We are living in uncertain, perilous times. There are pestilences, earthquakes, heaps of false teachers, abounding apostasy, fervor for a one world government and economy, global corporations and organizations that hate God’s laws and contribute massive amounts of money to anti-God causes, atheism, wars and rumors of wars, terrorism, modern Israel, preparations for the Third Temple. Are we seeing a fulfillment of prophecy? Absolutely, we are; but it is not the day of the Lord. It is the stage being set for the day of the Lord.
God’s people are pilgrim people. We aren’t in darkness. We have the mind of Christ in Scripture (1 Co. 2:9-16), the mind of the Christ in whom are hid all treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3)! We must not follow the world’s thinking or share the world’s fears.
I am 100% sure that the Bible is the Word of God and that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the only Lord and Saviour.
I am 100% sure that Bible prophecy is true. I love Bible prophecy. The Bible is the only book that describes the future accurately, and how wonderful and important it is to know the future! More than one-fourth of the Bible is prophecy. Obviously it is something that God wants His people to understand and know. Bible prophecy is great light, great hope, great comfort, great encouragement, a great motivator.
It was as a young Christian that I got the key to understand prophecy in the right way, and that is the “normal literal” method of interpretation. When I was taught that, it resonated deeply with me as the truth. I have studied prophecy ever since. I have studied all views of prophecy, but the only view that unlocks Bible prophecy so that it is light and not confusion, is the dispensational, Pre-tribulational view, and I’m not talking about John Darby dispensationalism, I’m talking about apostolic dispensationalism! There are still many things I don’t fully understand in Bible prophecy; there are questions unanswered. I am learning new things all the time. But you have to first stand back and settle the big things, and I have done that and I am 100% certain of what I believe. We are not called to debate uncertainties. We are called to rightly divide the Word and then preach and teach it as absolute truth. We are to speak as the oracles of God (1 Pe. 4:11), and you can do that if you approach prophecy with a consistent literal interpretation.
Let’s see what a great light Bible prophecy, rightly interpreted, is in these perilous, confusing times.
What Time Is It for God’s People Today?
I. It is church time and Christ’s Great Commission time
II. It is not the day of the Lord
III. It is the time of the mystery of iniquity
IV. It is Rapture time
I. It is church time and Christ’s Great Commission time (Mt. 28:18-20).
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20)
This is God’s program for the church age. This is God’s program for God’s people today. This is what we must keep our attention on. When the disciples asked the Lord about Israel’s kingdom being restored, He did not correct them and say, “You must understand that the church is replacing Israel and that kingdom is fulfilled in the church.” Instead, He replied,
“It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-9)
Christ said that it is time to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth. He repeated that and emphasized that in His teaching to the disciples between His resurrection and ascension (Mt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16; Lu. 24:44-48; Joh. 20:21; Ac. 1:8). The more God’s people today do this business, the more pleased God is with us.
After He was rejected by Israel, Jesus said “I will build my church” (Mt. 16:18). The church did not yet exist. It is not Israel. The church is a mystery that was not revealed in the Old Testament (Col. 1:26-27), but Israel was revealed fully.
The mystery is that the Gentiles will experience “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The Old Testament said that Gentiles would be saved, but there is not a hint about Christ dwelling in them and them being the participants in Christ’s glory. Church-age believers are a heavenly people (“seated in the heavenlies,” Eph. 2:4-6). They are “the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven” (Heb. 12:22-24).
God’s plans for the church and Israel are different, as we see plainly stated in Romans 11:25-27. The fullness of the Gentiles is the completion of the church which is composed of people whom God is calling out in this age from among the Gentiles (Ac. 15:13-16) by the Gospel (2 Th. 2:14). This is the business of the Great Commission, and this is the business of this present time.
We see in Matthew 28 that this is a very big work that requires the full attention of all of God’s people (Mt. 28:19-20). It entails preaching the Gospel to every soul of every place and time throughout the age. It entails baptizing those who receive the Gospel. It entails discipling every baptized believer thoroughly so that he or she learns to obey all things that Christ has commanded (“teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you,” v. 20).
The “them” that are to be taught in verse 20 are the baptized disciples of verse 19, every one of them. This means that every baptized believer is to be taught the whole Scripture, the whole counsel of God, the whole New Testament faith, taught how to understand and study the Bible for himself, taught every doctrine, taught and discipled in every aspect of sound Christian living. What a big work!
Christ commanded that all of His people are to be built up to do God’s perfect will. This includes all of the families. God’s instruction for the family is given to the churches (Eph. 5:22 – 6:4; Col. 3:18-21; Tit. 2:3-5). It entails the children and the youth. The divine purpose of the home is to raise up a godly seed for His glory (Mal. 2:15). The fulfillment of Christ’s Commission, then, requires that every church be a very serious, effectual discipling, Bible-training entity. This is such a huge job that it requires the dedication of every baptized believer in every New Testament church.
