Paul’s 3 Things That Must Happen Before the Rapture

1Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, 2not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. 3Don’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. 4He 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 (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).

The apostle Paul has received a letter back from the Thessalonian church after his first letter that was in part about the rapture. We know this for he starts out this chapter with the word “concerning.” The Thessalonians had received some communication from some people trying to deceive them into believing that the Day of the Lord, and with it, the Rapture, has already happened (Verse 2). They were being told that the persecution they had been enduring (2 Thessalonians 1:4) is the persecution associated with the end time coming of the Lord. It’s interesting that Paul uses the same Greek word, thlipsis, translated with the word tribulation (Matthew 24:21 KJV) or distress (NIV) to describe the persecution that the Thessalonians were enduring at the time Paul was writing. He replies to this false thinking in order to ease their fears that they had missed being caught up (raptured) to the great gathering together with the Lord in the air. It is clear that Paul believes that the Day of the Lord will happen just after the Church is caught up to the Lord (vv. 1-2). He calls the coming of the Lord and our being gathered to Him as, “the day of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 2:2).

He reassures them that they have not missed the rapture by telling them that there are three things that must happen before that Day (The Day of the Lord) comes (Verse 3).

1) The Rebellion occurs. The definite article is in the Greek text, but is not explicit in the English translation. It is the rebellion, not just any countrywide rebellion but a worldwide falling away from the faith. The Greek word used is Apostasia, which means to depart, defect, and revolt. The meaning of this word is always speaking of a religious defection, a departure from what is considered to be orthodox.[1] What would cause a worldwide defection from the faith? It is possible that when Antichrist and the False Prophet demand that everyone should receive a mark on their forehead or hand, and worship the beast, many that have a half-hearted faith will compromise and fall away from the Lord. Those with true faith in Christ, will not take the mark, and continue to walk with the Lord, anticipating His return.

2) The second thing Paul says must happen before the Day of the Lord is for the man of lawlessness (another name for the Antichrist) to be revealed. I believe that when he comes to power he will resolve the Palestinian problem and a peace treaty or covenant will be signed on the whole issue of Jerusalem (Daniel 9:27). His bargaining position chip will be to allow the Jewish people to rebuild their Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in exchange for the Palestinians to have a state and possibly even their capital city to be East Jerusalem. This peace covenant or treaty is a sign that we can look for as it will start a period of seven years, with a desecration of the Temple at the mid-point. Those who hold to a Pre-Tribulation rapture view do not believe the Church will witness any of these things. However, even in Paul’s day, the Holy Spirit warned the Thessalonians, and us, to be aware of these events as signs of His coming and the rapture.

3) Paul says the man of lawlessness, the Antichrist, will oppose everything that is called God; in fact he will exalt himself as God, sitting in the Temple of God, proclaiming himself as God (verse 4). He will set himself up in the newly rebuilt Jewish Temple. As at this present time (November 12, 2017) there is no Jewish Temple that lies at the heart of Jerusalem. We must prepare to endure persecution and when the temptation comes to take the Mark of the Beast and worship Antichrist—we must refuse and cling to the Lord Jesus—trusting that He will deliver us from Satan’s wrath (Revelation 12:12, and 17). Grace will be poured out on God’s people and the Lord will intervene in deliverance for His people and wrath on His enemies. Pray that you may endure and be found on the right side.

Taken from the series The Second Coming of Christ, found in the middle column. Click on the study, The Rapture and Day of the Lord. Keith Thomas

[1] Key Word Study Bible, AMG Publishers, 686 Apostasia, Page 693.

An Appointment with Death

We have been meditating on the subject of eternity over the last few weeks (scroll down for other meditations). Erwin Lutzer tells the fable about a Baghdad merchant who sent his servant to the marketplace to run an errand. When the servant had completed his assignment and was about to leave the marketplace, he turned a corner and unexpectedly met Lady Death. The look on her face so frightened him that he left the marketplace and hurried home. He told his master what had happened and requested his fastest horse so that he could get as far from Lady Death as possible—a horse that would get him to Sumera before nightfall. Later that same afternoon, the merchant also went to the marketplace and also met Lady Death. “Why did you startle my servant this morning?” he asked. “I didn’t intend to startle your servant—it was I who was startled,” replied Lady Death. “I was surprised to see your servant in Baghdad this morning, because I have an appointment with him in Sumera tonight.”[1]

You and I have an appointment with death. We cannot run from it, and we cannot hide from it. We can only face it. “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Thankfully, there is a God in heaven who has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). We needn’t face death alone. Christ has told us that He will be with us until the end of the age.

