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The Christian Counter

   
Which is Next – the Rapture or the Second Coming?
Lesson 38
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Two men will be in the fields; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left behind. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

Matthew 24:40-42

There are six apocalyptic prophecies in the book of Daniel and they “stack” on top of each other much like the layers of a wedding cake. Each prophecy has a beginning and ending point in time and each prophecy contains an orderly sequence of events. For example, Daniel 2 is the bottom layer or “foundation” prophecy and its time span reaches from 600 B.C. to the Second Coming. The second apocalyptic prophecy (Daniel 7) stacks on top of Daniel 2 and covers the same time span as Daniel 2. The third prophecy or layer starts around 538 B.C. and reaches to the Second Coming. The fourth prophecy begins in about 457 B. C. and ends with A.D.33. By layering the prophecies of Daniel on top of each other, God eliminated several problems before they even began! First, when we examine these six layers, a large amount of information unfolds that is otherwise unknown. By linking the six layers together with prophetic events, God says a great deal with the fewest possible words.  This is an important consideration because books of the Old Testament were duplicated by hand for almost 3,000 years. Second, by layering the prophecies on top of each other, God implemented a process which scholars call repetition and enlargement. It allows the Bible student to confidently arrange and define all the prophetic elements within each prophecy. As each layer of prophecy is added to the “stack”, the underlying layers have to be correctly interpreted and chronologically arranged or the next layer will not make sense. Last, by layering the prophecies, God hid the meaning of these prophecies in the book of Daniel until the time of the end would arrive. (Daniel 12:4,9) I believe God did this so the last generation on Earth could quickly understand the fulfillment of 26 centuries of prophecy. In other words, an ordinary person can now understand the sweeping prophetic progression of 26 centuries with just a few hours study. Now that the layering of the prophecies has been discovered, people can determine which elements of apocalyptic prophecy are in the past and which are forthcoming! A brief discussion about the six layers in Daniel has been presented because of this statement: “The six prophecies of Daniel do not support the idea of a pre-tribulation or mid-tribulation rapture of the saints.”

There are twelve apocalyptic prophecies in the book of Revelation and these also “stack” on top of each other just like the six layers do in the book of Daniel. Even more, the twelve layers of Revelation harmoniously align with the six apocalyptic prophecies in Daniel. When all eighteen prophecies are view together, there is one marvelous prophetic story that unfolds in chronological order. All eighteen prophecies are interconnected. Each layer has a starting point in time and an ending point in time, and the events in each prophecy (or layer) occur in the chronological order given. When a person understands how past fulfillments of prophecy conform to this well defined architecture, it is possible to determine with some certainty the chronological timing within God’s prophetic plans. It is important to understand that the chronological layers of Daniel and Revelation do not support a pre-tribulation or mid-tribulation rapture.

When the eighteen layers of apocalyptic prophecy are arranged correctly, the progressive fulfillment of prophecy is confirmed by recorded history. This occurs because apocalyptic prophecy produces a chronological “timeline” showing past, present and future events. Knowledge of this time-line prevents a misapplication of end-time statements that occur throughout the Bible. For example, the opening text for this chapter (Matthew 24:40-42) is often used by proponents of the pre-tribulation rapture to justify a sudden snatching away of people from Earth. There are two problems with this assertion. First, the chronological order of Daniel and Revelation does not support a pre-tribulation rapture and second, the context itself does not support a pre-tribulation rapture. If a person has the notion of a pre-tribulation rapture already in mind, Matthew 24:40-42 can be presented in a way that makes it appear to support a pre-tribulation rapture. Before a sincere Bible student draws a conclusion, efforts should be made to reconcile many texts that are not in harmony with the pre-tribulation rapture. We need to ask, can we “pick and choose” texts that only favor our notions and ignore those we do not understand or like? Truth is found in the harmony that comes from the sum of all the parts. There is an explanation for Matthew 24:40-42 that harmoniously aligns with the chronological order given in Daniel and Revelation, as well as all the other texts that do not harmonize with the doctrine of a pre-tribulation rapture.

New World Order

The world stands at the door of a great transition. The nations of Earth as we currently know them, are about to undergo a radical change. I am not describing another world order based on political realignment. Political realignment has been an ongoing process ever since the nations came into existence. Instead, I am describing the destruction of earthy nations and the creation of a new world whose order God will establish. The Bible is the only source of truth on this subject and it is the only book that contains a comprehensive roadmap of soon coming events. The Bible is the only authority that speaks for God on this matter. For these reasons, people should carefully consider the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. The people of Earth need to understand that the Most High God is about to bring this world of sin to an end.

