Now is the time to preach endurance not escape

April 22, 2020

Living in America, it is easy to develop a theology of escape, one that says, “When times really get hard, God will remove us from the scene. When real tribulation comes, we will be long gone.” But is that the attitude we should be encouraging? Is not the gospel made for hard times?

In the last decade, Christians in Syria suffered bombing, hunger, torture, exile, and death. They did not escape the hard times.

To this moment, Christians in Nigeria are being butchered and beheaded and raped and kidnapped. They have not escaped the hard times.

Some years ago, pastors in the state of Orissa in India were given a choice as gasoline was poured over their wives and children. Deny Jesus, and you all live; refuse, and your family will be burned alive in front of your eyes. They did not escape the hard times either.

In fact, throughout Church history, God’s people have experienced living hell in this world, and throughout history we have survived. What’s more, throughout history we have overcome and thrived. READ MORE:
 



                                      The “Rapture” Is it Fact or Fallacy?
  
 
Introduction:

Regretfully, a great majority of those under the banner of Jesus’ Name are ignorant to the reality that - hundreds of thousands of Christians worldwide are being tortured, beheaded, their homes and churches are being torn down to the ground. They are being burned alive, their daughters are being raped and sold to the highest bidders for sex slavery and forced into child marriages. It’s in our everyday news - many hide their eyes to the genocide is happening before our very eyes - some are burned alive, some are put into vats of acid, some crucified, and are being hunted down like wild animals and slaughtered.

Where is the outcry from the men of God - chosen to speak out about the atrocities and terrors perpetrated against those - who live under the banner of Yeshua’s Name? How many preachers have you heard speak to you about these crimes against Christians in their weekly sermons? How many Pastors have petitioned for their churches to be praying for the persecuted families in Jesus across this globe? There is a strange silence in most assemblies.
 
Why do you find most churches strangely silent about Christian tribulation - as if it isn’t happening?

I am totally convinced that many preachers are bound up and say nothing - because it would bring attention and apparent contradiction to what they have been teaching in their eschatological constructs. Namely - a doctrine called “the Rapture”. 

As we will discover in this study, there will definately be a separation and gathering of both the followers of Jesus - and those who had chosen to live out life - their own way.  One will be taken – the other left. Yeshua was very detailed in His discourse as to how - and when He would come back to gather up His Faithful. Let's look at the Bible and place the revelations

Friends – the Bible gives us a hope that someday in our future, a kingdom will come that is ruled in righteousness. One day - Yeshua will come back and we - along with those who had died - those believers in Him – will meet the Savior of the world in the air, and together - will be ushered into this new heaven and new earth where love and righteousness are the supreme rule. Until then, things are going to worsen for believers. It’s high time that we recognize this.

I’m saying this up front - I believe the Pre-Trib Rapture teaching to be one of the greatest insults to those precious souls dying on a daily basis for their faithfulness to Jesus. I will show you why I believe this to be true. It is my prayer that you will take an honest look with me at the evidence - that speaks volumes against this twisted eschatological fantasy. So now let’s check it out:

The paradigm of rapture - is the coming of Yeshua will take place in two separate stages. The first will be a secret rapture—or a carrying away of the saved to heaven—at the beginning - or middle of a seven-year period of tribulation, during which the antichrist will appear. The second phase of Yeshua’s Coming occurs at the close of tribulation - when Jesus will return to Earth in triumph and glory.

As Jesus comes down to swoop the believer away from suffering and great trouble - the Christian disappears. For all the world knows - the only trace evidence of this secret rapture - is found in the clothing left behind as they are whisked away - with the majority unaware of what had just happened.

Many out doing their daily routines and all of a sudden - poof – the believer darts into heaven - and the rest of the world are left behind to experience what they think is God’s Wrath - when in fact – it is Satan’s. This is the scenario taught among a wide base of Pastors, preachers and theologians.

Some of the Rapture Portraits believers have concocted up would be funny - if it weren’t for the very serious nature and consequences in believing in this maligned doctrine. Oh - by the way, it is a doctrine that you can trace back to the last couple of hundred years. The proponents of this teaching try to say the disciples and early church fathers believed in this sort of odd two phase coming of Jesus. However - Those willing to take a careful look at the Bible, will see that the rapture theory doesn’t stand up to the scrutiny of God’s Word.

