WHAT IS THE BLESSED HOPE?
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 2:11-14 11 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, 13 looking 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 24:29-31 29 “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.
Mark 13:24-27 24 “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. 26 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. 27 And 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 21:25-28 25 “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. 27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”
Revelation 1:7 7 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 and glory” 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 14:14-16 14 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.
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 6:9-11 When 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?” 11 Then 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 7:9-10 9 After 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 7:13-14 13 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 12:13-17 13 Now 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. 16 But 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. 17 And 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 13:6-7 6 Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. 7 It 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”?