A Response to End-Time Weariness

It has been a long time since I posted on this blog, not because I have lost interest, but because I have been involved in many other projects. I hope to become more active starting with this post.

This article is one of the most important ones that I have written because it speaks to issues that affect whether the church will take end-time prophecy seriously or not. It comes in response to an article posted on the Prophecy News Watch site and written by Jan Markell which she called: End-Time Weariness: Haven’t We Waited Long Enough?  You can see the original article here.

She makes a good case that because of all the concentration for many years on current events, predictions that do not come to pass, and multiple date-settings that were not fulfilled, there is a growing malaise with many people who have tuned out and just don’t care any more. This article agrees with her conclusions, and then submits an answer which I believe the Bible clearly teaches on this very subject.

Also, I would like to give credit to three men who have come alongside me to help make this article accurate, and concise, and to lend their considerable wisdom to the results: Nelson Walters, Bob Brown, and Joe Lenard. Their advice and fellowship continue to be a blessing to me, and they are on the cutting edge of research and writing about prophetic topics.

A Response to End-Time Weariness

In the article, End-Time Weariness: Haven’t We Waited Long Enough? by Jan Markell, she has done the church a great favor by exposing an issue that cries out to be addressed.

What is going on with prophetic teaching?

We lament with Jan that certain popular end-times books and movies and events, like Israel’s nationhood in 1948, have led many to look at world events to determine God’s time-table. Many believe that the latest earthquake, tsunami, war, or war rumor means that we are very close to Jesus’s return. Some carefully track the moves of Russia, Iran, or other Mid-East nations to determine that we are about to experience the Psalm 83 War or Ezekiel 38-39 War.

What could go wrong with these approaches?

It turns out that what could go wrong has gone wrong!

As Markell has pointed out, if many respected teachers have taught this is what to look for and they don’t come to pass, “Late-Great Burn-Out,” “End-Time Weariness,” and “Rapture Fatigue” are inevitable. If “Date-Setters” have been wrong so many times, why wouldn’t this sow confusion and skepticism?

This is a serious issue that, beginning with incorrect interpretation and speculation, inevitably leads to doubt and disbelief. We are producing the very mockers Peter warned about in 2 Pet. 3:3.

Can we fix this? Indeed, we can, and it may surprise many that the fix has been in front of us all along. What we need is a more biblical way of looking at prophetic signs.

Should Christians look for a sign?

First, in Heb. 10:24-25, Christians are commanded to love and encourage each other “all the more” when we “see the day approaching.”  The writer of Hebrews expects Christians to “see” Jesus’ coming approaching by observing a sign, and when we see it, to take action.

Second, in 1 Thess. 5:2-6, Paul confirms this. He tells us the return of Jesus will come upon unbelievers like a thief in the night, but that believers will not be surprised if they remain alert. Jesus, in His letter to the Church of Sardis (Rev. 3:3), also corroborates that He will only come to the unrepentant like a thief.

Finally, Jesus’ and Paul’s end-time teachings instruct us to: watch, see, be observant, not be misled, be alert, and be ready—about 35 times. Although much of Christian culture believes there won’t be a sign before Jesus’ return, watching for the coming of our Lord is actually commanded.

What signs shouldn’t we watch for?

The disciples were like us—they wanted to know the sign of Jesus’ coming and the end of the age (Matt. 24:3). Jesus didn’t tell them there wouldn’t be a sign, instead He gave them the information we need today to avoid being misled by wrong teaching and sensationalism. First, He taught that there would be events that were “not signs” and that there was a specific sign to watch for. This sign would be a trigger for all end-time events leading to His return.

Jesus started His teaching with what were “not signs,” which He termed “only the beginning of the birth pains.” Jesus taught that although these events would occur near the end, they were not the sign to look for. These wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, and famines are things that have happened for millennia and cannot be counted on as unique signs. His warning is to not be misled by seeing these as signs. Interestingly, Jesus also didn’t mention a Mid-East Peace Covenant. This is also a “not sign.”

But sure enough, prophetic teaching, TV programming, and blog sites are concentrating on the very things Jesus said would mislead. Hearing about these “not signs” again and again becomes like the “boy who cried wolf.”

What is the sign we should look for?

Once Jesus had made clear what not to look for, He told the disciples what Christians should look for: the “abomination of desolation which was spoken of through the prophet Daniel” (Matt. 24:15). Dan. 9:27 places this event in the middle of the 70th Week of Daniel, a seven-year period commonly referred to as “The Tribulation.”

God is not a God of confusion, and He wants us to understand this sign—the only event we are to look for to know that Jesus’ coming is near.

In 2 Thess. 2:1-4, a clear end-times passage about “the coming of our Lord and our gathering together to Him,” Paul also warns about not being misled about the timing of the Day-of-the-Lord—which is associated with the coming and gathering. Paul explains that the Day-of-the-Lord will not come until the Antichrist desecrates the temple (the abomination of desolation). Therefore, Paul is confirming that the event to look for before Jesus’ return is the same abomination of desolation that our Lord specifically referenced in answer to the disciples’ question.

Can we all agree?

Much of the church is divided in controversy and lost in confusion over end-time “signs” and events. It doesn’t need to be that way.

In her section called “Déjà vu All Over Again,” Markell references events like moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, the Gog-Magog War, and “the convergence of dozens of end-time signs,” resulting in a “collective sigh.” But Jesus did not tell us to look for these events. Instead, He warned us about being misled by these events and gave us a clear sign to look for: the abomination of desolation.

Silence from our pulpits and prophecy teachers on this clear and unambiguous sign has created much of this problem. The answer is to go back to what the Bible does teach. Be ready and watchful and observant of events but put them all in the framework of Jesus’ clear teaching. If we do, we will not grow weary, and we will know what to watch for.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Were the Church fathers Pre-trib or Pre-wrath? Part 2

We had previously written an article in response to someone making the assertion that the early church fathers taught that the church would be raptured before the “tribulation period”. In response to this we looked at one church father, Irenaeus, who was supposedly pre-trib according to the article we were refuting, and showed that he was clearly teaching he expected the church would go through the great tribulation and be required to be “overcomers” and be in the “last contest of the righteous”. This is the pre-wrath view of the end times.

