PART 1: Attributes of God

Eagle Nebula
God’s Majestic Creative Power are illustrated in this picture of the Eagle Nebula

In this articles, I would like for us to begin a study on the Attributes of God. We all have beliefs on the nature of God, but we need to ensure that we are genuinely contemplating the God of the Bible, and not a god of our popular culture, the god of popular t-shirt slogans,  or the god of our own creation.

Certainly, fully understanding the attributes of God is a large undertaking. One could spend a lifetime of study, and yet still not fully grasp His awesome power and majesty. However, even though we might not fully comprehend His splendor, it seems a good pursuit to endeavor to each day understand Him better.

We are given two magnificent tools to understand the attributes of God, and they work together, hand in hand. We are given His Word, the Holy Bible, and we are given His Holy Spirit. We need both to understand Him. If we contemplate and study His Word, we can draw on His Holy Spirit to guide us in a more perfect understanding of who He is. The Word and the Spirit work together.

One could start in Genesis, and then read the Bible cover-to-cover and make a list of all the attributes of God. I could give you that long list, but I think it is more beneficial to begin to uncover that list by looking at two verses that reveal to us key aspects of God’s character. We will begin by looking at Jeremiah 9:23-24 and Isaiah 33:22. We will then make a starting list of attributes from these two verses, and then in following articles, we will examine more in depth each of the attributes by cross referencing many other Biblical texts.

We will begin our study in Jeremiah 9:23-24:

23 Thus says the Lord:

“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
24 But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight,” says the Lord.

 Note that in the opening lines of this passage, we are told that we are not to glory in our wisdom, might (power) or riches. I think it is wise for each of us to ponder this instruction. If I were honest, I would have to say that I spent my youth in pursuit of wisdom, fame, fortune and power. I always sought the spotlight, more money, more fame and more powerful positions. Eventually I realized the emptiness and shallowness of these pursuits. The more I achieved these goals, the more empty I was left.

Then one day my heart was changed. My passion became to begin to pursue the things of God instead of the things of the world. It was at this point that I truly found peace in my life.

The beauty of this verse is that it instructs us not just in the things NOT to pursue, but tells us what our passion should be . . . “But let him who glories, glory in this, That he understands and know Me”.

The passion of our lives should be to Know God and Understand God.

This passage then goes on to give us a starting point in knowing and understanding God by listing some of His attributes. We can see that God is LORD, God is Love, God is Righteous, and God is Judge.

We can further learn of the attributes of God from Isaiah 33:22, which says:

22 For the Lord is our judge,

the Lord is our lawgiver,

the Lord is our king;

he will save us.

In this passage we see that God is Lord, Judge, Lawgiver, King and our Savior.

So, with these two verses we have a pretty good start on studying some key attributes of God.

God is Lord

God is King

God is Lawgiver

God is Judge

God is Righteous and Holy

God is Love

God is our Savior

In our popular culture, we have unfortunately chosen to contemplate only two of the attributes of God, God as love and savior. Unfortunately, a focus on only two of His characteristics can lead to serious error, and in fact can create an image of God that might lose the power to save. When we only believe in a god of love and  that saves, we are left free to live our lives on our own terms. A god of love is a god that accepts our choices. We make the rules, we live life on our own terms, and god will love, bless and save us. All we have to do is believe in this god we have created, and then he loves and saves us. This indeed is a very attractive thing to believe, but unfortunately, it is not the God of the Bible.

As we begin to get into this study, what I hope you will come to realize is that we can not genuinely understand God as love and God as savior until we first learn just how much trouble we are in. We must first learn of God as Righteous, Holy, King, Lawgiver, and Judge, and only then can we genuinely understand and know the full measure of His love and the magnificent and awesome nature of his Saving Atonement.

This is an analogy I will give. Consider a stoplight. It has three attributes. It can be red, it can be yellow or it can be green. Imagine as you go about your day, you see people always talking about the stop light . . . “The Stoplight is Green”, “Green means Go”, “Go, Go, Go, the stoplight is always green!”. This description of a stoplight is not wrong, it is just incomplete, and this incomplete understanding of a stoplight can lead to deadly consequences. The light is not always green and not understanding that could lead you into a deadly collision.

