Over the last 2 months it has been reported, around the world, that revival has broken out on college campuses in the United States of America. We have been informed of possible spiritual awakenings on the campuses of Asbury College, Lee University, Belmont University, and Cedarville University.
In these locations it has been reported that students are repenting, praying for one another, staying for hours in praise services and that charismatic gifts have been manifested among participants.
Although these elements are biblical and may be present during times of revival, their presence neither confirms nor denies a revival. That said, only repentance of sin leading to prayerful seeking of the LORD, among those call by the name of Christ are indispensable to revival.
Truth told, it is too early to tell whether revival has taken place. Asbury for example, has concluded after about three weeks, therefore there will be little objective measurement on long term effect. Consider this fact, concerning Asbury: since its founding in 1890, the college has had as many as 8 revivals or what was thought to be revival.
This is noteworthy because it may reveal a predetermined pattern, that may suggest man’s desire and promotion, rather than a genuine, sustained move of God, by God. And for a school, founded in the Wesleyan Holiness tradition, that is less than 150 years old, it seems 8 revivals is a little suspect.
To compound the fervor of potential revival, in the Christian population in America, is the release of the movie “The Jesus Revolution”, detailing the important people and happenings of the “Jesus People Movement” or what is sometimes referred to as the “Hippie Revival” of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
It was this movement which gave birth to the Calvary Chapel Church denomination, as founder Chuck Smith was at the forefront of the “Jesus People Movement”, with hippie evangelist Lonnie Frisbee. The movie is basically the story of how celebrity pastor Greg Laurie came to faith in Christ, and how the Christianity spread among the youth counter culture population, in its first year and a half.
“The Jesus People Movement” had some of the same characteristics as the above revivals, yet with this moving of God, there was a focus on repentance and discipleship, among those who remained in discipleship with pastor Chuck Smith; which the movie does not do well to explain.
It must be clearly and definitively stated once more that prophesying, speaking in tongues, healing, casting out demons, hours of singing and times of spiritual emotional out cry, are not foundations to revival, nor indicative that a revival is occurring. These may be present during revival, but not indicative of one.
Additionally, many people seeking an encounter with the Holy Spirit, is not indicative of a revival. In fact, even though many in that pattern may be sincere, often their sincerity rises from a zeal without biblical knowledge, that can lead to spiritual shipwreck.
Remember that the Holy Spirit was given to us by the Father, for the purpose of glorifying Jesus Christ (John 16:14-15).
We must remember that the Holy Spirit, in us, compels us to seek Christ, His glory and His fame. We seek Christ in love, the giver of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and His continuing fullness (Ephesians 5:18-19).
We seek Christ. Far too often people chase “revival” rather than be moved by the Holy Spirit to be revived into the mission of Christ in their city.
Associated with Asbury and the people and experiences inside of the “Jesus People Movement”, are also unsavory elements masquerading as right and biblical, which need to be dealt with. This should not blow us back, for when ever God moves in power, the enemy attempts to counterfeit and convolute what God has brought forth.
When these elements are unchecked and experienced by those in attendance, they can damage the faith of the unaware, as well as the name of Christ. Therefore, it is essential we understand the nature of revival.
So, what is revival?
This question is not easy to answer, as the word “revival” does not appear in scripture, but tends to be associated with times where God does something to awaken His people from backsliding or apostacy.
Therefore, a foundational aspect of revival is the repentance of God’s people (either Israel or since Pentecost His church). This repentance is seen in God’s people returning to simplicity in the faith and the expulsion of worldly ways, which have crowded out true biblical faith and practice. This spiritual transformation then comes to bear on the world around God’s people.
Over the last 40 years, it seems that whenever continual and protracted manifestations of the Spirit (either real or imagined) occur, where praise music seems to continue unending, where charismatic speakers whip people into a frenzy, where “dreams and visions” occur and masses of people begin to make pilgrimage, that it is believed to be a revival.
That belief does not jibe well with the true character of a biblical revival, which at its core exclusively begins with repentance in the church. In America, Christians must be careful to do the work of repentance and obedience to Christ, rather than chase charismatic movements.
Even when a reviving of the Church may occur, we must fight the urge to run to where we believe the Spirit of God is, for He is everywhere present with those who are Christ’s own. Therefore, we must be catalysts for God’s will, and His kingdom where we are at.
To understand revival, we must look to God’s word for for clarity. There are three places in God’s word that are apropos, in defining revival, they are…
II Chronicles 7:13-16
In my next post we will dive into these passage and discover the true nature of Revival.
In looking forward let us always remember that it is God that begins a revival and the church’s repentant response that either keeps revival rolling, or shuts revival down. We will find that God’s mercy, in reaching out repeatedly, is the only way revival takes place.
Let us remember that the LORD called Israel back to Himself, repeatedly, through prophets, invasions, pestilence and captivity. It was only when Israel responded with repentance and faith, that revival would come
Let us remember this pattern exists in the New Testament as well, with the Church of Ephesus. Both Paul and John loved and served this Church. In reading Paul’s letter to the Ephesian Church, we can see 30 years in advance of Christ’s call to return to their “First Love”, that Christ was calling them to awaken.
Revival begins with the church awakening to the reality of God’s presence and how it has turned from Him sinfully, while being convinced of being faithful. This awakening brings godly sorrow, working repentance leading to a renewing of our faith and commitment, to the God, Who’s Son alone is our salvation (II Corinthians 7:10).
WOE, WOE, WOE! To the inhabitants of the United States of America.
Your enemies are poised to strike and overcome you. Multitude will be taken in the fall of the people of America. This is not for the purpose of making you slaves of enemy nations, for you are enslaved to your lying idea of freedom, which pursues the lie “Do what every you want, and think is right, which is the only law”.
Your people pursue their inordinate desires as rights of religious idolatry. Though I have disciplined you through calamity in the past, you have ignored these chastisements, and doubled down on your pride, rebellion and stubbornness; then you call on Me to rescue you, as if your evil ways are sanctioned by Me, as if you are a nation favored by the LORD, the Almighty God.
Through your pride and arrogancy, you have allowed every perversity within your borders—you have relaxed, recreated and silently sat idle, while over 70 million children were surgically slaughtered in the wombs of their mothers. If that was not shameful enough the multitudes have blamed the incompetency of wicked leaders, but it is your error of freedom, which has produced the rot of your nation.
Sadly, the majority of those called by my name, in America, have never shed a tear, or spent time grieving over this abomination. They are too busy praying that I would bless more.
I the LORD am the Just and Holy LORD God Almighty, and I will avenge this blood, I will recompense the vast depths of the depravity of this nation, and how it has influenced the nations of the world, to conspire against Me, My Son, and those redeemed through His shed blood.
America, you have rejected My word and My servant’s sent to call you to salvation, through repentance and faith in My Son, Jesus Christ.