Now we want to look at a document called the “Didache“, pronounced Did-ah-kay, which is also known as “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles“. This document is generally accepted as written in the first century and is probably the earliest Christian document outside the New Testament that is reliable. It was attested to by many of the early church fathers such as: Eusebius  (c. 324); Athanasius (367) and Rufinus  (c. 380) list the Didache among the apocrypha books. Generally, it is recognized by many scholars as one of the earliest and most reliable documents reflecting the theology of the early church fathers.

The part we want to look at is Chapter 16, which is the last chapter of the Didache. You will recognize that much of this chapter relates to Matthew 24. Here is the 16th chapter in its entirety:

(CHAPTER 16 Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, Translated by Charles H. Hoole  

CHAPTER 16

16:1 Watch concerning your life; let not your lamps be quenched or your loins be loosed, but be ye ready, for ye know not the hour at which our Lord cometh.

16:2 But be ye gathered together frequently, seeking what is suitable for your souls; for the whole time of your faith shall profit you not, unless ye be found perfect in the last time.

16:3 For in the last days false prophets and seducers shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate;

16:4 and because iniquity aboundeth they shall hate each other, and persecute each other, and deliver each other up; and then shall the Deceiver of the world appear as the Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders, and the earth shall be delivered into his hands; and he shall do unlawful things, such as have never happened since the beginning of the world.

16:5 Then shall the creation of man come to the fiery trial of proof, and many shall be offended and shall perish; but they who remain in their faith shall be saved by the rock of offence itself.

16:6 And then shall appear the signs of the truth; first the sign of the appearance in heaven, then the sign of the sound of the trumpet, and thirdly the resurrection of the dead

16:7 — not of all, but as it has been said, The Lord shall come and all his saints with him;

16:8 then shall the world behold the Lord coming on the clouds of heaven.

{The End of the Didache}

First we can establish it is teaching about the church in the last times when it says, “unless ye be found perfect in the last time”, and for the reference to Jesus clear teaching in Matthew 24 about the timing of His return, “for ye know not the hour at which our Lord cometh” (cf Matt. 24:36, 42, 44). This whole document is written to the early church, so the apostles were teaching that this was for the church. There was no sense that the church would be rescued before this time. Clearly the teaching is that Matthew 24 is written for the church, and not just for the program for the nation of Israel in the last days, as the Pre-tribulationists teach.

Then in 16:3-4 it picks up several themes found in Matthew 24:9-24, which it is clearly relating to the church at this time. In 16:4 we have a very clear statement that the Antichrist, referred to there as “the Deceiver of the world”, will be here at the same time the church is going through these trials. Then there is a statement in 16:5 which can only be the apostles referring to the great tribulation of Matthew 24:21 as “the fiery trial of proof”.

In 16:6 we see a reference to the signs, first of Jesus’ appearance (cf Matt. 24:30).  Following this we see a very interesting reference to the “trumpet” and the “resurrection of the dead”. The trumpet has to do with the gathering which is the rapture/resurrection reference in Matthew 24:31. The resurrection is not explicitly stated as such in Matthew 24, but I believe is what is meant by His elect being gathered “from one end of the sky to the other”. It is the souls of the believing dead that are gathered at the time that the living believers are caught up. Of course they would have been familiar with Paul’s teaching that the rapture and resurrection occur together in 1 Thess. 4:15-17.

In the language of the Didache, there is the appearance of Jesus, a trumpet announcing the rapture and then the resurrection of the dead believers. That is precisely what the pre-wrath rapture view teaches. It is clear that they believed these three events would follow “the fiery trial of proof” in 16:5, which is obviously the great tribulation. That is not what the pre-tribulation rapture view teaches, but it is what the pre-wrath view teaches.

Verse 16:7 shows that the apostles understood that only the saints (elect) would be part of this resurrection. We know that the unbelievers will be part of the second resurrection at the end of the thousand years (Rev. 20:5). Finally they taught in 16:8 that the whole world would see Jesus coming in the clouds of heaven (cf Matt. 24:30).

The Didache shows that the teaching of the apostles was that the church will go through the great tribulation, and following that, the Lord’s return in the clouds would bring the rapture and resurrection. That is the pre-wrath view!

 

Were the Church fathers Pre-trib or Pre-wrath?

There is an issue that comes up often when people who believe in a Pre-tribulation rapture are arguing with those that have a Pre-wrath view of the rapture, as I do. This was the case the other day when a nice young lady was posting on my Facebook fan page site for my book https://www.facebook.com/PaulKalbach1/. You can see the discussion that was going on there. I will not name the lady here because I do not have permission to do so. Following is the beginning of an answer.

Discussion of the beginnings of the Pre-tribulation rapture, and the rapture view of the early church fathers.

You have posted an article that purports to refute the ideas that (1) the teaching on a Pre-tribulation rapture only goes back about 180 years to an invention by John Nelson Darby; and (2) the early church fathers and writers did not have a Pre-tribulation rapture view of the end of the age. You seem to feel that this article is a good refutation of those two positions, so I will point out the weaknesses in this article and then add some additional information from early church writings.

First, let me say that I appreciate your sincere efforts to understand and argue these ideas. To be frank, it is very difficult to understand the language of these early writers, and sometimes to try to get into their heads to determine what they were thinking is a real challenge.

On the first couple of paragraphs about John Darby, I will not give it much time because:

  • I don’t see where the author is mentioned
  • It seems like a “straw-man” argument that some are saying that John Darby invented the “rapture”. I don’t know any serious teacher that teaches that he invented the rapture. Many, including me, who have done some research, trace the pre-tribulation rapture view back to John Darby, and there is no evidence that this theory preceded him in any literature I can find.
  • If this is true, and I believe it is, that leaves us to go way back to the early church fathers to see if they taught this in any clear way.
  • There is great confusion in this article about terms like the great tribulation that seems to be made equivalent to the tribulation, so it is difficult to assess what the writer was proposing.
  • There was no argument given here as to why this is false, other than the implication that someone is teaching that John Darby invented the rapture. We dealt with this above.