When George Bush Senior was Vice President, he represented the U.S. at the funeral of former Communist Russian leader Leonid Brezhnev. Bush was deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev’s widow. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev’s wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed: She reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband’s chest. There in the citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that there was another life, that this life was best represented by Jesus who died on the cross, and that this same Jesus might yet have mercy on her husband.[2] There was the leader of a Communist country trying to stamp out all knowledge of Christ and His Word, yet even his wife was a secret believer with the thoughts of eternity in her heart.

We have come a long way over the last few weeks as we have explored what God says about our destiny and where we will spend eternity. We are made for more than the way this world is set up! We have an enemy that seeks to keep our minds occupied with things of this world alone. That enemy, Satan, desires to stamp out all thoughts of another life in Christ, a life that is better by far. He does not want us to focus on the eternal, but he wants us to be mesmerized only by the physical, material world in which we are in to keep us “duped” and ineffective. The enemy does not want us to consider that we are only passing through this present life and being prepared for another. Jesus said that, even though a man dies, yet shall he live (John 11:25). You can deny the thoughts about eternity, and you can tell them to shut up, but that inner knowledge that death is not the end cannot be extinguished. There is a God in heaven Who has not given up on you; He calls to you that you may find your way to His home. You shall seek me and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13). Over the next few days we will take a look at who we are and where we are going. Who are we? Jesus calls us His Bride, and He is preparing us for eternity with Him.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Wedding of the Lamb. Keith Thomas

[1] One Minute After You Die, Erwin W. Lutzer, Moody Publishers, Page 119.

[2] Gary Thomas, in Christianity Today, October 3, 1994, p. 26

He Will Wipe Every Tear from Their Eyes

We are continuing from yesterday (scroll further down) our meditation on the thousand-year reign of Christ. Let me be clear regarding the difference between heaven and the millennium. Although the Millennium will be a time when we experience God’s kingdom on earth, there is more to come! We are told that, at the end of the Millennium, will come the New Jerusalem and that there will be no more death:

1Then 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. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “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. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4).

The theme of the whole of Scripture is of a picture of redemption. When Jesus died for sin, He did not just cancel the penalty of sin. He paid for it in full. Since Divine justice was satisfied, He has every right to restore things to their intended purpose, their intended glory. When He comes to reign, He will set things in their place, and we will see the full deliverance of the earth. He has ransomed the earth, and the earth will finally experience the knowledge of the Lord.

Many nations will come to Jerusalem, the capital city of all the earth, to seek the Lord and worship Him.  No more will there be different religions. All men will finally realize that one of the strategies that Satan used to divide and conquer them was religion. All the people will realize that there is only one God, and His knowledge will be universal. Jerusalem, the city itself, will be changed. The Lord Himself will be there:

2In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. 3Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore (Isaiah 2:2-4).

Imagine living on planet Earth where the Lord Jesus Christ is reigning on His throne in Jerusalem. There will be no economic need for tanks, guns and weapons of war, it will be a time of great economic prosperity, because man will not train for war anymore (Isaiah 2:4). Christ Jesus will set up His government on Earth composed of those who have been redeemed. Every nation will be at peace with one another with King Jesus sitting on His throne. Those that are reigning over nations, territories, states, cities and towns are those who have been counted worthy because of their faithfulness in resisting evil and caring for God’s people.

The King, the Lord Jesus Christ, will teach us of His ways and settle any remaining disputes between nations. The Scriptures tell us that the New Jerusalem does not come down to Earth from above until the 1000 years are over (Revelation 21:1-2). Until that point, the throne of King Jesus is in Jerusalem, where many peoples will come to praise and worship King Jesus (Isaiah 2:2-3). Isaiah the prophet says, “Your eyes will see the king in his beauty and view a land that stretches afar” (Isaiah 33:17). Can you imagine sitting at the feet of Jesus while He teaches us His ways? He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths” (Isaiah 2:3). Heaven on earth at last!

