Rapture (What, Why, When, Who & How)
WHEN Will the Rapture Take Place?
Do you know? I certainly don’t know when Christ will descend with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. No one knows. Except to know that it will take place exactly when God determines, at the time God has appointed … not sooner, not later. But it will happen, just as sure as the fact that Christ came to earth the first time, through Mary’s miraculous conception.
Frankly, any attempt to predict an exact date for the Rapture is an irresponsible exercise in futility, as all prior prognostications have been pathetically inaccurate. But, someone’s bound to get these end-of-the world predictions right sooner or later; so why not keep on trying to set dates? Because Jesus, himself, said so: “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return” (Matthew 25:13). This was the third time in the space of just a few verses that the Lord told his disciples: neither they nor anyone could possibly determine the hour and day of the Rapture. Which is why all previous specific date/time predictions have failed miserably. Example: What happened last December 21 (2012)? Answer: Absolutely nothing! So, you can throw your Mayan calendar away. It doesn’t work!
For the past two hundred years or so, several self-deluded individuals or religious leaders have set their own date for “the end of the world.” Sadly, some of these misguided soothsayers generated a pretty good size following; many of these followers sold all their possessions, and literally stood on rocks or roof tops scanning the skies. After failing once, at least two of these “prophets” actually had the audacity to revise their predictions, citing some technical miscalculations, then setting another date … only to be wrong again. I won’t mention their names, as I’m sure they or their descendants have experienced enough embarrassment as it is. Moreover, based on what Jesus said, I can virtually guarantee that the Lord would never return on a day that has been “prophetically selected” for his return.
But, there is an aspect of when the Rapture will occur that we can know … a component part that the Bible clearly explains by means of placing this magnificent event in real-time sequence, meaning in proximity to other global events or developments. That is to say: We can know the signs (of the times) that signal the “beginning of the end.” In Matthew Chapter 24, Jesus presents some specific markers relevant to the timing of his return, and these signs correlate with and connect to the Rapture; with the Rapture then ushering in the “Day of the Lord” (the Great Tribulation followed by the Thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth).
Thus, our task is to watch ongoing developments around the world (especially in the Middle East); and wait with confident expectancy, all the while sharpening our eye of prophecy.
Jesus referred to one of these indicators as perhaps the most significant accomplishment just before the end of this age will come. “And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached through-out the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). State of the art transportation and technology have literally made this possible in our life time. Since the first century when Christ commissioned his followers to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, and particularly in the last hundred years or so, nearly every nation, language, ethnic group, and culture has heard God’s message of salvation one way or another, i.e. missionaries, radio, television, internet, distribution of the Bible in many languages, evangelical crusades (Billy Graham comes to mind), and person-to-person sharing of the Gospel.
Let’s examine one other major event and one correlating condition that the Bible places in very close time proximity to the Rapture.
THE PHYSICAL REBIRTH OF ISRAEL
Event: Our generation has witnessed the return of the Jews from the four corners of the earth to their God-given land, after nearly two thousand years in exile. Long ago, several prophets in hundreds of Old Testament passages prophetically announced this spectacular achievement, one that no other nation on earth has ever accomplished—Israel’s complete destruction, then restoration, then reappearance once again as a sovereign nation with a literal revival of their ancient language, Hebrew. Once again, blog space/time doesn’t allow citation of even a handful of these prophecies; thus, I will select only two:
“Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord. I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the Lord has spoken!’” (Ezekiel 37: 12-14). And then Amos 9: 14-15: “I will bring my exiled people of Israel back from distant lands, and they will rebuild their ruined cities and live in them again … I will firmly plant them there in their own land. They will never again be uprooted from the land I have given them, says the Lord your God.”
Before the turn of the 20th century, most of Israel, especially modern-day Tel Aviv, resembled a wasteland–void of agriculture, absent new construction of office buildings and homes, and with only a sparse population of Jews and Arabs. Then an amazing series of events unfolded (good and bad) beginning with the Balfour declaration of 1917 near the end of WWI, followed by an influx of tens of thousands of Jews to Palestine, which is what Israel was called at that time. Then World War II erupted because Hitler wanted to accomplish two evil objectives: (1) complete conquest and domination of Europe; (2) total annihilation of Jews in all countries that Germany had conquered and wanted to conquer. It was a sinister plan that the Nazis euphemistically labeled, “The Final Solution,” which since has been called, The Holocaust.
