Saturday, July 12, 2014

An Out of This World Doctrine

An Out of This World Doctrine
As long as God allows me to continue to breathe his air, and to live in this world, dwelling in this very temporary body, I will never cease to be amazed that God has not only created us, loved us, sent his Son to die for us, and saves us, even when we were in rebellion to his will. But most of all, I will never cease to be amazed at the Word of God that he gave us to understand, first of all who he is, then to show us the unfolding of his plan for mankind. Most importantly, to reveal his will to us. But all that said, as I continue to read and study this Bible that contains sixty-six books, thirty-nine in a volume called the “Old Testament” and twenty-seven books in a volume called the “New Testament”, that from start to finish, there is this unfolding revelation of all these things, the revealing of himself, his plan, and his will for mankind. I cannot understand how the majesty of this book is not revered by each and every Christian that has been saved by his grace, which was a response to hearing the words from this very book. Paul describes the Word of God as “Living and Powerful” Hebrews 4:12, and yes it is.
As a Christian, we hear about the Rapture, and look at this doctrine as our hope. This hope is what helps us to get through the hard times this old world brings in our life. Just to know that there is something better waiting for us when we leave this world. But when it comes to the subject of the Rapture, which means the snatching up into the air every living Christian at the time Christ returns to call us home to heaven, it can seem a bit unreal to a world of logical thinking people, and rather just an escape from reality to those who believe it. But a careful study of the Old and New Testament will help us to fully understand that this doctrine of the Rapture is not only true, but is a major part of God’s plan for mankind.
Let us start with the first volume of this great book we call the Bible, thirty-nine books in all, and most of it is prophetic in nature, yet there is not one word about the Rapture. That is almost enough to cast doubt on this whole subject. A careful study of the Bible shows us that the Old Testament begins to reveal our creator to us. To show us his plan for his creation, this plan is revealed in stages. Also, he reveals his will for man. We will focus on his plan for man in this study.
God’s plan for mankind revealed
God’s plan for man starts with his goal for man enacted, and ends with the goal in place. What I mean is that when man was created, he was placed in a garden, paradise if you will. Man was in a perfect place, in life and in relationship with his creator. Sin disrupted this goal for man, and God reveals throughout the scriptures how he will bring man back into that place of relationship, and paradise. The Old Testament starts with one man, Abraham. We see his family grown to a nation that is numbered as the sand of the sea. Sadly enough, our creator selected this nation to be his people, and as his plan unfolded, it appears that this plan included Israel, and excluded everybody else. One of the biggest mistakes in studying God’s word that Christians make, is when we try to apply to the Church Old Testament truths and promises that really only apply to the nation of Israel.
Now, that being said, the Old Testament shows us God’s plan unfold and dealing with one nation, he then reveals to them his plan of salvation from sin. Interestingly enough, this plan of salvation includes all mankind, but only as an overflow from its intended beneficiary, who is the nation of Israel. The plan for God saving man from sin is revealed in the advent of a savior. What confused the saints of the Old Testament, as well as the religious leaders in the New Testament, and even some Christians today is that the advent of God’s savior is revealed in two advents of this same savior.
Two Advents of Messiah (Christ)
In the Old Testament, the writers of the books, especially the Prophets spoke of this Messiah in two views, one of his coming in power and great glory and restoring the glory of the nation, and the other in suffering and humility. The readers of the scriptures were confused and they blurred the two as one, not distinguishing them as two different advents. Theologians refer to these writings as two peaks, the one being the first coming of Christ, the second peak as his return to earth to destroy those that refuse God, and then to set up the millennium kingdom. The Jewish people of Christ’s day were confused at the first advent, ignoring the parts concerning Christ’s suffering, and only looking for the King. It is why they rejected the Lord, and pushed for him to be crucified him on the Cross.
It is interesting that his second advent will be with great fan fair, earthquakes, hail fire and brimstones falling on the earth, lightening seen from one end of the earth to the other, and then the Son Of God descending in the sky on a white horse, and all his saints with him on white horses. Now his first advent may not have come in with such a bang, but it was with quite the fan fair. There were angels in glory singing praises to God because God had entered this world as a human being, a little baby nonetheless. He has a bright star that was seen clear across the world, and was followed by great men just to see the coming king into this world.