Even in the conclusion statement, “there were some church fathers who indeed wrote about the Rapture”, supposes that someone refutes that. Of course, they understood there was to be a rapture. The question here is did they teach that it is Pre-tribulational?

Now in the order of the early church writers in the article, we will try to determine what they were teaching.

Irenaeus (c.120-c202)

That was a good background in the first two paragraphs of the article.

Because the writer of this article is not named, I will refer to him/her as “the writer”. The writer manages to pull out some isolated passages from Irenaeus’ writings: Against Heresies (Book V, Chapter 29) and then takes them out of context, and really misinterprets what is here. Let me quote the part [from the article] we want to examine:

“(1) so far useful and serviceable to the just, as stubble conduces towards the growth of the wheat, and its straw, by means of combustion, serves for working gold. And therefore, when in the end the Church shall be suddenly caught up from this, it is said, “There shall be tribulation such as has not been since the beginning, neither shall be.” (2) For this is the last contest of the righteous, in which, when they overcome they are crowned with incorruption.”

Please note that Irenaeus says, “the Church shall be suddenly caught up from this…” (my emphasis), and then mentioned the great tribulation. He did not say before this. In addition, when he mentions, “(2) For this is the last contest of the righteous, in which, when they overcome they are crowned with incorruption”, what contest and what overcoming is he talking about if the Church has been rescued before the “tribulation”, and certainly before the great tribulation as the writer is stating? This means that there is no pre-tribulation rapture teaching here. In fact, it is teaching the pre-wrath view that the Church will go through the great tribulation and will be in this “last contest of the righteous” and will need to “overcome”.

The writer then, after missing the main point Irenaeus is making, brings in the supposed “tribulation saints” (the writer’s quote: “And it is during this time that those who convert to Christianity during the final years will receive the incorruptible crown mentioned by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:25”) to account for what Irenaeus said about the “contest” and the “overcoming”. This is invented out of thin air, because in no way does Irenaeus speak about a special class of believers that comes to salvation after the Church is raptured. He is clearly referring to the same Church that shall be suddenly caught up, who is in this last contest, which is the great tribulation.

As if this were not enough, let us look at some other places where Irenaeus clearly taught that the Church would be here with the Antichrist and the great tribulation.

Against Heresies (Book V, Chapter 26, 1)

In this section Irenaeus is teaching about the beast empire of ten horns from Daniel and Revelation. Here is the quote we need to see:

“And they [the ten kings who shall arise] shall lay Babylon waste, and burn her with fire, and shall give their kingdom to the beast, and put the Church to flight. After that they shall be destroyed by the coming of our Lord.” (my emphasis).

Here is a clear teaching by Irenaeus about the great tribulation time and he (the Antichrist)  puts the Church right in this conflict. Notice the beast empire will be destroyed by the coming of the Lord after this. Clearly the Church is in the great tribulation in Irenaeus’ teaching in the second century. This is the Pre-wrath position.

Against Heresies (Book V, Chapter 30, 3, 4)

“3. It is therefore more certain, and less hazardous, to await the fulfilment of the prophecy, than to be making surmises, and casting about for any names that may present themselves, inasmuch as many names can be found possessing the number mentioned; and the same question will, after all, remain unsolved… 4. But he indicates the number of the name now, that when this man comes we may avoid him, being aware who he is…”. (my emphasis)

The first part of this quote is taken from a longer discussion of those who foolishly try to figure out who the Antichrist is ahead of time by the number of his name in Revelation (666). The second part from paragraph 4 of chapter 30, is explaining that the number is given so that “we”, might be aware of who he is after the fact. Notice it is “when this man comes”. There is no doubt that the context Irenaeus is teaching of when he says “we” is the Church.

Against Heresies (Book V, Chapter 35, 1)

“For all these and other words were unquestionably spoken in reference to the resurrection of the just, which takes place after the coming of Antichrist, and the destruction of all nations under his rule; in [the times of] which [resurrection] the righteous shall reign in the earth…. [A]nd [with respect to] those whom the Lord shall find in the flesh, awaiting Him from heaven, and who have suffered tribulation, as well as escaped the hands of the Wicked one.” (my emphasis)

There are two very important teachings in this 35th chapter: (1) that Irenaeus is teaching (as does the Pre-wrath rapture view) that the resurrection of the just takes place after the coming of Antichrist; and (2) that “those the Lord shall find in the flesh”, a clear reference to the living to be raptured, have “suffered tribulation, as well as having escaped the hands of the Wicked one (Antichrist)”.

In summary, Irenaeus taught that:

  • The Church will be caught up from the great tribulation, not before it. (Book V, Chapter 29, 1)
  • Some in the Church will be given crowns because they were in the “contest” (the great tribulation) and they “overcame”. I can’t see any crowns for being rescued before all this takes place. (Book V, Chapter 29, 1)
  • During the time of the beast’s empire the Church will be put to flight. (Book V, Chapter 26, 1) This goes along with the teaching in Revelation 12:17.
  • That the number of Antichrist’s name was given to the Church so that we might avoid him after he comes, by being aware who he is after the fact. (Book V, Chapter 30, 3, 4)
  • That the resurrection of the just takes place after the coming of Antichrist. (Book V, Chapter 35, 1)
  • That the raptured, will have “suffered tribulation”, as well as having escaped the hands of the Wicked one (Antichrist) by rapture after the great tribulation. (Book V, Chapter 35, 1)

Since this post has already gotten longer than I anticipated, I will plan to pick this up again in the next week, and show that it is not just Irenaeus that taught that the Church would be here to be persecuted by Antichrist, and the rapture takes place after that, but there were other early Church fathers and writers that understood this view (which we now call the Prewrath view) such as: Cyprian, Hippolytus, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Epistle of Barnabas, and the important document, Didache (The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles).

