Saturday, September 24, 2016

When Will the Rapture Occur?

Many people over the years have speculated on or even claimed that they know the hour of Christ’s return.  However, all such speculation is just that: speculation without any knowledge or truth behind it. For, Jesus tells us that “… no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son Himself. Only the Father knows.” – (Matthew 24: 36. NLT). That is why we must mentor others about the Rapture and encourage them to be ready at all times for Christ’s return. That is also why we must share the Gospel message and the coming Rapture with others that have yet to come to know Christ as their Savior. For, we are the human voices to be used to tell others about Christ. As the voices used to tell others about Christ, we also need to be able to tell others about the coming Rapture of Christ's church. But first we have to know as much about the Rapture as possible in order to share this truth with others. So, using the scriptures, we are going find out what Christ says about when the Rapture will occur.

There has been much disagreement even among Christians as to when the Rapture will take place. In fact, there are groups of theologians and Christians who believe that the Rapture will occur Pre-Tribulation (before the Tribulation begins), while others believe that the Rapture will occur Mid-Tribulation (three and one half years after the beginning of the seven-year Tribulation) and still others who believe that the Rapture will occur Post-Tribulation (at the end of the seven-year Tribulation period). I personally lean toward the Rapture occurring Pre-Tribulation, because it is only then that we can truly anticipate the return of Christ at any time, and if it occurs Pre-Tribulation then Christians will not be subjected to the awful Tribulation period. Although it will nearly be impossible to become a Christian after the Tribulation begins, there will be a few who will choose Christ as their Savior during the Tribulation period. But those who accept Christ as their Savior after the Tribulation begins will still have to face all the trials of the Tribulation period.

It is also important to understand that there are two separate events relating to Christ’s return. First there is the Rapture of the church when Christ will take all those Christians, both the resurrected dead and those still alive, back to heaven with Him. Then there is the actual second coming of Christ at the end of the Tribulation period when our Lord comes back to put Satan in prison and to rule the earth for one thousand years. The Apostle John tells us: “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.” – (Revelation 20: 1-3. NASB). 

At that same time, all those that have not asked Christ to come into their heart will be banished into everlasting hell. Although some people may come to believe in Christ during the Tribulation period, their lives will be terrible and many will be martyred for their belief in Christ. Remember too, that every decision to believe in Christ, even if it is made during the Tribulation period, has to be made before the person takes their last breath, because once a person dies it is too late. In not making a choice to believe in Christ, they have made a choice to refuse to believe in Christ which brings with it an eternity in hell. We will talk more about Christ’s second coming later, but first we need to focus on the Rapture of those who are “Saved”. (Remember you can read this blog in segments and not have to read the entire blog at once if your reading time is limited.).

Christ Said He Would Come Quickly

 Although it has been well over 2000 years since Christ went back to heaven to prepare a place for each saved person, we know that God has a plan to send Christ back soon, because God’s Word tells us so. For, Jesus said, “Behold, I am coming quickly [soon], and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.” – (Revelation 22: 12).  But what does “soon” mean. Well, Webster’s dictionary says that soon means: 1. In a short time (after a time specified or understood); shortly; before long/ will soon be there. 2. Promptly; quickly (as soon as possible). But here is what we have to understand; when a person uses the word soon or quickly they know exactly what that word entails and the time frame that they are referring to when they use the word soon or quickly. However, the person who hears the word soon cannot read their mind and still does not know the exact time frame that the person using word soon is referring to. For example, I could be across the country and telephone you that I am coming to see you soon. Or, I might say that I will plan to be there quickly. But unless you pin me down as whether I am coming next week, next month, next year, or even several years later, you will not know what I mean when I say that I will come to see you soon or quickly. For the words soon or quickly only have a precise meaning for the one who is using the word. Those of us who hear the word soon or quickly can hope or guess that they mean a specific time, but unless the person tells us exactly when they will arrive, we can’t say for sure when they will come.