Be warned you men and woman who call yourselves “Christian” in this nation of deceit. American Christianity has influenced almost as many with false doctrine as the Satanic lie of Roman Catholicism, in the last 100 years. My patience has run its course, Judgment awaits.
Through the prophet Hosea I revealed My people were destroyed for a lack of knowledge of my word and of Me. Be warned you who claim My Son as Lord yet have never cared about His will or to know Him in the power of His resurrection, or share in the fellowship of His sufferings, and dying to yourselves daily to follow Him.
My fellowship of the called-out ones is small in America, but they are growing in holiness, because I, the LORD, know how to rescue the godly from temptation. Keep speaking the truth in love, and know that in the trial to come, which you will walk through, that I will be with you and give life to you. Though you walk into the jaws of death, I will strengthen you to stand for the name of my Son, and bring you into eternal habitations, when your mission is complete.
Be strong, My little flock, for you are the light of Hope, for those who will turn to me, in the calamity to shake the United States of America. Remember, I AM with you always.
But WOE to you America. The cancer of your error of freedom has metastasized and the whole body of your nation is sick, from the top of the head to the sole of the foot, little to nothing is sound. I will bring you into poverty like a wave rolling you over and over, and pulling you under, that you will despair of taking a breath, for to die is better than to live in the enfolding darkness created by the poverty you have earned.
All the escapes and recreation you sought will evaporate in a moment, and you will be taken in anxiety, as you can no longer run from dealing with the reality what your rebellion against me has brought forth. Famine, starvation, death and uncertainty will be around every corner for a people who have no HOPE.
I AM HOPE says the LORD of Hosts. All who run to me, through repentance and faith in My Son Jesus Christ, will experience peace forever in my Kingdom and my presence in the middle of the Valley of the Shadow of death.
Ezekiel 16:48-50“As I live,” says the Lord GOD, “neither your sister Sodom nor her daughters have done as you and your daughters have done. Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.
Isaiah 40:15 Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the scales; look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing.
Psalms 2 Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: “Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion.“
“I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’
“Now therefore, be wise, O kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.
Haile Nayzgi, one several Christians imprisoned in Eritrea for more than 18 years
Eritrea is governed by a totalitarian regime that seeks to control every aspect of life. In 2002, the government outlawed every form of religion except Islam, Orthodox Christianity, Roman Catholicism and the Lutheran Church. All other religious groups are illegal, and the government maintains control of approved churches.
Many Christians have been arrested without warning, and imprisoned Christians are not given a trial or allowed to see their families. Conditions inside these prisons are some of the harshest in the world. Some 200 to 250 believers are believed to remain in prison, though it is unclear if all are still alive.
Christian prisoners are provided meager rations and often held in shipping containers in extreme desert conditions for years. Several Eritrean Christian leaders, like Haile Nayzgi, have been imprisoned since 2004.
PLEASE PRAY FOR CHRISTIAN COUPLE IN LAOS
On April 4, 2022, Lerm and his wife, Dow, accepted Christ and started to attend church. A few months later, Dow’s father, who was the head of a nearby village in their province in northern Laos, found out and demanded that they renounce Christ.
When they refused, he used his influence to have them evicted from their village and took away the income and food supplies they usually earned from farm work. Lerm asked his own father to take them in but was rejected because his father feared losing his government job.
Lerm, Dow, and their children lost everything when they were evicted. They now live in a temporary hut on the land of another Christian brother, but their faith has remained strong.
As we discovered in the last message Zacharias and Elizabeth were righteous before God, by their faith in God’s word and promise of the coming Messiah. Having this understanding means that they were not attempting to be blameless in the commands and ordinances of God, as a means of salvation. So, what was their motivation?
This godly couple can serve as a model of motivation. In thanksgiving over God’s grace to bring Messiah to deal with their sin, they in turn walked out the commandments and ordinances of God “blameless”. This reveals that their effort, was not to save themselves, but a commitment of love to be a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1-2).
The word blameless means that before men, there were no evidence that they walked contrary to God, in any way. Blameless often deals with “in the sight of men”. Zechariah and Elizabeth understood that their lives were to be examples and they applied themselves to that seriously
Are we called to walk blamelessly, as followers of Christ? The word blameless is used 15 times in the New Testament alone. Consider a few of these usages.
1 Corinthians 1:7-8 so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Philippians 2:14-15Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…
So, as Zechariah and his wife were examples to their fellow Israelites, so we are to be even more amplified examples of blamelessness, as we are being filled with the Holy Spirit, before the church and the world.
Let us examine the devotion necessary to be defined as blameless in the sight of men.
Psalms 101:1-4 I will sing of mercy and justice; to You, O LORD, I will sing praises. I will behave wisely in a perfect way. Oh, when will You come to me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not cling to me. A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will not know wickedness.
Eight times in the above Psalm the writer determines, as we see in the phrase “I will”, to be blameless, righteous and godly. Once more, this was not for the sake of saving himself, but because of his extreme devotion to God.
The writer is king David, who was a man after God’s own heart—a man who’s desire to pursue God and His ways, would lead him to the breaking point. David knew salvation was in God alone, through the promise of one of his offspring to sit on his throne forever and because of God’s promise he ran after God’s heart.
In both David and John the Baptists’ parents we behavior that lines up with the word of God declaring that “faith without works is dead faith” (James 2:14-26).
Now consider that for Zacharias and Elizabeth, their works were seen and revealed to all their faith and righteousness before God. Remember they walk this way without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Should not we, who are indwelt with the Holy Spirit, have an even greater walk in His commandments? Absolutely and that motivation is our love for Him for He first lived us (I John 4:7-10). Consider Jesus words.
John 14:15-17 “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.
John 14:21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
We love Him, for He took our sin into His own perfect life on the cursed tree, and we by faith, had His perfect righteousness imputed to us (II Corinthians 5:21). Oh, what marvelous love, that Jesus died with our names and sin written into His body, as our atonement (Colossians 2:15).
The New Testament makes it very clear that we all ought to be concerned about our testimony when it concerns blamelessness, before men, inside and outside of the church. Consider these passages… I Corinthians 1:8; Philippians 2:15; Colossians 3:13; II Peter 14-17. Consider that blameless in the sight of men, is a requirement for elders and deacons.
Remember that this deals with our outward testimony, which for all who follow Christ ought to be ever growing toward blamelessness in testimony and should not take forever to develop or mature. None of this is the basis of being saved, but our reasonable service of worship to Him, for His love and mercy in the Atonement, through Christ’s death for both Jew and Gentile.
ZACHARIAS STILL NEEDED CORRECTION
Although both Zacharias and Elizabeth were righteous by faith and blameless before men, we see in Luke 1:8-20, there is always a need for further perfecting or maturing, in sanctification.
Luke 1:13-17 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
In the first place, we see that Zacharias is told his son, will be unique in the realm of men, being filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb. Secondly Zacharias is told his son will fulfill the very last O.T. prophecy from Malachi 4.