This Great Commission is done in the churches. It is not a para-church work. This is what we see in the Pastoral Epistles. It is what we see in 1 Timothy, where the church with pastors and deacons is called “the house of God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Ti. 3:15). This is what we see in Acts 13-14, which is the biblical pattern for the work of the church as the headquarters for world missions. This is what we see in the epistle of Titus, where preachers are instructed in how to “set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city” (Tit. 1:5). This is what we see in the Acts and the New Testament Epistles. We see a church planting/building manual for the fulfillment of Christ’s Great Commission.
We see in Matthew 28 that this is the work of God’s people today until the end of the age (v. 20). We must keep our attention on this work and not be sidetracked. Christ’s Great Commission is not social work; it’s not kingdom building; it’s not an entertainment program; it’s not building a commune; it’s not preparing for the antichrist.
We see that Jesus has all power in heaven and earth. “Power” is exousia, which is also translated authority (Mt. 7:29; 8:9). God’s people have authority to do this great work. Christ is the highest authority, not parents or family or society or government.
We see that Jesus is with those churches that do this work (“lo, I am with you always,” v. 20). He is with us every moment, all of the time. He said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5), which is a forceful, double promise.
This is the business we must keep our attention on. This is the business we must do no matter what is happening in the world. The Lord Jesus Christ has commanded this, and He is with us, and He will open doors and provide our needs. We are “laborers together with God (1 Co. 3:9). He is ready to work!
In these times, churches need to focus more than ever on Gospel preaching to every creature and building godly families and really serious discipling of all of the members.
The greatest pandemic disease is not coronavirus that has killed thousands or influenza that kills 500,000 per year or tuberculosis that kills 1.5 million per year. The greatest pandemic on this globe is the sin virus that we inherited from the first man, Adam. Its fatality rate is 100%. The Good News is that there is a cure. The deadly virus of sin can be healed through saving faith in the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, and eternal death can be escaped. Dr. Jesus has a 100% success rate for those who come to Him by the door of saving faith.
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
The proclamation of this cure is the chief business of God’s people today. We are the ambassadors for Dr. Jesus. There is no other Saviour and no other salvation. If we get sidetracked from this business, it won’t be done. It can’t be done by big business or governments or NGOs or “social justice” organizations.
It’s not time to fret about the coronavirus. The redeemed in Christ aren’t of the world and must not share the world’s doubts and fears. It’s time to shine as lights in a dark place by the witness of the Gospel and to build true, sound, thorough-going New Testament churches to the glory of God.
II. It is not the day of the Lord (2 Th. 2:1-14).
God’s Bible-believing people are not to be perplexed, uncertain (“shaken in mind,” 2 Th. 2:1-2). We have great light; we are not in darkness and confusion. We can understand the times and know what is happening and what God is doing and what the devil is doing and what we should be doing.
We are not to be afraid (2 Th. 2:1-2).
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timoyhy 1:17)
Fear comes, but it is not of God. If we walk with God and seek Him, He will give us power (spiritual strength by the Holy Spirit), love (concern for others, not selfishness), and a sound mind (right thinking according to God’s Word).
We are not to be deceived (2 Th. 2:3); we must know God’s Word and not be deceived by false teachers. The Bible warns about this many times. God’s people must learn how to understand the Bible properly and how to refute error. Every church must be busy teaching all of its people how to do this.
We are not to think that we are in the day of the Lord (2 Th. 2:3-4). The day of Christ is the day of the Lord; He is the Lord. To understand prophecy it is necessary to know what is the day of the Lord.
The day of the Lord is the day of the antichrist. This is what we see in the context of 2 Th. 2:2-4. He is called the “son of perdition” (v. 3) and “that wicked” (v. 8). He will come after the working of Satan (v. 9). He will deceive by means of lying signs (v. 9). He is going to claim to be God in the Third temple (v. 4).
The day of the Lord is the day of God’s wrath on this world, God’s judgment upon rebellion. The day of the Lord is mentioned 31 times. In each of these passages we see the same fundamental truths about the day of the Lord. It is a time of God’s wrath and judgment upon the nations; it is a time when God will be exalted and man debased; it is a time when God will deal with Israel and bring her to repentance and conversion. See Isa. 2:12-22; 13:6-12; 34:8; Jer. 30:7-11; 46:10; Eze. 30:3; Joe. 1:15; 2:1-11; Amo. 5:18-20; Oba. 1:15-18; Zec. 1:14-18. The day of the Lord is described in Revelation 6-18. There are seven years of judgment, and the judgments get increasingly worse as the years pass. But even the beginning judgments are terrible. See Revelation 6 – the antichrist comes on the scene as a man of peace, taking control of the world system (v. 2); wars and famines and pestilence that kills one-fourth of the people on earth (vv. 4-8); the death of the saints by martyrdom (vv. 9-11); great signs in the heavens (vv. 12-14); great fear among men (vv. 15-18). Later during the day of the Lord, the judgments grow even more severe, so that one-third of the earth’s remaining population perishes (Re. 9:15).
