In my last blog, I wrote about a PERIOD OF TRANSITION as the CHURCH AGE draws to its close--and THE TIME of THE TRIBULATION approaches.
I want to make something clear right away. I DO NOT SET DATES. Instead, I draw our attention to THE CLOSENESS of the RAPTURE of the CHURCH. Jesus could appear at ANY MOMENT to SNATCH UP His Church--this is called His IMMINENT coming!
Set WITHIN the TIME OF TRANSITION from CHURCH AGE to TRIBULATION, there's a number of prophecies scheduled by God to occur. There are some end time wars, for instance, which are seen as happening BEFORE the "GREAT and TERRIBLE day of the Lord comes."
The GREAT and TERRIBLE DAY OF THE LORD is a TERM used REPEATEDLY in scripture which REFERS to the TRIBULATION--the 70th week (seven years) DECLARED upon Israel by the prophet Daniel.
TWO THINGS "could" happen in the TIME OF TRANSITION "before" the ONSET of the Tribulation, BEFORE the "great and terrible day of the Lord comes."
1. The CHURCH might SEE wars which are prophesied as coming "BEFORE the great and terrible day of the Lord."
2. OR the CHURCH might already be RAPTURED--and observe end time wars from the heavenly grandstand.
Which way will it be?
(I DO have a PERSONAL BELIEF--and this is JUST ME--my own opinion. I so STRONGLY LOOK FORWARD to the RAPTURE that I lean TOWARD the CHURCH being in heaven WHEN prophesied end time wars break out. If NOT "before" the wars occur--then certainly AT THE SAME TIME as those wars erupt.)
The PRIMARY thing to remember is this--NOTHING will RUIN the PRINCIPLE of IMMINENCY. And THAT is the TOPIC of today's blog.
IMMINENCY means that NOTHING stands in the way of the Lord APPEARING to GATHER His CHURCH. NO prophecy MUST be fulfilled BEFORE the Lord can arrive. He could come at any INSTANT. And we are told to be WATCHING and READY.
One of the interesting facts presented by Gary Stearman (a Bible scholar who's associated with J.R. Church) is this: He notes the NECESSITY of Israel DWELLING as a NATION on earth in order for the IMMINENCY of Jesus' APPEARING to have ANY meaning.
REMOVE ISRAEL AND THE COMING OF JESUS CAN NO LONGER BE IMMINENT!
When the EARLY APOSTLES of the CHURCH wrote about THE RAPTURE, especially the Apostle Paul in his epistles to the Thessalonians, Israel was STILL a NATION upon the earth. The EARLY CHURCH "expected" Jesus to COME BACK for THE CHURCH in THEIR lifetimes. The existence of ISRAEL was THE REASON they held that viewpoint. Let me elaborate.
The ANTICIPATION held by the early Church (concerning THE RAPTURE) is very apparent in the New Testament. Epistles of comfort and encouragement were written with the OVER-ALL view of Israel's PRESENCE. Since Israel STILL EXISTED, along with its CAPITOL of JERUSALEM, the early Church (which included CONVERTED Jews) KNEW that multitudes of Old Testament PROPHECIES concerning Israel "must" be fulfilled.
As long as that NATION remained PRESENT (existing in their land), the early Church KNEW that God COULD perform His prophecies at ANY TIME. And since the CHURCH was PROMISED to NOT fall under the WRATH determined upon Israel (and also upon the unbelieving world), the EARLY CHURCH believed the RAPTURE was IMMINENT.
When the EARLY APOSTLES wrote of "the blessed hope" of the Church (Jesus coming for them in the clouds), they used FIRST PERSON pronouns----"WE" shall see..."WE" will know..."WE" will be alive and remain..."WE" shall be caught up...therefore let "US" comfort one another..."WE" are all children of the Light...for God has not appointed "US" to wrath.