Luke 1:18 And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”
Can anyone fault the man for his hesitation? He and his wife we passed childbearing age and God had spoken to no one in 400 years. But to the LORD, faith must obey even if it does not understand (the Bible is meant to be obeyed, not understood first). This was a place in Zacharias heart and practice, which was not sanctified to maturity. This was an area of unbelief and doubt concerning God’s nearness and will, which needed correcting.
Luke 1:19-20 And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”
We in the church often need correction for the same.
In the American church there are two predominant crowds. Those save by grace and living as if God expects nothing and those who believe that they do more than enough. Both cheapen grace and are in error.
We are to be transformed from glory to glory. This occurs as we go through crisis and progression, in the fulness of the Holy Spirit (II Corinthians 4:16).
The issue addressed in this message is one of sanctification. Both Zacharias and Elizabeth were blameless before men in practice. That did not save them, but it also does not mean they were not to grow more like the Christ, whom their son would herald and announce.
Sanctification does not cease for us in this life, and we ought never to complain about messages that reveal we need to be more like Christ, or the pain and difficulty associated with the call to be transformed, as we are corrected.
Yet so often we complain and even miss that it is God, in our difficulty, chastening some pattern of our past sinful life out of us. In fact, many Christians live most of their life never interacting with God intimately, where He reveals a pattern of sin. Many believe I have arrived and am all He desires me to be even though they may say differently in Christian company. This in fact is a sin.
So, let us as David in Psalm 101:1-4 and Zechariah and Elizabeth, determine to believe that Christ is our righteousness, by faith and determine to be blameless, as testimony of His salvation, in and through our lives. You may be the only Gospel anyone ever reads.
As we begin walking through the Gospel of Luke, it is important to understand the “who” and “why” of this Gospel, inspired by the Holy Spirit. Over the next several months we will deeply examine the truth contained in this wonderful testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s begin.
Luke is the author of this Gospel and writes “just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding from the very first, to write an orderly account” (Luke 1:2).
In the words “eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered…” he is referring to Paul, Peter, John, and Miriam (Mary) the mother of Jesus. It is these believers Luke encountered in his travels with Paul.
Luke was a Greek and a physician by trade. Before we assume this is a pretext for God giving us doctors or medicine, when the Bible never says that, let us understand what being a Greek physician meant to those in the days of Christ’s first coming.
There was no approved practice of medicine in the Old Testament as the Old Testament YHWH declared “the LORD that heals us” and He, Himself, is the one “…who forgives our iniquities and heals all our diseases” (Exodus 15:26; Psalm 103:1-3).
Most doctoring came by way of Egyptian and Greek paganism. Remember John 5, at the pool of Bethesda, where Jesus healed a lame man. This pool had nothing to do with Jewish faith or practice but was an Asclepeion, or pagan healing temple.
Each one of these temples had a pool, where rituals were performed to conjure an angel to stir the waters for healing. Of course, the angels were not God’s holy angels, but the fallen and demons. At these temples, there were doctors; this is what Luke was. It is potential that he was present in Chapter 5 of John, being an Asclepeion physician.
Asclepios founded these cultic healing pools and the trade of physicians. He received his medical knowledge from a serpent that whispered hidden knowledge into his ear. This knowledge was extensive concerning the human body and not previously known to any.
Luke, being called the “beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14) is important because he left that behind to follow Christ, as it was pure paganism.
Luke was one of Paul’s longest tenured traveling companions and was obviously present, as a witness to the birth announcement of the church, for the Holy Spirit inspired him to write the book of Acts. For the things he was not an eyewitness too, he received truth from eyewitnesses, such as Mary, Peter and John, in his travels with Paul.
Consider the intimate details of Christ’s life, in His early years, and this inspired text concerning Mary “but His mother kept all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51). This was revealed to him in Ephesus, a church Paul loved and where Mariam (Mary) resided for a time as John the apostle took care of her (John 19:25-27). With that background let us look further into Luke 1.
Let us read Luke 1:5-7.
Luke 1:5-7 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.
In this passage we see an element of our walk with God, where God does something because of our faith, where we do something because of our right relationship to God and how we grow and mature, as we walk with the Lord.
RIGHTEOUS BEFORE GOD BY FAITH
In the passage above both of John the Baptist parents were “righteous before God”. This means that they were justified or considered not guilty before God. This righteousness had nothing to do with the next sentence, where we read of their walking in all the commandments and ordinances of God, blameless.
We know this because of what it says in Romans 3:20 “By works of the law shall none be righteous in His sight”.
Verse 6 is a testimony to their saving faith in God, as we understand “the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17; Hebrews 10:35-38; Habakkuk 2:4).
The foundation for this truth is in Genesis 15:6, where Abraham believed God and the LORD accounted to him as righteousness. This means being considered righteous is a done deal, whereby God considered him as if he never sinned.
The word “accounted” also means “to impute”. David declares the blessing concerning this word Psalm 32:1-2 where the word of God declares “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit”.
It is important we understand that imputation or being accounted as righteous, is directly related to God’s promise of the Messiah to come, who would atone for sin. Therefore, it was still belief in God’s ultimate sin offering in the Christ, that brought justification or being deemed “not guilty” to Old Testament saints.
Abraham would have known that God’s promise to him would be the vehicle by which the promise seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15).
Let us consider Job, who was also righteous by faith (Job 1:1-5, 8). Job was recorded to have offered sin offerings for himself and his children, but it was who and what these sacrifices pointed too, that Job had placed his faith in.
Job 19:25-27 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
Job believed the Messiah would Redeem him with His own blood, as the Lamb of God slain—Job believed the Redeemer would be the Messiah who would return after dying and risings from the dead—Job believed that he would see the Redeemer himself even after Job had died. This is the hope of all the saints of God, in both the Old and New Testament times.
Old Testaments saints were justified by faith in God’s word and promise concerning Messiah; just as we are. When they died, they went to Abraham’s Bosom, to await the death and resurrection of the Messiah, then He would “lead captivity captive” (Psalm 68:18; Ephesians 4:8).
Zacharias and his wife, John’s parents, believed in the truth of Messiah the Redeemer (Luke 1:67-79). As Old Testament saints (Christ had not died or risen yet), we see the merging of justifying faith, with an effort that was blameless, in verse.
Luke 1:6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
Ephesians 2:8-10 reveals the merging wonderfully.
Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Verse 10 moves us beyond being justified by faith in Christ, into the outcome of being counted as righteous by grace through faith… to walk with all our heart in those good works He ordained for us.
No we are not saved by obeying commandments and the ordinances of the LORD, but we obey the commandments and ordinances of the LORD, because being justified by faith in Christ, and made new creations, we gladly and with love desire to glorify our God and Father.
This is a good foundation for understanding what Luke 1:6 declares “walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless”. So what does this speak to the follower of Jesus Christ today?
There are far to many teachers, who in error declare that to pursue holiness or expect change in our Christian lives, is an indication of one trying to save themselves. These teachers falsely preach a Gospel where Christ can wash away your sins, but is not powerful enough to give you a new life, evidenced by the good works of the Christian life; works which do not save, but certainly glorify God and His Christ.