Similarly with God. Yes God is love. But He is also King, Lawgiver and Judge. Failure to understand these could leave you missing out on the attribute you desire . . . His love.

Since most people grasp the “love” attribute of God already, in this series, I will begin by examining the attributes we tend to ignore. Then as we develop an understanding of God as King, Lawgiver and Judge, then we can more fully appreciate His attributes of Love and Savior.

Next Up: Read Part 2, God is Holy and Righteous.

PART 6: The Problem with the Pretribulation Rapture

Christ
Christ Painting by Leonardo Davinci

If you have read the first 5 parts of this series, hopefully you are beginning to see how difficult it is to try and create a scriptural basis for the pretribulation rapture theory. Simply stated, the Bible over and over gives specific timing on the return of Christ and His gathering together of the saints. Every time, the Bible is clear that it is AFTER the tribulation.

We can gain even more confirmation on the timing of the “rapture” by study of 2 Thes 1:3-10.

We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,10 when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.

To understand this verse we need to consider some important Biblical context. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth in six days, and rested on the seventh. Then when Moses was given the law, the faithful were to work for six days, and then rest on the seventh. This seventh day of rest was a picture of the thousand year millennial kingdom on earth, when Christ visibly reigns as KING of kings and LORD of lords, and the earth is restored to the state God had originally intended. As believers, our blessed hope is to one day enter that rest, that thousand year millennial kingdom.

So, with that context, notice the timing of events in 2 Thes 1:3-10. Notice in the bolded text . . . When do believers escape their troubles and enter the rest of the Lord? Clearly they enter the rest when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His Mighty Angels to bring vengeance on the wicked.  Clearly, it is Christ’s second coming when He reveals himself and takes vengeance on the wicked.  We see that it is at this point that believers enter His rest. If this is the case, how could they have been raptured seven years earlier. If they had been raptured seven years earlier, would they have not entered his rest and escaped trouble then? The verse is crystal clear, we are delivered from our troubles and enter His rest at the end of the tribulation when Christ returns to bring vengeance on the world.

Review of “Return to the Hiding Place”

art

I had the chance today to watch the new Christian movie, Return to the Hiding Place today, and wanted to write a quick review of it. The movie is about the work of Corrie Ten Boom and the underground resistance in the Netherlands during the Nazi occupation in World War II. Corrie was a watch maker, and used her shop and home to hide jews and help them escape the Nazis. She was helped by an underground railroad organized by college students who were an important part of the resistance. I believe Corrie Ten Boom to be one of the great pillars of Christianity, so was eager to watch this movie.

What I liked about the movie is that it presents a more accurate picture of the Christian experience than most of the recent popular Christian movies. The theme of so many of these movies is a rather simple presentation of a very complex truth. In most movies, God ends up intervening to provide the desired circumstances for the obedient Christian. In reality, sometimes the obedient Christian is Martyred. In the end we win, but God does allow us to face trials. He is sovereign and He does not always heal us, and He does not always spare our lives. He does, however, always give us the strength we need to face the trial. I would put it this way. He does not always remove us from the fire, but He is always with us in the fire. What I liked about this movie, Return to the Hiding Place, is that it shows this truth. Some of the characters in the movie who risk their lives to stand firm in their obedience to God and in serving Him by saving the Jews do pay the ultimate price and are killed for their work. The movie does brilliantly capture their bravery, peace, and steadfastness as they faced the punishment for their “crimes” against the Nazis. The message of the movie is that as Christians we may lose the battles, but we will always win the war in that we receive eternal rewards.

What I did not like so much about this movie is that I got the impression that they were trying to make the movie acceptable to a broader secular audience by not more clearly showing that the people in the movie were overtly Christian, and the foundation of the work they were doing was based on their faith in Jesus Christ. I might be mistaken, but I never remember the words “Jesus” or “Christ” being used in the movie. In several places maybe there was a veiled reference to “Him”, but not so much as to offend a non believing audience. So, I give them pretty low marks for not more clearly presenting the importance of the characters Christian Faith in the brave stands they were taking in fighting the Nazis.