These MEMBERS of the EARLY CHURCH fully EXPECTED the RAPTURE to happen to THEM! "IN THEIR TIME." "IN THEIR GENERATION." They WROTE of it in the SPIRIT of IMMINENCY--that it could happen at ANY INSTANT!
As a RESULT of THEIR EXPECTATION, the promises which are given to the CHURCH "in our Bibles" carry THE SAME sense of URGENCY that the ORIGINAL WRITERS experienced. The pronoun "WE" resoundingly SPEAKS to "US" personally--IN OUR DAY! I feel it's NO ACCIDENT. The Holy Spirit PROMPTED it this way--and IGNITES the URGENCY, a continuing (and POWERFUL) EXPECTATION. That same IMMINENCY is transported down through the centuries to "us"--to "WE" who read those SAME WORDS, and (because of many PROPHECIES in the ACT of being fulfilled) "WE" have more reason to EXPECT the LORD'S COMING than the early Church ever did!!!
BUT there's SOMETHING ELSE:
In the long 2000 year HISTORY of the Church, OTHER teachings and interpretations about the Lord's return crept in. IMMINENCY was LOST. Why?
In 70 A.D., the Roman army crushed Jerusalem and destroyed the Jewish temple. Even at that most terrible time, the early church STILL EXPECTED God to fulfill His prophecies and TAKE VENGEANCE upon the Romans. Israel was NOT totally scattered in 70 A.D., and as long as A REMNANT remained, the early Church HELD FAST to the promise of the IMMINENT RAPTURE.
A few stalwart survivors of Israel hung on--but NOT for long. In 135 A.D., at the revolt led by Simeon Kochba, the Romans put an END to the ISRAELI PROBLEM. The Jews were dispersed into in surrounding countries--and eventually they scattered into the WHOLE WORLD.
Following that DEVASTATING DEFEAT, a very long period of time elapsed. With NO Israel, there was NO HOPE of Jesus coming back AS RECORDED in the scriptures. EIGHTEEN centuries (1,813 years) slowly inched by, and it seemed the prophecies of God were of NO EFFECT. The CHURCH lost their "blessed hope."
During the JEWISH DISPERSION, the Church DROPPED the idea of the IMMINENT RETURN of Jesus. This happened BECAUSE there was NO NATION of Israel to SUPPORT a LITERAL fulfillment of prophecy. With Israel gone, how could ALL those PROPHECIES be explained? There was no POSSIBILITY of a LITERAL fulfillment as long as the Jews were CAST OUT of their land.
With NO Israel, OTHER doctrines arose and became accepted, showing ALTERNATE WAYS in which Bible prophecy "might" be fulfilled.
1. The REPLACEMENT theory: In this teaching, THE CHURCH becomes God's people, ISRAEL. In REPLACING Israel, the CHURCH would then SUFFER the punishments from God instead of Israel. POST-TRIBULATION teachings emerged.
2. ALLEGORIES: Scripture, and the Revelation, in particular, became a "poetic DRAMA"--showing the triumph of good over evil. There was NO EXPECTATION of the prophecies being LITERALLY fulfilled. The concept of NO MILLENNIUM arose--known as Amillennialism.
3. The CHURCH would CREATE a "Godly ATMOSPHERE" upon the earth which would make things SO PLEASANT that Jesus would be happy to return to the planet. This is the idea that "the preaching" of the CHURCH would make the world get better and better, and that THE GOSPEL would FILL the whole earth and prepare THE WAY for Jesus to set up His Kingdom. (The DOMINION theory. The "Kingdom NOW" teachings. The MANIFEST SONS OF GOD theory.)
With the EMERGENCE of all these doctrines, the idea of an IMMINENT Pre-Tribulation Rapture DIED. WHY? Because ISRAEL was NO LONGER a NATION!
A WHOLE SEGMENT of Bible prophecy (if it's to be LITERALLY fulfilled) DEPENDS upon the EXISTENCE of ISRAEL.