Let me ask you Christian, do you rejoice to obey the commandments of the LORD? Do you strive to walk worthy of your calling in Christ and be blameless in keeping His word? The desire to do so does not save, but that desire is in the heart of every follower of Christ, justified by their faith in Christ’s finished work.
We were saved to do exploits for Christ, to live a life that displays Christ has destroyed the works of the devil in us and where we as new creations look like Christ in our character, thoughts and actions.
This final post will be a short review of what we have discussed in the previous 6 posts. We will also examine a very real and biblical element of Christians sanctification, which is the suffering of tribulation. If you have not read the last post, please click this link to read Behold, He is Coming in the Clouds! IVI
THE RAPUTRE AFTER THE TRIBULATION BEGINS
The suggestion that the “in gathering of the church” or what is popularly termed the “rapture”, is anything other than pre-tribulational, is a preposterous assertion to most Christians in America. This is a sad state for the church, because as we have discovered over the last six posts, the rapture taking place after the beginning of the tribulation is a solid biblical assertion and much more biblical than a pre-tribulation position.
This ought to grieve our hearts, especially when those who hold a pre-tribulation viewpoint scoff at debate, as if there is no reason for conjecture concerning their position. What I would like to do is present you with the most plausible timelines from the most cogent passages containing references to the “rapture”. After these timelines, we will discuss the necessity of tribulation as an element of sanctification for the saints from the birth of the church.
The beginning of the sorrows (1-8)
The beginning of the tribulation (9-14)
The midpoint of the tribulation (15-28)
Before or at the midpoint of the tribulation, the sign of the Son of Man (29-30)
The last trumpet (31a)
The rapture of the church (31b)
The beginning of the sorrows (3-8)
The beginning of the tribulation (9-13)
The midpoint of the tribulation (14-23)
Before or at the midpoint of the tribulation, the sign of the Son of Man (29-30)
The last trumpet (26)
The rapture of the church (27)
The beginning of the sorrows (8-10)
The beginning of the tribulation (11-19)
The midpoint of the tribulation (20-24)
Before or at the midpoint of the tribulation, the sign of the Son of Man (25-28)
*note verse 28 “look up for your redemption draws near” Luke’s account makes notation of the last trumpet.
The beginning of the sorrows (6:1-9)
The beginning of the tribulation to middle (6:9; 8:1-2; 11:1-2; 12:1-6; 13:1-4)
The midpoint of the tribulation (11:7-10; 12:7-12; 13:5-8; 11-15)
The last trumpet (11:15)
The voice of the archangel (11:15: 12:7-9)
The rapture of the church (14:14-16)
Note that in a plain reading of the text, despite what has been reported, the rapture does not take place until after the midpoint of the tribulation. This presents us with a sobering proposition: That the church will go through tribulation. This ought not to surprise any of us. The church has been going through horrific tribulation through out its history and is prophesied upon us by Christ Himself.
Yes, the church will go through the largest portion of the tribulation. For me to even write those words, brings a sense of anxiety, knowing how the pre-tribulation crowd reacts with mockery, when their viewpoint does not present one in context passage, suggesting a pre-tribulational rapture.
Note my anxiety does not arise from anxiety over suffering, because that is part of our life with Christ and ought to be expected, and in fact rejoiced in: that we would be considered worthy to suffer something on His behalf (Matthew 5:10-12; Acts 5:41).
To understand that the “in gathering” of the saints or what is referred to as the “rapture“, does not occur until after the mid-point is not bad news, but good news, because this too lines up with scripture.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-10 1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4But you, brethren, are not in darkness,so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.9For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.
This passage, which directly follows the classic rapture passage (I Thessalonians 4:13-18) reveals two wonderful truths.
The first of which debunks the secret rapture element of the pre-tribulational rapture. Although to the world, the Day of Lord or the day of Christ, at which time the “in gathering” of the saints takes place, comes upon the world suddenly; it is not supposed to for us, as reported in verse 4.
4But you, brethren, are not in darkness,so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.
Remember that suddenly to the world does not mean secretly. In fact, Christ’s own words reveal the idea of secret to be an error. We know the season of time He comes for us, because of the signs we just studied, three of which are detailed in the chapter before what we just read.
Remember, that the idea of the secret rapture is debunked by Matthew 24:29-31, Mark 13:24-27, Luke 21:25-28, where it reveals the sign of the Son of Man and declares “every eye will see Him and all the tribes of the earth will mourn”. All the tribes accept those in Christ’s kingdom. For us it is our blessed hope. Following the whole world seeing Christ coming on the clouds, Jesus then reveals the rapture of the church.
Titus 2:11-1411For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
The second revelation is that the “rapture” is not pre-tribulational, but pre-wrath. Yes, and Amen, we are not appointed to wrath, as revealed in I Thessalonians 5:9. This also agrees with the timelines in Revelation 14:14-16, where the “rapture” takes place, only to be followed by Revelation 14:17-19, where the awesome terribleness of His wrath is poured out; producing bloodshed up to five feet high for several hundred miles.
Revelation 16-18 reveal the magnitude of God’s wrath poured out on the world, not the church.
Christians are to prepare for tribulation, and rejoice we avoid His wrath. That should not to be a shocking statement, for tribulationis built into the experience of the individual Christian and the church as large, historically and contemporarily.
Remember that tribulation, in any age, purifies the faith of the faithful and exposes those who merely profess faith in Christ, without walking in that faith.
Our Lord Jesus Christ told us we will face tribulation.
John 15:18-2318 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates Me hates My Father also.
John 16:1-4 1 “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. 3 And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.4 But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.
John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
The word “tribulation” is described as affliction or persecution for the purpose of exhausting one’s faith and causing them to shut up or be shut down completely. The word carries with it an idea of pursuit, so it is difficult to avoid.
Tribulation is a result of those who live godly in Christ Jesus (II Timothy 3:12). From the martyrdom of Stephen in Acts chapter 7, until the present hour, the history of the church is a history of the godly and faithful suffering tribulation like atrocities and enduring through them.
One passage, in particular, points to the necessity of tribulation in our lives for Christ. Tribulation is described as trouble against us because of our faith, not just garden variety human suffering, but a satanic, carnal and worldly effort to eradicate our faith and faithfulness to Christ.
Romans 5:3-53 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Tribulation, is trouble meant to eradicate our faith and faithfulness to Christ, by any means, but produces “perseverance” or endurance. Endurance is necessary to produce something greater in us than we can build without the tribulation. When we persevere in our faith, regardless of the trial against us, it produces “experience” or “proven character”.
This is not good human character, but the character of Christ in and through us. This is what brings about the fullness of the Holy Spirit, where the fruit of the Spirit, the very character of Christ, is visible and life giving in us.