Bottom line is I do recommend you see the movie. I enjoyed watching it and I do plan on buying the DVD.

The Importance of Context

Jeremiah 29:11
Jeremiah 29:11

I almost titled this post, “There is a Verse for That!”, because almost any point we want to make we can find a verse that will support that point, if . . . and this is a big if, the passage is taken out of context. Want to show that God always wants to heal you . . . there is a verse for that. Want to show that God wants you to be rich . . . there is a verse for that. Want to show that God wants you to never face trials . . . there is a verse for that. You get the idea. By taking small passages, and presenting them out of context, you can prove almost anything. It is a favorite technique of Christian T-shirt vendors, and a mainstay of facebook theology.

In order to illustrate this point, lets look at perhaps the most misused scripture in all the Bible. This would be Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (New King James Version, NKJV)

Wow, what an encouraging verse. God wants all believers always to have nothing but peace and hope and a bright future.

Now the next trick that is used is to look at all the different Bible translations, and pick the most optimistic of all the different translations. In the case of Jeremiah 29:11 we can even wring out a better promise if we use the NIV, which reads:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

BAM! We now have a Biblical basis for the prosperity Gospel. Don’t you see . . . God wants to prosper us and make us rich!

Now lets pause and break it down and study it more carefully in context. You can start the process by reading the entire chapter of Jeremiah 29. What we find is that God’s chosen people, the Jews had for a very long time been living in rebellion to God. God had sent many prophets to warn and correct them, but they had all been ignored. As their disobedience grew worse and worse, God finally decided to pour out his judgment on the nation of Israel. He did this by sending the Babylonian army to destroy Jerusalem. Many died horrible deaths during the siege, and then afterwards, most of them were slaughtered by the Babylonian army. A small remnant was sent into slavery to Babylon. He promised through the prophets that they would be in captivity 70 years. Now, after all this judgment on His people, He gave them a word of encouragement. If they would seek Him with all their hearts, He would return to them.

So, the conclusion from the chapter is NOT that God will always give all His people peace and hope and a bright future under all circumstances. The message is that He holds His people accountable, and does reach the point that He disciplines them, and that discipline can be quiet painful.

So a really important point is that we should never conclude anything from a verse without first reading the whole chapter. A second point is that the next step is to consider the topic of the chapter, and then read the entire Bible to see how God deals in the broader sense with the topic at hand. In this case, on the topic of God correcting His chosen children, we can see throughout the Old Testament and New Testament that He calls His children to Obedience, Righteousness, and Holiness. That  He will Rebuke, Chastise and Punish those He loves for their refinement and purification. Even more broadly we learn that God, in His Sovereignty will allow trials and persecution to come to those He loves simply so His strength and His Glory can be shown through the Believers trial.

I am not trying to paint a mean picture of God. I am just trying to show that the attributes of God, and how He deals with His children is much more complex than He is always concerned that our circumstances are pleasant. If we believe that, then we are not equipped to properly interpret hard times that will come into all of our lives.

PART 5: The Problem with the Pre Tribulation Rapture

Last Supper
Da Vinci’s portrayal of the Last Supper

The first four parts of this series of articles point out significant scriptural problems with creating a Pretribulation “Rapture”. We can see when verses are read in context there is no way to create a coherent, consistent interpretation that will allow for two second comings of Christ. As pointed out in PART 4, this theory requires us to do much damage to scripture, and in effect, read into scripture things that are not there. For those who choose to believe the pretribulation rapture theory, they can find it in the most amazing places in scripture, yet they can not provide a single clear verse that indicates that Christ will return for believers before the tribulation. In effect, if you want to believe it, you can find it everywhere, even when it is not really taught anywhere. Quiet to the contrary, throughout the Gospels and the New Testament, we are taught that believers should expect Tribulation, Persecution, Hatred, and Martyrdom for their faith. We are told that any who would seek to live a Godly life will face persecution. The era of relative peace and tranquility believers in the west have experienced in the last two hundred years is a result of God’s Sovereign Mercy, not God’s promises. It is the exception, not the rule. Our brothers and sisters in Christ this very day are being martyred across the Middle East and Africa. Again, I must ask, where is their “rapture”. Is it only those of us in the West that God will rescue from persecution?

