Raptured: Part 2 – 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

“Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him…. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God….And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 1-8, NIV).

Around 50 AD the Apostle Paul conducted his second missionary journey, traveling through Macedonia which is modern-day Greece. Due to some troubles caused by local Thessalonian citizens, Paul was forced to escape from the city of Thessalonica under the cover of night.

Paul’s Second Missionary Journey

Paul moved on to Athens and then Corinth where he remained for about a year and a half. While at Corinth and possibly due to his abbreviated visit to Thessalonica, Paul wrote two letters to the church at Thessalonica. Included in these two letters were descriptions about the Second Coming of Christ and the fate of those who die before Christ’s return.

In his first letter to the Thessalonians Paul explained that the dead in Christ (those who die before the Second Coming) are not forgotten by God when they die. Paul said that when Christ comes to gather his people, the dead in Christ AND those who are alive shall be caught away–or raptured–to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Apparently some had twisted Paul’s teaching about the Rapture to mean hat “the day of the Lord” had already come. Perhaps, because of their severe persecution and this false teaching the Thessalonians believed they had missed the Rapture and had entered into the time of God’s wrath and judgment, the time we now call the Tribulation or Great Tribulation (from Revelation 7:14 and spoken of by Jesus in Matthew 24:21, 29).

In 1 Thessalonians Paul was certain that the day and time of the coming apocalypse was inconsequential for the Thessalonians to know (vs. 5:1-2). But, because of the false teaching it was incumbent upon Paul to provide some clarity about “the day of the Lord.”

In these verses Paul assured the Thessalonians that none of this apocalyptic palaver about missing the Rapture was so because certain events on Earth must precede the Second Coming of Christ–specifically, a great falling away or rebellion against God and the revealing of the man of lawlessness, whom we now call the Antichrist. Furthermore, these events could only happen once what was restraining this uprising of inimitable evil on Earth was taken out of the way (vs. 7).

When Paul’s eschatological descriptions from 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians are considered together, it’s clear that the main event is the Rapture. He adds that the restraining work of God through the “Church” by the presence of the Holy Spirit dwelling among God’s people will cease at some point, which will allow the Antichrist to rise to power and mount world domination for a period of time. Ultimately, Jesus returns in great power and glory to overthrow this great evil and set up His earthly kingdom.

Now, whether the Rapture is a separate event from the Second Coming and when the Rapture takes place–before the Tribulation, after the Tribulation or in the middle of the Tribulation–are matters open to modern theological debate. Nevertheless, at the end of time Christ will return to gather His people and this gathering will come unexpectedly and will be preceded or accompanied by a time of great tribulation in a final effort by God to redeem lost souls.

Regardless of how these end-time events unfold, the essential message of Paul’s eschatology is clear. Christians should endure the difficulties of this present world as though it will be a long time before Jesus returns but live with the hope and expectancy that He could return at any time.

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20, NIV)

Raptured: Part 1 – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (Updated)

For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until 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 4:14-17, NIV).

Around 50 AD the Apostle Paul and Barnabas left Antioch and returned to the towns in Galatia and Pisidia they had visited on their previous journey (Paul’s second missionary journey is described in Acts 16-18). They had an argument about whether to take John Mark with them again and agreed to disagree and each went their separate way. Barnabas decided to re-visit the Jewish believers in Cyprus while Paul re-visited the Gentile believers in Galatia.

Paul’s Second Missionary Journey

Paul and his missionary team of Silas and Timothy traveled through the Roman provinces of Galatia and Phrygia but the Holy Spirit prevented them from preaching in the Roman province of Asia. One night Paul dreamed a man from Macedonia (in modern-day Greece) was begging him to come and help the people of Macedonia.

Paul’s team sailed across the Aegean Sea and began their journey through Greece. When they reached the city of Thessalonica, Paul and Silas preached in the Jewish synagogue on three consecutive Sabbaths. But some of the Jews became jealous and incited some bad characters in the town to form a mob and cause a riot. Paul and Silas were forced to escape from Thessalonica under the cover of night.

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End Game: Part 15, Eden Reopened – Revelation 21-22

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” (Revelation 21:1-2, NIV).

The beginning of Chapter 21 reveals the conclusion of the book of Revelation. God has accomplished His purpose in saving his people and this is the fitting consummation to the story of redemption: God has brought His people home and He will dwell with them. Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:3, NIV).

We have now arrived at the cosmic event that divides time and eternity–the point in time where heaven and earth conjoin to bind the future to the present.

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End Game: Part 14, Pan-Millenialism – Revelation 20

“And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4, NIV).

The litmus test by which we classify our interpretation of Revelation is how we interpret Revelation 20:1-10., which highlights the thousand-year (millennial) reign of Christ. Our interpretation of the whole book seems to depend on when the millennium occurs in our end-time chronology.