*Foot Note: “Final Solution” was designed to be an inoffensive (even noble) sounding phrase that would deceitfully deflect the Nazi’s real, but warped, objective of solving the world’s problems by means of exterminating the entire Jewish race. The idea of Jewish genocide wasn’t new to Hitler; however, he took it to a diabolical level never seen before. And, as some of you have seen and heard: This same “idea” has been bluntly and publicly announced (recently) by Iran’s former president, as well as some leaders in the Arab world, i.e. “we will wipe Israel from the face of the map.”
But then something miraculous occurred: God turned the incomprehensible horror of The Holocaust into a fulfillment of prophecy and the hope and dream of every Jew the world over … “next year in Jerusalem.” God brought the Jewish people back to Israel.
The Jews had said: “Never again.” Never again must something like this happen … the cold-blooded murder of six million Jews by government and military officials who had acted on the orders of one man. It was absolutely imperative that the Jews possess their own land, and be governed by their own people; otherwise, they would continue to be at the mercy of the nations to which they had been exiled long ago.
And, only three years after the war ended in Europe, the United Nations recognized Israel as a sovereign state on May 14, 1948. In one day the nation of Israel was born! Which is exactly what the prophet Isaiah predicted nearly 2,700 years earlier. “Who has ever seen anything as strange as this? Who ever heard of such a thing? Has a nation ever been born in a single day? Has a country ever come forth in a mere moment … ‘Would I ever bring this nation to the point of birth and then not deliver it? asks the Lord. No, I would never keep this nation from being born, says your God’” (Isaiah 66: 8-9).
After May 14, 1948, the immigration gates were flung open. Tens of thousands of Jews returned to Israel, despite intense opposition from Arab countries and even from a WWII ally, England.
A Personal Pilgrimage to Israel
In March, 2006, my sister, Marge, and I traveled through much of Israel (not with a tour group, but in a rental car, no less!). My primary purpose for traveling to the Holy Land was to do research on my first book, a novel, O Israel … the end is the beginning for those left behind.
We can tell you with first-hand, up close and personal affirmation: Israel has changed! She is beautiful: We saw an abundance of flowers, vineyards, trees, gardens, fields, buildings, and highways. She is self-governed: We took pictures of the Knesset, and drove by city halls, and the Supreme Court of Israel. She is strong: we watched IDF soldiers, both men and woman, as they protected the city streets and patrolled the countryside to ensure the safety of Israeli citizens and foreign tourists, and as a sign of force and peace throughout the land. She is free: We traveled uninhibited, having to stop at only one checkpoint, and we watched children playing at their schools and in the streets. She is populated: Recently the Jewish population reached 6 million, a tremendously significant and symbolic number to the Jews (6 million were murdered in Nazi Germany during WW II). She is diverse: We witnessed a variety of culture, race, religion, and education that can only be found in very large countries like the USA.
We visited Nazareth where Jesus grew up as a boy. We stood by the Sea of Galilee where Jesus walked on the water and commanded the raging storm to hush. We ascended the Mount of Olives from where our Lord returned to heaven forty days after his resurrection, which is also the place he will first step foot when he returns to earth. We ate and shopped in the corridors of Old Jerusalem where Jesus lovingly taught and compassionately healed so many people. We trekked up the steep pathway to Har (which means mountain) Megiddo and peered into the valley below, where Jesus will triumphantly defeat the Antichrist and his armies at the last battle of Armageddon. We strolled through the Garden where Jesus spent his last night before he was falsely arrested, illegally tried, unjustly condemned, then unmercifully nailed to a cross. We entered the tomb where he was buried. There is a sign posted in the tomb that reads: “He is not here, he is risen.” I cried when I saw that sign. They were tears of joy. And I will unashamed say along with all those who have personally placed their trust and eternal destiny in Jesus Christ, “Hallelujah, Our redeemer lives!” Soon, very soon, he will return in great power and glory. Are you ready?