In this series, I have tried hard to focus on scripture, clearly presented and without interpretation. I have tried to simply let the scriptures clearly speak for themselves. I believe that we can continue to gain insight from scripture if we read two of the prayers of Jesus. The first is the Lord’s prayer, as found in Matthew 6:9-13

 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Notice that Christ instruction to believers is that we should pray for His Kingdom to Come. His Kingdom comes to us at his Second Coming. He does not tell us to pray that God takes us out of the world but that He would return and bring the Kingdom to us. If we believe in a pretribulation rapture we must ponder why Jesus continues to NOT mention it. For further support of the assertion that Christ did not teach that we would be removed from the world, we should look at John 17:14-15. Notice than in the context of hatred and persecution of Christians, Christ’s prayer to the father is that He WOULD NOT take them out of the world but protect them in the world.

14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.

So if the specific prayer of Jesus Christ to the Father is that the Father would leave believers in the world when they are hated by the world, how could we possibly believe that there is this secret deal that Christ never mentions that Christians will be taken out of the world to protect them from persecution? I feel like I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but friend, the pre tribulation rapture is simply not in scripture and can not be defended scripturally. It is a huge money maker for those who write books and make movies, but it is not scriptural.

Certainly there are many mistakes in doctrine and many false teachings out there, so why have I spent so much time on this one? The answer is because it is one of the most dangerous. To believe we will never face persecution, tribulation, and martyrdom is to be spiritually unprepared when they happen. Many Christians throughout history and throughout the world today are being forced to choose between their faith and their life. Would you be ready if you had to face that choice? Friends, you can not deny Christ to save your life. This is not one of those things you do, and then repent of later. We must realize that as Christians we are called on to stand firm in the faith, even to the point of death.

PART 4: The Problem with the Pretribulation Rapture

 

hand

In Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this commentary we have shown that the foundational “rapture” verses, 1 Cor 15:51-57 provide three independent witnesses that place the rapture at the end of the tribulation at Christ’s second coming. We then showed that when Christ was asked about the timing of His coming and our gathering up to be with Him, He plainly and clearly placed it “immediately after the tribulation of those days”, and we saw that 2 Thes. 2 teaches Christ’s second coming and our gathering up to be with Him can not happen until AFTER the antichrist is revealed. So, this creates 5 very strong witnesses that the so called “rapture” is simply the Second Coming of Christ, at which time the dead will be resurrected, and those of us who are alive and remain will be changed into our glorified bodies to rule and reign with Christ for 1000 years in His Millennial Kingdom.

Today, we will look at another problem dealing with the resurrection from the dead. 1 Cor 15:51 and 1 Thes 4:13-17 indicate that at the time of Christ’s return, those who have died having faith in Him will be resurrected, and those who are alive and remain will be “changed” and will receive their glorified immortal bodies.

Lets now look at Revelation 20:4-6

And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

Folks, this one is really pretty clear:

  1. John sees the souls of all those who were beheaded because they did not worship the beast and did not take his mark.
  2. Then the souls “lived” i.e. they were resurrected.
  3. This resurrection is called “The First Resurrection”.

This is crystal clear. The souls John sees died during the tribulation, because they are killed by the antichrist system because they do not take the mark. There are no other alternatives. These people had died DURING the tribulation. Then they “live”, that is, they are resurrected. Hence this resurrection MUST occur AFTER the tribulation. Then John tells us that this is “The First Resurrection”. If this is the first resurrection, then how could billions of Christians have been resurrected at a “rapture” before the tribulation. If there had been a mass resurrection prior to the tribulation, then the resurrection above would have been the “second” resurrection, not the first.

Reviewing this analysis, and those in the earlier three parts of this series, in order to believe in a pre tribulation rapture one must believe:

  1. Billions of Christians are resurrected prior to the “First Resurrection”.
  2. Billions of Christians die AFTER Christ wins final victory over death and the grave.
  3. Christ misled his disciples in Matthew 24 indicating that Christians will be persecuted during the Tribulation when in fact he plans to secretly remove them from the earth.
  4. There are at least 7 trumpets after the “Last Trumpet”
  5. Paul was having a bad day during his 2nd letter to the Thessalonians when he indicated that the gathering together of the saints could not happen till after the antichrist is revealed during the tribulation.
  6. Christ comes one time between his First and Second coming. Would that not make three comings of Christ? No, Christ comes twice, not three times.

