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Evangelist, Baptist, Husband, Father, Mid-30's.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Rapture as Evangelism

Introduction

I recently wrote out my thought process for being a post-tribulation rapture believer. My view is common, but not nearly so common as the newer idea that Christians will be saved from the greatest persecution by being invisibly removed from earth. This "pre-tribulation" view (nicknamed the "Left-Behind" view) is arguably the most common in America today, but I don't expect it will remain that way. This view won't vanish, but I expect it to become less and less prevalent. Just as Postmillenialism suffered a damaging blow during the War to End All Wars and a fatal blow during World War Two, I think we'll see this eschatology fade until it practically vanishes, only held by small fringe groups, because of the years of harping on its veracity without any events or biblical passages to back it up. Constant false prophecy of immanent returns, and failed dates have created scoffers who cannot continue to keep believing this historically new and strange eschatology.

What will replace it? Unfortunately I can guarantee that it will not be the truth, some other fanciful unbiblical theatrical theology will arise and lead many astray. I cannot possibly guess with any accuracy, but my guess for this replacement will be the heresy of Preterism, the idea that the Second Coming and Resurrection have already occurred, but I won't be surprised if some other more heinous and imaginative heresy arises.

Your view of the timing of the rapture is not an essential doctrine, you will not lose your soul for following the pre-trib tradition. Many great saints have held this view. But, I fear that as this view largely dies with the church's elderly generation, that the church will lose ALL rapture theology, that the church is prepared to be removed from the earth and those remaining will be judged in righteousness. The rapture will be thrown out with the pre-trib theory, and it ought not be. The rapture is a recurring theme in scripture, the root word in the Greek is harpazo, it means to be plucked, repealed, removed. The word rapture comes from the Latin translation of this Greek word, it occurs in several places in the New Testament, for example, Christ was nearly seized by overzealous postmillenials (John 6:15), the evangelist has the duty to snatch sinners from the fire (Jude 1:23), Phillip was caught away to some far off place (Acts 8:39), Jesus was caught up to God (Revelation 12:5, cf. Acts 1:9), Paul was caught up into paradise (body or soul, I know not) (2 Corinthians 12:2-4), sheep without a shepherd are caught and devoured by wolves (John 10:12), and Jesus promised that none can pluck his saints from his hand (John 10:29).

The rapture that this article will focus on is the removal of Christians from the earth to meet Jesus in the clouds; we need to retain and understand the biblical purpose of this event. But what does it matter? Can't we just be pan-millenialists or pan-tribulationists, that "however it pans out is just fine with me"? Unfortunately it matters a lot in how we view God, and how we evangelize. This article will hopefully spur you towards good works, and an even more fervent and eager desire to see Christ.

I spoke to a person once whose plan of evangelism was to hold onto an unbeliever during the rapture and attempt to convince him to believe in Jesus on the way up. While this is a novel idea, it misses completely what the Bible says of that final day, and why on that day the unbeliever is without hope.

The Timing of Christ's Return

Christ has not returned yet, but he is sure to come, for scripture says, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come (Revelation 4:8)!" The reason he has not returned is quite simple, he is not willing that even a single one of his saints should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9). At the moment the sky disappears and Christ is seen in the Heavens, you can rejoice that the number of saints is complete, and be sure that no more men will be saved, and that Christ is prepared to conclude this present evil age.

Therefore, we are to be witnessing to unbelievers, as Peter says, "hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved (2 Peter 3:12)..."

If you are an unbeliever and are waiting to see the rapture happen before you will believe, Peter exhorts you to "count the patience of our Lord as salvation (2 Peter 3:15)" and Paul, "the patience of God is meant to lead you to repentance (Romans 2:4)." If you see the rapture as an unbeliever, then it is too late for you.

Christ as Judge

The Bible describes Jesus in two polarizing ways, as a just God, and a savior (Isaiah 45:21), that he punishes sinners AND forgives sinners; both are seen in the rapture. On that final day, he will come to "judge and make war (Revelation 19:11)." In the rapture, we see that Christ is righteous. Right now only believers see this (Proverbs 28:5), but on Judgment Day, everyone will see it, a myriad of verses say this.

Men will faint with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory (Luke 21:26-27)."

The word for faint means "die where they stand." The KJV says their "hearts will fail them." They will be scared to death.

In another place it says, "then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand (Revelation 6:15-17)?"