The day of the Lord is a time of great deception (2 Th. 2:9-12). The deception will be from the devil and from God!
The day of the Lord ends with the coming of Christ in power and glory to judge rebels and to establish His kingdom (2 Th. 2:8).
What about the falling away (2 Th. 2:3). This is the Greek apostasia, which is also translated “forsake” (Ac. 21:21). In context of 2 Thessalonians 2, it is associated with the revelation of the antichrist. The apostasia is Israel forsaking God for the false christ. It is described in Daniel 9:27; 11:32; Joh. 5:43.
Today the stage is being set for the day of the Lord, but it is not yet the day of the Lord. God’s people must keep their eyes on Christ’s imminent coming and on the business God has given us to do.
III. It is the time of the mystery of iniquity (2 Th. 2:7-12).
The mystery of iniquity is the devil’s plan to put his man on the throne of the world. That is the context.
The mystery of iniquity has been at work in the world since Paul’s day (“doth already work,” 2 Th. 2:7).
There is one who is restraining (2 Th. 2:6-7). This is a person (“he”). This can only be God, as no one else could restrain the devil. It is the Holy Spirit.
The Restrainer will be taken out of the way (2 Th. 2:7). That refers to the Rapture. The Holy Spirit came at Pentecost to take out of the nations a people for God’s name, and the Holy Spirit departs at the Rapture when this great work is finished.
This is the fullness of the Gentiles described by Paul in Romans 11:25-27. During this present time, Israel is blind, and that will last until “the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.” That is the completion of God’s eternal program to create a special group of people for His glory in this present time by the preaching of the Gospel. When the fullness of the Gentiles be come in, “all Israel shall be saved” (Ro. 11:26). This is explained in Ro. 11:27 as the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Israel, which is the new covenant of spiritual conversion and the restoration of her kingdom in her own land (Jer. 31:27-40; 32:37-40; 33:14-26; Eze. 16:60-63; 20:33-44; 34:11-25; 36:23-32; 37:15-27; Zec. 12:10-14; 13:1-9, etc.).
For now, the mystery of iniquity cannot be brought to fulfillment because it is being restrained by the Spirit of God. The mystery of iniquity is like a horse, but God holds the reins. God will restrain the mystery of iniquity until His work is finished for this age. Therefore, no matter what things look like in this present age, we cannot know the time of Christ’s coming for the saints. That is always in God’s hands.
We see this in 2 Peter:
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
This plainly states that the reason God is waiting is that He is continuing to save souls through the Gospel. How long will He wait? Only He knows, and He knows exactly. But from our standpoint we are to keep preaching and keep watching until that final soul is saved for this present age. Then our work will be finished and we will taken away to the Father’s house (Joh. 14:1-3) and God’s business with Israel will be consummated as described in Daniel’s amazing 70 Week prophecy (Da. 9:24-27).
This brings us back to the fact that it is currently church time and Great Commission time. That is what God’s people must keep their attention on until Christ comes. We must not get caught up in vain speculation about signs pertaining to the antichrist. We must not be share the world’s confusion and fear. We must not think that we are in the day of the Lord. Christ has given us our marching orders until He comes:
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Mt. 28:19-20).
IV. It is Rapture time.
Paul had taught the believers at Thessalonica that they would escape the day of the Lord. “Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?” (2 Th. 2:1-5). This refers to the teaching that Paul gave in his first epistle to the church at Thessalonica.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 Paul taught the church at Thessalonica about the Rapture or the catching away.
The words “caught up” (1 Th. 4:17) are from harpazo, which is used for the catching away of Philip by the Spirit of God in Acts 8:39. “Rapture” is from the Latin “rapturo.”
At the Rapture the dead in Christ will come with Him from heaven and be united with resurrected bodies (1 Th. 4:14-16).
The living will be changed and will meet the Lord in the air (1 Th. 4:17).
This is to be a comfort, not a fear (1 Th. 4:18). This is because we are looking for Christ, not for the antichrist; we are looking for the day of deliverance not the day of wrath.
Paul continued his teaching on the Rapture and the day of the Lord in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11.
There are two groups of people here: “they” (v. 3) and “we” (vv. 4-10).
“They,” referring to the unsaved, are in darkness and the day of the Lord will come upon them as a thief, unexpected, because they do not believe God’s Word and are not watching. Their thoughts are only upon this world and the things of this world. They are trying to find “peace and safety” by their own resources.