Guys, it simply does not work. To believe in a pre tribulation rapture is to mangle scripture. Hey, I want to believe it as much as the next guy. I believed it for most of my life. Then a few years ago I set out to prove it scripturally. After about six months of study I concluded that the Bible does not clearly promise a pretribulation rapture. Then after several more years of study I concluded that the Bible clearly teaches that the gathering together of the saints happens at Christ’s second coming. I do not desire persecution or martyrdom, but to believe something that is not true is to not be ready when that day comes.

PART 3: The Problem with the PreTribulation Rapture

Fishermen
Fishermen on the Sea of Galilee

If you have read PART 1 and PART 2 of this commentary, you can see that careful analysis of 1 Cor 15:51 and 1 Thes 4:13-17 provides 4 independent witnesses that the “rapture” is simply the Second Coming of Christ, which occurs at the end of the seven year tribulation period. Christ comes twice, period. First He came as Savior and Suffering Servant some 2000 years ago. Next He comes as KING of kings and LORD of lords. He comes twice, not two and a half times and not three times.

If you read PART 1 and PART 2, you might be scratching your head at this point. You probably can see the clarity of my analysis, yet it is hard for you to imagine that what you have been taught all your life is not clearly supported by the Bible. Perhaps at this point you just wish you could ask Jesus, and have him provide clarity. Luckily, the disciples did just that. In Matthew 24:3, the disciples asked Christ the direct, million dollar question:

And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

Friend, look at the clarity of the question. The disciples wanted to know precise details about Christ’s second coming and the end of the world. Much of their question is already answered in the Old Testament, but yet they wanted clarity. A clear answer directly from Christ himself. Christ responded by presenting a precisely worded and concise summary of end times Eschatology. Now, before reading Christ’s answer, we must realize that the question was clearly asked, it was asked by his Disciples, His most trusted believers, and He provided a clear, easy to understand, precise summary of end times events. Would He leave out the most important points? Would He mislead His closest followers? Would He deceive? Of course not . . . He would accurately give them a summary of the key end times events in direct answer to their clear question. Christ responded to their question with the following answer Matthew 24:4-29.

And Jesus answered and said to them: Take heed that no one deceives you.For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation 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. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 And 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.

15 “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), 16 “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house.18 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. 19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!20 And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.

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.

26 “Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 28 For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.

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.

Could Christ have been any clearer? In verse 29 He says, “Immediately AFTER the tribulation of those days”, and then goes on to describe his second coming, which clearly parallels the so called “rapture” verses described in 1 Thes 4:13-17 and 1 Cor 15:51-55.  Have a child read the verse. What is the context? What is He trying to convey. Clearly, He is communicating to His closest followers that believers will be persecuted and martyred in the tribulation period. Did He not get the memo that believers would be beamed out before the tribulation? Did He intentionally deceive? I think not. The simple answer is, He is warning believers to Prepare for Persecution, even unto death.

I do not write these things to scare you, but I write these things so that you will not be deceived. Read the first part of verse 4 . . . His first warning was to be on guard for “deception” in the last days. What greater deception could the enemy use than to tell believers not to worry, they will never face persecution or tribulation.

PART 2: The Problem with the Pretribultion Rapture

Jerusalem Olivet
Jerusalem as Seen from Olivet

In PART 1:  we showed how the foundational “rapture” verse (1 Cor 15:51-58) used by the Pretribulation Rapture proponents provides three independent witnesses to place the “rapture” at the end of the tribulation and coincident with the Second Coming of Christ. The other foundational rapture verse is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17.

13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

15 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. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.

We can see that this passage perfectly parallels the passages in 1 Cor. 15:51-58, and these two passages are clearly speaking of the same event . . . the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Just as in 1 Cor., we are given clear information on the timing of this event. In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4.

Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 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. 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, 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 this passage Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit clearly tells us that this “rapture” spoken of in 1 Thess 4:13-17 does not happen until AFTER a great apostasy and the revelation of the man of sin, that is, the antichrist. Clearly the antichrist is revealed at the midpoint of the tribulation when he goes into the temple and declares himself to be God. So, there is no way that this “rapture” could occur before the tribulation.

With this, we now have four clear Biblical witnesses that indicate that the “rapture” of the church is simply Christ’s second coming at the end of the tribulation period.

The reason this is important is that as believers we will be here for the tribulation. We need to prepare for that. By “prepare” I do not mean we need to buy a generator and bury food in our back yards. I mean that spiritually we need to prepare to have to choose between our faith and our life. Christ taught that anyone who would seek to live a Godly life would face persecution 2 Timothy 3:12:

12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

As the western church, we have enjoyed a season of peace and lack of persecution. This is the exception and not normal. Throughout time, and even now in many parts of the world, followers of Christ are being persecuted and martyred for their faith. To believe that as westerners we are so favored by God that we get a “ticket out” before the tribulation starts is to not understand the promises of God and not understand what we are clearly told to prepare for.

PART 1: The Problem with the Pretribulation Rapture

Mount of Olives
Mount of Olives

I have always enjoyed the fellowship and worship associated with being part of a church. At some point along the way, however, I did realize that at their core, denominational churches are often more about teaching church doctrine than Biblical truth. They teach church doctrine, and then they show how to use the Bible to defend and propagate those doctrines. They do this because that is the way most pastors are trained in Seminary. A healthy amount of seminary training is how to defend the “brand”. In this case, the “brand” is the denomination, and its core doctrines.

The danger with this is that you end up putting the cart before the horse. The doctrines become preeminent, and the Bible is a tool you use to prove the doctrines.

No place is this more clear than with the doctrine of the Pretribulation Rapture which is a core teaching of most mainstream denominations in the West today. The rapture doctrine is very popular because, well . . . it sells very well to Western culture. To exaggerate just a little bit, it goes like this . . . God loves you, He is pleased with everything you do, and in fact He is so concerned with your circumstances and comfort He is going to beam you out of here before any of the bad stuff happens. I can not tell you how many times I have had believers tell me that they do not need to understand Revelation, because we will all be “gone” when those things happen.

It is certainly forgivable that one could be confused on details of Eschatology, or the study of End Times. Indeed, it is a complex topic, and one in which it is very easy to be in error. The issue is that the pretribulation rapture doctrine is not just an error in Eschatology, it is an error in understanding the attributes of God. Read the Bible . . . we are told that as believers we will be hated, we will be persecuted, we will suffer, and yes, we will be killed for The Name of Christ. This truth can be found on almost every page of the Bible, and to ignore it is to risk not being ready for a great persecution that is coming.

So, how can I so boldly state that the pretribulation rapture theory is in error? Well to make the case will be much beyond the scope of this one post, but lets look at one simple argument. I will present more scripture defense of my position in future articles. For today, lets look at what most people consider the “foundational” rapture verse in the Bible, 1 Cor 15:51-58

51 Behold, I shew 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

To analyze this verse, lets start with the most important and obvious point. The passage tells us WHEN the “rapture” is going to happen. Verse 52 tells us that it is going to happen at the Last Trumpet.  If we look in Revelation, we can see that there are seven last days trumpets, and the Last Trumpet, the seventh, is described in Revelation  11:15

15 Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”

This occurs at the END of the tribulation and clearly is Christ’s second coming. Remember the Lord’s prayer where we pray, “Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be Your Name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven”. This seventh trumpet represents the answer to this prayer believers have prayed throughout the ages. Christ has returned to reign over the earth. His Kingdom has come! So, one must ask, how many trumpets are there after the Last Trumpet? If the Last Trumpet of 1 Cor 15:52 is before the tribulation, how can there be 7 more trumpets during the tribulation? In this case, it would NOT be the last trumpet. No, the Last Trumpet is exactly what it says, it is the Last Trumpet. There will be no more trumpets after the last one. Those who argue for a pre tribulation rapture will say that 1 Cor 15 is talking about a different set of trumpets. When you ask them for a scripture to defend this contention, they will typically hand you a fascinating rapture video by Tim LaHaye, but they will be completely unable to provide a textual basis for their contention that the last trumpet is in fact not the last trumpet.