When Christ’s character is proven in our lives of faith, perfect love for Him casts out fear and the desire to run. This state is what brings “hope”, which means we are fully fixed on looking for “our blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ”.
Tribulation and more specifically Christians enduring during the tribulation period, has another God glorifying effect. It stimulates Israel to jealousy, concerning our relationship to the God of their fathers (Romans 11:11).
Remember, during the first 3 and half years of the tribulation, two Jewish witnesses will call Israel to repentance, as they oppose antichrist. Also during that time, 144,000 Jewish evangelists will proclaim the gospel to the Jewish nation. Their message, lines up with what true Christ following Gentiles have proclaimed for 2000 years.
When the Jewish remnant sees, the sign of the Son of Man, the two witnesses and the evangelists of their own nation, in line with Christians who are dying in multitudes for the name of Yeshua, they will be provoked to jealous faith in the Messiah.
There are some who have said that to teach anything other than a pretribulational rapture is to say God would be beating up His bride and He would never do that. Not only is this an unscriptural straw man, it lacks historical context.
Was God beating up His bride when He prophesied decades a head of time, that Peter would be tortured to death by crucifixion and then it came to pass (John 21:18-19)? Or what of when Paul was beheaded in a very tribulation-like execution? Was God beating up His bride, when James was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple and when he did not die, had his brains smashed out of his skull with a fuller’s club? Was God raging against His bride when Thomas was impaled in India by priest of Kali? The answer is no.
In fact, all the original twelve, except Judas and John, died by beheading, stoning, being drawn and quartered, flayed, drowned or crucified.
Was God beating up his Bride, when they thousands were dressed in bloody animal skins, placed in an arena and eaten alive by animals and wild beasts for the pleasure of the crowds.
Was God beating up His bride, when millions of followers of Jesus Christ were tortured, burned at the stake or killed in various tribulation-like ways, by the Roman Catholic Church?
Was Jesus Christ angry with his Bride and punishing her, when tens of thousands of Armenian Christians were taken to the middle of the Black Sea and thrown overboard to watch them tread water until they drown in exhaustion by the Muslim Ottoman Turk Empire?
Or is the Lord beating up His bride, while hundreds of thousands of North Korean Christians are tortured in cruel medical experiments and executed in ways to despicable to speak of?
The answer is no. Tribulation is part of our experience for God’s glory.
Romans 8:35-3935 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Rather than dwell on what may take place, let us continue to live faithfully for Christ, everyday we are blessed to live. Let us endure now, looking of the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our Great God and Savior the Lord Jesus Christ. And when our time arrives to stand for Christ is difficulty, let us be prepared, with a heart of love for God and hope in His glorious appearing.
Today we will discuss the last two events prior to the rapture of the church, or what the Bible defines as “our gathering together to Him”. If you have not read the previous article please click the following link Behold, He is Coming in the Clouds! VI
Let us look at the scriptures.
1 Thessalonians 4:15-1615 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. 16For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout (The final moments of the sign of the Son of Man) with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.
THE VOICE OF THE ARCHANGEL
Revelation 11 gives us some of the events which take place inside of Israel and begin at the beginning of the 7-year tribulation. The events take us through to the middle of the tribulation period (Revelation 11:1-2). At the midpoint antichrist murders two witness and leaves their bodies dead in the street for 3 and ½ days (Revelation 11:1-8).
After 3 an ½ days they will hear a voice saying, “come up here” and they ascend into the heavens. I believe this to be the voice of the arch angel Michael. The voice of the arch angel is associated with the proclamation of victory (Revelation 11:12, 15).This is cry of victory, for something had taken place, which the parenthetical section of Revelation 12 reveals.
Note with me that Revelation 11, 12 and 13:1-7 all discuss the events of the first 3 and ½ years of the 7-year tribulation time frame and a little beyond. In these three chapters we get to see overlapping events.
Revelation 12 begins with a sign in heaven just prior to or at the beginning of the 7-year tribulation. This sign is astronomical and reveals the story of Israel, its Christ and their hated enemy, the dragon, whom we know is the Devil. We see Satan once more try to eradicate the remnant, but God protects them. The events in Revelation 12:1-6 occur over 1260 days of 3 and ½ years.
Then at the midpoint, in verse 7, we read…
Revelation 12:7-97 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. 9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
Satan at this time is removed from his place as the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:1-2). Satan’s being the ruling principality of the air, is an authority given to him by God, over other angelic creatures, before he fell. Satan has misused this rulership since his fall.
In Revelation 12:7-13 Michael and God’s holy angels, dislodge the devil and strip him of this authority. This reason for this is very important., for it prepares the way for Christ to descend into the heavens surrounding the earth, for the purpose of gathering His saints, in the rapture.
Interestingly, Daniel speaks of this event as well, in Daniel chapter twelve. Remember, as Satan, before his fall was the principality over the air, Michael has always been the chief principality of Israel.
Daniel 12:1 1 “At that time Michael shall stand up,the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble,such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time.
When it says, “At that time Michael shall stand up”, the phrase “stand up” is better translated “stands aside”. When considering that Michael standing aside brings a time of trouble never seen before, we know that Daniel is referring to the last 3 and ½ years of the tribulation.
When we consider this, in addition to what takes place, with Israel, after Michael goes to make war with Satan and cast him to the earth, we understand that the voice of the archangel is that which announces Christ’s gathering of the saints is at hand.
Interestingly, II Thessalonians 2:1-12 agrees with these truths. We already know that the in gathering of the church cannot occur, until the “the falling away” and the “man of sin be revealed”. We then find out something needs to take place before the man of sin be revealed.
2 Thessalonians 2:6-86And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. 8And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.
It’s unfortunate that most translations capitalize the personal pronoun “he” in verse 7. In the Greek language this passage was written with no punctuational or capitalization. Therefore, when translating, the English rules of grammar are left up to the translator. In this case they could not be more wrong.
The “he” translated “He” is not the Holy Spirit, as some have preferred to teach in error. The “he” does not refer to the church, with the Holy Spirit in us. In scripture the church is not referred to in the male sense, but the female, as we are the bride of Christ. There is only one person this could be… Michael the archangel who watches over Israel, restraining lawlessness in the reconstituted Israel.
When he leaves to war with Satan, dislodging the enemy from the heavens, the Devil is cast down to earth and filled with great wrath. He literally enters antichrist at some point and then performs his abomination of desolation, which reveals antichrist fully. This also lines up with Daniel 12:1-4.
THE TRUMPET OF GOD
The trumpet of God referenced in I Thessalonians 4:13-18, is also referred to in I Corinthians 15:50-52.
1 Corinthians 15:51-5251 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
Although it appears the rapture will take place immediately after the last trumpet, it is not entirely true. When looking another location of the final trumpet from Revelation 11:15-16, we see the timing of the rapture, which lines up with Christ’s account in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew 24:29-31; Mark 13:24-27; Luke 21:25-28).