Christ did not tell His disciples exactly when He would come back to Rapture His church, nor did He tell them when He would come again. Although Christ used the word quickly, even Christ did not know the exact time He would return. Only God knows what time frame the word “quickly” or “soon” is in reference to. Although we don’t know the day or hour that Jesus will return, every Christian knows that Christ will be coming back soon and that while we are waiting for the Rapture, that we are to grow spiritually in oneness with Christ. We are to also lead others to the saving knowledge of Christ. In fact, there is an awesome reward awaiting those who live and work for Christ. We will receive rewards for our fruit production, which is the production of kindness, caring, helping, and empowering others through our behaviors that lead others to some form of betterment when we help them and/or to the knowledge of Jesus Christ as their Savior.

While We are Waiting for the Rapture

While we are waiting for the Rapture we are not to sit around and twiddle our thumbs. We are to work diligently for the Lord. Have you ever wondered why Jesus leaves us here on earth after we are saved? Why do we not immediately go to heaven? Well, the answer is simple. We still have work to do for Christ! First, we are to be witnesses for Him and help win souls for the kingdom of God. We are to tell others of the atoning death of Christ and the gift of salvation that His death from dying on the cross and His subsequent resurrection offers to everyone who will believe on Him as the risen Son of God.

Then, we are to testify about the change in our lives that came about through the re-birth of salvation. What peace, joy, love, and security we have now that we are true children of God! Furthermore, as Christians we are to testify with both our words and our deeds, as we are to be the living examples of what Christ can do in the lives of humans who were once damned for all eternity. Instead, we look forward to a future eternity with God. Our lives, though, are now to shine Christ’s light out upon the world to be seen by others. In shining our Christ light, we also pray that the unsaved will want to come to know Christ too, once they realize what peace, beauty, and love they can have. Moreover, we are to tell everyone of the glorious eternity with the Lord that awaits those who believe in Christ as the risen Son of God. Indeed, each of our lives lived for Christ can tell a story about redemption and love, if we represent Christ to the world in all our actions and words. What kind of representation are you presenting to those you encounter? Have you told others about the upcoming Rapture?

Secondly, part of waiting for the Rapture, is for Christians to grow spiritually and mature spiritually. One of the great things about growing spiritually is that we can develop an increasing intimacy with the Lord. There is nothing in the world like the close relationship that one can have with the Lord. Although, we live in a fallen world and are constantly bombarded with the temptations of this world, Christ has given us His Holy Spirit who indwells or lives within each saved person. It is the Holy Spirit who helps us to live up to our potential in spiritual growth and maturity. However, we must be willing to work with the Holy Spirit to be conformed to the likeness of Christ. For, the scriptures tell us to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” – (Romans 12: 2. NASB)

What does that verse mean? Well, it means that we are to learn how to live a life that honors Christ by each person laying their “will” down before Him and then asking Christ to use us for His glory. We do this by trusting and worshipping God in commitment to His authority, because He knows what is best for us. Even Jesus laid down His “will” in the Garden of Gethsemane, when He said to His Father, “… yet not as I will, but as You will.”  -- (Matthew 26: 39. NASB). Laying down our will for the will of God brings spiritual growth. Although this transformation into a new more mature spiritual person is a gradual process through the renewing of our minds and the laying down of our will for God’s will, we will begin to grow and mature as soon as we focus on listening to and obeying God.

Part of our spiritual growth while waiting for the Rapture must be not only the renewing of our minds through the Word of God, but the development of discernment and the acquisition of godly wisdom too. We achieve this discernment and godly wisdom by continually studying the Word of God and by the growth of our faith. One leads to the other and vice versa. When we put our trust in God and Christ, our Savior, we discover that God will never forsake us and so our faith grows. Our faith also continues to grow as we study God’s Word while experiencing His love and blessings. For, God is always there for us; helping by pulling us through any earthly situation or trouble. We just need to rely on God as we focus on His truth, love, and mercy while living for Him.

Greater spiritual growth and maturity happens, too, when we patiently wait for something, like waiting for the Lord’s timing in all things. Whether we are waiting for our vacation to start, for a new home, for a raise on the job, or for a new baby to be born into the family, we learn patience and dependence upon God. Obviously, we are waiting for Christ to come and Rapture us home to be with Him in heaven. Here, too, we are learning to be patient and to depend on God for His provision and timing in all things. But waiting does not mean that we sit and do nothing. If we are waiting to acquire a new home, we are usually working hard to acquire a down payment or working to get a better paying job so that we can afford that new home. So, while we are waiting for the Rapture, we are to represent Christ to the rest of the world in all we do, share the Gospel message, and help others through Active Relational Christian Mentoring and other ministries or services that we can perform for the kingdom of God.