Next up, we have a second indication of timing. We are told in 1 Cor 15:51 that Paul is describing to us a “Mystery”. Hmm . . . I wonder if the Bible gives us any more end times verses on this “Mystery” of God. We have to look no further than Revelation 10:5-7:

 The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised up his hand to heavenand swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer, but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets.

We are shown here that the Mystery of God alluded to by Paul in 1 Cor 15:51 would be completed with the sounding of the seventh trumpet. We have already shown that the seventh trumpet happens at the end of the tribulation and is associated with the blessed second coming of Christ.

Finally, we look at the other blessed promise that occurs at the time of this resurrection of the dead and the “rapture” of the church. We are told that in 1 Cor 15:54-56 that this is the time that Christ will win victory over death. In fact,  “Death is swallowed up in Victory”. Everyone will agree that Revelation clearly teaches that millions of believers will be martyred in the Tribulation. If the events of 1 Cor 15 occur before the tribulation, and this is the time that Christ wins final victory over death, how can it be millions of Christians die AFTER Christ wins final victory over death?

If we place the events of 1 Cor 15 where the verse tells us to put them, at the last trumpet, which is at the end of the tribulation and is Christ’s second coming, ALL the textual problems go away, and the story fits like a glove.

So, why do we do so much damage to scripture to place the “rapture” before the tribulation. Well, it is like I said before, it sells well. In fact so well that literally Billions of dollars have been made selling believers books and videos teaching that they will not have to endure hardship. As westerners we are so precious in God’s eyes that He would never allow us to suffer tribulation, persecution or martyrdom. To this, I must ask, what about the almost 10,000 Christians that have been slaughtered this year in Africa alone? In Nigeria Christian communities are being wiped out in mass for their faith. In Kenya, schools, shopping centers, buses and more are routinely attacked. In many of these attacks, Christians could save their lives if they would denounce Christ, but they choose death over denouncing their faith. Where is their rapture? Is it only Westerners that God so favors as to spare them persecution?

Again, the danger of the pretribulation rapture doctrine is not that it is off on eschatology, but that it is off on understanding the attributes of God and the promises of the Bible. God never promised that we would not face persecution, and he never promised that we would not face tribulation. The promise of the Bible is that He would be with us and give us strength WHEN those things happen. To believe in a pre tribulation rapture is to not be ready for the things that will come upon the Church in those last seven years known as the Great Tribulation.

So to believe in a pre tribulation rapture, we must believe that:

  1. There will be 7 trumpets after the LAST Trumpet
  2. Millions of Christians will be massacred AFTER Christ wins final victory over Death, and
  3. the Mystery of God is completed 7 or more years BEFORE the Bible says it will be completed.

I will provide more analysis in future posts, but for now I hope this information is enough to at least get you thinking, praying and searching out the scriptures on this topic.

God’s Will God’s Way

Chapel
Chapel in Jerusalem around 1940.

For decades now, I have had the practice of enjoying a morning devotional time. I go through the Bible cover to cover, and right now I am in the Psalms. I genuinely love the Psalms, and I enjoy reading them, and then praying them back to God in my own words. Psalm 1 is a really great one.

Psalm 1:

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

The word of God is like the Living Waters described in this verse. When we love the Word, and when we spend time in it our life will be filled with joy and all good things. This verse can often be misapplied to indicate that by seeking God’s word and spending time in it, we will always get the things we want. I don’t think that is the promise here. I believe what happens is that as we love and seek God through time in His word, the desires of our heart are molded and formed to match His good and perfect will for our lives. By delighting in God’s word each day, the desires of our heart are conformed to Him . . . it is not that He conforms to our desires.

There is no greater joy than to be able to live where the desires of our heart are aligned with God’s will. Then genuinely we find that we will be like a tree planted rivers of water, getting our strength and sustenance from that river. What we do then prospers, because the things we are doing are genuinely God’s will. Our plans prosper when we do God’s will God’s way.