In recent times, the rapture was popularized in the 1970s by “prophecy expert” Hal Lindsey. Hal wrote “The Late Great Planet Earth”- a book that outsold the Bible in the 1970s. Two other books – “the Rapture”- and “Vanished into Thin Air” - surfaced to promote and deepen this theological perversion. Oh - by the way, he postulated that Jesus would come back no later than 1988. That should have been a clue to someone.

From there others jumped on board. Jerry Jenkins and Tim Lahaye really popularized the rapture theory in their book “Left Behind”. “Left Behind” tells the story of the end times - in which true believers in Jesus have been "raptured", or (taken instantly to heaven) leaving the world shattered and chaotic.

Lahaye also became the founder and president of Tim LaHaye Ministries and founder of the Pre-Trib Research Center. He became very wealthy by promoting his concept on how the believers are “taken” to heaven before the great tribulation in the “great escape”.

According to the late Jerry Falwell, “In terms of its impact on Christianity, (Left Behind) - it’s probably greater than that of any other book in modern times, outside the Bible”

In my estimation – I believe it was - this series of popular books (Left Behind Series) that solidified the modern rapture teaching as truth - making it very popular one with most evangelical churches. It is interesting how Bible Teachers twisted the Scriptures to fit such an unbiblical - two phase - Second Coming narrative.


Let’s start here: This is the main passage used by Pre-Trib Teachers to support their doctrine:

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God - and the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then - we who are alive and remain shall be caught up (Raptured) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air… and thus, we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

Contextually, this passage is a conclusion to what the writer began -reassuring those who had lost loved ones should not grieve as one who has no hope – but – will see our deceased loved ones again, to those who had believed:

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

Then Paul explains exactly how this will happen chronologically:

“For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, we also believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him.”

Yes - he reaffirms to the readers that - we have a hope that one day, we will see our loved ones again! Those who have “fallen asleep” (died) will God bring up alive. They will be with Yeshua. Then he further explains - exactly how (chronologically) this will happen:

“According to the Lord's Word, we tell you that we who are still alive - who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede (go before) - those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15)

Please notice from this revelation – the “Rapture” will not be for us - who are alive on this Earth when He comes back – UNTIL – Jesus calls the dead up out of their graves. In our beginning text (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) we discovered these basic facts concerning the details of the “Rapture”:

1. The Coming Rapture will be a very audible event: He descends to Earth with a Shout - so loud - that the dead are going to wake up out of their sleep. Add to this: The Archangel’s Voice - loud enough for the whole world to hear. And the horn is going to blow: Yahweh’s Trumpet Blast - ushering us into His New Kingdom!

2. The focus of Yeshua’s First Reward will be to raise His believers to Eternal Life. Two groups are given His Attention when He Comes Back (the deceased - and the ones who endured until the end). Yahweh’s very first action will be to Resurrect those out of the ground who loved Him: “the dead in Jesus rise first”.

3. The next Order of Business for Our Savior is lined out very clearly. After the Resurrection of the Just, His focus then shifts to those who made it out alive. “Then” – after “the first resurrection”, He gives His Reward to those alive – transforming them from Mortal to Immortal.


4. After the Resurrection, the transformed will be “caught up to meet them (the resurrected dead) in the air”: Lets’ get this in order – the dead go up to meet Jesus in the air first – as then - “Jesus brings with Him” the incorruptible to re-unite the living - with the dead – both now clothed in immortality! We are meeting them both in the sky, Oh, what a happy reunion that will be! Not only that - but the real ecstasy will be:

“And so, we will be with the Lord forever.” (1 Thessalonians 4: 17)
In conclusion to this, the Apostle Paul sums it up by saying:

“Therefore comfort (encourage) one another with these words.” (v18)

We are admonished by Yahweh’s Word to instill hope - to those who have lost loved ones. For many – they live with no hope. They do not believe there is life beyond the grave. Many never get over the grief of losing a loved one - because they believe the dead are gone forever. However, a believer in Jesus has hope. According to what we have just examined, we will be together with the Lord Forever! This should both comfort and encourage us!

Some would have you believe that these Scriptures are giving us “comfort” because - the Rapture of the church happens before the great tribulation in these passages. That is reading into the text – something that is not there (eisegesis).

Here are the facts to build our understanding - 1) the resurrection happens first, 2) The “caught up” happens afterward.