ONLY PLACE WHERE LANGUAGE LINES UP WITH SYNOPTIC GOPSELS
Revelation 14:14-1614 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16 So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.
Revelation 14:14-16 is where we read of the rapture of the church. At first glance it may appear that the rapture not only does not take place immediately after the sounding of the last trumpet, but that there is a long time between the two. To assume this is wrong.
We must remember that chapters 12 and 13 are largely parenthetical and the actual timeline is up to the midpoint of the tribulation. Therefore, it is not until we get to Revelation 13:6-7, where it appears the two witnesses’ ascension, emboldens antichrist to attempt to attempt to snuff out the church completely (Revelation 13:7-8, 11-18) and antichrist is emboldened to force worship of Himself on the entire world.
The rest of Revelation 13, from verse 11 onward, is parenthetical, filling details of antichrist’s operation through the Mark of the beast.
Chapter 14 is largely parenthetical, as well, with the timeline picking up in Revelation 14:14-16, at which time the rapture takes place. Therefore, the time lapse between the last trumpet and the rapture would appear to be a few days, weeks, or months.
Compare Revelation 14:14-16 to Matthew 24:29-31
Matthew 24:29-3129 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
*You can also compare Revelation 14:14-16 to Mark 13:24-27 and Luke 21:25-28. After reading all three synoptic gospel accounts, then read all three in the timeline context, going back to where Jesus begins talking about the signs of His coming, in each gospel account. You will find it lines up with a pre-wrath rapture.
1 Thessalonians 5:99 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Remember the LORD desires to give mercy and each sign is given to give space for the world to consider repentance. Also remember that “tribulation” is never associated with God’s wrath, but a necessary element, all who follow Jesus will suffer (John 15:18-18-25; 16:1-4 and John 16:33).
In the last article of this series, we will discuss the difference between tribulation and God’s wrath. There is a huge difference and distinction.
In my last posting, we investigated the first three events of seven to precede the rapture of the church or what the Bible refers to as “our gathering together to Him” (click to read part IV). Those events are  World-wide persecution of the Church  Jerusalem surrounded and  The great apostacy or “falling away”.
As we move into the last events, we will move into areas of eschatological controversy. This controversy is unnecessary, but when it comes to end times positions, Christians in America, battle against each other as if we are enemies. It is quite sad. Let us begin with the next event, the revelation of Antichrist.
REVELATION OF ANTICHRIST (The abomination of desolation)
When we reach the abomination of desolation, those who follow Jesus Christ, will have a good idea of who antichrist is, yet it is what occurs between revelation of the son of perdition (antichrist) and shortly before the wrath of God is poured out, when “our gathering together to Him” occurs. In that time, prior to the rapture, we see and exponential increase in “the falling away”. Let us revisit the same passage that speaks of the “falling away” as an event prior to the “in gathering”.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 1 Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 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 had come. 3Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
The revelation of antichrist comes through a much-prophesied event called the abomination of desolation. The first occurrence of this prophesied event was in Daniel 8:13, 9:26-27; 11:31, 12:11. From Daniel’s prophecy we gather that antichrist will make a covenant with Israel of seven years. Prior to or at the beginning of the 7-year period, Israel, under the allowance of antichrist will build a third temple, and begin Old Testament sacrifices again.
At midpoint of three and a half years, and defined in the phrase “time, times and half time”, in Daniel and “42 months” or “1260 days”, in the book of Revelation; antichrist will break his covenant with Israel. He breaks his covenant in a vile fashion.
2 Thessalonians 2:3-43 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
Matthew 24:15-16, and Revelation 13:11-14 reveal this revelation of antichrist to be prior to the rapture of the church. The rapture does not take place in Matthews 24 until verse 29-31 and Revelation 14:14-16. Remember this is consistent with what we have already studied In II Thessalonians 2:3 where we read…Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day (the rapture of the church) will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed”
THE SIGN OF THE SON OF MAN
It must be noted that the final three events occur in the order, in a relatively short fashion. How much time occurs between them is anyone’s guess. In the Lord Jesus Christ’s timeline in Matthew 24:29-31, Mark 13:24-27, and I Thessalonians 4:13-18, the sign of the Son of man precedes the last trumpet of God and the voice of the arch angel.
Revelation’s timeline, at first glance may appear to place the last trumpet ahead of the sign of the Son of man and the voice of the arch angel, but a little examination, helps us to see it is the same as the other three passages.
We must remember that Revelation 11:15 reveals the last trumpet. What follows through chapters 11, 12, 13 and 14 are largely parenthetical. There are actual timeline events in the text, but the events in the timeline cover from the mid-point on. In addition to the timeline events, there are historical and prophetic events, not in the last seven years, given for context in the war between the Seed of the woman (Messiah) and the adversary (Satan).
This gives the appearance of a longer time frame, than is revealed. This is important, because the last 3 ½ years of the world as we know it are not all tribulation. Tribulation is the world, the flesh and the Devil’s persecution of the church.
After the rapture, when we are gathered together to Christ, tribulation ends, and the wrath of God is poured out on the world (More on the nature of tribulation as different than God’s wrath later).
When understanding this reality, we must also understand that the sign of the Son of Man is distinct in that the whole world sees it. Remember Matthew 24 reports “…then all the tribes of the earth will mourn and they will see the Son of Man riding on the clouds with great power and glory”.
Note Christ’s timeline…
Matthew 24:29-3129 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Please consider that Revelation 14:14-16 described this event, followed directly by God’s wrath being poured out, which lines up with I Thessalonians 5:9 which declares “for we are not appointed for wrath”, in a chapter following the most complete passage on the rapture (I Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Please consider God’s mercy to the wicked throughout the Old Testament. Does He ever just destroy or is it His way for suffer long, give many warnings and signs that are clear, so that no one would miss what He is warning them of?
Consider the Noahic flood. The LORD warned them for 120 years, through Noah’s preaching and object lesson, in the building of the ark. History, geology and archaeology all corroborate that the earth was changing physically, in ways that were unable to be missed years prior to the flood. We believe that God broke the fountains of the great deep, in a second and then water. That is not necessarily true.
The breaking of the fountains of the great deep would have occurred over time, through massive earthquakes and geological events, which raised the level of water gradually in places unable to be seen by the people of Noah’s time. This would have taken months if not a few years.
Then there is the reality that it had never rained prior to the beginning of the flood (Genesis 2:6-8). For rain to fall for 40 days, as it did, it would take time to form clouds that could bring the rain.
In all these realities, we see that for 120 years, where God was attempting to get their attention, as not to miss the call to the salvation of the ark. Sadly they did.
How does this relate to the sign of the son of man?
Christ coming on the clouds does not just appear suddenly but is “coming” on the clouds. Remember this is a word of progressive revelation, one of growing visibility, as He draws nearer the earth and the time of the gathering of the saints.
It is quite possible that His great and glorious appearing occurs well before the last trumpet, to turn the eyes of the unbelieving toward God, for repentance.