Premillennial, amillennial or postmillennial are the eschatological labels some evangelical institutions and individuals use to define themselves or their eschatological belief system. The three terms come from the word millennium, meaning a period of a thousand years. Pre- and postmillennialism divide over the question of whether the second coming of Christ will take place before or after the thousand years mentioned repeatedly in these verses.

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End Game: Part 13, Armageddon, Evil’s Last Stand – Revelation 15-19

“And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” (Revelation 16:16, ESV).

After the trumpet judgments, the focus of Revelation changed from a somewhat chronological account to descriptions of certain events and people including a woman clothed with the sun, the Antichrist, the False Prophet, and the mark of the Beast.

In Chapter 15 John sees one final vision before he is shown the rest of the tribulation judgments, represented by bowls. The first vision John sees here is that of seven angels. These carry the last judgments God will use during the tribulation. The scene is one of celebration as redeemed believers sing a song of worship to God echoing similar songs of praise offered by Israel after their deliverance from slavery in Egypt in Exodus 15.

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End Game: Part 12, Cosmic Conflict – Revelation 12-14

“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” (Revelation 12:10-11, NIV).

The main figures described in these chapters are commonly interpreted like this: The woman symbolizes Israel. The dragon symbolizes Satan. The man-child refers to Jesus. The angel Michael is head of the angelic host. The offspring of the woman symbolizes Gentiles who come to faith in the Tribulation. The beast out of the sea symbolizes the antichrist. The beast out of the earth symbolizes the false prophet who promotes the antichrist.

These chapters describe a rebellion against God that is certainly of epochal or universal proportions. This world and humanity are the battleground for this cosmic conflict (see Revelation 13:6-8). Some biblical scholars and commentators even interpret the dragon’s defeat and ejection from heaven as referring to the incarnation, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus (cf. Luke 10:18, John 12:31).

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End Game: Part 11, A New Sheriff in Town – Revelation 11

“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry, and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your people who revere your name, both great and small—and for destroying those who destroy the earth.” (Revelation 11:17-18, NIV).

In the series of judgments described in Revelation 5-16– the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls of the wrath of God– there is always a break or intermission between the sixth and seventh judgment (Chapter 7-seals; Chapters 10-11-trumpets; the Chapter 12-14 interlude is before the sixth and seventh bowls in Chapter 16). Revelation 11 is a further elaboration of the interlude beginning in Chapter 10.

Chapter 11 opens with the measuring of the Temple of God. The idea of measuring communicates ownership, protection, and preservation. When this Temple is measured, it shows that God knows its every dimension.

It establishes that God is in charge of all things and all events on Earth now and in the future!

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End Game: Part 10, Good News/Bad News – Revelation 10

“So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, ‘Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey” (Revelation 10:9, NIV).

Inserted between the sixth and seventh trumpets is an interlude in Chapters 10-11. In the series of judgments described in Revelation 5-16– the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls of the wrath of God– there is always a break or intermission between the sixth and seventh judgment (Chapter 7-seals; Chapters 10-11-trumpets; the Chapter 12-14 interlude is before the sixth and seventh bowls in Chapter 16).

In the first part of this interlude John saw an angel he called a mighty angel coming down from heaven. The mighty angel planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land and gave a shout like the roar of a lion. John’s description of this mighty angel–rainbow above his head, face like the sun, shout like the roar of a lion–certainly represents the power of God and dominion over all creation in a way that is distinctive from most other angelic appearances.

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End Game: Part 9, Literally True – Revelation 8-9

“The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the side. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed” (Revelation 8:8-9, NIV).

The devastation caused by the eruption of the Laki volcanic fissure in Iceland in 1783 was felt globally for years after the event. The Laki eruption lasted for 8 months, emitting toxic gases that poisoned crops and killed 60 per cent of Iceland’s grazing livestock. The volcano released enough SO2 to cause acid rain and global temperatures to drop.

The eruption resulted in a famine that killed over 10,000 Icelandic people, roughly a quarter of the country’s population at the time. As Laki’s toxic eruption traveled south, it killed 23,000 in Britain and caused a famine in Egypt. Some environmental historians believe the European famine caused by the eruption may have been a catalyst for the French Revolution.

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End Game: Part 8, Revelation Hermeneutics – Revelation 8-16

Image from Revelation Diagram blog post by Bob Thune, http://www.bobthune.com/2011/04/revelation-diagram/

When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour” (Revelation 8:1, NIV).

At this point in Revelation John has witnessed Jesus open six of the seven seals of judgment seen on the scroll in heaven (Revelation 5:1–5). After the opening of the sixth seal and its consequences, John described the sealing of 144,000 Jewish believers, listed by their tribe. This was followed by a vision of an enormous crowd of people of every possible race and language, worshiping God in heaven (Revelation 7).

Then, the seventh seal was opened.

Now, in Revelation 8:1 there is silence in heaven.

This verse is a pivotal point that affects our understanding of the following chapters–our Revelation hermeneutics (interpretation of the text).

There are at least two ways to read and interpret the remainder of the Book of Revelation.

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