End Note: Some of this research is from a website: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers; some is from Alan Kurschner’s book, Antichrist before the Day of the Lord; and some is from the article posted on my book Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PaulKalbach1/

 

 

 

 

A Response to Teaching on the “Wrath” in 1 Thessalonians 5:9

I decided to interrupt my teaching on signs to post part of an interesting dialog that started on a Facebook group page that specializes in the Pre-Wrath rapture teaching. To set it up, the question was: whether the “wrath” and “salvation” mentioned in 1 Thess. 5:9 were particularly the wrath of the day of the Lord, or whether this just pointed to the ultimate wrath that is eternal that awaits all unbelievers, and that the salvation was the spiritual, eternal salvation? Ron was arguing for the spiritual and eternal applications of the passage with some very good arguments that included very appropriate passages that clearly dealt with the spiritual applications.

Here is the argument I wrote in response. I will put a link to the whole thread at the bottom of the post. I will do just a little cleanup to make it more readable. The context of the study here is 1 Thessalonians 4:13 to 5:11. It all started with a discussion of the importance of seeing 1Thess. 5:9 as meaning that the “wrath” spoken about here is specifically the wrath of the day of the Lord (I abbreviate TDOTL or DOTL). The argument was that it is speaking of the general wrath that is the eternal destiny of all unbelievers, and not the specific DOTL wrath.

Paul Kalbach: Ron, thank you for this whole Bible study, and I agree with just about everything you say here. This is really good and from the spiritual point of view, covers the subject exceedingly well. What you say about being in the light or the darkness is very true, and I fully subscribe to that understanding.

The issue I see here is that you are making every lesson the spiritual lesson, where I see it as having a different emphasis here in the 1st Thess. 4-5 passages. I see it this way: if Paul were merely dealing with the same subject of being in the light and abiding in Him, etc, then that would be somewhat redundant with the other passages you mentioned. Instead, he is zeroing in on the specific issues related to the last generation living at the time of the Lord’s return. He is on the subject of the rapture, resurrection, and day of the Lord. Clearly the other teaching you mention has a relationship to these topics. So what you say in B, C, and D is exactly true but is in the context of the DOTL.

Paul is addressing those concerns, and by doing that, teaching us 2000 years later that this will be the condition at the end of the age. The helmet of salvation here not only gives us the understanding that we are protected in terms of eternal judgment, but also at the DOTL physical judgement time. Being in the light is not only being a Christian, but it is understanding what is happening in the end times so that we can look up because our redemption (rescue) is about to happen (Luke 21:28). The only difference is what the subject discussion is about and what it means to that generation (times and epochs). The danger is, I think, that if we only take the spiritual teaching lesson out of this passage we miss some of what Paul is teaching about the end times.

For example, the evangelical church (especially pre-tribulation rapture view) has been taught for many years that the Lord’s coming will be “like a thief in the night”. They say we can not know anything about the timing of His return. Paul is teaching something very different here. He is teaching that those in the light (saved people) will not be surprised, but should be ready for His coming which is tied to TDOTL. If they know the signs taught to us in the Olivet Discourse, they can anticipate things happening that lead right up to TDOTL. In this Thess. 5 passage he makes it very clear that it is only those in darkness (unbelievers) that will not be expecting His return very soon.

The Lord taught the very same lesson in the Olivet Discourse when He used the days of Noah analogy (Matt 24:37-39). He said “and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be”. They were like those at the end of the age that are in darkness, and don’t understand that they are about to go into judgment. The implication was also that Noah did know because he was finished with the ark as God had instructed him. He was “in the light”, he was not surprised. He didn’t expect to sit around for years waiting for a “thief in the night” rescue.

The danger of just taking the spiritual application is that we might miss the main difference in what is being taught in these Thessalonian passages. The difference in what we are saying is in emphasis and application of Paul’s teaching, not in any difference on the teaching of eternal salvation.

To put this in another way, to argue some of these passages do not have the specific teaching for the generation that is living at that time, is to water down the fact that the Scriptures go to great lengths to give us this specific teaching about the end of the age. That goes along with those that call themselves “pan-tribulationists”. As they describe it, “However it pans out, they are okay with it”. That is a cavalier attitude that does not fully value “all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). They would disregard something like 25% of the Scriptures that deal with prophecy.

My application to you is to be like a Berean believer, and “Search the Scriptures to see if these things are so”. There are many teachers and they can’t all be right when they differ, but they could all be wrong.

Here is the link to the discussion: https://www.facebook.com/groups/prewrathraptureview/permalink/1447379895329277/

Signs in Prophecy – Part 2

In our last post we looked at Biblical signs, the types of signs used in the Bible, and what the characteristics would be of signs that announce future events. The bottom line was that any God given sign for an end time event would be specific, unique and clear, that is God’s signs are for seeing and understanding.

As we continue this discussion we will look at the importance of signs from God’s perspective and from Jesus’ perspective. We will see that signs are not just important for man’s curiosity or the disciple’s curiosity, but God has intentionally set sign posts for people who care to understand His word. In Daniel’s words: “those who have insight will understand” at the end of the age (Daniel 12:10). Daniel also says in the beginning of that verse that: “none of the wicked will understand”. This adds total concurence to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24 on the Days of Noah analogy, and Paul’s teaching in 1 Thess. 5 on the coming of the day of the Lord, that the wicked will be clueless at His second coming, but those in the light, the righteous, will understand what is happening.

The importance of signs

For those who doubt that God is interested in signs, let us review some of the teaching from Scripture that relates to signs. We can start right in Genesis 1:14 where we learn that one of the reasons He created the sun, moon and stars is “for signs and for seasons…”. He intended to give us information in the cycles He created in the heavenly bodies that tell us when some things should happen and related to those, when some of the largest events would happen. He created the universe in six days and rested on the seventh, and then used this as a pattern for the way man should live. We mark all our calendar events from weeks that we get from creation, months that we get from the moon’s cycle, and seasons that come from our rotation around the sun.

