Knowing where you are going

The Rapture of the Church and the Last Days

Big Idea

Christians need to be looking forward, expectantly, to the coming day of the Lord: we don’t know when this will be, but it is expected.

Bible

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”

 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”

 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

 “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”

John 14:1 - 7 (NKJV)

 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 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. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:13 - 18 (NKJV)

 

Why is the end-time prophecy important?

  • Reading and hearing the End-time prophecy brings a blessing

Revelation 1:3 (NKJV) Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.

  • Prophecy forms part of Scripture, in particular the End Times and Last Days, therefore useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)
  • Jesus spoke of the Last Days -
    • Parables:
      • Matthew 20 e.g. parable of the landowner
      • Parable of the wedding feast Matthew 22 etc
    • Answered questions on it
      • Resurrection eg Matthew 22
      • Matthew 24 the disciples asked.
    • Exhorted using prophecy: John 14
  • The prophets, both Old and New Testament of the End Times e.g. Daniel and John
  • The inquisitive man or women asks the question – what next? Jesus answered these quesitonse.g. Mark 13
  • To prevent being mislead:

And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. Matthew 24:4,5

The Church of Thessalonica had been misled – they thought the Lord had come and the rapture had occurred, leaving them very anxious: Paul set the record straight and pointed out:

Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you,  not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ {NU–Text reads the Lord.} had come. 2 Thess 2 1-2

And

For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:9

  • For encouragement of the hope of the coming glory: So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Luke 21:31
  • Understanding the fulfilment is confirmation of the inerrancy of the Canon of Scripture: My soul fainteth for thy salvation: but I hope in thy word. Psalm 119:81

Our understanding of the prophecies will alter the way in which we respond to the gospel and witness for Christ; it will shape our attitude to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Three views of end-time prophecy – two of which will lead to falsehood

Introduction

Note that there are many heresies concerning the End Times - most created to serve the pride and arrogance of various people, especially those that hate the Jews.

Harmonisation of the bible with the thoughts of pagan scholars did much to harm the understanding of the End Times.

A-millennialism

Amilllennial theory allegorises much of the Bible by some secret formula, known to few, rendering Scripture as inaccessible as it was in the Dark Age. In this theory literal reign of Christ is done way with, as is much of the literal sense of Scripture

The millennium is thought to extend from the resurrection of Jesus Christ until His Second Coming on the clouds at the end of this age, thus in and of itself, proving this view is both unsound and not true. The view assumes that Israel is done away with and is replaced by the Church, which again is hardly true.

It is assumed the holders of these views do not have chapters 9, 10 or 11 of Roman's in their Bibles!

There is no expectant return of Christ – communion looses part of its meaning.

This theory forms part of the Reformed Tradition, Covenant Theology and is the official viewpoint of the Catholic Church.

But

  • Satan is clearly not bound, as this theory must presuppose (although not always held to)
  • Israel still exists: many passages in which God promises a kingdom to Israel become conditional and are applied to the church – this is apostate replacement theology.
  • The kingdom of God is spiritualised to become the church age. Yet the Bible has numerous passages concerning a promised future kingdom – where Christ is the King, literally

 “Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the LORD. “Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you (Zechariah 2:10, 11)

  • There is little need for evangelism – there is certainly no expectation of Christ’s return
  • The church becomes inward focused rather than God focused.

Post-millennialism

There are various variants of this theory. It means literally, “after the millennium” and holds the view that Christ will come only after the Church has established God’s kingdom on the earth by progressively subduing the world.

History shows the reverse has and is occurring, proving the fallacy of the view.

Holders of this view also blame the Jews for the death of Christ, hence punish the Jews. Hitler, a non-excommunicated Catholic, partially fulfilled this precept.

Who is to be blamed for the death of Christ? – I am!  For it was my sin that led him to lay down his life for me. (Romans 6:10 etc).

But:

  • The theory does not follow the natural order of Scripture
  • The theory is clearly not being played out – after 2000 years the world is more evil than ever before: more abortions, more muslins, more atheists, more anti-Christian cults along with the rise of homosexuality (a mark of antichrist- Romans 1)
  • The theory misses important elements of Scripture – the vast judgement of the unbelieving world, clearly has not happened (Matt. 25:31-46; Rev. 19:17-21).

Pre-millennialism

This view takes the literal reading of the Bible and applies the order presented to current history. Christ will rule from Jerusalem and Israel (as a believing remnant) will be saved who will evangelise the world. There will be a 1000 year rule at the end of the 7 years of tribulation. The formation of the nation of Israel is part of the fulfilment of this prophecy. It is expected that a Temple will be build soon and temple worship commenced as the Bible states it will. Jerusalem features strongly in these prophecies, including the fact that in most weeks news broadcasts will have Jerusalem as a focus!