We have to keep in mind, though, that we only have one lifetime to grow and mature spiritually and only one lifetime to help others through the Christian ministry of Active Relational Christian Mentoring or to help others and the kingdom of God through some other service ministry. But we should remember that whether we are engaged in the ministry of mentoring or engaged in some other ministry of service or the sharing of the Gospel message with those that are lost, we only have a finite amount of time to do so. Actually, our lifetime can be a very short period of time, because none of us know just when our lives will be over. We could die tomorrow or live to be one hundred. Therefore, we must take heed to live our lives in such a way that we will be able to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant” when Christ comes to take us home. But, what happens if Christ comes to Rapture His church in the next hour, week, or year?  Will you be able to say that you have lived for Him? Will you have told others about Christ and the coming Rapture to eternity so they could be “Saved” and Raptured as well?

The Timing of the Rapture

Although the Bible teaches that the Rapture can occur at any time, there are many scoffers and skeptics concerning The Rapture and Christ’s second coming. Much of the cynicism stems around the fact that the apostles and the early church expected Christ to return during their lifetime. Even all the Newer Testament writers believed that the return of Christ was very near. That is why over 2000 years later there are still many non-believers and even some theologians who are skeptical about Christ’s return. But, Christians know that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and that God does not lie. In fact, the scripture tells us that “it is impossible for God to lie.”  -- (Hebrews 6:18. NASB). Moreover, true Christians have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who constantly reminds us that Christ will return and could return at any time. But, to help all of us understand why it is taking so long for Christ to return, the Apostle Peter wrote: “But you must not forget, dear friends, that a day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise to return, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so He is giving more time for everyone to repent.”  -- (II Peter 3: 8-10. NLT).

God simply does not run this world on our time table. The Rapture will occur on God’s time table and not ours. Moreover, His view of time is inherently different from ours, because He does not live in a finite stream of time like we live in here on earth. So, what feels like a delay to us is not a delay for the Lord, but is right on time in His personal schedule and calendar. Furthermore, we need to understand that our loving caring God doesn’t want anyone to miss the opportunity to know His Son, Jesus Christ, personally and miss the Rapture. Therefore, God has a plan for when our earthly time will be up. Until then we can grow personally and spiritually by living for Christ and sharing the Gospel message with others. We can also mature spiritually by allowing our love for others to grow; helping others in different ways such as through the servanthood of mentoring or the servanthood of some other ministry that we are engaging in for the Lord.

Signs to Watch for Regarding the Rapture and Christ’s Second Coming

We do not know when Christ will return to take His Church home to heaven, but God’s Word has given us some clues, signs, or things to watch for before Christ comes to Rapture us. Indeed, there are several signs that we are to look for and recognize as indications that the Rapture is getting closer. I won’t go into all of them, but there are four of which you should be aware.

The Sign of Nation of Israel Restored

The first sign  that the Rapture and Christ’s second coming is getting closer that we can easily recognize is the Nation of Israel. Over 2000 years ago Israel was no longer an independent nation. When Christ came the first time, Israel had already been occupied and controlled by the Rome for many years. However, it was not until 70 A.D. that Israel, the nation, became non-existent. Under a Roman siege the city of Jerusalem was destroyed and the beautiful temple that King Herod had built was completely demolished. As a result, for nearly 2000 years, the Jewish people would have no homeland and no temple.  In fact, the Jewish people were scattered throughout the world because they had no homeland. Moreover, they faced persecution throughout the centuries. But God had predicted through His prophets that’s the nation of Israel would rise again. God told Ezekiel, “Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; … when I bring them back from the peoples and gather them from the lands of their enemies, then I shall be sanctified through them in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord their God because I made them go into exile among the nations, and then gathered them again to their own land;– (Ezekiel 39: 25, 27, 28. NASB). Indeed, in 1947 the nation of Israel was miraculously restored in a single day, and the Jewish people now have a homeland. This event or sign needed to occur before Christ comes again and before the Rapture of His Church. Since the nation of Israel again exists we know that the Rapture is closer than before.