Then God used all these time frames related to the heavenly bodies, especially the moon,  to mark out the feasts or Holy convocations He gave to Israel in Leviticus. All these feasts that He commanded were intended for more than just obedient observance, they were also signposts to the important future events related to Messiah. There were four feasts specified in the spring and three in the fall of the year. We now know that the four spring feasts were fulfilled by the Lord on exactly the days prescribed when the feasts were specified in Leviticus. For example, the Passover feast was the first feast in the Jewish year, and Jesus died on the Roman cross as the Lamb of God exactly on the day of Passover when the priests were sacrificing the Passover lamb in the temple. This pattern continued for the other three spring feasts.

According to Avi Ben Mordechai in his book “Signs In the Heavens”, the Hebrew words that are translated “Appointed times (Leviticus 23:2,4,37,44, etc)” or “Holy convocations (Leviticus 23:2,3,4,7,8, etc)” have the meaning of a rehearsal for some future event. It seems clear that God is not only full of order, you can clearly see it in His creation, but He has revealed exciting strong clues to what He will do in the future. If He fulfilled all four of the spring feasts that related to His first coming on the appointed days, what are the chances that He will not fulfill the fall feasts that relate to His second coming on precisely the days of the appointed feasts? I would submit that the chances of not fulfilling these fall feasts on the appointed dates are slim to none!

In a future post I will describe how I believe Jesus, in His Olivet Discourse, told us precisely when He would come back to earth. I know this goes directly against what many evangelical teachers proclaim, especially those of the Pre-tribulation rapture position, but we need to see and understand what Jesus taught us about the end of the age.

Jesus’ view of signs

When Jesus was asked by his disciples, at the very end of His public ministry, knowing He was just a few days from going to the cross as the true Lamb of God, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”, what was His reaction? That is three questions. Did He tell them they asked the wrong questions? No! Did He indicate by the way He structured His discourse that although they asked about signs and timing, He was taking them in another direction? No! Did He indicate that what they asked was unimportant? No!

What Jesus did, and this is very important, He answered all three of their questions. As I outlined in my book, He answered the last question first, “what will be the sign of the end of the age?” in Matthew 24:4-15. We need to get more detail about this in a future blog, but Jesus gave the clear answer in Matthew 24:15. He answered the question about the sign of His coming next in Matthew 24:16-31. The actual answer to the question is in verses 29-30.  The answers to the first two questions were in the order in which those events and those signs would occur. After answering the two questions about signs He finally answered the “when will these things be?” question in Matthew 24:32-44, giving the timing of His coming.

I believe many have misinterpreted Jesus’ answer to the “when” question. They usually teach that Jesus is telling us we can not know anything about when He is coming, because after all, didn’t He say, “but of that day and hour no one knows…”? But is that what He is teaching? We will answer this question in a future blog. I think the answer and the facts will really surprise most people.

The bottom line is that Jesus had a very serious and positive view of signs when He answered the disciples questions in the Olivet Discourse. He answered all three questions in one of His longest discourses. Forty verses in chapter 24 of Matthew are devoted to the signs and what events will be misleading to obscure the signs and the answer to the when question the disciples asked. He used the very questions about signs and timing as an outline to His teaching.

True signs are not only useful to us, but are a resounding proof that God’s word is true and comes from the only God who knows the future. If He gave these signs to us we had better figure them out, and be clear about what He taught.

 

Signs in Prophecy – Part 1

One of the most discussed concepts in prophetic teaching and literature is that of signs that tell us something about the timing or sequence or other information related to end time events. I don’t really want to be judgmental or unkind, but I must say that I believe there is as much misinformation related to this signs issue as any other in the study and teaching of end times prophecy. In writing my book, there is a reason that I gave it the title: “The Sign of the End of the Age” Subtitle: “What Jesus Taught about the Future in Matthew 24”. I had previously read many books on Matthew 24 and the Olivet Discourse, the rapture, Revelation, and prophecy in general. It was my observation that there is almost no consensus on what are the meaningful signs, what they actually mean, how many of them there are, and really what is their purpose. In fact I believe there is more disinformation than real light being shed as people talk and write about signs.

Partly, I used this title to specifically respond to some who have taught the wrong things with regard to signs at the end of the age. There is one author, who by the way I have a great deal of respect for and much of whose teaching (not all) I would agree with. He (Robert Van Kampen) wrote a book called, “The Sign”. I respectfully disagree with his conclusion that the “sign of the end of the age”  and the “sign of His coming” are one and the same sign or for the same event, His coming. As I understand, it was Robert Van Kampen and Marv Rosenthal whose study and discussions originally came up with the teaching and name of the Pre-Wrath rapture view of end of the age eschatology. I am a firm believer in the Pre-Wrath view of the rapture as they outlined it and as my whole book supports. I think they should be honored for their courage, insight and proper interpretation of Scriptures regarding this important subject. Never-the-less, with regard to the signs I believe Robert Van Kampen got it wrong. This is one of the issues I will take up in this series.

About Signs

How many times have you heard people say after some disaster or threat of war or great earthquake or major conflict in the Middle East, “these are the signs of the times”, or make some bold statement that the end must be near because of this event or that? I am pretty old and have heard this all my life. In fact if you Google “end times disasters” right now you get 1,730,000 results in less than one second. It is natural for many people who are tuned into Bible prophecy related to the end of the age to be constantly looking and asking, “is this something the Bible gives as a clue that the end is near”. After all, the Lord taught in one of His final discourses, just before He went to the cross, about the things that would occur at the end time including: wars and rumors of wars, and nation rising against nation, and famines, and earthquakes, and false prophets and false Christs. When you look at all the prophetic teaching about the end you could add many more events that people will consider to be “signs” that the end could be near.

Let me give you a proposition: “If everything is a sign – nothing is a sign!” When you think about this it is a truism. With regard to the timing of something beginning, how can you tell it is about to begin when the “signs” are many events of varying intensity spread over great amounts of time that are repetitive and have occurred for centuries or even millennia? The answer is: these are not signs.