“We,” referring to God’s redeemed people, are not in darkness (1 Th. 5:4-5). We have the great light of God’s Word and the enlightenment of the Spirit of God.
We must not be spiritually sleeping (1 Th. 5:6-8). We are to be on fire for Christ, maintaining that first love passion for our Saviour, separated unto Him, holy, busy in His service.
We are not appointed to wrath (1 Th. 5:9-11). This is a clear promise of deliverance from the day of the Lord, which is the day of God’s wrath. God’s people in this age experience tribulation (“we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God,” Ac. 14:22), but they will not experience the tribulation of the day of the Lord, for that is the day of God’s wrath on this wicked world. Every part of the day of the Lord is the day of His wrath, as we have seen. Every one of the seven-seal judgments described in Revelation 6-18 is God’s wrath. There is wrath at the beginning (Re. 6:16-17). There is wrath during the time of the mark of the antichrist in the second half of the tribulation when the antichrist proclaims himself as God (Re. 14:9-11). There is wrath at the end at Armageddon (Re. 14:18-19). There is wrath at Christ’s coming when all unsaved will be judged (Re. 11:17-18).
We are to be watching (v. 6). We see that the Rapture is imminent. It is to be expected at any time. We are not looking for wrath but deliverance. We’re not looking for the antichrist but for Christ Himself. We see this everywhere in the Epistles. It is the example set by the apostolic churches (1 Th. 1:9-10). They were churches of born again people who were serving and waiting. Paul said, “the day is at hand” (Ro. 13:12; Php. 4:5). “At hand” is eggizo, meaning “near, approaching.” The English phrase “at hand” is a metaphor to indicate something that is near, close by, at the ready, like your hand. It is used to describe the location of Jesus’ tomb. It was “nigh at hand” to the place of His crucifixion (Joh. 19:42). Paul used it to describe his imminent death at the hand of the emperor Nero (2 Ti. 4:6). The coming of Christ for the church-age saints is always at hand, imminent, impending. Titus 2:13 says we are looking for “that blessed hope,” which is the appearance of Christ, not the antichrist. James said, “the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” and “the judge standeth before the door” (Jas. 5:8-9). That is the language of imminence. Christ is to be thought of as standing up and getting ready to open the door and come for His people. It could happen any moment. It is to be expected at any time. Peter said, “the end of all things is at hand” (1 Pe. 4:7). Again, this is eggizo, near, imminent, impending.
The Rapture is also described in 1 Corinthians 15:50-58.
This passage describes what happens to the living saints at the Rapture. All of the saints will be changed, transformed into glorified bodies (1 Co. 15:54).
It is a mystery that was not revealed before (1 Co. 15:51). The Old Testament teaches about the resurrection, but the translation of living saints is not taught.
This great blessing is God’s gift in Christ (1 Co. 15:57).
The knowledge of this event is to cause God’s people to be steadfast and to be busy laboring for the Lord and not slacking off or getting sidetracked with other things (1 Co. 15:58). Every passage pertaining to the Rapture emphasizes that this great truth is to be a comfort, an encouragement, and a motivator for holy, diligent Christian living.
The Rapture is also described in John 14:-3.
These words were spoken by Christ after the first Lord’s Supper and before His trial at Gethsemane on the Mt. of Olives. He is preparing His “little flock” for His death. The words are addressed to Christ’s believers in this age.
This teaching is intended for comfort and peace (Joh. 14:1).
The subject is the Father’s house (Joh. 14:2). That refers to heaven.
There are mansions there (Joh. 14: 2). Those are dwelling places for royal priests (1 Pe. 2:9; Re. 1:6). Psalm 45:6-15 describes Christ with His bride in glory and it speaks of ivory palaces.
Christ said that He was going to prepare a place for us. This refers to His ascension.
Christ will come again and receive us unto Himself (Joh. 14:3). In the context, the purpose of the reception is to take His people of this age to the Father’s house to live in the mansions He has built. This is the Rapture of 1 Thessalonians 4. It is not meeting the Lord in the air and then returning immediately to earth. It is meeting the Lord in the air and being transported to the Father’s house for the judgment seat of Christ and the marriage of the bride.
If interpreted literally, and there is no other right way to interpret them, the Rapture described in 1 Corinthians 15, 1 Thessalonians 1, and John 14 is not the coming of Christ described in Matthew 24 and Revelation 19. These are different events; they happen at a different time; they entail a different people; they have a different purpose.
What Time Is It for God’s People Today?
I. It is church time and Christ’s Great Commission time
II. It is not the day of the Lord
III. It is the time of the mystery of iniquity
IV. It is Rapture time
“The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light” (Romans 13:12).