"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment; so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation,"
Heb. 9: 27, 28.

Why we know the end-times are coming?

  1. There are now many false prophets and anti-Christs

"For many will come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and will mislead many." Matthew 24:5

"And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many." Matthew 24:11

  1. Wars: the rise of China, the anger of Iran, the stubbiness of Russia etc.

"And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end." Matthew 24:6

  1. Famines

"… and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes." Matthew 24:7

  1. Earthquakes

"… and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes." Matthew 24:7

  1. Tribulations

"But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.  Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of my name." Matthew 24:8-9

  1. The gospel will be preached throughout the world

"And this Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come." Matthew 24:14

  1. Israel has been established

Ezekiel 37:10-14, Isaiah 66:7-8, Romans 9-11, the parables of the fig tree, e.g. Luke 21

 “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Matthew 24:32- 4

Principles in understanding end-times prophecy

  1. Know the context of the prophecy (who wrote, to whom, for what purpose: why, when and where). Was the prophecy for the then and now, or was it for the far future, or was it for both>
  2. Observe, observe, observe – write as many things, questions, statements, observations of the text as possible before deciding upon what it might mean[1].
  3. Read the words literally first, then if the context suggests the words are metaphors, allegory or other pictorial devices, use these, interpreting from other Scripture – don’t make up meanings! For instance, in nearly every case in Revelation the symbols have been used in the Old Testament and interpreted for us!
  4. Work towards understanding what the author expected the original hearers of the text to understand.
  5. Every text is bound within the context of the Canon – contradictions cannot occur. If they do, it is you not the Canon that is in error. This also means your interpretation must match reality – your view of reality may be contrary to the actual truth.

Players at the end times

Jesus Christ

  • Jesus is viewed as the righteous King – see Revelation 1 and 4
  • We see Jesus as the Saviour of the World to those that believe (Mark 16:16; Acts 15:11; Romans 10:9)
  • At the end times Christ comes as the judge of the world.

Jude 14,15

Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.

Revelation 19:11 - 16

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. 12 His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. … And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

The Church

  • Was a Mystery Character to Old Testament saints, in that it was hidden from them until Christ rose from the dead – See the Book of the Acts.
  • Believers have the indwelling by the Holy Spirit (Col 1:26-27)
  • Is Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:22-32), and thus sees Christ as the Bridgroom
  • Distinguished from non-believing Jews and Gentiles (1 Cor 10:32); this is removed for the believer – within the church there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile (Colossians 3:11)
  • One “New Man” Eph 2:15; Cf. Rev 12:5
  • Is taken away by Christ himself (rupture) into heaven 1 Cor 15:50-58, 1 Thess 4
  • Pictured as the Body, House and Candlestick (lamp) - see Ephesians 3:3-5,9, Timothy & Revelation

Israel

  • Has been and will be troubled on every side due to their rejection of the Messiah

I am going to make Jerusalem a cup (cup of trembling NKJV etc) that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. Zechariah 12:2

  • Will be judged during the Tribulation – the times of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7, Daniel 12:1, Matthew 24)
  • Has not, nor will be done way with (Rom 11:1): the covenant of Abraham stands: see Romans 9, 10 and 11. However, currently we are in the Church Age – there is no distinction between a Jew that turns to Christ and a pagan who puts his faith in Jesus Christ
  • Israel (a remnant) will evangelise the world (Revelation 7) – they will turn to Christ in the first half of the tribulation.
  • The believing remnant of Nation Israel will turn to Christ in the final days of the Tribulation (Leviticus 26:40-41; and specifically Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 23:37-39) which ushers in the Messianic Kingdom (thus fulfils the Davidic Covenant)

The Nations (those that have rejected Christ)

Wrath will be poured out upon then (Revelation eg chapter 14)

The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come,
And the time of the dead, that they should be judged,” Revelation 11:18

What’s going to happen up to the end of the Church Age?

Evangelism by the church, albeit the church is a very weak vessel, will continue through out the church age.

The world will progressively become more evil – the enemy sows tares: wars, famines, diseases, earthquakes.

What is going to happen at the end times?

 

"70 weeks (of sevens) are determined upon thy people and thy Holy City"  
<445 BC   <32 AD Rapture>   <Second coming
7 weeks
(49 years)
Jerusalem Built
62 weeks
(434 years)
To
Messiah the Prince
Unknown time
T he Mystery
Church Age
(Ephesians 3:1-9)
1 week
(7 years)
Great Tribulation
The Millennial
Kingdom
69 x 7 = 483 years   <1260> <1260> 1000 years
483 x 360 days = 173,880 days Current Age days days  

Where are the dead people?