In my book I have a small chapter, Chapter 2, on “What is a sign” and I will not repeat that discussion here. Even that is not a comprehensive study on Biblical signs. That would take a larger effort than what was needed for the subject related to end times, but let me bottom line the conclusions I came to.

  • A God given sign was meant to be understood, not to be obscured and hard to read or determine. Illustrations were given of Old Testament signs that were very easy to read, and most often very specific.
  • With respect to the purpose of signs, there are a number of issues that signs address: (1) covenant signs such as a rainbow or circumcision that relate to God’s promises; (2) signs to authenticate God’s messengers or Scripture writers such as Moses’ staff turning to a snake, or Elijah’s or the Apostle’s miracles that attested to them being God’s chosen messengers; and (3) the kind we are interested in here, signs that a predicted event is about to take place.
  • It was the 3rd kind of sign (or signs) that the disciples asked about in Matthew 24 that began the whole Olivet Discourse. These were questions that asked when something very specific would happen, and what signs would immediately precede the events they asked about.

This 3rd category of sign is the kind we will be writing about in this series, and has several characteristics in order to be fully understood:

(1) It must be specific so that it gives a real starting point when the question was, “when will this happen?” To be specific and to give us any real understanding of the time when an event will happen it can’t be things that are always occurring like wars and earthquakes. We can never know how many there may be, and we can not tell the magnitude of these “birth pains” or if this is “the big one” till long after the fact and usually looking back.

(2) This 3rd kind of sign must also be unique, that is a one-of-a-kind sign that is not confused with other events, otherwise it would be ineffective.

(3) Finally this event sign must be clear to all who are anticipating this. It can’t be obscure or hidden to be of any value. This has to do with God’s intent for us to see and understand these signs.

By the time we are done with this series on signs, I hope you will see that God’s signs are for seeing and understanding for those who are “in the light”. He never intends to mislead us, and in fact in the beginning of His discourse He specifically warns not to be mislead by certain things, and that there will be those who specifically try to mislead. We will discuss this misleading aspect of signs in the next blog.

 

 

As in the days of Noah – Part 5

We are trying to learn the lessons we can extract from Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24:37-39 which must also include the surrounding verses to examine the context. This week we will deal with two more questions we asked in Part 1: (5) Were those judged in the flood expecting it, and (6) Were those rescued expecting it? After that we will wrap up the rest of the questions we posed in the beginning.

We have skipped over the 4th question: “Who were the 2 kinds of people involved?”, but have really covered some of that in the previous posts. To summarize, we have observed that in the Scriptures it is made very clear that there are always two types: those in  God’s kingdom and those outside; those who have truly believed and been saved and those who have rejected Christ; the righteous people and the wicked; those in the kingdom of Satan and those in the kingdom of His dear Son; those that came under judgment in the flood and righteous Noah and his family who were rescued.

In the future there will be two and only two types of people at the time of the wrath of God and the rescue/rapture, not male vs female, not Jew vs Gentile, not black vs white, not rich vs poor, but only saved believers in the Lord Jesus Christ vs unsaved who reject God’s gracious gift. Through man’s history it has always been thus, and prophetic Scriptures make it clear that it will be the same in the end. In Paul’s words in 1 Thess. 5:4-5, there will be those in darkness and those who are “sons of light”. Now we will begin to see how important this concept is as we go on in this study.

Were those judged in the flood expecting it?

The answer to this is very clear and it is one of the primary things Jesus is teaching in this Noah analogy. Right after He states the analogy, “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah”, He tells us that the wicked “were eating and drinking and marrying and giving in marriage”. This is not the picture of the sinful condition we might expect, which is clearly covered in the Genesis account, but this is a picture of people going along with their lives as if nothing were going to happen. Peter makes a similar statement about the mocking unbelievers at the end of the age: “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation”. Interestingly Peter then goes back to the flood to show that things can change suddenly and dramatically.

What lesson do we learn from this? It is the clear teaching of Scripture that those to be judged do not expect it. Paul says that those in darkness are saying “peace and safety” when the day of the Lord comes on them suddenly. We can be sure that that is one lesson we can take away from the Noah analogy. It must be an important lesson because it is central to the Lord’s teaching. It means that as Noah discharged his duty as a preacher of righteousness, we need to do the same thing in our day. Now lets look at another lesson.

Were those rescued expecting it?

This lesson is more implied than the the previous one. The lord doesn’t say “Noah and his family were expecting to be rescued”. However it doesn’t take much analysis to figure out that Noah expected the flood. After all he spent the last 100 years building the ark to God’s specifications. He certainly knew when he was finished, though he did not know the exact date God would shut the door of the ark and begin the flood. This is trusting God and His word in a spectacular way. If you go see the full sized Ark Encounter in Kentucky, you will get a picture how big Noah’s faith was. The point is clear, he was ready and he was expecting the judgment to come.

Let’s deal with the 8th question we posed at the beginning of this study.

Did Noah know when the rescue would not take place?

He certainly did know that as long as the ark was not finished the flood would not come. In addition he knew that when the ark was complete and the animals were brought in the time was very near.

We have a clear parallel to this teaching in Matthew 24 where we are told that the Lord will cut off the great tribulation followed immediately with the signs in the heavens announcing the day of the Lord wrath. In Luke He says that when you see all these things begin to take place straighten up and lift up your heads because your redemption (rescue by rapture) is drawing near (Luke 21:28). Christians who are “in the light” will know when they are in the great tribulation after the “Sign of the End of the Age”,  and that they can expect in less than 3 1/2 years to be rescued by rapture. This certainly fits the Noah analogy and not some secret rapture that will happen at any time with no signs coming before it. That would be analogous to Noah being taken into an ark that is not ready to float and kept there for seven years before the flood came and destroyed the whole world.

To answer questions 7, 8, and 9:

(7) Judgment and rescue were at the same time on the day God shut the door to the ark, and brought the beginning of the flood (Genesis 7:13-17). At the end of the age we are told certain things must take place before the coming of the Lord and the rapture/rescue. Some of those events are the abomination of desolation in the temple (the sign of the end of the age); the great tribulation; the cutting short of the great tribulation; and the dramatic heavenly signs. The rapture can not come before those things take place if we believe the plain reading of these passages.

