THE TIMING OF THE RAPTURE, Cont'd
Since the devil will put all of his power at the Beast's command, his victories will apparently come easily. Daniel says that not only will the saints be put into his power, but his potency will grow right up to the angels of heaven. (Dn. 8:10). This is a reference which points to his overthrow of the Church itself. (Dn. 7:25). As a part of that conflagration a great many of the world's Christians will be killed or driven into hiding.
The Rebel will be obsessed with trying to drive Jesus and His Church off the face of the planet. As a result, much of the rapture will mimic the crucifixion. When Jesus at the end of His life was dragged up the Hill of Calvary by the people of this world and nailed to a cross, he showed an end that the Church itself must one day join Him in.
Jesus explained this to Peter: "I tell you most solemnly, when you were young you put on your own belt and walked where you liked; but when you grow old you will stretch out your hands, and somebody else will put a belt round you and take you where you would rather not go." (Jn. 21:18). Peter, here, was given a prophecy directed toward his own person and also toward everything that relates to him.
This prophecy, therefore, describes not only his own last days on earth, but also the last days of the religious edifice God has built on top of him. "...you are Peter (rock) and on this rock I will build my church." (Mt. 16:18).
This grave attack on the Church by the Beast, supported by the people of his empire, will finalize the world's ultimate rejection of the Lord's Gospel. It will finalize the Great Revolt whose rudimentary processes we can already see at work in the world. Doing so, it will bring to an ultimate fulfillment, John's words: "On these grounds is the sentence pronounced..." (John 3:19).
Christianity has been eagerly awaiting the conclusion of the harvest and the final events of history ever since the first days of the Church. But the idea of rapture is a recent idea in Christian literature.
In fact only fundamentalist Protestants teach it and hold to it. Moreover, it is decidedly an American prophecy. Most Christians across the world do not fosee it at all.
Except for that single sentence in the Book of Thessalonians, there is not another reference in the rest of the Bible to support it. Moreover, it is difficult to square with the teachings of Christ's Gospel.
Scripture shows us an end-time scenario quite different. It shows vast numbers of Christians under fierce and brutal attack by a figure described as 'the Beast'.
Much of the rapture, then, will occur unrecognized amid all the chaos surrounding the second war. "Pray", Jesus said, "that your flight will not occur in winter or on a sabbath. For then there will be great distress such as, until now, since the world began, there never has been, nor ever will be again. And if that time had not been shortened, no one would have survived; but shortened that time shall be, for the sake of those who are chosen." (Mt.24:20-22).
The final event of the rapture-the rescue of the Jews-cannot occur until Michael enters Jerusalem and calls out the command. There can be no sky event, therefore, until the Jews repent; and scripture shows that this will not happen until after the Rebel has died and all the tribulations have ended. (Dn.12:7). (See Chapter 31)
The twilight of this world will be a time of violence for the Church, not peace. "We were hoping for peace -- no good came of it! For the time of healing -- nothing but terror!" (Jer.8:15). This is because so many people at the end will withdraw from the Church and reject Jesus Christ.
The wrath is the product of apostasy. We would not see Christians fighting Christians in the last days if the spirit of Satan's anger had not replaced their faith and driven them to acts of rage and violence.
The beast's war against God in the last days proves that God's people will be drawn up to heaven during this time of turmoil in exactly the same way that the Christians were in the days of Rome. By violence. Christ's decree that the kingdom of heaven will be subjected to violence (Mt.11:12), will not change in the final days. It will actually intensifym -- bringing the millenium of Christ's peaceful rule in this world to a very savage end.
Scripture shows that God will return to a world cloaked in darkness, covered by the smoke of mankind's own fury. Since the mass rapture of scripture cannot occur until after the Jews repent, it will not occur until after the Revolt has ended and all the warfare of the last days has been concluded.
Before that day arrives the rapture will continue one by one, just as it has since the beginning, but the numbers will increase dramatically during the final war. The second war of the end will be just like the first one which saw Christians in great numbers murdered by the Caesar's of Rome; only it will be more violent at the end than it was at the beginning, and as its days progress there will be fewer and fewer conversions. It will be just the opposite of the persecutions of the Roman empire when Christian ranks swelled as the persecutions raged. At the end Jesus will have few spokesmen. This is the true nature of the wrath that all the prophets have been predicting.
As the violence of the second war increases, fewer and fewer people will bow in submission to Jesus. The darkness that covers the earth during the turbulent events of the last days will signify that most of the world's people have turned their backs on a Gospel which could have saved them. The blackness that surrounds what is left of the world's population at the end of the Tribulation will be an acidic and choking smoke that will crush any ebullience on earth over the prospect of rapture. The circumstances of the Rapture, then, are far less important than that God find us dutifully at the task He has assigned us when that moment comes down on us.
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E.C.S.Leavenworth III; Goodnews Christian Ministry.