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Millennium. Keith Thomas

The Resurrection of the Body

We have been meditating on the Rapture of the Church (scroll down to read that devotional). This same event that we call the rapture is the same event in a different passage of Scripture that we call the resurrection. At the rapture of the church our bodies will be instantly changed just as Jesus’ body was when He was raised from the dead. Paul writes to the church at Corinth about the same event of the dead being raised:

50Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52in 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 will be changed (1 Corinthians 15:50-52).

Notice this same event is preceded by the blast of a trumpet and the dead are raised. There are not two raising of the dead. The rapture and the resurrection are one and the same. Our earthly tent, this sinful body we all have in this world, will be changed instantaneously. We are told that this change occurs in “a moment” (v.52). The Greek word used is atomō, we get the English word “atom” from this word. It describes an atomic particle of a second—instantaneously we will be changed. Twice the word “changed” is used and only in this passage of scripture. The Greek word is allagēsometha. It means to change, alter, transform. Paul the apostle, before he tells us about this transformation, introduces this event by writing about what happens to seeds. Let’s try and understand what he is communicating. We need to go back a bit in the passage as he writes about the process of how we as Christians come to receive a glorified body:

35But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. 42So will it be with the resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:35-42).

Paul uses the analogy of a seed. He says that a seed differs greatly from the plant that comes from it. He is saying that our physical body is but a seed that, when sown at the death of the body, will be greatly changed when this sinful age is over and the resurrection of the body occurs. Before we move on to talk more about the resurrection body, we have to talk about how this transformation comes about. We’ll do that tomorrow.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Resurrection Body. Keith Thomas

The War Between Brothers: Jew and Arab

palestine122There is a recent study that proves genetically that Jews and Arabs are brothers one of another, and descendants of Abraham. Esau, Jacob or Israel’s brother, intermarried with Ishmael (Genesis 28:8-9) and became the Arabic people, that God said would be a great nation of countries (Genesis 17:20-21). There is a great love by the Most High Creator God for the Jewish and Arabic peoples. God tells of a time that is still future when there will be a highway all the way from Syria across Israel to Egypt. It will be a time when Arabs and Jews will worship the Lord together. Even though we cannot see it right now, the Most High God will bring it about. Egyptians, Syrians and Israeli’s will have a true peace and experience the blessing of the Messiah. This is what the Lord says:

23In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. 24In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. 25The LORD Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance” (Isaiah 19:23-25).

We cannot see it now because of a great war that is going on over the Middle East. This war is being fought on a spiritual plane, but has consequences on Earth. Paul the Apostle wrote, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). What was Paul saying? He was saying that behind the things that are going on in the political world are invisible spiritual forces of evil that are competing for control over people’s minds and hearts. These invisible spiritual forces of evil plant thoughts and influence the minds of political leaders for a worldwide agenda to be brought about—a One World Government under a dictator the Bible calls the Antichrist. The hatred that has been pushed by the media between Jews and Arabs is of unseen demonic origin. It is just being used as a ploy for gaining control of Jerusalem, and at a time in the future, a world leader, the Antichrist, will sit in a newly rebuilt temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and proclaim himself as God (2 Thessalonians 2:4), seeking for all the world to worship him. The prophet Zechariah spoke 2500 years ago of the time that we are in right now:

2“I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. 3On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves (Zechariah 12:2-3).

It is important to understand that the name “Jerusalem” never appears in the Koran. The claim to Jerusalem came years after Mohammad’s death. Writer Hal Lindsey, in his book The Everlasting Hatred, The Roots of Jihad, says, “The justification for this comes from a verse which says Mohammad travelled to the “uttermost mosque,” (which is the meaning of Al Quds in Arabic) shortly before his death.” There is no evidence that this was Jerusalem—the legend of a visit to Jerusalem first appeared in the days of Khaliph Omar, the Muslim who originally conquered Jerusalem in April of AD 637, more than 560 years after the Jews were banished from Jerusalem by the Romans. There will come a time when the Arabic people will see that they have been manipulated by dark invisible forces and turn to the Lord for the free gift of His salvation that Christ won on the cross for all those that will come to Him. They will see that He has a great love for them just as He has for the Jewish people. He will have mercy on all who call on Him—for He will forgive them of their sins when they cry out to Him. What a difference on Earth that will make! Oh God, bring it about soon!

Keith Thomas