This study of the Rapture and the terrible time of Tribulation to follow, will focus on the events themselves, and what it will be like for the people who are living during these two events: 1) The Rapture—or the unannounced gathering of the True Church in the last days 2) The Great Tribulation—a time of unprecedented horror and judgment that will occur on the earth, following that gathering of Saints to Heaven. We spend so much time studying the theology and the predictions around these events, that we often overlook the reality of their occurrence—what living through these times will literally be like to those involved.
Most people, even non-Christians, have heard talk about “Jesus' Second Coming”, “the Rapture”, “getting left behind”; and most people have heard talk about the terrible days of Judgment at the end of time (Talking of the Seven Years of Tribulation). Before we do get into the details of what it will be like to live through these events, for those with no previous study of these events at all, let's look at the Biblical foundation for when these things are to occur, and for how long they will last. Daniel 9 and Revelation 13, both talk of a world ruler who will make a peace treaty between Israel and surrounding countries that want to destroy it. This peace treaty will be for seven years, and will mark the beginning of a countdown for God's prophetic timeline, ushering in the Great Tribulation. Half of which (3 1/2 years) will be persecutions and troubles because of this antichrist, and the nations of the world, half of which (the last 3 1/2 years) as a direct judgment from God Himself. This seven years of trouble, at the end of times will begin after 1) Israel returns from being scattered across the world (1948) 2) Israel is made a, "cup of trembling to the world" because the surrounding nations want so desperately to destroy it, they cause problems for everyone 3) a ruler gains world attention for getting them to sign a peace treaty in the Middle East, and stop the conflict. Based upon these Scriptures alone, does it not make you realize that we are at the door for the beginning of this seven-year time? And what we are about to look at today, is the very probable chance that we are going to be taken home before this seven-year period even begins. If that is true, how close must we be right now?
The previous sermon series The Seven Feasts of the Lord revealed to us that God has revealed Jesus' entire work of Salvation from start to finish, and that, every significant event dealing with Jesus' plan has happened in the order of the Feasts, and even on the exact day of the feasts. ( 1) Passover- Crucifixion day, 2) Unleavened Bread- day of burial 3) First Fruits- day of Christ’s resurrection 4) Weeks/Pentecost- giving of the Holy Spirit (all these already happened; the next ones yet to come:) 5) Trumpets- day of shouting/awakening blast, ‘Wedding of the Messiah’.) Out of the 26 books of the entire world, that are considered by some to be, "divinely inspired", not one of them contains specific fulfilled prophecy, but almost 27% of our Scriptures contain prophetic content. Many of them have already come to pass, in unbelievable ways. Of those, hundreds are about Jesus' first coming, covering every detail of His birth, lineage, life, death and resurrection, details which we can now look back on, to verify their fulfillment. There are more prophecies concerning His Second Coming than the First. If we can look back on the fulfillment of that First Coming in history, how confidence can we be, on an intellectual basis, for what we read about His Second Coming?
We have to distinguish between two very different events concerning the Coming of Jesus Christ, that many confuse 1) The First: Christ will return, at the beginning or middle of the Seven Year Tribulation Period, to call His followers up to meet Him in the clouds; He will not be seen by nonbelievers; He will not be coming to stay at that moment. This is called, "The Rapture" by some (Rapture, from the Latin word, "Rapio", meaning, "a snatching away"; (the word, "Rapture" is not found in the Bible). 2) The Second: Christ returns for good, very near the end of the Seven Year Tribulation Period. This time, openly and physically for the world to witness; all eyes will see, all knees will bow; He will bring judgment and take back what is His.
