Wednesday, May 7, 2008

If there's a rapture...

I got an email from a friend of mine, today. It said, "So, what do we make of a devastating cyclone in Myanmar, a massive volcano eruption in Chile and a 6.8 earthquake in Tokyo, all taking place within 3 days of each other? Anybody starting to believe in a rapture?"

I must tell you that I am pretty much up in the air about when the Lord is coming back. I can pretty much narrow it down to seven years... but I can't tell you when those seven years are.

I have my reasons (biblically) to believe that the Lord Jesus will gather his church from across the globe before what the bible refers to as the tribulation, a seven year period of trouble that doesn't even compare with any we've seen up to it.

However, I also have biblical reasons to believe that we will as the church go through the tribulation. My reasons for post-tribulational rapture are as follows:
- If you read Jesus' account of the end times, you get no sense whatsoever that we don't have to go through it. Rather, he prepares us for what is to come.
- When Paul writes the church of the Thessalonians, he tells them that they shouldn't be worried that Lord has already returned. His reasons for them not to worry are that "that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction." How can we be gone and still be there to see the man of lawlessness (Anti-Christ) be revealed? It goes on in that passage to say that he will take his seat in the temple. According to Daniel 9 that doesn't happen until half way through the tribulation. So it seems that we must conclude that we will be on earth (if we survive it) for at least half of the tribulation.

My biblical reasons for not believing in a post-tribulational rapture deal with Revelation 19.
- According to Paul we will be changed and meet the Lord in the air. There will be an almost simultaneous resurrection of the dead and then those alive meeting the Lord in the air. However, at the second coming (Revelation 19), Jesus comes riding in with the armies of heaven following him. He then captures the beast and the false prophet and throws them both into the lake of fire. After that, those who were beheaded are resurrected. My problem with it is this: those that ride in with him have what seems to be their robes of righteousness already. So they must have already been resurrected or met Him in the air. But there are those who were beheaded who haven't received that yet.
- It seems as if the sacrificial system will be reinstated during the tribulation. I'm not sure how the church can coexist with Israel for those 3 1/2 years.
- I think that "what is restraining" (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7) the AntiChrist is the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is taken out of the way, how can the church be on earth?

Okay, enough debating with myself. Here's why I wrote this. If you haven't noticed, here's what happened in the news this week:
1. A cyclone in Myanmar that killed an estimated 100,000 people.
2. A volcano eruption in Chile; more than 1,000 people have evacuated; 6,000 more could be asked to evacuate.
3. A 6.8 earthquake off the coast of Tokyo.

All three of these events happened in the last three days. Not to mention that, in the past month, there have been two earthquakes in the U.S. midwest, both over 5.0. The first was in Illinois and the second in Missouri.

In light of Jesus' words in Matthew 24, how should we respond as Christians? I'll try to make this brief (I know, too late).

First, pray for and help those affected by the catastrophes.

Second, repent. Too many Christians have a horrible response to catastrophes. Remember that Jesus talked about this in Luke 13. He said, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

Third, get ready. For me it makes me want to, as Paul says, "Make my calling and election sure." What do I mean? Well, in Matthew 24, Jesus says that earthquakes and rumors of wars and nation fighting against nation are all the "beginning of the birth pains." Things will get worse, according to Jesus. If, then, there is a rapture that Jesus doesn't refer to (which, I am certain is possible, seeing that the Pharisees and disciples were all wrong about Jesus' first coming) then I want to be ready... I want to make sure I'm not just going through the motions, but that I am saved. Paul says in Galatians and Ephesians that the guarantee of that is the Holy Spirit in me... so I'm making sure. If there is not a rapture and we are meant to go through this time of intense suffering, then be sure that I want to have the Holy Spirit inside me so that I can and will endure.

Finally, it makes me more responsible for the teaching and encouraging of my wife and children. I pray for them and encourage them to follow Jesus and to make their calling and election sure.

If these events are truly signs and you read this and get scared... please, fall on your knees and pray. I truly believe that your fear is a sign that you need to surrender to Jesus. He alone can bring us salvation from this pending trouble. Then join those of us who have lived for this, knowing that very soon we could see our Savior. Referring to that time, Jesus says, "Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

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