The last phrase is an allusion to several Old Testament passages, "But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears (Malachi 3:2)?" and "The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless: "Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings (Isaiah 33:14)?" And especially,
But you, who are to be feared!
__Who can stand before you
__when once your anger is roused?
From the heavens you uttered judgment;
__the earth feared and was still,
when God arose to establish judgment,
__to save all the humble of the earth. - Psalm 76:7-9
Dear reader, pause and consider the justice that will be displayed on the day that Christ returns. His patience will have run out, the sin of his enemies will have reached full measure, and grace and love will never again be felt by those who refused to kiss the Son.

"Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner (Malachi 3:5)..."

Christ as Saviour

But for the believer, a much different feeling will be kindled on that day. Continue the Malachi verse from above, "and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts. For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed (Malachi 3:6)."

For the believer, the one who abides in Christ, who is born-again, washed in his blood, made new in his Spirit, John exhorts us, "when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming (1 John 2:28)."

Peter explains that the Christian is "waiting for [a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells], therefore be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace (2 Peter 3:14)."

And Christ's personal promise, "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also (John 14:3)."

Henceforth there is laid up for all who have loved his appearing a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award on that day (2 Timothy 4:8). "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Colossians 3:1-4)."

The Rapture as Evangelism

On the final day there will be only two responses. The unbeliever will flee in fear, utterly terrified, and hide from the returning King. The believer will step forward in eager anticipation of the consummation of history, in meeting Jesus face to face, and in full assurance that he is a faithful God who keeps his promises.

There is no secret salvation for the believer in a veiled rapture. There is no second chance for the unbeliever in the warning of a rapture. There is hope in one man, the man whom has been appointed as judge of the world, who will judge in perfect righteousness, who commands all people to repent, and is assured because he has been raised from the dead (Acts 17:31).

Just as it is appointed once for a man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him (Hebrews 9:27-28).

Therefore, the rapture perfectly captures the character and nature of God, that he is a just God, and a savior, and besides him there is no other. Only in him there is righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed all who were incensed against him, but in the Lord all the offspring of Israel shall be justified and glorified (Isaiah 45:21,24-25).

This all points back to the cross, where God put Christ Jesus "as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness (Romans 3:25)..." and "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)." All evangelism should be centered on the law to bring a knowledge of sin, and then present grace, that salvation is available in the Christ who lived and died and lived again. The rapture captures this perfectly, that lawbreakers will face Christ as Lord and judge, and believers will face Christ as Lord and Saviour, his justice satisfied on Calvary's cross, and his grace poured out in abundance.

Conclusion

The day of the rapture will be too late to share your faith, for all who will trust Christ will have reached repentance, and all who are reprobate will face him as a Saviour scorned. Therefore, wait for this day and hasten it along by proclaiming his righteousness by calling for repentance, and proclaim his grace by imploring towards faith in his perfect name.

Until Christ returns, or calls you home, declare to the world that he is Lord of all, that to him every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall swear allegiance. Declare to mankind that his wrath is kindled, and that in his presence no man can stand, and that the only hope is God the Son who faced this wrath on a cross, who now calls out,
Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. - Isaiah 45:22
As for you dear reader, I pray that you are eagerly awaiting his return, that you will have confidence in his faithfulness and the sufficiency of his work on the cross, and you will not shrink back in fear at his coming.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Response to an Apostate Pastor

I received the following text last Saturday. After a week of prayer, and feeling several times that I would not respond to it, I finally decided that a response was merited and hopefully it will edify the church and call this pastor to biblical truth. This will also allow for me to type my response instead of texting it. This was sent as a text, so understandably it had many typographical errors, I have corrected these so that they do not detract from the message. I only changed spelling and punctuation, the original is available if you would like to read it.
Hello my name is ******. I am a pastor in *******, GA. I was greatly disturbed when at a Braves game there was a tract left on my car and after I read it, I realized there was no love only condemnation. Jesus did not command us to repent He commanded us to love and His goodness will lead them to repentance.  It grieved my heart to see a church representing our Savior Jesus using condemnation.  This is not an effective tool for evangelism. I pray you will have a revelation of His great love for you that His love will begin to flow from you.  I'm sorry if this is harsh, but I choose to live in obedience to the conviction and I had to send this.  Paul admonishes us many times not to turn away from or preach any other gospel than the one he first preached. The gospel of grace according to Ephesians 2:8-10
Response

First of all, thank you for taking the time to read this tract and for your response. This is why we give out tracts, to get people thinking and to start conversations. In that regard, this tract has done its first duty.

Second, I do not know which tract you received, I was not at the Brave's game, and know of no-one giving out tracts with my website on it at the Brave's game. Based on what you have written, I expect that it was a "Pop Quiz", but it may not have been. We excommunicated a woman at the beginning of the year, an antichrist and Jezebel of the highest degree, and she may still be printing tracts with our website on them, so depending on the tract, your concerns may be well founded if there was no love on the tract. But that does not affect the rest of this response.