This terrible period of seven years on the earth, known as the Tribulation Period, will literally be the most horrific days to live through since the creation of this planet. Matthew 24: 9-10, 21-22. This Tribulation will be a time of trouble to wake Israel from her rejection of the true God, and a time of judgment on the whole earth for its rebellion against God, and the evil that has overrun it. There will be natural disasters, wars, famines, disease, torture and executions; the world will fall under rule of Satan, and, the judgment of God, all at once. With so much at stake, with such unthinkable terrors as are endured through the Tribulation, a very important question to ask is, "Will we (Christians) be here for any of this time of wrath and suffering?” Some Christians disagree on just when Jesus' return for His Saints (In the Rapture) is to take place. Some say He will return before the Tribulation starts (meaning we would miss the troubles and trials). Some say He will return in the middle of the Tribulation (meaning we suffer under the Antichrist, but miss God's wrath). Some say He will return at the end of the Tribulation (meaning we suffer through the entire period). After much study, and in consideration of other's commentaries as well, we believe that Jesus' return must be, before the Tribulation, or at worst, midway through the Tribulation. We do not feel there is any credible evidence that we will be here for the duration of this period. Though we see the, "possibility" of Jesus coming in the middle of the Tribulation, we see an overwhelming amount of Scriptural evidence showing Jesus comes at the beginning of the Tribulation. There are nine major reasons that we feel prove we will miss the Tribulation. 1) The "church" is mentioned 19 times, just in Revelation 1-3, but not once more, throughout chapters 4-18 (Tribulation Period). 2) When the writers of the New Testament speak of the coming of the Lord, they speak of it as though it were any moment, "at hand", not as though they were looking for the Tribulation first. Titus 2:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3, Luke 17:26-35 (portrays life going on as usual—not life in agony during the Tribulation). Jesus compares the Rapture to the times of Noah and of Lot, of which, on both occasions God waited until the righteous were gone. The Greek words used for, "Taken" (paralambano (par-al-am-ban'-o) “to intimately receive”) and "Left" (aphiemi (af-ee'-ay-mee) “to forsake, leave, lay aside”, strongly stress those who disappear aren't being taken away by hostile men, as during a terrible time of persecution under antichrist, but taken home by a Loving God, in a one time, one moment, event. (So will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed) Jesus says of those left behind flee immediately because troubles are coming. 3) Scriptures tell that we are coming back with Him at the end of the Tribulation (meaning we must have left at an earlier time, right?) Revelation 19:11-14. 4) Scriptures say that we as Christians are not appointed to suffer God's Wrath. 2 Peter 2:5, 7, 9, 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11, Revelation 3:10. 5) the restraining Holy Spirit is gone. 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8, Genesis 6:3. Strive is the Hebrew word "diyn" (pro. "deen "), meaning "go with a straight course." Here, God was saying to Noah's generation that His Spirit would not continue to try and restrain evil in those days, but would destroy them in 120 years if not changed. The Holy Spirit is the Only One Who works to restrain Satan and sin in this world, through us. He won’t leave us (John 14:16), therefore those indwelt by Him must be gone. The Holy Spirit continues to work through the Tribulation convicting sinners, but He is gone as a restraining factor when the Christians are raptured, because, there is no one to work through at the time. 6) There are saints in Heaven during the first half of the Tribulation which are casting there crowns at Jesus' feet. Revelation 4:10-11. We receive those crowns when Christ comes: 1 Peter 5:4, 2 Timothy 4:8. 7) There are martyrs who have died for Jesus Christ on the earth, who are now in Heaven, still in the first half of the Tribulation that receive robes of righteousness as they wait to be avenged. Revelation 6:9-11. Spirits don’t wear robes, therefore, these saints have either been raptured from the earth, or raised from the dead at the rapture in order to have new glorified bodies to wear their robes of white. 1 Corinthians 15:51-53. 8) In a parable about Christ's return (The Ten Virgins of Matthew 25), the Virgins are waiting in comfort for their Groom, so much so, that they slept in complacency and five lost their fervor to even wait on Him; they were not in fear, sadness, or in hiding, nor did they have an urgency for the Groom to come and rescue them. 9) In a Jewish wedding which mirrors Christ's relationship with His Church in every way, the Groom comes at an unspecified time, usually at night, and His arrival is announced with the blowing of the Shofar Trumpet (sound familiar?). 1 Thessalonians 4:16. Then He will takes the Bride away to consummate and celebrate their marriage for seven days, just as Christ comes to take His Bride, the Church, at the beginning of the Tribulation, and He is with the Saints in Heaven for seven years while the Tribulation is on earth.
These are very powerful evidences that we will be in Heaven with our Savior at the time of these Tribulations. For the believer—you can joyfully look towards to the Day our Groom appears to take us Home, not dread the day we enter God’s Judgment—but will you sit happily on your salvation and not love others? (Look how many have fought against the election results) For the unbeliever—if you have not given your life to our Lord and Savior, the shofar may blow at any moment, and you will miss this calling of the Saints to come home, and you will walk the earth during the darkest hours of mankind.
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