  • Bodies go into a grave, the soul goes elsewhere – the soul is not annihilated.
  • The soul of the wicked is sent to Sheol (Hebrew) or Hades (Greek) – these are equivalent. In the end these will be cast into Gehenna (Revelation 20:14) – hell where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13 & 22)
  • The soul of the righteous go to paradise: to the repentant thief on the cross Jesus says:

Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. Luke 23:43

The Rapture

We are currently in the Church Age

  • The church age will end with the rapture (which is a Latin term to describe what happens) where the Church is taken to heaven – the dead first will rise, then the living will meet up with them; it occurs secretly, and in a moment of the twinkling of the eye.
  • The rapture concerns the Church, not the world.
  • It occurs with Christ, himself descending (1 Thess 4:16) from heaven
  • We are taken up to meet him (1 Thess 4:17)

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.
1 Corinthians 15:50, 51

The Church will be ruptured – or taken out from this world. With the ‘salt of earth’ removed, the world will quickly decay into times more terrible than have ever been seen.

The Judgement of Israel and the Nations (gentiles)

A note on terminology

Great Tribulation – the entire 7 years of the last days, but more rightly the second 3½ years or 1260 days (Rev 9 etc)

The Antichrist – any one that is against Christ is an antichrist (many antichrists have come), but there will be an Antichrist whose power is beyond what the world has ever seen during the tribulation, know as the Beast with two horns, or the False Prophet. He is powered by Satan himself, and will parade as the false messiah and be given power to perform miracles (unnatural phenomena).

The Prince – also known as the first Beast, with the words the sum to 666 written on his head

Day of Jacob’s trouble – the intense time of pain for Israel as depicted in Matthew – judgement of Israel for rejecting Messiah

The Great Day of the Lord – (Zephaniah 1:14) – is the day of wrath, day of trouble, the day of distress – essentially a day of “too late” – judgement is falling.

The Times of the Gentiles – includes the current age being the Church age – depicted by the great Image of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel, ends at the Tribulation.

Note

The Church is not for judgement: it has been saved by the blood of Christ, and will be enjoined to Christ, the Bridegroom, at the marriage supper. The judgement is carried by Christ Jesus:

“in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction”
(2Thess.1:8-9).

  • There will be seven years of judgement, divided into two of 1260 days.
  • There will be a remnant of Jews that are saved and who go out and evangelise the world in the first half of the tribulation (these are called servants of God; Rev 7:3) – many will be saved, most will refuse to call upon the name of God (Rev 6). The remnant and saved will be severely persecuted (Rev 6:9, 16:6 etc).
  • The death of the two witnesses marks midway in the tribulation
  • The first half of the seven years (1260 days) the Jewish prophets will prophecy from Jerusalem until killed by the Antichrist (Rev 11), who reigns for 42 months

And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. Revelation 13:5  

  • The Antichrist rules for the second half of the tribulation
  • Temple worship will have recommenced, but will cease when the Antichrist sets up an idol and gives power to it (Rev 13)
  • The Antichrist claims deity (2 Thess 2:4), sitting in the temple
  • The time concludes when Messiah (Christ), to who the power belongs (Rev 19:2), destroys those opposed to God the Father (Rev 19)
  • The devil, called Satan is bound for 1000 years – after which he is released to test those who have claimed they love Christ.
  • Israel and the nations who came out of the tribulation, and not found wanting at the release of Satan at the end of the Tribulation, will establish the new earth.
  • Christ will rule Israel and the nations from Jerusalem.

Therefore thus says the Lord:
       “I am returning to Jerusalem with mercy;
       My house shall be built in it,” says the Lord of hosts,
       “And a surveyor’s line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem.”’ Zechariah 1:16 (NKJV) ‘

  • The great day of judgement – of those tested by Satan and found wanting will be cast out. Death and Hades will be placed into Hell
  • The new heaven and new earth will be realised.
  • The bride of Christ, the Church, will rule with Christ as heavenly beings (the Bride does not take up residency on earth).
“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I
am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”



And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say,
“Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water
of life freely.

For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book:
If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written
in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this
prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy
city, and from the things which are written in this book.

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.”

Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. Revelation 22:16-21

Endnotes

[1] Texts such as Gorden Fee & Douglass Stuart (1981, 2003) How to read the Bible for all its worth Zondervan, USA is well worth owing.

David L Simon (15 May 2011 GBC) Edited & Revised 10 January 2021
\Prophecy\Knowing where you are going - The Rapture of the Church and the Last Days