(8) Noah knew the flood would not come until he had finished the ark. He did know when the rescue would not take place. It would not be while he was building the ark. It would be after the ark was finished and the Lord had brought in the animals, and not before. At the end of the age we know the Lord taught certain things would precede His coming and the rapture. Those are the things we mentioned above. None of this leaves room for a secret rapture before all this happens. Jesus gave us a clear sequence that must happen before His coming and the rapture.

(9) Yes, Noah knew when the rescue was imminent. It was after all these things had taken place. In the words of Paul speaking about the beginning of the day of the Lord, “But you brethren are not in darkness that the day should overtake you like a thief”. Noah knew when it was about time and at the end of the age we will know by the sequence of events that the time is very near, and when we see the final events in the heavens it is time to lift up our eyes because His redemption is right there.

This is part of the Prewrath teaching. This is what the days of Noah analogy teach us.

 

 

 

 

 

As in the days of Noah – Part 4

In our last blog, “As in the days of Noah – Part 3”, we were discussing the time frame of rescue and wrath in the flood judgment of the whole earth. We came to the conclusion that the Lord was pointing out that like in the days of Noah, the end time judgment would come on the same day as the righteous (elect) are rescued by rapture. That is clearly one of the implications of His teaching analogy.

Now we will examine the next two verses that follow the flood analogy, because we will see that the Lord made it clear that these are an extension of His teaching on the days of Noah. How do we know this? Lets look at the facts related to verses 40-41, which we will quote here.

Then there shall be two men in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left.”

“Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.”

The first word “then” is important here because it serves as a transition from the three verses of the days of Noah analogy. The Greek word used here is “tote” and Matthew uses this word more than any other N.T. writer, about 90 times. It is most often translated “then” in the common English translations. “Tote” is also most often used as an adverb in Matthew. The issue is that the word “then” as an adverb in English can mean several things such as: at that time; soon after that; next; in addition; besides; in that case; as an expected result.  In most places in Matthew 24 where “tote” is used, the idea of “at that time” makes the most sense. In Matthew 24:40, Mounce, in his Interlinear New Testament translates it to “at that time”, which I believe is the correct translation here because the Lord just gave us a time frame which is “the coming of the Son of Man”.

From that analysis we can see the importance of the teaching in verses 40-41. Jesus is saying that when the Son of Man comes at the end of the age, at that time one will be taken and one will be left. The language implies a number of things. First it implies that it is sudden. A person is there one minute, and gone the next. That sounds  clearly like a rapture event to me, and fits all of the Lord’s previous teaching on the second coming and the rapture in verses 30-31 and the flood analogy in 37-39 where in a day some were rescued, and some left on the earth for the flood judgment.

Again, this passage presents a great difficulty to the Pre-tribulationist because it looks like the rapture is right at the Lord’s coming in power and glory (which of course it is), and they are trying to separate the rapture/rescue by about seven years from the clear second coming passage in Matthew 24:30. To do this, many of their teachers, like Dwight Pentecost and others, teach that Matthew 24 is all about Israel at the end of the age, and I quote from Pentecost’s  “Things to Come” page 162: “Again this passage (talking about verse 41) is in that discourse in which the Lord outlines His program for Israel, who is already in the tribulation period. The one taken is taken to judgment and the one left is left for the millennial blessing”. This explanation fits their view, but does not at all fit with the Lord’s previous analogy of Noah and the flood. The ones taken are taken to safety like Noah and his family. The ones left are left on this earth to receive the the Day of the Lord wrath like the wicked in Noah’s day. That is the only clear way to read these passages.

In a previous blog (Why the Pre-Wrath View of the Rapture Makes Sense Part 3) I gave additional hard proof that we (those with the Prewrath view) have the right understanding of Jesus teaching on Matthew 24:40-41. I will just summarize it here.

Using the original language for the words “taken (paralambano)” and left (aphiemi), we showed clearly from several Greek scholars that the original meanings will not in any way support what Pentecost and the Pre-tribulationists teach about these verses. Taken (paralambano) means to take to one’s self, to join to one’s self, and could never mean to take for judgment. Left (aphiemi) means to send away, dismiss, to suffer to depart, and could not have the meaning of to be left behind for millennial blessing. I deal with this at more length in my book on pages 368-370.

From all this teaching it is clear that to be taken (paralambano) means to be raptured, and it is clear that this will occur just before the judgment (Day of the Lord wrath), where the unbelievers will be left (aphiemi) behind . All this is just the Lord’s teaching of what will happen at the end of the age and it will be like the days of Noah.

What could be more clear!

On a future blog we should take the time to show that there are at least three words that are synonymous with the Biblical idea of rapture: “caught up” (harpazo) 1 Thess. 4:17; “gather” (episunago) Matthew 24:31 and 2 Thess. 2:1 (the noun form of episunago); and our word here, “taken” (paralambano).  That would be a very interesting study.

 

As in the days of Noah – Part 2

The second question we asked about Jesus’ analogy using the “days of Noah” in Matthew 24:37-42 was, “What in the end will be equivalent to the ark, since God promised not to destroy the world by a flood again?” I think we all understand that the rescue mechanism at the end of the age is the rapture for those who God rescues at that time. The word “rapture” does not occur in the NT, but it comes from a Latin derivation of the Greek word harpazo, which means to be caught up or snatched up as discussed in my book on page 302-305.

We can verify that the rapture is the rescue mechanism used by God instead of the rescue from water in an ark, as in the days of Noah, by looking at the rescue passages in the New Testament. One of those is in 1 Thess. 4:13-18 where we find the classic passage on the rapture and we also get the definition of the rapture as “caught up together with them (the resurrected believers) in the clouds”. The question is, what are we rescued from?