You stated, that "Jesus did not command us to repent", and this is where I hope to rebuke and correct you. Over and over again Jesus commands both the world, and the church, to repent. His first command was "repent and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15), his last command is "be zealous therefore, and repent" (Revelation 3:19), and repentance is a quintessential part of his message throughout his ministry (Luke 13:1-5, Luke 5:32, etc). Likewise, he tells his followers that "repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations..." (Luke 24:47) Those who preach the gospel implore hearers to "repent towards God and faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21).

Your statement that our love will lead people to repentance has no biblical precedent. You've nearly quoted Romans 2:4, but that is in no wise a command to the church, but an admonition to the lost. But true love warns, it seeks to see people turned (repentance), to be saved, and this faith only comes by hearing, and hearing the Word of Christ. Your silence and aversion on the matter has most likely condemned many. Loving people without commanding repentance does as one wise preacher said, "makes the world a nicer place to go to Hell from."

A saviour who comes only to save and not preach condemnation is no Saviour at all, because there is nothing to be saved from. Jesus Christ preached salvation and condemnation regularly, see for example John 3:16-21. If this is not an effective tool for evangelism then you stand in direct opposition to the greatest Evangelist, who is Christ the Lord.

Your hatred of the justice of God as evidenced in your response does not bode well for your soul. You seem to have fallen for a tender loving jesus who does not exist. You are preaching a false jesus and this jesus shares none in common with the Living Christ than a name. Examine Romans 3:25 and 5:8, that the righteousness of God was demonstrated in Christ's death, and the love of God was demonstrated in him dying for sinners. Without condemnation, then Christ died for naught, but in Christ there is now no condemnation.

In all harshness, I pray that you have a revelation of the Living God, and that a love for his  whole character would be borne in you, and you would embrace the preaching of his full counsel, including the elementary doctrines of repentance from dead works and faith towards God.

Your gospel denies a need for grace, and therefore is anathema. See that the Lord is good, and then flee from the wrath to come. Preach the same.

And finally, if I am right in deducing that you are a female pastor from your name, I implore you to renounce your blasphemy and not step, but leap, from your pulpit role of usurping the Lord's authority.

In all love, I implore you and Christ commands you, "Repent, and believe the gospel."

The Post Tribulation Rapture

Understanding the timing and events of the rapture are as easy as following a few common phrases and time markers, the following verses are quoted from the English Standard Version of the Bible, but this study can be done in any translation leading to the same conclusion. This is not a doctrine which the Bible leaves any ambiguity on. If you will leave aside your traditions, you will quickly arrive at the rapture-theology which the God of the Bible intends for you to have.

This study begins with the best eschatological question ever asked:

Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" - Matthew 24:3

This study is not meant to look at the entire events of the end times, but only the timing and events of the rapture, so let's skip to verse 21.

Then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, 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. - Matthew 24:21-30

Let's look at a similar verse in Revelation 6, look at the similar wording and identical time markers.

When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” - Revelation 6:12-17

Look at the similarities, the coming of the Son of Man will be as lightning in the sky in Matthew 24, in Revelation 6 the sky vanishes. This event is directly preceded in both passages by the sun and moon and stars being greatly changed, and the earth quaking. The tribes of the earth will mourn, they will see Jesus, and they will not want to. I hope  and trust that you see that these describe the same event. Only Matthew adds one more event, look at verse 31, the rapture verse:

And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. - Matthew 24:31

This event is on the Day of Wrath, the day of Christ's return, the visible return of Jesus to the whole world. These angels come and remove Christ's elect, there is no indication in this passage of any sort of disappearing or secrecy. Now let's compare some other verses that give us the timing and events of this rapture and see if they agree.

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. 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. - 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

and

We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,  in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. - 1 Corinthians 15:51

These passages clearly show the rapture happens at the last trumpet, at the return of Christ. The dead are raised first, the believers are caught up immediately afterwards, to meet Christ as he descends, and be with him forevermore.

And I tell you beloved, this means there is a very good chance you may live through this tribulation, or any number of smaller, though not small, tribulations. There is no room in these passages or any passage for a secret and/or pretribulation rapture. Many of the elect will face the ruler of the world and die terrible deaths for it, being called to have endurance and faith in the Sovereign God who ordained all things (Revelation 13:7-10). Fear not, for Christ endured more for your soul at the hands of his Father, and he promises to never leave you nor forsake you.

I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! - Luke 12:4-5