It is possible this occurs because as we come closer and closer to the midpoint of the tribulation and slightly beyond, where antichrist kills anyone not worshipping him (See Revelation 13:6-18), seeing Him coming on the clouds is to strengthen us to endure till the end (Matthew 24:13). The end for us is the rapture before the wrath of God is poured out.
In the my next post we will examine the last two events prior to “our gathering together to Him” (I Thessalonians 4:13-18; II Thessalonians 2:1-2) or what is today commonly referred to as the rapture.
Today we will begin to examine, the seven events, prior to the rapture of the church, or what scripture declares is “our gathering together to Him”, of which the blessed hope or otherwise called the sign of the Son of man is.
Please note the beginning of the sorrows is one of the events or signs of Christ’s return, but because we may be in the midst of it, we will not discuss its nature or duration.
Below is the list of signs/events which proceed the rapture, in the timeline of the Lord Jesus Christ, from Matthew 24:3-44, Mark 13:1-37 and Luke 21:5-36. Before you read list of signs, I encourage you to read these three passages as well as reading Revelation 7 through Revelation 14, noting the events in common with Christ’s words in Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, and the passages in Revelation.
Worldwide persecution as the Gospel is preached in the whole world.
The abomination of Desolation (revelation of Antichrist) with great tribulation.
The sign of the Son of man
The last trumpet of God
The voice of Archangel
Please note that in all three Gospel accounts “our gathering together to Him” or what we have labeled the “rapture” after all these signs/events. Some teachers in error have deemed the rapture takes place in chapter 4 of Revelation, because of some similar language. Regard that John heard a voice, like a trumpet.
This is different than hearing the voice of the archangel and the last trumpet of God. The language of Revelation 4 means that the voice was distinct, not that it sounded like a trumpet, but that voice blasted through his person distinctly. He was told to “Come up here” and immediately he was in the Spirit. John was not “caught up” physically and changed in a “moment in the twinkling of an eye”. John did not meet Christ in the air but was immediately in a vision of God’s throne.
As it’s the case with almost all events and in Revelation, they are founded in Old Testament Jewish prophecy. Consider Ezekiel 1, 8, 11 and see very similar visions and interaction, with those who are the Spirit.
All of these events are listed in chronological order.
#1 WORLDWIDE PERSECTION AS THE GOSPEL IS PREACHED IN ALL THE WORLD
Remember that these events occur after the beginning of the sorrows as detailed by Christ Himself.
Matthew 24:9-149 “Then they will deliver you up totribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
*Please read Mark 13:9-13andLuke 21:13-19 to corroborate Matthew’s context and timeline
In these passages we see very clearly that those who follow the Lord Jesus Christ in the last days, will face persecution; that persecution. The hatred against saints will be worldwide. The tribulation period begins with the words “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation”. The first phase of the tribulation is 3 ½ years.
It is important to understand that through Christians preaching Christ over the radio, internet and television, that the gospel has been preached virtually over the entire globe. As the Gospel has reached most of the geography of the world, those who would refuse its message, are growing in agitation. It will not take much to push the haters of God over the edge. Recall some of the aggression against flowers of Jesus Christ, during the Covid hoax.
Note that in all three accounts we are told that those who “endure to the end will be saved” or “by patience you possess your souls”. Again, this implies that those who truly follow Christ will face existential trouble for their faith in Christ.
When one considers the horrors of persecution against the church in 95% of the world, we understand that tribulation like persecution has existed in the world, against Christians, since the beginning of the church. History reveals that more Christians have been martyred since 1948, than in the all the previous years since the birth of the Church, on the Day of Pentecost.
One of the key bases for the pretribulation rapture is the error filled belief, that Christians will not suffer, and we will be gone before the real trouble starts. The idea that Christians will not suffer is not biblical.
2 Timothy 3:12-1312 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.
Of great importance to us, ought to be that the first hearers of these prophecies and that of Revelation. They would have seen themselves in the various events. The thought that they would not suffer tribulation was foreign to them, and had been to the church until the early 1900’s. Do not forget that the pretribulation rapture is the new interpretation.
#2 JERUSALEM SURROUNDED
Luke 21:2020 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.
We have every reason to believe that this event/sign will occur sometime in the latter portion of first 3 ½ years of the tribulation period. The reason for this is that Daniels’s prophecy places the abomination of desolation (which we will talk about next), right at the midpoint.
Scripture in both testaments detail this event (do your homework), therefore, that Luke’s gospel is the only of the three synoptic Gospels to mention it, should not diminish its importance. As a matter of fact, it is a clear sign to believers that Antichrist is about to reveal his true nature. This event is in the run up to the battle of Armageddon and may reveal why Antichrist is pushed to reveal his true satanic nature.
#3 THE GREAT FALLING AWAY
2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 1Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 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 had come. 3Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
In review, we must remember “our gathering together to Him” is a reference to Paul’s first letter, specifically I Thessalonians 4:13-18, which is a very specific passage concerning what is popularly termed “rapture”. Once more we must maintain good exegetical discipline, or risk divorcing these two letters from one another.
In the passage above we can clearly see that “that Day”, which is “the day of Christ”, which is the time of “our gathering together to Him”, “will not come unless…”
“the falling away comes first”
“and the man of sin (antichrist) is revealed.
Concerning “the falling away comes first”, it is important to understand the Greek phrase behind our English words. Remember that placing “the” before the phrase “falling away” makes “the falling away” a growing movement of people influenced by something powerful. In the context of our passage, that which is moving the people to fall away, is THE LIE, which we read of in II Thessalonians 2:9-12.
2 Thessalonians 2:9-129 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
It is correct to associate “the falling away” with the revelation of “the man of sin”, as both Testaments do. Let us consider a couple of New Testament passages affirming this truth.
Revelation 13:11-13 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. 12 And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. 13 He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.
Matthew 24:23-25 23 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand.
Both passages, chronologically speaking take place in the last events timelines at or near the revelation of antichrist to the Jewish people. It is important to understand the “falling away” begins before the revelation of antichrist to the Jewish people.
We understand “thefalling away” or what we term apostacy (Greek word for falling away is apostasia), means to forsake, to fall away or to defect from. Some pretribulation rapture folks, in error, declare that “the falling away” or “great apostacy” is in reference to the Jewish people. This is patently false, as they are already fallen away from Him, if they reject Messiah.
The “falling away” is in reference to those who call themselves Christians. The reason this is controversial, is because the vast majority of pretribulational Christians, are those who purport the false doctrine of “once saved always saved”.
Biblically honest and exegetically correct Christians understand their potential to fall way, from clear passages of scripture, concerning the issue.
Romans 11:19-2319 You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” 20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. 22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
Hebrews 6:4-64For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
The potential to fall away from Christ, has been with every follower of Jesus Christ since the beginning. What occurs exponentially excel this potential in many who call themselves Christians in the end times? Well, the hardships of the beginning of the sorrows and of the tribulation period, until we are gathered to Him.