The Sign of the Rise of False Prophets

Another sign that we are told to watch for is that of the rise of false prophets. Of course there have always been false prophets throughout history of Christianity. However, as the day draws closer to the Rapture and the second coming of Christ, we are told that we will see an increase in the number of false prophets and in their desire to denigrate Christians and pull down their belief in Christ in the eyes of the world. The Apostle Peter wrote: “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality and because of them the way of truth will be maligned.” – (2 Peter 2:1, 2. NASB).

Certainly we have entered a time period when false prophets are everywhere. They are especially in our education system which includes our colleges and universities. These false prophets, in the guise of professors, brainwash our youth and young people against Christianity and morality. Besides all the false religions with their false prophets, Christianity is constantly being ridiculed and maligned. In addition, the promotion of political correctness is in and of itself a method used for false prophecy. Moreover, many of these false prophets encourage people to allow their sensuality to direct their lives and actions, while telling the world that there is no truth or eternal life. Many people are denying the truth of the Word of God and truth in general, just as they deny God and the Master, Jesus Christ. This abundance of false prophets and their false messages is a sign that Christ could come to Rapture His church at any time and that the second coming of Christ is closer than we think.

The Sign of the Likeness to the Days of Noah

A major sign for the coming Rapture and the second coming of Christ is the likeness to the days of Noah. Jesus spoke to His disciples and told them “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. Therefore, be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.”  -- (Matthew 24: 37-42. NASB).

So what were the days of Noah like? The Bible tells us that during the time of Noah “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. … Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.”  -- (Genesis 6: 5, 11. NASB). Not everyone is now wicked upon the earth, because there are still Christians on the earth. But as we watch the news reports of murder and mayhem, we can see that the wickedness has increased dramatically in recent years. To make matters worse, the violence is at an all-time high throughout the world including here in the United States. We also have a new group of violent people in the radical Islamic terrorists. If ISIS had their way, everyone that did not believe the way that they believe would be killed.

As people move further and further from the truth of the Bible and from living a moral and ethical life, they become more decadent and immoral. We are seeing this occur every day in the name of political correctness and in the name of “My Rights”. Because of political correctness we can no longer say that something is wrong or immoral, and we are no longer allowed to speak against immoral behaviors. Those in the minority who advocate immorality now have the right to express themselves any way they want to or to live the way they want to live, because they believe they have the right to live however they want. 

Our government has sanctioned immoral behaviors (like in the days of Noah) to be expressed in public when they were once never talked about and certainly not expressed in public. Consequently, we are now having transgender individuals using any restroom they desire and people flaunting their sexuality in public, because they have been given the right to do so. Every day we see more and more degrading of our society for the rights of the few. Furthermore, our society has embraced the murder of unwanted babies by giving mothers the ability and the right to have abortions on demand. All these immoral and murderous behaviors, however, are signs that the Rapture could occur at any moment and that the second coming of the Lord is closer than we can imagine. But before the world becomes totally decadent and totally immoral, the Christians or Christ’s church will be Raptured to heaven, leaving only those who are unsaved to deal with the decadence of society before Christ’s second coming. We do not know when the Rapture will occur, but we have to be ready to meet our Lord.

The Sign of the Rumors of Wars and the Crisis in the Middle East

One last sign that we will discuss before closing today is that of the crisis and upheaval in the Middle East. Next to the Israeli-Palestinian problem that faces Israel and the world every day is the world crisis in regard to Iran and ISIS.  First there is Iran’s determination to gain a nuclear bomb and their determination to wipe Israel and the United States off the face of the earth. Then there is the terrorist organization known as ISIS that arose from the Iraq-Iran conflict in the nineteen nineties. When the United States withdrew from Iraq and left them on their own to survive alone, a militant terrorist group, surreptitiously supported by Iran and some other Muslim nations and financially supported by the oil fields that that the group took over at the same time they overran Iraq, rose up with one goal in mind—take over the world for Islam.