When is the Resurrection?

With this definite sequence of truths, let’s discover what the Bible reveals about when the resurrection will happen. If we can determine the timing of the raising believers from the dead, then - we can ascertain when the believers are “caught up” afterward.

We understand the Apostle Paul declares that Yahweh’s Trumpet will blow as Yeshua comes to “reward each one according to their works” (Matthew 16:27). Let’s add to this, additional information concerning the Trumpet Blast that ushers in Eternal Life.

The Resurrected are raised at: “the Last Trumpet”:

“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 incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)

There is another dimension in this passage complementing the text in Thessalonians. This revelation shares with us the additional insight as to the “when” the Trumpet blows: “at the Last Trumpet”. Those who have studied the “trumpets”, recognize there are many Trumpet blast that will usher in Yahweh’s Kingdom – just before He arrives. In essence - resurrection ensues at the sound of the “Last” trumpet. Here are more details:

“For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (v.53) This instant transformation must take place – as it is written:

“Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” (1 Cor 15: 50)

"How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?" (v35)

“So, it will be with the resurrection of the dead: The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable…in a moment in the twinkling of an eye – at the Last Trumpet” (v42, 51)

“it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” (V.43)

“For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality - then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (V.53-54)

The most inconceivable-moment of excitement has arrived - when the reality of eternal life through Yeshua comes with a Pay-Day attached to it.!

Now that we have established that the dead are raised “at the Last Trumpet” – Let’s find out where we can find a “Last Trumpet” in another part of the Bible.

There are Seven Trumpets found in the Book of Revelation - His Warnings of Impending Judgment. Yes - there will be 6 Warnings to the Earth in the First Six Trumpets. But on the Seventh and Last One: that’s when the Righteous are rewarded. Payday has arrived:

“Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven (shout from Jesus, proclamation of the Archangel), saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.

This is the Day of Intervention. Now – He Destroys those who had destroyed the Earth and - the Restitution has arrived. Yeshua becomes King and will Reign with Righteousness Forever! This is when it will all take place - at the Last Trumpet when the Temporal World is replaced by the Eternal One. It is at this last Trumpet (7th) - that the reward of eternal life is granted:
 
“The nations were angry, and Your Wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your Name, small and great.” (Revelation 11: 15. 18)

Yes! Yeshua will be handing out that which he had determined. This is also the time when the Yahweh's Wrath is poured out into a scoffing world. Now - let's look at the Timing of this powerful world shaking event found in Revelation:
 
"I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red,:

Remember these signs - "after the tribulation" This prophetic picture of the signs in the heavens pinpoints when the Day of Wrath Comes - after the unleasing of the Sixth seal. 
 
 

“For the Son of Man will come in the Glory of His Father with His Angels, and then - He will reward each according to his works.” (Matthew 16:27)

Along with the very audible-visible revelations about His Coming so far, let’s look at another prophetic picture of how Jesus described His Coming –when it would happen, and what will take place:

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days - the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Remember – just before Yeshua Comes back to give reward – that is when the Trumpet Judgments are unleashed – that the powers of the heavens will be shaken. There will be no mistaking these very troubling signs coming from above. The Earth has been brought to the Day of Reckoning. For many - no way out now. One other important piece of information pinpointing His Return: “after the tribulation of those days.”

The sensible way to interpret the above evidence – is to read it just as it reads. After the tribulation, Yahweh’s Judgments are hitting the Earth:

As the first Trumpet sounds – the power of the heavens begins:
“The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down on the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.”

This prophecy collaborates - the when and where these signs are coming from. Let’s now take a look at what happens – as the Trumpet Judgments fall on an unrepentant Earth:
“Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man Coming on the clouds of heaven with Power and Great Glory” … -

After the Tribulation, after the Trumpet Judgments – then they see Yeshua Coming on the clouds of heaven – the sight of “Power and Great Glory”. Oh – there’s that Trumpet again! This time Yeshua describes the Trumpet:

“and He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matthew 24:29-31) This is the Resurrection Day.

This simply tells us that the signs preceding the Lord’s Coming - will happen after the tribulation. His Coming will be ushered in with the Great Sound of a Trumpet. According to this truth - they (all the peoples of the Earth) will see Him Coming in the Clouds - and all of them will mourn.