That is very easy to see from the verses in 1 Thess. 5:1-11 which immediately follows, where Paul is talking about The day of the Lord wrath and the two kinds of people that will encounter that day. Here are some of the important points of similarity with the days of Noah:

  • There are two and only two types of people at the time of judgement: The wicked unbelievers who are destroyed by water vs by end times judgement, and the righteous believers who are rescued by an ark vs by rapture.
  • According to Jesus, the wicked at the time of Noah “were eating and drinking….”(Matt. 24:38), meaning they were unaware of impending doom. Paul says in 1 Thess. 5:3 that when the day of the Lord wrath comes the wicked will be saying “‘peace and safety!’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly…” . Just like in the days of Noah they will not understand that wrath is coming on them.
  • We will say more about this later, but Noah understood that the flood was coming so he was not surprised in any way. Paul says in 1 Thess. 5:4 “But you, brethren, are not in darkness (of knowledge and understanding), that the day should overtake you like a thief”. So in the days of Noah parallel we see that Noah was not surprised and raptured believers will not be surprised at the end of the age. Later when we talk about timing we will see that believers at the end of the age will know that rescue will be coming in a short period of time after some signs. The Bible does not teach sign-less imminence of the Lord’s second coming.

Once again we understand that Jesus gave us a picture of the end times by the parallel analogy to the days of Noah, and the apostle Paul gives us a little more insight to what we will be rescued from, the day of the Lord wrath.

“For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation (rescue from the day of the Lord wrath in this application) through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:9). The Greek word for “salvation” here is “soteria”, which according to Greek scholars can mean preservation or deliverance. That would clearly be the case here because they are already believers that Paul is writing to.

The parallel analogy would not be complete unless we understand that just before the Lord teaches us about the days of Noah being like the second coming, He gives us the teaching on the second coming in Matt. 24:30 and the rapture in Matt. 24:31 where He says, “And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect (chosen believers) from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.” (see my book chapters 18 & 19 for an extensive discussion of this gathering/rapture).

As an aside, this does not at all fit the supposition made by most Pre-tribulationists that this gathering in verse 31 is the regathering of Israel to the land of Israel. It clearly fits as the rescue of believers “like in the days of Noah”!

In the next blog we will deal with the time frame involved with the ark rescue as related to the rapture rescue at the end of the age.

As in the days of Noah – Part 3

Now, as we continue to look at the implications of Jesus teaching that “As in the days of Noah, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be”, we come to the issues of timing. We asked the question, “(3) How long a time frame was there that included the rescue and the flood beginning?” This is important because there are those, especially the Pre-tribulationists, that want us to believe that the rescue of believers comes unexpectedly, and at least 3.5 to 7 years before God’s wrath is poured out. Some even argue that the rapture/rescue could happen some time before the “tribulation” begins. There is further confusion in the end times teaching by conflating tribulation with wrath because they do not recognize that the Scriptures make a clear distinction (for an extensive analysis of this see “The Sign of the End of the Age” pages 115-123).

All of that is clearly negated if we understand what Jesus is teaching us about timing in His Noah analogy. First Jesus said in Matt. 24:38 that the people were “eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage until the day that Noah entered the ark”. In verse 39 He says, “and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away”.  The point is there was one day when rescue came for the believers, Noah’s family, and the beginning of wrath for the wicked unbelievers. Just like judgment will be in the end times, it took more than one day to drown all the population of the earth, but on the one day of judgment it was all decided. Some were in the ark and rescued, and some were left on this earth to face the judgment. God did not take Noah and his family and all the animals into the ark and then wait 3.5  to 8 years to begin the flood. There was no “Left Behind” story where He gave the wicked people outside the ark time to repent and be saved.

To highlight this more, lets look at Genesis 7:13ff, where we see, “On the very same day Noah and Shem and Ham and Japheth, …entered the ark …”. And verse 23, “Thus He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land…”. The point Jesus is making that there is one day of judgment and rescue, just as it was in the days of Noah.

This is so significant when there are theories about a rapture/rescue well before God’s wrath is poured out in the Day of the Lord. Both the Pre-trib and the Mid-trib theories fail badly on this issue. They both have a rapture/rescue at least some years before the Day of the Lord wrath, but Matthew 24:29-31 makes it absolutely clear that the rapture/rescue comes after the signs in the heavens that the old testament makes clear comes “Before the great and awesome day of the Lord” (Joel 2:31). Matthew 24 also makes it very clear that those signs of the day of the Lord in 24:29 come immediately after the great tribulation, which everyone agrees is in the 2nd half of the 7 year period. The Pretrib theory would be equivalent to having Noah in the ark for 4 to 8 years before the flood came. However, we know he was in the ark only during the flood and until it receded, about 200 days. The judgment came on the day God shut the door and started the flood.

In 1 Thess. 4-5, Paul gives us the very same sequence where he gives us the 2nd coming and rapture tied together with the resurrection in 4:13-18 and then follows that immediately with the teaching on who will be ready for the day of the Lord wrath, culminating that with 5:9 which says, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation (rescue) through our Lord Jesus Christ. By saying, “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord” in 4:15, Paul clearly ties his teaching back to what Jesus taught in Matthew 24. So Paul was teaching that the 2nd coming and rapture/rescue in 1 Thess. 4:15-17 comes right before the day of the Lord in 5:1-11, where we have the clear teaching about the two types of people that will come to this day of the Lord judgment. Those in darkness that go on living their lives, “saying, ‘Peace and safety’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly…”. Those of the light to be rescued by the aforementioned rapture/rescue. Clearly Paul is teaching the same sudden day of judgment which the ungodly don’t expect and the believers do expect, but certainly it is judgment on one day. None of what Jesus and Paul are teaching would make sense if rescue and judgment were separated by years, just as it did not happen in the days of Noah.

This teaching is overlooked or explained away by some tortured explanations of tribulation being part of God’s wrath or in some cases even two definitions of the day of the Lord, but it is best explained by the simple reading of these texts which all agree on what we call the Prewrath rapture of the church.

Immediately following this days of Noah analogy in Matthew 24, we have two more verses that resoundingly confirm our interpretation, and it is clear the Lord meant to teach precisely that! We will deal with that in the next blog.