Two Peaks and its Valley
Now, back to the two peaks, but more importantly, the valley in between. This may seem to some as imagined theology, but there are New Testament scriptures to substantiate its truth. But the valley is commonly seen as a period of time that is not recorded in Old Testament prophecy, an “Age of Grace” if you will. Old Testament prophecy is very specific in terms of the time that God would send his Son into this world, also when he would send him back in what we are calling his second advent. Reading the writings of Jeremiah the entire period of time is specified in years, and broken up into 70 periods of 7 years, while in Daniel’s writings, the actual days are specified concerning the Lord’s return. You can read the words of our Lord in Luke’s gospel, 19:32-44 that on the day that he presented himself as the King, he said, “had you known at least in This Thy Day” It was the day Daniel prophesied in his book, of when he would present the King to the Nation. So studying prophecy can be confusing, as we see that both of these prophecies were spoken of as one, and not clearly defined until that day when he rode into the city, and was rejected by the nation. Now, where most teachers of scriptures disagree, is concerning the valley. Among most evangelicals, and especially conservative believers, the valley is a period of time that was not seen in the Old Testament, and began shortly after the first advent of the Lord, and will conclude shortly before the second. We need to grasp how this is distinguished in the prophecies concerning this period of time. When looking at the prophecy of Jeremiah and the seventy weeks (70 – 7 Year periods of time) we see that the last week has not yet happened. There are very specific things that have happened, and account for the four hundred and eighty three years (The first 69 weeks) and specific things yet to happen. This last week is referred to as the seventieth week, and as the time of Jacobs trouble (again remember all of the Old Testament is concerning the nation of Israel), but in the New Testament, this last week is referred to as the Tribulation.
So it seems that one day in the history of Israel, which was after the first advent of the Messiah, which includes his death, his resurrection, and his ascension, then after Pentecost the prophetic clock of God concerning Israel stopped. There are specific things concerning that last week that have yet to happen, that we see spoken in those Old Testament prophesies. Also in the New Testament spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew 24-25. So a good question in this prophetic study would be, what about all this time between Pentecost and Now? That time, as we have said, is often referred to as the “Age of Grace” and it is called that because we see God’s grace now reaching out to all mankind with the good news of salvation, much different than the physical deliverance that the nation of Israel is looking for, where the Messiah will return to this earth, and establish his kingdom, and Israel will be the head once again. No, the age of grace is a period of time, the duration of which is not determined, where a man, woman, boy or girl, can hear the gospel, how that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on Calvary’s cross, paid for our sin, and after he died on that cross rose from the dead, if any human soul hears and believes, will be saved eternally from the penalty of sin. Not only saved from sin, but made a child of God. Not only that, but indwelled by God’s Holy Spirit forever. Every believer that has been saved is part of God’s body, called his Church.  Ephesians 1:1-14. Paul later states in this wonderful book that this work of God that we see in this age, was not known in the Old Testament, it was a mystery. Ephesians 3:1-10.
It would not be hard at this point to use human logic to see that as long as we are in this age of grace, and people have the opportunity to hear and believe the gospel, that the last week of Jeremiah’s prophecy will not start to play out in this world. But as God would have it, he did not leave us to human logic, he let Paul explain this very clearly in the second letter he wrote to the Thessalonians, in chapter 2 verses 1-12. Read this in any English version of the bible, or any language, or if you can read it in the Greek it will say the same thing. Something is hindering the revealing of the man of sin (the anti-christ), and the start of that last week of prophecy. That something that hinders is the Holy Spirits presence in this world. It will not be until he (the Holy Spirit) is taken out of the way, that these last things will take place. The Holy Spirit is here in this world in the Church, his body. All believers. The rapture will remove the Church, thus removing the Holy Spirit.
As to the rapture, it is the only thing a Christian needs to look for, it will happen before God’s prophetic clock will start again. Paul makes it very plain in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Where he describes exactly what happens in the catching up of believers that are alive in Christ, and with them the believers that have already died in Christ. Then in 1 Corinthians 15 he gives the mechanics of the rapture, of what will happen to our bodies. Lastly, John records for us in revelation chapter 4 verse 1 this very event called the rapture as it happens in the very near future. He describes all the things we will see when we get there, so much beauty, but most importantly, we will see the Lamb who died for us. The John begins to describe that last week (the Tribulation) in chapter 6 through chapter 19. God’s plan for man is wonderful. I didn’t know I was a created being with a purpose. I thought I was my own man. God revealed himself to me in the gospel, and he saved me. He gave me this great hope. Now I can’t wait to see my savior. I long to see all of his creation, but to see him, what a wonder it will be.
Look up, your redemption draws near!