here and now?  Don’t we have enough trouble today?

What we’ve been looking at today is what theologians call “the Tribulation.”  It will be period of seven years preceding the Second Coming.  It’s important to know about this time of God’s wrath because the Bible has a lot to say about it.  To dismiss the Tribulation is to dismiss large portions of the Old Testament, including whole books.  It is to dismiss the Word of the Lord to His people.  It is to dismiss significant teachings of Jesus – the Olivet Discourse – and most of the book of Revelation.  Understanding the Tribulation is to understand why “the Gospel of the kingdom” is so important and even what it is.  To dismiss the Tribulation is to dismiss God’s people, the Jews.  God’s purpose for Israel as far as the Tribulation goes is to bring about their conversion so that they may finally receive the promised blessings of prophecies dating back to Abraham.

But not only is the Tribulation vital to the future of Israel, it also demonstrates that God knows what’s going on today.  God will be judging the nations during this seven year period.  They will be judged because of their ungodliness.  This is not unimportant.  Just look around at what the nations of the world are doing:  killing innocent people; oppressing others; stealing wealth they’re not entitled to; passing laws robbing their own citizens of freedom, religious and otherwise.  They have to be punished; somebody has to hold them accountable for their atrocious actions.  God can’t give these nations a pass, and He won’t!

This is why knowing what will happen is so important.  God’s very character is at stake.  Without these seven years, God comes off looking uninformed, uncaring, uninvolved and disinterested in the world He created and the people He loves.

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