Not only is it the difficulty of the circumstances, but the unfolding agenda of antichrist, which wears out the saints (Daniel 7:25), before antichrist is revealed to the Jewish people. After His revelation His program of slaughter of the true Christians (Revelation 13:7), shakes those whose are mere professing Christians—as well as the miracles, sings and lying wonders done—and that multitudes who call themselves by the name of Christ, do not love (serve, worship, hold to) THE TRUTH—to whom God sending those not receiving a love for the truth a strong delusion.
This is difficult for Christians in America to receive, for we have never faced overt encompassing tribulation. That said, we must remember the tribulation is used by God to produce Christ’s character in us (Romans 5:3-5), to prune His vine (John 15:1-8) and to purify our lives of the patterns of sin (I Peter 1:6,7, 4:12-13).
Understanding the rapture of the church to be THE singular event of imminence, concerning the last days, is a massive error. We discussed this in my last blog post. (if you have not read it please click here… Behold, He is Coming on the Clouds! Part II). The rapture will be close to imminent, or about to happen after something takes place. What is it that precedes “our gathering together to Him”? The blessed hope.
Interestingly, when we read or hear the phrase “our blessed hope” most Christians will immediately think this refers to the rapture or what the bible refers to as “our gathering together to Him”. Although “our gathering together to Him” is associated with the “blessed hope” it is not the “blessed hope” itself. The “blessed hope” is one of the final 7 signs before rapture. Let us look at Titus 2.
Titus 2:11-1411 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
The “blessed hope” is not the rapture but proceeds it, whether by a short time or a longer period. Here is where we see the importance of not mashing God’s chosen words together to fit our religious narrative.
The “blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ”. The blessed hope is the glorious appearing of Christ.
In the first place, the phrase “glorious appearing” does not suggest a secret return of Christ to this world, where the lost world will be unaware of what is occurring. His glorious appearing is the sign of the Son of man, Christ spoke about in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which proceeds the rapture in our Lord Jesus own teaching.
Matthew 24:29-3129 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Mark 13:24-2724 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; 25 the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. 27And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.
Luke 21:25-2825 “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; 26 men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.28Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”
Revelation 1:77 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him.
*Note that Revelation14:14-16 uses very similar language to describe the rapture before God’s wrath poured out.
Note that in every passage, Christ’s coming on the clouds is witnessed by all people dwelling on the earth, both lost and saved. Note that in all three of the synoptic gospel accounts this glorious appearing is associated with the sign of the Son of man. Note that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all use the same language “great power andglory” in referring to His appearance. This language lines up with the Titus 2:13 “great and glorious appearing”.
Note that Matthew and Mark place the rapture after the great and glorious appearing of the Son of man, with the angels “gathering together the elect”. In Luke proclaiming when we see the sign of the Son of man, then we “look up and lift up your heads, for your redemption draws near”.
In Christ’s timeline, as well as in the book of Revelation “our gathering together to Him” (what we refer to as the rapture) does not take place until well into the tribulation. If one studies Revelation, honestly and prayerfully, you’ll see that the rapture of the church does not take place until Revelation 14, with almost the same language used above.
Revelation 14:14-1614Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. 15And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.
The remaining portion of Revelation 14:17-20, details how the Lord then reaps the grapes of wrath in the world of lost men. Considering these biblical facts, “our gathering together to Him” or what is referred to as the rapture, does not appear to take place until well into the tribulation. Once more this does not deny the doctrine of imminence, because Christ’s return occurs in stages beginning with the beginning of the sorrows.
Some conjecture in error that the rapture of the Church takes place in Revelation 4 and that the church does not appear in Revelation afterward until it returns with Christ in chapter 19. This teaching is patently false and can easily be debunked.
Let us consider that the church is alluded to in Revelation 6.
Revelation 6:9-11When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.
The 7 seals do reveal timeline, table but it serves as table of contents to Chapters 7 through the end of the book. The seals are thumb nails or previews, which are explained in more detail in subsequent chapters of Revelation. The passage above refers to persecuted Christians, which those who hold to a pre-tribulational rapture declare are gone after chapter 4.
Revelation 7:9-109After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
In previous verses, in Revelation 7, John saw 144,00 Jewish witnesses for Christ, who make up a remanent who evangelize Israel during the tribulation. After the passage above he is asked a question about the multitude which not one could number.
Revelation 7:13-1413 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?”14 And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Remember that John is once more seeing the future and he sees 144,000 of the promised Jewish remanent, as well as a gentile crowd of all nations, tribes and tongues, which cannot be numbered, martyred during the great tribulation. Make no mistake, those of every nation, tribe, people and tongue refers to the church triumphant, living and dying during the tribulation.
Let us look further for more evidence that Revelation 4 is not the last we see the church in the book of Revelation.
Revelation 12:13-1713Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child. 14 But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. 15 So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. 16But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.17And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
The woman revealed in this passage is the nation of Israel, the Jewish people, whom Satan will once again attempt to eradicate during the last days. God protects The remanent, as He promises in scripture, but then we see the final verse, which refers to the church of Jesus Christ “and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandment of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ”.
Make no mistake this lines up with Christ’s own words that we will be hated and hunted by the entire world, before the sign of the Son of man and “our gathering together to Him”. Yet, in Revelation 13 we see how the enemy seeks to make war against us, and yes overcome us, at least in our being persecuted with many paying the ultimate price; as allowed by God.
Revelation 13:6-76 Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. 7It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them.
Many in the pretribulation rapture camp, declare in error that those who are spoken of in the verse above, are Jewish people coming to faith in Christ. This is of course not true, especially in light how how the Jewish people are separated from those who are Christians, in the latter portion of Revelation 12.
Revelation 13 gives intimate details of the rise of Antichrist, his program, persecution of the church, the Abomination of desolation, and killing of anyone who will not bow to him and the mark of the beast. Then last time we see the church on earth, is in Revelation 14:14-16.
Despite these facts, many attempt to explain away what is clearly seen and understood by the Holy Spirit in us, for the purpose of maintaining an untenable eisegetical interpretation of the word of God.
The blessed hope is what we are looking for, which is the great and glorious appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ, coming in the clouds, which will signal to the church in time of tribulation that He is about to gather us together to Himself.
His great and glorious appearing is not sudden, like someone turning on a flashlight in a darkened room, but more like the gradual nature of a sunrise, concerning the greater degree of light, as it first lightens the darkness and is brighter as it reaches its noon apex.
Remember He is coming in the clouds. This assumes a gradual and growing brightness as Christ reaches His final position to call us unto Himself. In conjunction with this understanding is the word “appearing” in Titus 2:13. The word means a conspicuous manifestation, which carries with it the idea of something obvious and without any concealment.
With our God, He is merciful, and patient, the gradual appearing of Christ’s coming on the clouds of glory, over a determine, but relatively short period of time, fits the character of God and Christ’s words concerning His appearing.
So, what are the seven signs preceding “our gathering together to Him”?
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