There are no indicators that would make one believe that this Coming will be in “secret”. From what we have discovered so far, there is nothing to back up a secret “Rapture” where the wicked do not know what happened to their loved ones who were “taken” - and where they are taken to. Quite the contrary. In Revelation -  John collaberates:

“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of Him” … (Revelation 1:7)

Again – the same - identical testimony: Yeshua Coming in the Clouds - all the peoples (every eye) will behold and mourn (cry out) because they are terrified by beholding the One who is Coming to bring His Wrath on this sin-sick planet. This is Harvest Time. We discover this - in yet another revelation:

“I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a Son of Man with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his Hand.

Then - another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe. So - He who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.” (Rev 14:14 -16)


At the same time - the command goes out:

“Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.” The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s Wrath. (Revelation14:18-19)

Here is how our Savior explained this same picture of gathering - at Harvest Time:
 
“The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are Angels:
 
“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his Angels, and they will weed out of His kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then - the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

Yes - Jesus Commands His Angels to do the harvesting. It is imperative that we understand the chronological sequence of events:

“Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time - I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then - gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.” 
 
The separating of both the believer and unbeliever will happen at the end. There are no hints that the Righteous will be removed from the wicked - 3 ½ years or - 7 years before the harvest (end). It is obvious, that when the gathering comes, the wicked will be the focus first.

Jesus made this clear-cut warning: “Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.” (Luke 17:33-35)

Again – there is evidence here that both the good and the bad will be together. According to Jesus, the Angels will make their gathering first - of the wicked At the End - when the Angels do the gathering, they (the wicked) will experience a Fiery Judgment. Contrary to popular opinion, it is not the believer that is taken – but the wicked.

Continuing in this discourse, Jesus then introduces a person who is asking the whereabouts of the “taken”:

“Where, Lord?” they asked.

He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.”

First of all - common sense would dictate that – the question of -” Where” – would be directed to the one who is no longer in the field, nor grinding at the mill any longer. Why should one ask about the one “left”? Obviously, the one remaining in the field is still there - still in the same spot. The question relates to the one that was taken.

“But as the days of Noah were, so shall ALSO the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark. And knew NOT until the flood came, and TOOK them all away, so shall ALSO the coming of the Son of Man be.”

According to this important prophecy, the wicked and Noah lived together until the Flood. Jesus said very clearly that the “taken” were the wicked. Noah and his family were the only ones “left” on Earth.

There seems to be a lot of confusion as to who the “Left Behind” are!  9 out of ten will say that - it is the believers that are taken into heaven and the wicked left on Earth to suffer Great Tribulation. Let’s go back for a moment and review our findings thus far:

This is payday both for the wicked - and for the believers. This will be the Day when Yahweh will pay back those who tribulate the saints, and when the saints will “be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled... This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His Powerful Angels.                             (2 Thessalonians 1:5 -7)

Yes – on that Day He will come back with His Angels to gather both the wicked and Righteous with a compensation in mind.

The wicked will be gathered to: “be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the Presence of the Lord and from the Glory of His Might - on the Day He comes to be glorified in His holy people - and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.” (2 Thessalonians 1:9 -10)


Paul tells us what happens after the Resurrection:

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the first fruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His Coming; Then comes the End, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)

Jesus will Resurrect His Faithful - on the Last Day:

“This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the Last Day."

“For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I - Myself will raise him up on the Last Day."

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the Last Day.”

“Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the Last Day.” (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54)

Paul prophesied of this same day - when he would get his reward:

“Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only - but also all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8)

Jesus will deliver us from His wrath:

“Wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

Only the wicked are appointed the wrath of God - salvation for the believer:

“For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus,”

The dead in Jesus will stay in the grave until the wrath has passed over:

“Your dead shall live; Together with my dead body they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; for your dew is like the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; Hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation is past. For behold, the LORD comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity.” (Isaiah 26:19-21)

Job understood when he would be resurrected:

“ Oh - that You would hide me in the grave, that You would conceal me until Your wrath is past…” (Job 14:13)

Conclusion: The Dead are raised on the Last Day - at the Last Trumpet - then comes the end. At this time, the ones who have remained faithful until the end – those who are alive will be gathered up (Raptured) with the resurrected on that Day. The believers will not suffer God’s Wrath - but will be delivered to eternal life.

Thoughts are coming together to provide a complete picture of Yeshua:

"He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him." Hebrews 9:28