Many people sense that something big is about to happen and indeed, something very big is about to happen. Jesus is going to startle billions of people with an enormous demonstration of divine authority. Confusion, mayhem and extreme suffering will be everywhere and a trustworthy roadmap explaining the forthcoming actions of Jesus will be indispensable. Although the roadmap of Bible prophecy does not reveal a pretty picture for the immediate future, it does provide light of eternal hope shining through a short, but very dark tunnel. For this reason, the information contained in this Bible should receive our highest attention. After investigating Bible prophecy for many years, I am convinced that whether we agree or disagree with the events described in the Bible prophecy, man’s opinion do not affect God or His actions. He will do what He said He would do. What we believe about God has nothing to do with God’s behavior-all that He has predicted will come to pass. Therefore, it is imperative that we approach Bible prophecy from an honest perspective for the purpose of understanding the ways of God. The Father has put Jesus in control of closing events. With this thought in mind, let us consider what the Bible has to say about the Second Coming and the concept of a pre-tribulation rapture.

Views on the Rapture

Protestants basically support one of four views about the gathering of the saints. Many Protestants believe in a pre-tribulation rapture. A smaller, but significant number, believes in a mid-tribulation rapture (Christians are taken to Heaven midway through the seventieth week of seven years). A third group of Protestants believe in a pre-wrath rapture (Christians are taken to Heaven just before the outpouring of the seven last plagues). Last, a minority of Protestants believes in a post-tribulation gathering of the saints at the Second Coming. The concept of a rapture (regardless of timing) is a complicated study because so many ideas are involved. In fact, the study of Bible prophecy is a lot like weaving a potholder out of many pieces of colored yarn. Small pieces of yarn are not very strong or important by themselves. However, if a person weaves the yarn together just right, the result can be an attractive and durable potholder. The same is true with the study of prophecy. Eventually, every student of prophecy ends up creating his or her own “prophetic potholder” out of yarn given to him or her! (Sorry about the pun.) As so often happens, many rush out to assure others about the superiority of their potholder and the weakness of all others. (If this topic were no so serious, I would find this process, which includes my work, to be amusing.) The object of owning a potholder is to keep from getting burned and a parallel can be drawn for a prophetic potholder as well. (Again, sorry for the pun.) There are a lot of people out there that say I’m totally wrong about my prophetic potholder could not possibly come from a logical study of God’s Word. My standard response (defense?) is that the arrangement of the yarn makes the difference! Be assured, time will confirm all that God has said. Nothing but the passage of time can confirm how close or how far we are from rightly interpreting God’s Word.

With that said, however, I want you to know right up front that even when I put the chronological order of Daniel and Revelation aside for a moment, there are numerous scriptural reasons why I cannot accept the doctrine of pre-tribulation rapture. Let me address a few of these issues:

Just One Gathering of the Saints!

Some Christians say the righteous dead do not participate in the pre-tribulation rapture and others say the righteous dead are included. What the Bible says? When are the righteous dead resurrected? Jesus said, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:39,40) When does “the last day” occur? Does it occur at the beginning of the 70th week (of seven years)? No! Paul wrote, “According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from Heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17) These verses contain four important points:

a.        The livings do not precede the dead to Heaven.

b.        Jesus Himself will come down from Heaven.

c.        He will call the righteous dead to life with a loud command.

d.        As the dead ascend, the living will joins with them to meet Jesus in the air.

Look again at the text. Paul says, “After that [resurrection of the righteous], we who are still alive and left will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.” Some people distort Paul’s words to mean, “After that [the rapture], we who are still alive and left [behind] will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air [later on at the Second Coming]…”But this is not the meaning’s of Paul’s remarks. Consider verse 15 again: “According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the: Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.” Paul states two things: First, the living will not precedes the dead to Heaven. The two groups meet the Lord at the same time. Second, Paul refers to individuals who are alive when the Lord appears will unite with the dead to meet Jesus in the air. Paul’s idea is quite different from being “left behind after the rapture.” Review verses 15-17 and notice Paul’s use of the pronoun “we.” Why does Paul use the inclusive pronoun “we” in these texts? Paul thought that he, with other living believers (“we”), would live to see Christ appear in the clouds and the dead raised from their graves without experiencing death themselves. (1 Corinthians 7:29,30) Paul did not believe in or teach a pre-Second Coming rapture.

Paul has more to say about the resurrection of the righteous. Notice this text which was written a few years after 1 Thessalonians: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51,52) Did you notice that the Apostle Paul uses the inclusive pronoun “we” because he believed that he would live to see Jesus return. Of course, Paul had no idea time would last 2,000 more years.

On the basis of what we have read, the Bible teaches there is one gathering of the saints, both the dead and the living, at the last day. This fact proves the rapture doctrine to be deficient because it requires two gatherings of the saints, one gathering at the beginning of the 70th week and one gathering at the Second Coming.

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