Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pre-Tribulational Rapture of the Church

     As a believer in Jesus Christ, I believe He is returning for His church, primarily because He told us He would.  I also believe that there will be a 7 year period on earth referred to as the Tribulation, the time of Jacob's trouble and the 70th week of Daniel.  I would like to focus my attention on the use of the term of the 70th week of Daniel.  Daniel was given a prophecy which stated that God had 70 seven year periods of dealing with Israel before the end would come and the kingdom would be established in Jerusalem.  The Prophecy stated  -Dan 9:24  "Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. 
Dan 9:25  Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 
Dan 9:26  And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing.

     What the above passage basically says is that from a specific day, there will be 70 seven year periods or 70 weeks of years and then the end.  At the time that this prophecy was given, Daniel, along with the majority of the inhabitants of Judah, were in exile in Babylon.  The prophecy stated that when the decree goes out to rebuild Jerusalem that 70 years begins.  But notice that the 70 weeks are broken up into 3 parts. 7 weeks of rebuilding, 62 weeks of the city being established and inhabited.  62 and 7 equal 69 weeks of years, 69 seven year periods that will pass before "an anointed one shall be cut off..." Interestingly, Christ is the Greek rendering of Messiah and bot translate into English as ANOINTED ONE!  So, to recap, 69 seven year periods would pass after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem and Messiah would be cut off.
      When did the decree go out and who made it?  King Artaxerxes, of the Persian Empire gave the decree on March 14, 445 BC.  The Jewish year is 360 days, based on a lunar calendar, as opposed to our 365 day solar calendar.  69 seven year periods calculates to 173,880 days.  173,880 days brings us to Sunday April 6, 32 Ad, the very day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a Donkey, declaring Himself the Messiah.  Only four days later, on Thursday, not Friday, Jesus was crucified for the sins of the world, the Messiah was "cut off."
      This accounts for 69 weeks of years, but what about the 70th week.  As we look at the rest of the prophecy, we will see that much takes place between the 69th week and the 70th week.  Dan 9:26  And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 
Dan 9:27  And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator." 
There is a great deal of information here to digest.  First we see "the people of the prince who will come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary."  This event took place in 70 AD when the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem and burned the Temple.  So we can identify the people of the prince as Rome.  The prince spoken of is the coming world leader, the man of sin, the anti-christ.  As we continue to read this passage, we can see that the 70th week will begin when the prince who is to come makes a "covenant with the many."  This passage clearly identifies the prince who is to come as "the desolator."  The Bible states that the abomination which causes desolation, spoken of by Jesus, is the anti-christ coming into the temple and declaring himself God.
     How do we know this event has not come yet? II  Thesalonians 2:3  Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 
2Th 2:4  who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 
2Th 2:5  Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 
2Th 2:6  And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 
2Th 2:7  For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. 
2Th 2:8  And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. 
2Th 2:9  The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 
The church in Thesalonica was having fear that they had missed the second coming of Christ.  The Apostle Paul wrote this to assure them that some events must take place before Christ returned.  In this instruction, we find some interesting information.  We notice that there has to be a lawless one to be revealed, whom Christ will kill with His breath.  Revelation tells us that the anti-christ will be destroyed by Jesus. So we can conclude that the lawless one spoken of here is the anti-christ. Also, we see that there is a restrainer that is holding back the anti-chtist.  Who or what is the restrainer?  God would have to be the restrainer as only God can restrain evil.   The above passage states that the restrainer must be "out of the way," before the lawless one can be revealed.  Currently, the Holy Spirit is God's presence on earth, indwelling the church of Jesus Christ.  When a person is born again, the Holy Spirit takes up residence inside that person.  So, we can conclude that if the Holy Spirit is removed to allow the anti-christ to come to power, the church has to go with Him.
        This is only one part of the puzzle.  As we study the Old Testament, we see that God's plan and promise has always been for the nation of Israel.  Many of the promises God made to Israel, especially concerning the land, have yet to be fulfilled.  In fact, in 70 AD, Israel was made no more by Rome.  It was not until 1948 that Israel was reborn, in fulfillment of Bible prophecy.  Currently, we are living in the church age, or the age of grace.  49 days after Christ rose from the dead, the church was born in Jerusalem.   The church forms a parentheses in history, separating Israel past from Israel future.  The church had a definite beginning and will have a definite end.  That end is at the rapture, just before the 70th week of Daniel's prophecy begins.  
     I believe the strongest bit of evidence for a pre-tribulational rapture is comparing a passage in 
I Thessalonians to a passage in the Gospel of Matthew.  

1Thessalonians 4:16  For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 
1Th 4:17  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 
1Th 4:18  Therefore encourage one another with these words.

We see here a distinctive event where those who are in Christ will be caught up to meet Jesus in the air.  Now compare that with the description Christ gives of His return to earth after the tribulation:

Mathew 25:31  "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.

Mahtew 25:32  Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
Mat 25:33  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.
Mat 25:34  Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

Mat 25:41  "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Obviously, these two events are very different.  Jesus clearly states that the separating of the sheep and the goats takes place at His return to earth.  The event described in I Thessalonians has to take place before the events in Matthew 25 because Matthew 25 takes place on earth while I Thessalonians takes place before Christ comes to earth.  The weight of evidence demands that the rapture of the church will happen prior to the 7 year tribulation.  The group that is judged by Christ at His coming described in Matthew 25 are the people who did not receive the mark of the beast and seem to proclaim Christ.  Jesus then takes the true believers and brings them into the Kingdom while the rest are cast into hell.  All the end time events described in Revelation and by the Old Testament prophets are true and will take place.  We need to be ready to face God.  Only by the blood of Christ can we be reconciled to God and be made clean to stand in His presence.

It is time for the church to revive and be witnesses for Christ.

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