ISIS wants to destroy anyone who is not Muslim. They are doing so by beheading and killing Christians and other people who do not practice their extreme Islamic ways. Their desire is to rule the world including the United States through terror and a caliphate of extreme Islamic beliefs. America has already been attacked by individual ISIS supported terrorists leaving many people dead or maimed. Our freedom to worship as we please cannot be taken lightly. We must share the truth of who they are with as many people as we can. We also must vote carefully this election, choosing a president who will stand up to these extreme Muslims, or our country could be over-run with terrorists.

Our country will always need to watch out for those who hate us and want to kill us including even watching out for some Americans who want to kill us, because they have been radicalized by ISIS. Every day we are becoming more and more inundated with stories about ISIS and their evil destruction and hatred seen and experienced throughout the world. But, Jesus told us this would happen:

As He (Jesus) was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things will happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’

And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.

At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. This Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.’”  -- (Matthew 24:3-14. NASB).

Today we hear of major earthquakes, tornadoes, and other disasters that are striking all areas of the world. Moreover, we daily hear of conflicts and the possibility of war from several rogue nations that care not about the quality of life here on earth. All these nations want is power and control. Certainly, love for each other is growing cold in these nations as hate for those different than themselves is the only thing they feel. ISIS hates anyone that does not believe in Mohammad and adhere to his extreme Islamic beliefs. All these things are signs that the Rapture is closer than ever for Christians. 

What Can Christians Do?

So, what can we do even as we recognize these signs. Well, we have to be on the watch paying attention to the signs and at the same time telling others about those signs and what they point to. For, all these signs are pointing to the Rapture and the second coming of Christ. As I said previously, I believe that the Rapture will occur pre-tribulation so that Christ’s church, those that are “saved” will not have to experience the Tribulation period. Furthermore, Christ gave us all these signs to show us and to tell us when the time for the Rapture is growing close. Christ shared these signs so that Christians will step forward to share the Gospel message with as many people as they can before the Rapture occurs. This means that Christians have a responsibility to minister to other people so that in our kindness and love others may see Christ in us and want to know more about Jesus Christ and salvation. Have you stepped up to minister to others? If not, you may want to consider Active Relational Christian Mentoring as your ministry. But whatever ministry you decide to engage in, please tell others about Christ and the coming Rapture.

No, we cannot know the day or hour, but we have to stay alert while paying attention to the signs of the coming Rapture. We cannot be like the Pharisees and Sadducees during Christ’s time who could not and would not believe that Christ, the Messiah, had come. Even though Christ had produced many signs of who He is, from the miraculous healings to the feeding of 5000, the Pharisees and Sadducees wanted yet another sign. They wanted a sign that would prove that He was the Christ.  So, “The Pharisees and Sadducees came up and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. But He replied to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red. And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?– (Matthew 16: 1-3. NASB).

Many of us today are like the Pharisees and Sadducees, because we do not know how to look at the signs either, or because we refuse to admit that Christ is the Messiah and that time is drawing close for the Rapture and the second coming of Christ. Will you be one of those people who refuse to believe in Christ and are left behind at the Rapture? I hope not! I pray that you realize that Christ is the only way you can enter into heaven. I pray that you realize that you are a born sinner and that you need to be redeemed by the blood of the lamb, Jesus Christ. Please don’t wait another minute to ask Christ into your heart, for the signs are all there that Christ could call His “saved” ones home at any time. Will you be one who is “saved” and is raptured home to heaven?

If you are “saved”, please use your knowledge and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to tell others about Christ. Whether you engage in Active Relational Christian Mentoring, or you engage in some other fruit producing service for the Lord, now is the time to work even harder for the kingdom of God. All true Christians need to share the Gospel and help others know and see the beauty, peace and love that imbues the ones who chooses Christ as their Savior. Also go and tell the world about the signs of the times. Tell others about the coming Rapture. Speaking of the Rapture is nothing to be ashamed of and instead of keeping it to ourselves, Christians must share the message of the Rapture with the entire world, or at least with our little part of the world.

Next week we will look at what happens at the moment of the Rapture and what happens after the Rapture occurs. Until then, God bless each of you! Don’t forget to reach out and mentor another for the Lord. You can do it! 

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