But then something happened!!!
In the late 1800's faint stirrings occurred. The Zionist movement PUSHED for a return of the Jews to their homeland. With that stirring came a RESURGENCE of interest in Bible prophecy--in the LITERAL SENSE. The doctrine of the RAPTURE was resurrected. WHY?
Hope was renewed. Israel was being revived, seeking a return to their land!
Then, lo, and BEHOLD! On May 14, 1948, in the SPACE of ONE DAY, Israel was REBORN as a NATION. And that was NOT all! A DEAD LANGUAGE, Hebrew, returned into common use. WHAT A MIRACLE!
Never before has a scattered and assimilated nation RETURNED into EXISTENCE! Do we see REGATHERED Hittites, or Thrace, or Bithynia? Of course not! But ISRAEL, scattered for CENTURIES was REBIRTHED! Fulfilling Isaiah 66:8, Isaiah 11:11-12, Ezekiel 36:8-10, Ezekiel 36:24.
Never before has an old language RETURNED to common usage, like Hebrew has. For instance, is there a nation on earth who speak ancient Latin? Of course, Latin is used in a scientific and medical way, but a nation of common people do not speak it.
For centuries, Hebrew was kept alive by its use in religious ceremonies. However, the common people did not speak it--then something happened. Hebrew is now REVIVED as a NATIONAL language in Israel, fulfilling Zephaniah 3:9.
LITERAL FULFILLMENTS--BROUGHT TO PASS WITHIN THE PAST FEW DECADES!
Since the REBIRTH of Israel as a NATION, end time prophecies have ever-increasingly RISEN to the forefront. We NOW see and understand HOW the scriptures MUST be LITERALLY fulfilled--just like the early Church believed!
In the midst of this, the IMMINENCY of Jesus coming for His CHURCH has re-emerged WITH VIGOR.
(Except--NOT in denominations who HOLD to their TRADITIONAL doctrines, which are--the REPLACEMENT theory, ALLEGORICAL interpretations, and the DOMINION, KINGDOM NOW and MANIFEST SONS OF GOD theories. It's their CONTINUAL teachings which create such a stir of confusion, casting CLOUDS of DOUBT upon ALL THINGS PROPHETIC.)
There is YET another REASON for the doubt and confusion--THE DEVIL! Satan KNOWS that in order to PREVENT the return of Jesus he must do this:
1. Create doubts in people's minds about the accuracy of Bible prophecy. And MUDDY UP how to interpret scripture.
2. Destroy the CHURCH, not only with persecution and martyrdom, but with terrible influences of false religions--such as "new age" lies. Also, the devil seeks to keep the Church weakened through bad attitudes such as COMPROMISE and INDIFFERENCE to the things of Jesus.
3. Most of all, the devil KNOWS he MUST totally destroy Israel. Every time we hear a madman proclaim, "I will wipe Israel off the map," we HEAR the VOICE of SATAN!
Satan knows that if ISRAEL is TOTALLY DESTROYED, then the END TIME prophecies CANNOT be fulfilled. Along with that, Satan WILL SHOW that God is a LIAR.
(It will NOT happen as Satan plans, folks. God will rise with FIRE in His nostrils. He will PROTECT His NATION of Israel. He will FAITHFULLY KEEP His promises to them--concerning their land, the throne of David and the MILLENNIUM. God will DEFEND His HOLY NAME and HIS TRUTHFULNESS! Psalm 2:1-12. Ezekiel 36:22-23.)
This ends my blog for today. The NEXT installment will SHED a NEW LIGHT on a very famous scripture----the quote given by Peter to a NEWLY BIRTHED Church in Acts 2:16 to 21.
Are you ready to learn more? Come back to my blog and discover additional treasures. I'll enlargen our understanding of the TIME OF TRANSITION.
Have a wonderful day.
EVEN SO, COME QUICKLY, LORD JESUS. We long to see your glorious face.