THE FINAL GENERATION:
Condition: A second prominent feature of when the Rapture will take place is mentioned by Jesus, himself. Listen to his words. “Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things take place” (Matthew 24: 32-34).
What are “these things” referenced by Jesus when he made this astonishing prediction on the Mount of Olives. They are a riveting list of events that will precede his glorious appearing. Read for yourself in Matthew 24 and 25. The majority of Biblical scholars identify the representative fig tree as the nation of Israel … based on several Scriptural passages that symbolically equate Israel with a fig tree. Jesus is essentially telling us: Once these things begin to happen–like knowing that summer is right around the corner when the fig tree (Israel) begins to bud–then his return is very, very close.
When did Israel begin to bud, then blossom, then bear fruit? You’re right: first in 1917 after the Jews were permitted to possess most of what today is modern Israel. Again, when Israel became a nation in 1948. And, yet again, when they finally took back Jerusalem, the Holy City of the Holy Land, in the Six-Day War of 1967. The Bible tells us that Jerusalem is loved by God more than any other city in the world; and Scripture is clear that Jerusalem, the ancient capital of Israel and home of King David, will be The City from where Messiah Jesus will establish his rule and reign over the nations of the earth.
In the Bible, we find two basic definitions or time periods of a “generation.” They are 70 years and 100 years. You do the math. You could select the monumental historical milestone of 1917, when England declared Palestine a two-region territory, with joint occupation/possession by the Jews and Arabs. Sadly the Arabs refused, but the Jews began to return in increasing numbers, and cultivated the land. And you can select 1947/1948 which is when the United Nations voted in favor of Israel becoming a nation (November, 1947); followed a few months later by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s stunning declaration that Israel was now a sovereign state. Israel had been reborn from the fires of Nazi death camps and from the floods of exiled dispersion. None other than the US President, Harry Truman, was the first to recognize Israel’s right to enter the world’s family of nations.
There are other factors to consider, but these major events could very well mark the beginning of the last generation … a 100-year generation from 1917, and a 70-year generation from 1947. These two events are hugely significant milestones to Israel’s history and to Biblical prophecy. Am I saying that the Lord will return in 2017 (by doing the math)? No, I am not. But I have studied other passages of Scripture, not the least of which is the somewhat mysterious 7-times over sequence as found in the book of Leviticus. One conclusion is that the years 2017 through 2019 could very well fit all Biblical passages dealing with the short time-frame of Christ’s return. No way will I or should anyone specify the day or hour, but the Lord encourages us to recognize the seasons and signs surrounding his second coming. The fact remains: He could return at any moment!
*Note: Following the series of articles on Out of the Abyss (which begins 8-31), we’ll spend a few weeks on two incredible passages of Scripture that refer to actual periods of time in which Messiah’s first and second advent are predicted. The first (the Biblical prediction of the actual date of Christ’s first coming) was discovered by Sir Robert Anderson, as detailed in his book, The Coming Prince. The second: The end of the Jewish exile and domination by the Gentile nations, the rebirth of Israel as a nation, and, therefore, the generational period of time when Christ would return, can be identified in a relatively obscure passage in Leviticus Chapter 26, that provides an astonishing “time-frame” of the second coming. For emphasis, let me repeat: A time-frame, not a specific date or time. But, I’m convinced that this time-frame IS our generation.
Blog along with me and we’ll see just how it works.
Please join me next week. We’ll take a look at the Who of the Rapture.
Things to Ponder:
– What is meant by the term, “Imminent return of Christ” and, what does it mean to you?
– Each time that Jesus said that we can’t know (the time), he specifically referred to the day and hour. Do you think “day/hour” was more or less a generic way of saying that no one can know even approximately when he will return. Or, in the context of the Lord’s detailed response to his disciples’ question found in Matthew 24:3 (“What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?”), do you think Jesus wants us to at least know the (short time) window of his return.
– When the Rapture occurs, do you think most of those left behind will know what has happened? Or will they come up with several different reasons (trying to explain it away) why millions of people are gone?